A Guide to Fence Laws in Pittsburgh, PA

There are specific laws & regulations that property owners must follow when installing fences in Pittsburgh, PA.
Veda Yalamanchili
Veda Yalamanchili
Last Update:
May 8, 2023

Fences can provide privacy, and security, and add to the aesthetic appeal of a property. Before installing a new fence, homeowners often experience a mix of excitement and apprehension. They may be excited about the added privacy, security, and aesthetic appeal that a fence can bring to their property. However, they may also be apprehensive about the installation process, cost, and potential legal implications.

However, as in any city, in Pittsburgh, PA, there are specific laws and regulations that property owners must follow when installing a fence. These ordinances are in place to ensure the safety and privacy of the community while maintaining the character of the city. This guide will provide an overview of the fence laws in all Pittsburgh municipalities, including the types of fences that are permitted, the height restrictions, and the necessary permits and approvals.

Fence Materials Regulations in Pittsburgh

In the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, certain zoning codes dictate the types of fence materials that can be used in residential areas. These regulations are in place to ensure that fences are safe, durable, and aesthetically pleasing.

One of the primary regulations is that fences must be made of durable materials that can withstand Pittsburgh's harsh weather conditions. This means that wood or vinyl fences are commonly used, as they can withstand wind, rain, and snow without deteriorating.

Also, materials used in the construction of fences should be compatible with the architectural style of the locality and match the building materials used. Some of these materials include iron grating, wood, stone, or brick. The construction of the fence has to be done in such a way as to provide a required degree of opacity.

Barbed wire and razor wire fences are not permitted in the city of Pittsburgh. Chain link fencing with slat inserts is permitted only in GI zoning districts. Also, the city suggests homeowners to consider the use of ornamental fences as components of the landscaping plan for their front yard setback. Before you start any fence installation project, be sure to check with local experts regarding the city's latest zoning regulations and building codes to ensure you're following all the rules.

Fence Height Regulations in Pittsburgh

The height regulations of a fence are typically determined by its purpose, location on the property, and in the city. In general, if you are building a fence that is 6 ft or shorter, you will just need the zoning permit. But if you are building a fence that is taller than 6 feet, you would need both a zoning permit and a building permit. No matter the height of the fence, if you are building one, you need to have an occupancy certificate.

In general, homeowners usually opt for a 6 feet high fence in the front yard and 8 feet fence for the backyard and side yards. Also, if your property is located on a corner lot, the fence should not exceed 3½ feet in height within 20 feet of the street corner. This is to ensure that drivers have a clear line of sight while turning and that pedestrians still have their right of way.

For those of you who are planning to build a wall higher than 40 feet in length, you are required to incorporate some sort of visual relief, including, but not limited to, pattern breaks, varying wall construction, vertical features such as columns, differing construction materials, or a combination of the above.

Property Line Regulations in Pittsburgh

A property line typically refers to the boundary between two pieces of land owned by different people or entities. As in any city, property lines are typically defined by the deeds and surveys of the land in Pittsburgh. It's hence very important to consult these documents to determine the exact boundaries of your property before you start your fence installation project. They help to ensure that the city is a safe and pleasant place for everyone to live, work, and play.

In Pennsylvania, a fence that is built directly along the edge of your property and your neighbor’s is considered to be owned by both of you. Hence it is a good courtesy to talk with your neighbor and your homeowner’s association to give them a heads-up on your plans of installing a fence. If your neighbor is also thinking of installing a fence, it would be beneficial for you as this way, you can split the fence installation costs. Also, remember that the good side or the finished side of the fence should be towards your neighbor. You can combine landscaping with your fence to achieve the required screening.

The maintenance responsibility of the above-mentioned fence that is built between two neighbors is shared equally. The City of Pittsburgh also has strict regulations on the maintenance of fences. Property owners are responsible for keeping their fences in good condition and repairing any damages promptly. Fences that are in disrepair or in danger of falling must be fixed immediately to prevent injury or property damage.

