A Guide to Fence Laws in San Antonio, TX

October 10, 2022

If you’re a property owner in San Antonio and looking to build a fence, there are city regulations you need to be aware of before starting your project. Residents of San Antonio also have unique conditions including historic districts that may impact the type of construction projects you can undertake.

Rules that govern how fence projects can be carried out can 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.

Regulations and requirements governing fence permitting vary from city to city and between residential property and nonresidential areas. Fences built near floodplains, airports or around pools have their own special regulations that you’ll need to be familiar with. San Antonio, which is home to protected historic districts, may have special rules for these areas.

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.

In San Antonio, residential fence permits are required for all fences, with some differences depending on height and the type of fence you are constructing. Since some rules vary by county, and San Antonio covers three different counties - Bexar, Comal and Medina - there are small differences by county that we will detail when they apply. There are permit fees for your fence permit application, which you can find out more about here.

Below are a few examples of laws you need to be aware of for your fence project in San Antonio, Texas.

Fence Material

San Antonio regulates the types of materials that may be used in the construction of a fence on single family or mixed residential use lots. Allowed materials include wood, chain link fence, stone, rock, concrete block, masonry brick, brick, decorative wrought-iron, and other materials with similar durability.

Barbed wire and razor wire are prohibited for use in fences. Other types of materials that can’t be used for fencing are cast-off, secondhand or items not intended to be used for constructing a fence as well as sheet, roll or corrugated metal.

Fence Height

Front yards

San Antonio’s rules for front yard maximum fence height varies slightly by county. In Bexar County, there is a three-foot solid fence height maximum and a four-foot open fence height maximum. In Comal County, the maximum front yard fence height is four feet regardless of whether it is open or solid. And in Medina County, there is a five-foot maximum for solid front yard fences and a four-foot maximum for open front yard fences.

Back yards

For the backyard, there is a maximum fence height of six feet for a regular permit. However, you can build up to eight feet if you get a special, engineered permit. That’s to confirm that the foundation and support structure are designed to sustain wind loads in accordance with the International Building Code.

There are some exceptions in which you can build a fence up to a height of eight feet, including:

  • in a side or rear yard where a slope is present, the height of a fence can be adjusted so that the top of the fence is level and perpendicular to the support posts at a height greater than six feet as long as the height of the fence at its greatest elevation doesn’t exceed eight feet.
  • the ground floor elevation of the principal dwelling on either the property obtaining the permit or the next door neighbor is at least four feet higher than the elevation at the shared lot line
  • the fence is on a side or rear lot line of a home that abuts a multi-family residential, commercial, industrial or park use

Side fences

For a fence on your side yard, you can build up to three feet on a side street and six feet on an interior side fence.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls less than four feet tall do not require a permit.

Property Line Regulations

Fence setbacks are not allowed in San Antonio. That means you can’t build your fence a few feet back from the property line. Easements would require your neighbor’s permission. Fences must be built on the property line, 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.

Fence Permits

In San Antonio, as the property owner you will need to get a building permit before starting construction or repair of a fence. You can get the permit application from the city of San Antonio. However, for a repair or replacement of an existing fence, you will only need to get a permit if the total repair or replacement covers more than 25 percent of the continuous length of the fence.

Special Considerations

Historic districts

If your property is within a historic district, the historic preservation officer will need to review your fence plan in order to determine whether it is compatible with the district’s provisions before a permit is issued for your fence.

Clear vision areas

San Antonio also regulates certain areas as “fence clear vision areas”. These include:

  • street intersections on residential corner lots where no fence higher than three feet can be constructed within the area formed by measuring twenty-five feet in each direction from the street curb
  • driveway, accessway or alley intersections on residential lots where no fence higher than three feet can be constructed within the triangle formed by measuring fifteen feet in each direction from the point where a driveway, accessway, or alley intersects with the street curb

If you think your project could be built differently without impacting safety, and you can demonstrate that, you may be able to get an administrative exception from the development services department.

Neighborhood rules

If you belong to an HOA, contact them for their fence regulations which could be different from those of the municipality.

Safety

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.

Next Steps

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 San Antonio page for how to get started!

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