Do You Need A Permit For Landscaping? (Find Out Now!)

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

As a homeowner, you would ideally want to maximize each inch of your property to its full potential. This not only refers to your indoor square footage but also your front and back yards. One way to add living space is transforming a barren patio into an oasis, but do you need a permit for landscaping?

Adding landscaping to your home usually does not require a permit, especially for single-family structures. Basic landscaping improvements could mean simply adding a few well-placed plants, some decking and outdoor furniture. However, if a major addition needs to take place, such as repairing a retaining wall, a permit may be necessary.

Landscaping can be a simple DIY project or, if complex plans are in the works, will need the expertise of a professional. If the landscaping project involves a subdivision with a homeowner’s association, you may need to ask permission first. Always check your individual situation before diving in headfirst and digging up that dirt.

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Landscaping Activities That May Require A Permit

Landscaping may seem like a pretty general term for any improvement on your outdoor spaces. A new garden, a new fence, maybe even a new sparkling pool, all these may fall under the umbrella of “landscaping.” To be on the safe side, know your city or neighborhood’s rules and regulations before tackling the following projects.

Installing A Fence

When you want to add or replace an existing fence, a permit may be required. This rule may have slight differentiations depending on where you live. Before setting out buying materials or hiring a contractor, know your local laws and building codes.

Other factors to consider are fence height, materials, and overall aesthetic. A permit may not be required where you reside, but approval from the homeowner’s association may be necessary and prudent. Also, be sure that you know your property boundary lines and do not accidentally encroach on the neighbor’s yard.

Underground Electrical Work

When your landscaping plans require extensive digging for a lush spring garden, contact the utility companies first. Electric, gas, and other utilities may have underground workings that may get damaged by an unsuspecting backhoe or shovel. Have the utility companies mark off specific areas, so no damage occurs underground while beautifying above-ground space.

Aside from adding ornamental plants and foliage, another reason why digging is involved in a landscaping project is when adding irrigation. This may very well be for a new structure such as a water fountain or a koi pond. Or it could simply be to replace the old sprinkler system.

Tree Trimming Or Removal

When planning on removing a tree or simply trimming one, be prepared to obtain a permit. Local ordinances vary widely depending on where you live in the country. The key is to ask before swinging the axe.

There are also special ordinances in place if dealing with protected tree species. Again, this would vary depending on the state you reside in. Homeowners may have the right to remove a tree that poses a safety risk, but a special permit is necessary.

Repairing a Retaining Wall

Anything that has the potential of impacting surrounding properties requires a permit, and this includes repairing a retaining wall. Be sure to check with your local building authority before tackling such a project. Local ordinances vary, so do not skip this step, or you may end up paying way more than you expected.

Repairing retaining walls may alter surrounding properties’ water flow and may create a source of tension with your neighbors. It may be best to delegate this project and the permit acquisition to a licensed contractor. Giving the neighbors a heads up and keeping them updated is also the proper neighborly thing to do.

Installing An Inground Swimming Pool

Technically not a landscaping project, but call your favorite neighborhood landscape architect for advice before installing a pool. Better yet, employ your favorite neighborhood landscape architect to guarantee that your new pool will fit your overall outdoor environment. Such an extensive backyard addition would require not just a slew of permits but also a professional’s touch.

Working alongside your pool builder, your landscape architect will ensure that the pool is in the best location aesthetically. After all, this is an investment you would like to keep for many, many years to come.

Remember that any landscaping activities that may require a permit also require an inspection after the work is done.

Simple and Inexpensive Landscaping Ideas (That Do Not Require A Permit)

Before embarking on a landscaping project, remember to incorporate the five principles of landscape design. These are balance, focalization, simplicity, proportion, unity, and rhythm & line.

Landscaping Without A Permit: Plant Flower Beds

One easy way to transform your outdoor space from blah to beautiful is by strategically planting flower beds. Your plants may not look like much right after you put them in the ground. But try to imagine how they would look in the near future with colorful flowers blooming helter-skelter.

Landscaping Without A Permit: Paint An Outer Wall Or Fence

Bring out the artistic side in you and gather up paints and brushes to create a mural. A well-thought-out outdoor painting, or a series of paintings, will give your backyard that pop of color it needs. Any subject, color, or theme closest to your heart should do the trick.

Related Guide: Do You Need A Permit To Paint A Mural?

Landscaping Without A Permit: Create A Japanese Garden

A Japanese garden is a wonderful outdoor addition, whether dealing with a huge space or a small yard. Rocks, water, plants, and ornaments make up your basic Japanese garden. Find a look you like, gather the materials, arrange accordingly and bask in a zen-like environment in no time.

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Related Questions

What if I do not get a permit for a landscaping project?

Not getting a permit for a landscaping project may save you money now but will cost you dearly in the future.  Always know your local building codes and ordinances before attempting any addition or repair to your property.  Without the proper permits, you risk fines, penalties, and possibly additional construction costs.Aside from these inevitable headaches, you may find it challenging to sell your property in the future.

Can I DIY tree removal?

Removing a tree from your property will require proper tools, equipment, and, most likely, a special permit.  Hiring a licensed arborist ensures safe and proper tree removal, and they can obtain the necessary permits for you.

Related Guide

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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