What You Need to Know About Fence Height

April 17, 2020

It's important to know fence height regulations in your area, as there are consequences for failing to follow these rules. In this post, our senior sales expert, Kevin, goes over everything you need to know about fence height.

Why is fence height important?

When describing or talking about the features of a fence, height is of paramount importance as it is the most strictly and carefully regulated characteristic of a fence.

Some local regulations will go as far as to restrict the style and type of fence that can be constructed but with no exception, they will always regulate how high a fence can be built; and if a permit will be needed or not before the construction or replacing starts.

How do you measure the finish height of a fence?

The right way to measure is starting down from the finished grade at the base where the posts are embedded at ground level, all the way to the highest point of the structure.

This is not only limited to how tall the pickets are but also inclusive of any accessory the fence may have, like decorative pieces at the top such as lattice or horizontal boards at the bottom like kickboards, any gaps in the middle or even posts that go beyond the normal height of the fence which are often finished with a cap.

An exception may be observed when the fence sits on top of an integrated retaining wall making up for the height difference between properties, as local regulations generally allow the fence to be measured from the top finished grade to the highest point of the structure. 

Unless clearly stated in the legislation, the maximum height restrictions for fencing will always include any accessory, therefore we should take every single one of them into account in order to properly calculate the total height of a fence.

How high can I build my fence?

Just as with many other construction activities, building a fence is regulated locally. There is currently no set statewide or national standard for allowed residential fence height, therefore it will surely vary from one location to the next, sometimes it may vary even within the same city. 

The City and County planning departments are the authorities who enforce these code restrictions and the ones who issue the corresponding permits when needed.

Many cities in the Bay Area will allow a 6 ft high fence to be erected within the sides and back of a residential property without the need of a permit, other locations will allow up to 7 ft or even 8 ft specifically for the rear fence. For the front yard, the maximum height allowed is generally much less, typically between 3-4 ft. But some other places will always require either a building or zoning permit regardless of the fence height so it's always important to check with your local planning departments first.

There are also special regulations for corner lots where a visibility triangle needs to be taken into consideration, to allow transiting vehicles and pedestrians to notice any incoming subject around the corner. In the case of pools for safety reasons not only is the maximum height regulated but also the minimum.

In some cases regulations also take into consideration the transparency of the fence, allowing to go an extra foot higher if the fence is partially or completely open in order to ensure additional visibility.

Why may my fence be a few inches shorter than requested?

In the lumber industry, there is a slight mismatch between the nominal dimensions and the actual measurements for wooden boards.

Nominal measurements are traditionally referred to the size of the board when it was first rough cut, this is before the wood undergoes any process, before any drying or planing takes place.

These nominal dimension tags that are given initially, continue to be used throughout the board's life for identification purposes, although the actual size may correspond to a slightly smaller measurement. 

Please allow a small tolerance if there’s a few inches difference in the final measurements as this is just part of the industry standard.

What are the implications of building outside the fence height regulations?

There are many reasons why it’s highly advisable to build within city regulations, not only can the City or County impose hefty fees and fines, but they can also order the complete replacement for a fence that is out of code. Which entails having to incur in the additional costs of tearing down the fence, disposing of it and having to rebuild a new one.

Remember that for each property, it's the owner’s responsibility to make sure the fence is up to code as they will be personally liable for any transgression. If you’re planning on opting for a finish height that exceeds the maximum allowed by your local regulations, make sure you have the permit issued and ready before the construction starts.

If you have doubts regarding the maximum fence height allowed in your area, you can give us a call or contact your local planning department.

Ready to get started? Join the over 10,000 happy customers who have had fences built by Ergeon. We specialize in fence installation and repair and hold a 4.6 average rating!

Request Your Free Fence Quote

Professional installation services

Get your project done by the experts

Get a quote