With spring set to arrive sometime between now and August, many Calgarians are lining up their outdoor projects – among them, decks, gardens, and of course fences. When it comes to fences, we often get questions from clients about what they can and cannot build, and what steps they should take prior to construction. While building a fence may seem like a straightforward project, there are a number of things to keep in mind both before and during construction.

Planning Ahead

The first step in building a fence involves a great deal of planning. What type of fence should I build? How tall can it be? What materials should I use? Where do I want the fence to run? Different people build fences for different reasons – some for privacy; some to mark property lines; and others just for an added element of décor. The reason for the fence will dictate where it goes, what it’s made of, and how big it is.

When planning your fence, any home owner should start by looking at whether there are restrictive covenants on the property. Restrictive covenants may dictate what a fence can be made of, or whether a fence can be built at all. For example, many neighborhoods with homes that back onto green strips or overlook scenic sights such as the river valley or Fish Creek Park will have a form of chain link fence on the sides or at the back to allow for a view. While some may allow a solid fence between properties, most will not allow anything but chain link at the back of the property. It’s always a good idea to check if there are restrictive covenants listed on the Title to your home.

Get the Neighbors on Board

Once you know what type of fence you can or cannot build, talk to your next-door neighbor(s) to see if they will contribute to the cost of the fence, and if so, to try and find a style of fence you both would like. Residential neighbors are not under any obligation to share in the cost of building a fence along their property, but since both neighbors will have the benefit of the fence, a consensus can usually be found.

Restrictive Covenants For Fences?

At this point you are ready to choose your materials and the style of your fence. Aside from any restrictive covenants in place, you have a great deal of discretion here, so build to your taste, in consultation with any neighbor contributing to the cost of course. But make sure you observe the Land Use Bylaw height restrictions; for backyard fences within Calgary, the maximum allowable height is 6’6” (2.0 metres) with accompanying gates being capped at 8’2” (2.5 metres) at their highest point. Anything over this height will require a development permit prior to construction (fences on the property and within the height restrictions do not require a development permit).

Consult Your Real Property Report

Now that you know what kind of fence you want to build, check your Real Property Report (RPR) to mark out your property lines. An RPR will show the distance from different points of your house to the edge of your property. In addition, the RPR will show the location of pins placed at the corners of your property (or the absence of pins if they have been removed over the years). The RPR is your best tool to ensure the fence you will build actually sits on your property. A fence built either on adjacent City property or encroaching onto your neighbor’s property can create all sorts of problems for a home owner down the road. Also, keep in mind that if you construct a fence where there wasn’t one previously you will need to update your RPR prior to selling or refinancing your home. But if you tear down an old fence and put a new one in exactly the same spot, an RPR update is not required.

Don’t Forget to Get the Utilities and Services Marked

Once you’re through the planning stages, the final step before actually building any outdoor construction project is always to have the utilities and services marked. This is obviously important to ensure you don’t hit water or electrical lines when digging around in your yard, but is also important to ensure you don’t build over top of the City utility right-of-way; this no-no will eventually require the removal of the encroaching project, at the expense of the home owner. One quick call to Alberta One-call will get someone out to mark the utilities and services for you.

A well-built fence, constructed with the next-door neighbor’s support and endorsement, will contribute to good neighbor relations for years to come. Provided the above tips are followed, the fence also will stand the test of time, and won’t create headaches for you, or future owners down the road.