Water features are delightful focal points for your yard. Here’s what you may need to know before installing one.
Small water features such as tiny backyard ponds or fountains likely don’t require a permit since they are small enough that you can install them with your own money and own time. Larger projects such as fishing ponds will most likely require a permit to build.
Though you may need a permit at some point, don’t get discouraged! Installing water features can be a long process but it is very possible.
How to Know if you Need a Permit
There are typically a few factors that will be taken into account when you start the permit process. Keep in mind, however, that laws vary state by state so you will probably need to do a little research depending on where you live. Most states will have similar laws on several elements of this process, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Doing everything by the book is the best way to go.
One thing to consider is how deep you are wanting your feature to be. Many towns will consider anything deeper than 24 inches a pool and that will probably result in you needing to get a permit. As long as your pond has an open water depth of 24 inches or less, you should not be required to get a permit for it.
Another thing to consider is overall square footage. If your pond exceeds the town’s law regarding square footage, you will probably be required to get a permit. Again, laws vary in each state so be sure to check your local laws before getting started.
The need for a permit mostly extends to fishing ponds, swimming pools, and other features on this large of a scale. Installing garden ponds and fountains on the smaller side is your business and the government cannot say otherwise. Just doublecheck and make sure you are remaining within laws and boundaries.
Even if it will not require a permit, you ought to think about a few other things as well before beginning the process for whatever water feature you plan to install. Location could make all the difference in whether or not you need to get a permit.
You will want to check for utility lines to avoid ruining any. You also probably do not want want to put a pond or pool underneath a tree/trees that could litter leaves and debris everywhere. Check your local zoning codes as well. There may be stipulation about how close you can build to the property line.
You will also want to consider whether you want plants growing in the pond, fish, or both. This will help you determine the location of your pond, how large it needs to be, and any other requirements that you should adhere to. Also keep in mind the safety of any animals or children in your household.
How to Get a Permit
The word permit sounds pretty scary sometimes. But do not let it overwhelm you! The process is not as bad as a lot of people may believe. So why a permit at all? In most cases the city will require a permit because you are either exceeding the depth limit for a pond, square footage for a pond, or both and they have to consider your feature a pool because of its size.
When they require a permit for this, it is really just for safety reasons. You may also be required to install a pool code fence around it if it is indeed large enough. Again, with little garden ponds, you probably will not have to go through any of this.
Most ponds require some form of electrical source. If your nearest electric source is more than 20 inches away from the water feature (whether it’s a pond, waterfall, or something else), a new outlet will have to be installed nearby. Most forms of electrical work will require a permit from the city.
For questions regarding permits and whether you need them at all, you can simply phone the zoning/permitting office of your town or city. Many people will say that involving the local authorities is a bad idea and will only cause you more grief.
It may be true, the process will likely be a longer one if you do everything by the book. However, if you skirt around the law, you could have a much bigger issue on your hands if they find out you have been doing something illegal, whether knowingly or not.
Calling your town is easy! All you have to do is give them the details on what you are planning to install and they will be able to tell you whether or not your project will require a permit. If it does, they will also be able to point you in the right direction to get started.
Other Things to Consider
Making sure you do or do not need a permit should definitely be at the top of your priority list. However, there are a couple other things you could and should take into account before launching into a huge project. One thing is your budget. Water feature installations can take oodles of both time and money.
Before diving in, take a look at all the possibilities and plan carefully for your water feature. Even if you do all the work yourself, the expenses can add up pretty quickly.
Consider the style, shape, and proportion you want. This is your water feature and it should look exactly the way you want it to!
Take into consideration the size of the space you have to work with but also the size of your yard. You do not want to overcrowd it because that can quickly turn a water feature from a focal point into an eyesore. However, the beauty of water features is that there is so much diversity.
You have a say in your feature’s type, style, and size so make sure to pick the perfect fountain for you, and research your local permit requirements accordingly.
Want to have a pump free water feature? Then check out our guide on how to have a water feature without a pump.