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Fences

See also: Decks, Retaining Walls & RockeriesSheds

What Is It?

A brown man with grey hair wearing glasses standing in front of a picket fence with trees behind it.A fence is a free-standing wall used for privacy or protection; it may or may not be attached to a building.

What Permits Do You Need?

You don’t need a permit if you’re building a fence 8 feet high or lower that doesn’t have masonry or concrete pieces over 6 feet unless the fence will be located in a flood-prone area.

If you’re building a taller fence, you need a construction permit. Most fences require only a construction subject-to-field-inspection permit. For your permit application, you’ll need to submit an application and your scaled plans, including a site plan and section and detail drawings.

Research the Code

You can build fences almost anywhere on your property; they don’t contribute toward your lot coverage limit. This limit is the percentage of your lot that can be covered by a house and other buildings, such as garages.

In neighborhood residential zones, your fence height is limited to 6 feet, with an additional 2 feet of architectural features such as trellises. On a sloping site, your fence can be 8 feet high, if the average height between posts is 6 feet. If you want to build a fence on a bulkhead or retaining wall in a required yard, there are additional height limits. In most cases, fences and gates cannot restrict access to a street or alley from a commercial or multifamily building's exits. Read the Land Use Code for the complete requirements, use our Question and Answer Service, or contact our Applicant Services Center for land use coaching for more information.

If you want to build near an environmentally critical area, such as a wetland or steep slope, there are different restrictions you must follow.

Should You Hire a Professional?

Fence drawings rarely require a professional stamp (indicating they were created by an architect or engineer). You can prepare the drawings yourself or hire a professional to help you.

Construction and Inspections

Nathan Torgelson, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
Phone: (206) 684-8600
Phone Alt: Violation Complaint Line: (206) 615-0808
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SDCI issues land use, construction, and trade permits, conducts construction and housing-related inspections, ensures compliance with our codes, and regulates rental rules. SDCI is committed to an antiracist workplace and to addressing racism through our work in the community.