Are you considering building a fence in Houston? Then the first step is to familiarize yourself with city regulations before you start your project. Rules about fence construction exist at each level of government. State laws may govern fence permits, city code may cover zoning, and you may even have applicable homeowners association, or HOA, rules for your specific neighborhood.
And in the city of Houston, with its risks of flooding, there are special steps that must be taken before construction begins if your property is located on a floodplain. That’s because the greater Houston area is at risk of 100-year floods, and floodplains are areas that would be flooded in case of rainfall of that magnitude.
In Houston, residential fence permits are required for some fences depending on factors like fence height or the material of the fence. There are permit fees for your fence permit application, which you can find out more about here.
If you are working with a reputable fencing company, they will help you better understand any rules that apply to your fence installation project and whether or not you need to apply for a building permit. Below are a few examples of laws you need to be aware of for your fence project in Houston, Texas.
Houston fence laws regulate the types of materials that may be used in the construction of a fence. Barbed wire, razor wire and electrified fences are not permitted for use in fences.
Vinyl, which is sometimes prohibited for fences in some places, is a type of fencing that is allowed in Houston. All of the usual residential fence materials like wood, metal ornamental and chain link fences are also permitted.
Fences in front yards must get approval from the Houston Planning and Development Department. Keep in mind that even if you get approval from the city, front yard fences may not be allowed in home owners association, or HOA, developments. That’s because the HOA makes its own rules for properties in the development that owners agree to when buying a home there.
As far as fence height for your front yard fence, the Houston Planning Department recommends a height of between three and three and a half feet tall. Most cities have similar height restrictions for front yard fences of around three feet.
Property owners are able to build back yard fences without getting a permit from the city as long as the fence isn’t any higher than eight feet above grade. If you’re planning to construct a fence higher than eight feet above grade, then you will need to get a permit.
Fence height above grade refers to the distance between the highest point of the fence and the ground directly below that point of the fence. With a traditional back yard fence this would usually just mean the height of the planks of wood. Where height above grade comes into play is when a fence is constructed on top of a retaining wall, for example. In that case, the total height of the retaining wall and the fence could be taller than eight feet even if the fence itself is under eight feet tall.
For a fence on your side yard, Houston’s ordinances allow you to build up to eight feet tall.
Fence setbacks are not allowed in Houston. That means you can’t build your fence a few feet back from the property line. Fences must be built on the boundary of your neighbor’s property, which is known as a boundary line fence.
Before you construct a new boundary line fence or remove an old one, it’s advisable to make sure you have evidence of the legal property lines. Oftentimes the City has the Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN) and can look up the property lines if it has been assessed. If it hasn’t, it’s a good idea to hire a land surveyor before proceeding with your plans.
You should also talk to your neighbor on the adjacent property about your plans and come to an agreement about any fences constructed on boundary lines. That way, you can agree on details of cost sharing and fence styles in order to avoid problems down the line.
One issue that sometimes comes up with shared fences is who gets the finished side of the fence and who gets the rails? With a good neighbor fence, both sides appear finished so no one gets stuck with the backside of a fence.
Houston homeowners rarely need to get a building permit to build a fence because of height reasons. Permits are only needed if the new or replacement fence is going to be higher than eight feet tall. Most fences are around six feet tall for the back yard.
However, there are some cases where you will need to get a permit for your fence. Houston has 100-year floods - and if your home is on one of those mapped out flood plains, you will need to get a special engineered permit to construct a fence. Those flood plains are the places that have a one percent chance of getting flooded in any given year.
The final reason you’d need to get a permit to build your fence is if it will be constructed wholly or partially of concrete or masonry. That’s required regardless of height above grade.
In the Houston area, as discussed above, you will need to get a permit to build your fence if you live in a floodplain area. To see if your property is on a floodplain, check out this map.
Houston regulates clear vision areas for properties that are adjacent to intersections. No fences are allowed within a fifteen feet by fifteen feet visibility area from the property lines. A clear vision area is a triangular area in which two sides of the triangle extend out fifteen feet from the corner of the property and the third line connects the two. In that area, no fences are allowed. This is to make sure drivers can see clearly before proceeding through an intersection.
If you belong to an HOA, contact them for their fence regulations which could be different from those of the municipality.
State law in Texas requires you to contact Texas 811 at least two business days before starting your fence project. This is a free service that’s important for homeowners to use because every property has underground lines for things like water and gas. Hitting one of these lines could cause major property damage if not serious injury. Contacting Texas 811 first will help prevent you and your family from harm, prevent utility services interruptions and avoid costly damage.
Besides the issue of underground lines, replacing a current fence or constructing a new fence on your own without experience is not advisable for safety reasons. Building fences requires the use of things like nail guns, dealing with fence panels falling over, and the difficult and potentially dangerous job of removing fence posts.
Before starting your fence project, make sure to review your city, state and neighborhood rules governing fence construction. Each city can have different regulations, and every HOA has the potential to have their own specific rules about fences. You’ll need to be familiar with these to find out if the fence you want to build is allowed, or requires a permit or special review.
Check out Ergeon’s Houston page for more information on how to get started!