Obtaining a Fence Permit in Pittsburgh

Obtaining a fence permit in Pittsburgh can be an intimidating process and knowing which type of permit is needed for a particular project is essential to making the process as smooth as possible. As mentioned before you don’t need a permit if you are building a fence that is less than 6½ feet and only need to apply for one if you are building a higher fence. Also, if you are building a fence in the floodplain, you might need to apply for a building permit. The following are the steps you need to follow to obtain a building permit to construct a fence in Pittsburgh:

Prepare the Documents

When you have to apply for a permit, you might need to submit a few documents. The city of Pittsburgh has developed the OneStopPGH portal which allows you to apply for the permit online. And if you do apply online, the portal will identify the required documents based on the permit type, structure type, work type, and work scope you have applied for. Alternatively, you can also apply at the counter by submitting the documents mentioned in the guidelines from the city which you can find here. But in general, here are the most important documents you need to gather:

  1. Building permit application: This form can be obtained from the city's Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PLI) or can be downloaded from their website.
  2. Site plan: This should include the location of the proposed fence on your property, its dimensions, and its distance from the property/building lines.
  3. Construction plans: These plans should include the design, materials, and height of the fence.
  4. Property survey: This document shows the legal boundaries of your property and helps ensure that the fence is located within your property lines.
  5. Occupancy certificate or proof of ownership: This document proves that you are the legal owner or resident of the property where the fence will be installed.

It is important to note that the required documents may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your fence installation. In some cases, you might also need Homeowners Association (HOA) approval or a zoning permit amongst others. It is best to consult with the PLI or a professional fence contractor to ensure that you have all the necessary documents before submitting your permit application.

Pay the Application Fee and Submit the Permit Application

After gathering all the necessary documents, the next step is to pay the application fee and submit the permit application. The fee for a fence permit in Pittsburgh varies depending on the type and size of the fence being installed. You can calculate the permit fee on the PLI website using their calculator here. Also, make sure that the permit application is filled and completed accurately and legibly. Incomplete or inaccurate applications may be rejected or delayed.

Application Review and Permit Issuance

Once the application and fee have been submitted, the PLI will review the application to ensure that it complies with all applicable regulations and zoning laws. If any issues or concerns are identified, the applicant will be notified and allowed to make any necessary modifications. After the permit is approved, it will be issued to the applicant, who must show it to the authorities whenever there is an inspection of the property during the installation process. If there are any changes in the design or the work scope, you may need an amendment to the permit.

If you still feel overwhelmed with applying for a fence permit, you can approach a professional fence company, who can help you with the permit application process and ensure that your fence is installed according to local regulations.

Fence Safety Regulations in Pittsburgh

When building a fence in Pittsburgh, it's important to follow safety regulations along with zoning and property line regulations. One such regulation is especially true if you have a swimming pool. According to the state of Pennsylvania, any body of water that is constructed to be 24 inches deep or more, is considered a pool and must meet safety requirements. These pools have to be surrounded by fences that are at least 4 feet high. In case it is an above-ground pool, you don’t need a separate fence if the side of the pool is 4 feet high. You just need to install a removable or locking ladder which should be removed when the pool is not in use. For in-ground pools, the fence should have self-latching or self-closing gates.

Final Thoughts

A well-built and well-maintained fence can add value to your property and provide privacy for you and your family. When building a fence in Pittsburgh, it is essential to be mindful of the local fence laws, zoning regulations, and safety requirements. These regulations vary depending on your location, so it is crucial to do your research and understand the rules before starting your project. You will need to comply with height restrictions, and material restrictions, and obtain the necessary permits. By following these laws, you can ensure that your fence is not only aesthetically pleasing but also safe and legal.

At Ergeon, we offer expert guidance and professional installation services to ensure your fence meets all the necessary legal requirements. We can help you obtain all the required permits and ensure your fence is built safely and legally. Contact us today to get started on your fencing project in Pittsburgh.

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