My homes backyard goes into a ravine, right now there is a 4 foot fence surrounding the backyard (see picture). enter image description here I would like to replace the fence with a 3 foot fence or shorter (to better see the ravine, and kinda make a cool open yard that flows into the ravine). I couldn't find anything in my cities regulations about a MIN fence height, only a max.

Questions: (1) Do most cities have a min fence height? (2) Any down side to making such a short fence? Animals coming in? etc?

  • You may need to meet the requirements for a handrail rather than a fence, which would have a minimum height. Most cities have a minimum fence height in certain situations such as pool enclosures, as opposed to decorative fences. – Matthew Gauthier Apr 17 '19 at 18:33
  • I think that "standard safety barrier height" is 42 inches - so I'd guess that 36 inches is too low to be safe, and unless the 48" fence is in bad shape I'd leave it alone rather than replace it for 6" less fence (if I do recall that correctly.) – Ecnerwal Apr 18 '19 at 1:50
  • Based on this: dnv.org/sites/default/files/edocs/… , it seems like your minimum would be 42" – UnhandledExcepSean Apr 18 '19 at 20:12
  • @UnhandledExcepSean thank you! But I gotta know, how did you know I was from DNV? – sci-guy Apr 18 '19 at 20:24
  • So, when people don’t state where they are and it matters for the question, I light weight stalk them. I check their profile and if that doesn’t say, I check some questions they have posted recently that would be jurisdiction dependent. In one of your recent questions, you stated you were in Vancouver; I hazard a guess that was the Canadian one and you still lived there. That lead me to look for “Vancouver Canada guard rail height” as I recall. The north part was luck :p – UnhandledExcepSean Apr 18 '19 at 21:11

Check for any "attractive nuisance" laws as well. Even if not specifically present, you could face legal liability if a kid came into your yard, climbed the fence into the ravine, and got hurt. If that happened, having the opposing side able to state that you replaced the existing fence with a shorter one isn't going to look good.

Not a lawyer, but for fencing surrounding something potentially deadly like a ravine, I'd suggest fencing that's tall and not very climbable. Wrought iron or similar could work to create a impassible barrier while not disrupting sight lines.

EDIT: looks like this law probably won't apply, because attractive nuisances have to be artificial in nature. That being said, reducing the chance for a neighbor's kid to die horribly in your yard could be motivation enough.

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  • And building codes require that a 4” diameter sphere cannot pass through the “Guardrail”, (which, of course, is the size of a small child’s head). – Lee Sam Apr 18 '19 at 23:40

You have to check local regulations. I suspect that the fence was originally there to keep someone/thing in. Dog, toddler....

It can also be used to keep casual foot traffic in the ravine out.


  • Remove the fence entirely.

  • Replace the fence with 'deer fencing' This is made from standard T posts and a fine plastic coated nylon mesh -- think higher grade badminton net. The stuff is hard to see from more than a few feet away. This would give you good view from the house, but would be slightly noticeable from up close.

  • Replace the fence with a hedge. This marks the edge of your property, but is easy to step over/between.

  • Replace the fence with a mix of hedge and columnar trees. This does a better job of marking an edge, allows you to see the ravine between the trees, and perhaps can frame the view. E.g. two trees on either end of the row:


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