Share this page Print

Fence, retaining walls and garden boxes

 

Important terms

Fence: a structure used to prevent or restrict passage, provide visual screening, reduce sound, decorate a yard, deter dust or the elements or mark a boundary.

Retaining wall: a structure constructed to withstand lateral pressure and to hold back earth, loose rock or similar materials.

Garden box: Also known as a planter box, is a landscaping feature that acts as a retaining wall which holds back earth, loose rock, or similar materials.

Before you start

Fences, retaining walls and garden boxes​ on residential property are the responsibility of the property owner. Fences located on a shared property line are the responsibility of both property owners. Any cost for construction or maintenance of the fence is a private issue between neighbours. Fences and retaining walls must be within the property boundaries and follow the Land Use Bylaw rules.

Retaining walls and garden boxes do not have any setback requirements from a property line. They can be built right to the property line or run along the property line, but may not encroach onto any utility right-of-way, overland drainage right-of-way or City-owned land.

What permits do I need?

The scope of work being performed will dictate what permits are required. If a development permit is required, this must be applied for and approved prior to building permit and trade permit applications.

When is a development permit required?

Fences

A development permit is required if the following fence rules are not met:

  • 1.2 m maximum height for any portion of a fence that extends between the foremost front facade of the house and the front property line.
  • 2.5 m maximum height at the highest point of a gate that is not more than 2.5 m in length.
  • When located in a corner visibility triangle, fences must not exceed the lowest elevation of the street by more than 0.5 m.
  • 2.0 m maximum height in all other cases.
Corner visibility triangle
Corner visibility triangle
 
Fence height
Fence height
 

Retaining walls and garden boxs

A development permit for a retaining wall or garden box is required when:

  • The retaining wall or garden box is holding back more than 1.0 m of soil OR, or
  • The total depth of all retaining walls within 1.0 m is equal to or greater than 1.0 m in depth​.

Existing structures requiring relaxation

If a structure has already been built and does not comply with the Land Use Byla​w rules, a relaxation application is required. You apply for a development permit to allow for The City to weigh the impacts of the non-compliant structure and evaluate whether a relaxation is appropriate. When making this type of application, use the relaxation of an existing structure requirement list.

When is a building permit required?

A building permit is not required to construct a fence on a residential property.

Because of safety concerns, a building permit and engineer involvement will be required when the structure is holding 1.2 m (4ft) of soil. Please refer to the retaining wall building permit requirement list for retaining walls and garden boxes​.

If a development permit is required for your project, this must be approved and released before a building permit will be issued.

Risks when a permit is not obtained

If you, as a homeowner or contractor, do not have permits for work that has been started or completed, there could be consequences if you do not take action to correct the situation, such as:

  • Enforcement action issued by a City inspector.
  • A fine for building without a permit.
  • Having to undo work that has been completed.
  • Future legal and financial issues when selling your property or making an insurance claim.
  • Having to do more work than was originally planned and budgeted.

Note: As a homeowner, you are responsible for paying any penalties, even if you hired a contractor who assured you permits were not needed. If you are unsure if you need a permit, call the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311. Find out if your contractor has a City of Calgary business license with our Licensed Trade Contractor List.

Timelines

Most building permits for home improvement projects can be issued the same day as the application. However, sometimes a plans examiner will require a more in-depth examination of the application and the building permit is generally issued within a week.

Development permit timelines vary based on the type of application and the impacts to the community. Development permits must be approved and released before a building permit can be issued.

We're committed to providing you with a timely response on your permit application.

Know the Rules

Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the work being carried out conforms to any restrictive covenants, caveats or other restrictions that are registered on the land title.​

Measuring the height of fences, retaining walls and garden boxes

Retaining walls over 1.0 m in height will require a development permit.

Garden boxes must follow the rules of a retaining wall when the garden box is holding back soil at grade level. Please refer to images provided.

Garden box – measured at grade - no development permit or building permit required
Garden box – measured at grade - no development permit or building permit required
Garden Box - measured at lower grade - development and building permit required
Garden Box - measured at lower grade - development and building permit required

Retaining walls and fence heights are measured from grade to the top of the fence:

Fence located on top of retaining wall showing depths
Fence located on top of retaining wall showing depths

Derelict or run down fences

Fences on private property that are in poor condition are handled by the Community Standards Bylaw. Contact 311 for more information.

Developer fences

In most situations where a fence has been built by a developer, a restrictive covenant is registered on the land title, outlining the property owner’s rights. Developer fences older than two years are no longer the responsibility of the developer. To see who is responsible after the developer, refer to your caveat.

For any questions regarded fences off roadways, parks and pathways, contact 311.

Encroachment guidelines

New fence construction is not permitted to extend onto City of Calgary property. Visit the encroachments page for more information.

Additional inquiries about building, plumbing, gas, electrical or heating, ventilation and air conditioning code or construction methods, building safety and fire regulations, please contact the Technical Ass​istance Centre​ or call 311. For all other inquiries (i.e. Land Use Bylaw), please contact our Planning Services Centre.

How to apply

Once you have determined which application(s) you will require, you can start to prepare the application requirements as outlined below. For building, development and trade permits, homeowners can apply in person at the Planning Services Centre, located on the third floor of the Calgary Municipal Building at 800 Macleod Tr. S.E. Business customers have the option to apply online through our ePermit system. For drafted examples, see the sample drawings​ section.

The requirement lists below are a comprehensive overview of application requirements. Please print and have all applicable forms and drawings completed prior to applying.

Building ​permits

Retaining Wall Building Permit requirement list
Retaining Wall (spanning two or more lots) Building Permit requirement list

  • Application form: have this document completed when applying at the counter. List the address, applicant and contractor, if a contractor is being used.
  • Letter of authorization: if your building has a condo board, provide a letter from the board authorizing your work.

Develop​ment permits​

If you do not have a copy of your Certificate of Title or registrations on title, these can be obtained through an Alberta registry or at alta.registries.gov.ab.ca​.

Development permit fees

Sample drawings

Sample drawings for building permits and development permits for fences and retaining walls.

Inspections

Book your inspections by contacting 311 and providing them with your permit number.

Most retaining wall projects only require a rough-in inspection. The requirement for a final inspection can be waived at the discretion of the inspector.

Rough-in inspection

  • Complete the retaining wall.
  • Install guards.
  • Have requested documentation on site

The inspection process is dynamic and an inspection outcome depends on the chosen construction method and site conditions at time of inspection. The information provided is not intended as an exhaustive list but a generalized outline of the inspection process.

A development completion permit inspection may be required if a development permit is involved in your project. Call our Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 to determine if a development completion permit is required.

Call before you dig

Always call Alberta One Call before you dig: 1-800-242-3447. For more information or to submit a locate request, visit Alberta One-Call.

Disclaimer: This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​​​​​​ ​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​