Residential Fence Codes, Regulations and Permit – Chicago, IL
Chicago, with over 2.7 million residents, is a complex environment for homeowners. Its building codes are lengthy and complex. That’s because the city has so many types of homes and residential developments, scattered among dozens of neighborhoods. It seems almost impossible to find out online exactly what is required for a homeowner to build a fence at a single-family home in the city. The reality, though, is that Chicago’s building codes for most fence projects are deceptively simple. Unlike in most suburban cities, Chicago’s ordinances regarding fences lack many details. However, planning a residential fence in this city can be challenging. Your home’s new fence enclosure can be very simple to design, or very complex.
Frankly, that’s why most homeowners in this city rely on local licensed contractors for all of their fence building needs. They are used to dealing with the Building Department and know their way around the regulations and complexity of the city’s permitting process. However, handy do-it-yourselfers have one advantage here over almost any other city in Illinois. Chicago does not require a building permit for fences 5′ high or less, as long as it is built of typical materials used in residential areas. Since a permit is not needed for such structures, many people simply build their fence without contacting the city at all. In almost all cases, if the project is installed using normal building practices, there should never be a problem. For any other sort of installation, though, hiring a professional is your best bet.
General Requirements for Residential Fences
- Building Permit Required? – No permit is required for fences 5′ high or less. All other projects, including masonry fences of any height, require a permit. An “Easy Permit” process, when required, simplifies the process. Permit fees are based on the project’s length.
- Permit Documentation Needed – A detailed drawing of the property, its buildings and the proposed project is required. A plat of survey may also be needed.
- Fence Materials Allowed – All typical residential fence materials, including wood, aluminum, steel, vinyl PVC and composite, are allowed. Barbed wire or other hazardous types materials are not allowed in residential areas.
- Maximum Height Limits – Maximum height for residential fences is 8′ for designs of open construction. Solid fences are generally limited to 6′ in height.
- Property Line Issues – This is not specified in the ordinances. However, standard practice is to keep the entire fence on the owner’s property.
- Inspections Needed – For fences not requiring a permit, no inspection is needed. If you need a permit, a final inspection is required.
- Building Authority Contact – 312-744-7421 (Easy Permits)
- Building Department Website
Specific Rules and Regulations
- Front Yard Fences – Not specified in the ordinances. If building without a permit, follow neighborhood standards. In many neighborhoods, ornamental metal materials are typical. In others, wood picket fences are popular.
- Side Yard Fences – Not specified in the ordinances. Work with neighbors if building a side yard fence adjacent to another home if a permit is not required.
- Back Yard Fences – Fences 5′ high or less do not require a permit. Discuss such back yard projects with neighbors to minimize disputes.
- Corner Lot Restrictions – None specified in the ordinances. Follow neighborhood standards for fences not needing a permit.
- Other Restrictions – All fences must be designed to withstand 30 pounds per square foot of wind force. Typical designs up to 5′ high will easily meet this standard.
- Homeowner’s Association Issues – If your home is in a subdivision or development governed by an HOA, specific requirements for fences will be included in your HOA contract. These must be followed.
- Commercial Fence Codes – Before planning any fence project for a commercial, multi-residential, industrial or other property that is not a single-family residence, contact the Building Department for guidance. Requirements vary according to building type, zoning regulations and other factors.
Installing a Residential Fence in Chicago? Know the City’s Regulations
Since no building permit or inspections are required for simple fences no more than 5′ high, it’s common for homeowners and hired handyman services to build such fences. However, common sense rules should be followed, after looking at other fences in your neighborhood and talking to neighbors. As long as your fence fits into the neighborhood and isn’t over 5′ tall, it should be OK. If you have questions, contacting your alderman’s office can help. However, if you’re planning something else or any project over 5′ high, it’s time to call in a professional. Any fencing contractor will have a thorough understanding of accepted standards in your neighborhood. Your contractor can show you designs and materials suitable for your location, help you navigate the complex permitting process, and make an installation at a competitive cost. You won’t have to worry about unwritten, but required, restrictions and specifications.