1. Building Inspection Counter Appointments

    Building Inspection plan review and zoning review counters will be open to the public by appointment only.

Fence or Hedge

Note: For general repairs over $500, contact Building Inspection at (608) 266-4551.

You don’t need a building permit to put up a fence. But you do need to know Madison’s laws governing the height and placement of fences and screening.

You also need to check for any deed restrictions or covenants on your property that might regulate improvements in your yard. Refer to the documents you signed and received when you purchased your house.

If you’re not sure that your proposed fence will meet the requirements, call Zoning at (608) 266-4551 for help. Zoning staff will be happy to advise you so that your fence is both safe and attractive.

Process Overview

  1. Review Requirements


    • A fence may be erected up to the lot line, but no part of the fence or post may encroach over the lot line. Keep a fence or plantings back from the property line to allow easy maintenance. It is your choice whether to fence in the entire yard or only part of it.
    • There is no legal requirement that the good side of the fence face your neighbor. But it s a good idea to talk over your fence project with your neighbors and find out their concerns.


    • Fence or hedge height shall be measured from natural or approved grade. In the case of grade separation, such as the division of properties by a retaining wall, fence or hedge height shall be determined based on measurement from the average point between highest and lowest grade. If the fence or hedge is set back from the retaining wall by a distance of at least 4 feet, the height shall be measured from the base of the fence or hedge. Berms and retaining walls shall not be used to increase grade relative to screening height.
    • Screening fences or hedges in the front yard setback may be no higher than 4 feet. Ornamental fences may be 5 feet high if less than 50% opaque and 6 feet high if less than 20% opaque.
    • Screening fences or hedges in corner street side yards may be 6 feet high if set back 4 feet from the street side lot line or located behind the rear plane of the principal building. Otherwise, they are limited to 4 feet in height.
    • Screening fences or hedges in rear or interior side yards may be 6 feet high. If your yard adjoins a commercial district, the fence or hedge may be 8 feet high along the common property line.
    • Street intersection corners may have fences or hedges that are 30 inches or fewer in height. Tree branches must be at least 10 feet above ground level. These requirements are for fences, hedges, or trees within 25 feet, on either side, from the corner of the lot. This lets pedestrians and autos have a clear view of traffic.
    • In-ground pools must be enclosed by a fence that is at least 4 feet high. A pool fence must also have a gate with a lock.
    • Above-ground pools with sides that are less than 4 feet high do not need to be enclosed by a fence. However, access to an above ground pool must be controlled. A removable ladder is an easy way to meet this requirement.
    • Driveways may be lined by fences or plantings that you cannot see through. But any place within 10 feet of where the driveway intersects with a street-side lot line, fences or plantings cannot be more than 2 feet high. If your neighbor’s driveway is closer than 10 feet to the lot line, this rule also applies to your plantings or fence.
    • Retaining walls are subject to the same height considerations as other types of fences. Retaining wall height is measured from the natural grade of the land to the top of the wall or to the top of a wall/screen combination at the lot line.
  2. Locate your Lot Lines

    There should be metal stakes at each corner of your lot. It is important that you find them. Talk with your neighbors or use a metal detector. If you can’t locate your lot lines yourself, you may need to hire a surveyor. The City cannot help you with this.

  3. Call Diggers Hotline

    Call the Diggers Hotline, 1-800-242-8511, to avoid rupturing underground utilities that you may not know are there. A utility company employee will come out and mark the location of underground electric, sewer, telephone, and cable lines in your yard. You may need to change the placement of your fence or plantings if it is over one of these lines.

  4. Put up the Fence or Hedge

    Install fencing according to manufacturer’s instructions. The company you purchased your fence from can supply you with instructions on how best to put up your particular fence. Plant your trees and shrubs as directed by the nursery.

  5. Maintain

    Keep your fence and plantings in good condition. Paint and repair fences on a regular basis. Trim shrubbery to maintain height requirements and keep it off of sidewalks, streets, and neighbor's property.

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