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Advice needed about concrete block fences (Renman?)

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: Mar 22 2003

We are in a courtyard model Eichler in Willow Glen. We are getting ready to re-landscape our front yard and are considering replacing our front wooden fence with one of concrete block of the style similar to some we have seen that were original. (Not on our street, but nearby.) I have a few questions:

-In some areas, Hudson Drive for example, these fences go all the way up to the roofline, resulting in a height of about 8 feet. I thought that building codes limited fences to 6 feet. Any comments?

-Do we need to get a permit to replace the front fence? If not, is there a point at which one does need to get a permit?

-What type of building professional would we hire for such a job?

Thanks a bunch,


Joined: Aug 28 2003

You need to ask the City of San Jose what their rules are for fence height etc.
In Sunnyvale you only need a permit to replace a fence if you are building it higher than the city allows (over 5.5 feet). In that case you need to apply for a variance. We replaced our original fence but found out from the county records that the previous owners had already gotten a variance for its extra height and the variance transfered with change of ownership.

Joined: Jan 4 2004

Hi Cathye,
Leslie Had it correct, it is best to check with your building dept.
Also, note that because you are considering a Cinderblock (or CMU) wall, the building dept. may not classify this as a fence, but rather a wall, and it may not be subject to height limitations, but rather they might insist that set back limitations are enforceable for this type of structure (it really depends on how they interpret this application in relation to the rest of your property).
Last, any decent tradesperson with masonary skills should be able to tackle this for you (I've often found that a number of landscape builders have the capability to stack CMU walls). Remember to be patient, it is the busiest time of the year for builders.
Good Luck!


Joined: Mar 22 2003

Thanks Leslie and Jon!

I know. I know. This is an awful time of the year to get return phone calls from vendors, let alone actual work. Yet for us--and many others--it is the only time we have the flexibility in our schedules to deal with the "hassle factor."

By way of example, we have been wanting to remodel the master bath for 5 years now and in the bank the $$ sits. But I just cannot bring myself to deal with with I consider to be an enormous inconvenience. I'd be willing to pay extra to get someone to guarantee completion in one week --- but I doubt if I'd find any takers-so there the $$ sits.

The hassle factor, and not money, is the biggest limiting factor for us having work done on the home. As a result, this and other projects will remain dreams for the time being....Sigh.

Joined: Feb 14 2005

I'm also interested in the concrete block or cinder block walls. I am looking to replace a retaining wall in my backyard- it runs the entire length of my backyard 62' and would be around 2.5' talll. It's needed for a level change between my backyard neighbors ground height to mine- about 3.5' change.

I know that modern design with these uses them in a grid fashion not in overlapping form that the contractors prefer. Or the use of the square ones is also nice in the grid layout.

Does anyone have any phots or experience with replacing or building a wall like this? I don't want it to look too industrial.

I have a neighbor that has a 6' wall out in front and because of the mass of it it looks a bit imposing for a front facing wall. It's also leaning from age. Be sure you get a good foundation for a wall that heavy.

Joined: Oct 10 2003

thomas fj: I recently had a similar retaining wall replaced with those concrete blocks. Although not as cool as a grid would have been, it still looks pretty 'modern'. At the short height of a retaining wall, it doesnt look too industrial, at least to me. I'll post a pic onto to the website here FYI and anyone else interested.

BTW after looking around in vain for 'masons' we finally got a couple of landscape companies to come out and bid for the job.

Joined: Oct 10 2003

... and pics of the wall are at:

cheers -L

Joined: Mar 22 2003


Nice job! Thanks for posting pics.


Joined: Mar 20 2003

For a short wall, you might also consider a basic concrete block wall with a stucco finish. You can get the appearance of a finished concrete wall (for less cost). Following fxlarry's lead, I posted some pics of a short retaining wall with this look.

I'm not sure how well this would translate to an 8 ft wall/fence.

A neighbor who recently sold their home had a taller wall of square block. It also had a nice clean look. The wall is viewable in a virtual tour of their home (click the "Outside" tab)

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