What Are the Height Restrictions for Seattle Fences?
You may very well be up to the task of building a fence, but what you don’t lack in confidence, you may lack knowledge about Seattle’s fence regulations. You may not realize it, but state-wide and citywide regulations require a certain height when constructing a fence. So, it’s not like you can just have it your way. The last thing you wish to see is a citation or notice to tear down your fence.’
Depending on the type of property, purpose, and materials used, you may even be required to secure a permit before you embark on building your fence. Local zoning codes often determine these requirements. To avoid potential problems, it’s best to check with the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections before you start.
When Is a Permit Required?
A fence meant to surround a residential property that’s at most 8 feet high with no concrete or masonry over 6 feet generally doesn’t require a permit, however check with your local government for details.
Hence, anything that exceeds the prescribed height will generally need a construction permit.
Moreover, if you’re creating a fenced area around your swimming pool, spa, or hot tub, you’ll also need to meet additional safety regulations since these areas can be potentially hazardous.
Fences in single-family homes located in residential neighbourhoods can’t exceed six feet, but this restriction doesn’t include common add-ons and features such as trellises, arbors, and other architectural features. For example, you may want to add architectural features to your fence, like a lattice or trellis that can exceed the six-foot limit by up to 18 inches. In certain cases, fences and walls can be built seven feet high if they’re located in rear yards.
Meanwhile, side and rear yard fences for multi-family dwellings may also go up to eight feet high and six feet in the front. But even if your fence may be higher than what’s allowed, you can still seek a variance from the city.
Be reminded that even with add-ons, you’re still responsible for ensuring that there’s open space in them; the rationale is to prevent them from blocking the view (for security purposes). It makes sense; the last thing you want is to have burglars or trespassers form a hidden refuge behind your fence.
Being under the clout of local regulations may seem like a bummer, but it’s still for your good. And because Seattle is within Washington’s state lines, you’d do well to check out the laws and statutes regarding fences within the state levels. For example, state law has no explicit rules on front yard fence height, but most cities in Washington agree on a “four feet” limit. Now, if you’re in Seattle, the potential height limit is slightly above four feet.
If you’re considering constructing a fence over a retaining wall, the key figure to remember is 9 and 1/2 feet, as this is the maximum allowable height of both the retaining wall and the fence. This is one of the few exceptions where you can exceed the usual height limit. Another one is when you’re building a fence on a slope. Obviously, the fence’s height can change as it follows the grade.
Height isn’t the only aspect of fencing that’s covered by regulations. The amount of space your fence occupies is subject to area zoning codes. In Seattle, the allowable footprint for fences in residential front yards should not exceed 30% of the width between the two lot lines. But if adjacent walls or fences are already present, the area coverage percentage shall be calculated using the total width between the two existing walls or fences.
But it’s worth noting that while most cities explicitly prohibit the construction of structures (including fences) on a certain percentage of a lot, Seattle has no law restricting lot coverage. However, restrictions may still be imposed if the walls and fences are deemed to obstruct vision from public streets or interfere with vehicles moving on them.
Fence placement isn’t a concern in Seattle, provided you abide by the height restrictions. In other words, you’re free to put up the fence wherever you want, as long as it’s within the same property line.
A word of caution: don’t forget to keep your fence at least five feet away from any fire hydrant or utility access point. Otherwise, you’ll have to face the music should the need for emergency maintenance arise.
Some Thoughts on Fencing Material
Whatever fencing material you choose, it’ll be a reflection of your taste and style. But if you don’t want to be caught in a legal bind, see to it that the material meets city fire codes and safety standards.
A wood fence is a practical choice for two reasons: first, it has a natural beauty that can complement any garden landscape; second, its maintenance requirement isn’t as daunting as other materials. When treated with a protective coating or sealer, wood will last for years with minimal upkeep.
Don’t use barbed wire and electric fences in residential settings. These fence varieties are meant for livestock, not people. They’re also designed for industrial or agricultural settings, so don’t even think of using them in your residential property.
When it comes to pool fencing, wood, chain-link, and wrought iron are usually accepted material choices. Choose non-climbable materials like wrought iron or vinyl so there’s no way for your children to climb over the fence.
The pool fence is constructed to safeguard your kids from drowning, so you don’t want to take any chances with its design or material. And if you’re building a fence for your pets, see that it’s tight enough to keep them contained and high enough (at least four feet), so they won’t jump over it when they get excited.
Last Thoughts On Height Restrictions For Seattle Fences
Whether it’s a front yard picket fence or a more private backyard enclosure, adhering to the local codes and regulations not only keeps you in good standing with the city but also contributes to a well-planned and harmonious community. Height limitations may differ based on your property’s location, zoning, and even the specific placement of the fence on your property.
Therefore, it’s highly advisable to consult with local authorities or a professional fencing company familiar with Seattle’s regulations to ensure your project complies with all applicable rules. By doing so, you can invest in a fence that meets both your needs and those of your community, all while avoiding costly mistakes or potential legal issues.