A Guide to Fence Laws in Chicago, IL

Fence laws may seem like a minor factor, but can actually have significant impact on homeowners and their neighbors.
Veda Yalamanchili
Veda Yalamanchili
Last Update:
January 11, 2023

Fences have been an integral part of Chicago's landscape for decades, providing privacy, security, and aesthetic appeal to residential and commercial properties. However, fences are subject to regulations and laws as with any structure. In the City of Chicago, fence laws are put in place to ensure that fences are constructed safely, do not interfere with public property, and do not obstruct the view of drivers or pedestrians.

While fence laws may seem like a minor issue, they can have a significant impact on property owners and their neighbors. In this blog post, we'll dive into the world of fences in Chicago, Illinois, exploring everything from height restrictions to permit requirements. So whether you're a homeowner, business owner, fence contractor, or simply curious about Chicago's fence laws, let's get started!

Fence Materials Regulations in Chicago

Fencing can add aesthetic appeal, privacy, and security to your property, but before installing a fence in Chicago, it is important to familiarize yourself with the local regulations regarding acceptable materials to get the necessary building permits.

Permitted Fence Materials in Chicago

Generally, most jurisdictions in Chicago allow for a wide variety of fencing materials, including wood, masonry, vinyl, aluminum, ornamental steel, and chain link. However, in historic districts and some areas with homeowner associations, there may be limitations on the acceptable designs for fences. It is essential to review these guidelines to ensure that your fencing project complies with local regulations and avoids any potential legal issues. and placement, so it's important to review these guidelines before beginning your project.

Prohibited Materials in Chicago

Chicago prohibits the use of certain materials in fence construction. There are ordinances and building codes that prohibit the use of materials such as broken glass, spikes, barbs, nails, electronically-charged wiring, or any other materials designed to inflict pain or injury to people or animals. Also, when it comes to the use of barbed wire in Chicago, it is prohibited to use these fences at a height less than eight feet above the ground - but there is an exception. If the barbed wire is wholly on or over private property and is above six feet from the ground, it is permitted. This is to ensure the safety of the public and prevent potential harm to animals or individuals who may come into contact with the fence.

Fence Height Regulations in Chicago

Fence height is another critical factor to consider when building a fence in Chicago. The city has specific regulations regarding the maximum height of fences, and it's essential to follow them to avoid any legal issues. In this section, we'll explore the fence height limits in Chicago and what you need to know before building your fence.

In general, for a combustible screen fence(open fence), the maximum height limit is 8 feet while combustible solid fences are limited to 6 feet in height. However, you can build a combustible solid fence up to 8 feet if the distance between the fence and a public way exceeds the height of the fence or when it is supported by fence posts of noncombustible material set in masonry or concrete foundations.

For non-combustible fences in residential areas, open fences are limited to 10 feet in height and solid fences are limited to 8 feet in height. In commercial municipalities like open-air assembly zones, institutional yards, business areas, and industrial or storage occupancy these limits are increased to 15 feet for open fences and 12 feet for solid fences.

There are no special zoning ordinances for front yard fences and side yard fences but you probably would need to apply for a permit if your back yard fence is more than 5 feet high.

Property Line Regulations in Chicago

When building a fence in Chicago, it's essential to consider property line regulations. Property line regulations determine how close you can build your fence to your neighbor's property line, and it's crucial to follow them to avoid legal issues.

Boundary Lines

Even though it is not specified in the ordinances, standard practice in Chicago is to follow the "fence-in" rule, which means that property owners are responsible for fencing in their property, not their neighbor's property. This means that property owners are responsible for maintaining and repairing the portion of the fence that is on their property. Additionally, property owners should be aware of their property's lot lines to ensure that they are building their fences within their property lines.

Setback Requirements

In Chicago, there are no specified setback requirements that property owners must follow when building a fence. The setback requirement is the distance between the property line and the fence. The setback requirement varies depending on the height of the fence and the property's location. In general, in residential districts, you can build a fence anywhere between 2 to 8 inches inside your boundary. You can also build it directly on the boundary line but have to agree with your neighbor. In the case of a large building, the fence should be at least 15 feet away from the nearest portion of that building.

Determine the requirements for fence permits

The first step is to determine the requirements for obtaining a fence permit in Chicago. Any fence height in a residential area less than five feet does not require a permit. But it is also good to check with your zoning district office as the requirements can vary depending on the type of fence you want to install, the height of the fence, and the location of your property.

Determine the property lines

If you need a permit, It is important to determine the property lines before installing the new fence. This will help you ensure that you are not encroaching on your neighbor's property or violating any zoning regulations. You can obtain a survey of your property to determine the exact location of the property lines.

Prepare the documents

Once you have determined the requirements and property lines, you will need to prepare the necessary documents for the permit application. These documents may include a site plan, design plans of the proposed fence, and a plat of survey. You also need to pay any associated fees. You can submit the permit application online or in person at the local building department.

Inspection and Approval

After submitting your application, the Department of Buildings will review it to ensure that your fence meets the city's regulations and zoning requirements. If your application is approved, you will receive a permit, and you can begin construction. Once the fence is built, the Department of Buildings will inspect it to ensure that it meets the city's regulations.

Fence Safety Regulations in Chicago

When building a fence in Chicago, it's not just important to follow zoning and property line regulations, but also fence safety regulations. Fence safety regulations are in place to ensure that your fence does not pose any safety hazards to the public or your neighbors.

Gate Requirements

There are no specific ordinances on gate requirements in Chicago. But one of the most important fence safety regulations is the requirement for gates. All fences that are over six feet in height should ideally have a gate for emergency access. Additionally, gates must swing outwards towards the street or alley and be self-closing and self-latching.

Pool Fence Requirements

If you have a swimming pool on your property, you must comply with additional fence safety regulations. The fence around the pool must be at least five feet high and have a self-closing and self-latching gate. Additionally, the fence should not have any footholds or handholds that can be used to climb over the fence.

Other Restrictions

Every fence built in the city of Chicago should be constructed in a way to withstand a wind force of 30 pounds per square foot. This should be in addition to all other forces such fences may be subjected to. Typical designs for fences up to 5 feet in height will usually meet this standard.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, building a fence in Chicago requires careful consideration of fence laws, zoning regulations, and safety requirements. From following height restrictions and material restrictions, there are many legal factors to consider when building a fence. By understanding these laws and regulations, you can ensure that your fence is not only aesthetically pleasing but also legal and safe. Remember, a well-built and well-maintained fence can add value to your property and provide privacy for you and your family.

So, if you're considering building a fence in Chicago, make sure to do your research and consult with professionals to ensure that your fence meets all the legal requirements. Ergeon offers expert and professional guidance for obtaining all necessary permits and ensuring your fence is built safely and legally. Don't hesitate to contact us and get started on your fencing project today.

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