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City of Madison Development Services Center
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Fence or Hedge

Contact: Email Zoning Phone Number (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 266-4560 (Zoning) for help. Zoning staff will be happy to advise you so that your fence is both safe and attractive.

PROCESS OVERVIEW:

  1. Find out if your proposed fence or planting project will meet the following requirements

    Placement
    • 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.
    Height
    • Front or side yard fences or hedges, within 4 feet of the streetside lot line, may be no higher than 4 feet above ground level.
    • Rear or side yards may have fences or hedges that are no more than 6 feet tall. 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 2 feet or less in height. Trees cannot have branches lower than 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 aboveground 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.

Related Forms & Handouts


Have Questions?

Contact Zoning - (608) 266-4551