Home Improvement Guidelines

New Roofs
When putting a new roof on a house, limit the maximum number of layers of shingles to two layers. There are two important reasons for this, 1) most manufacturers won't cover more that two layers of shingles in the warranty, and 2) the City of East Lansing requires a Building Permit for roofs exceeding two layers of shingles. If there are up to two layers of shingles, no Building Permit is required, but a Certificate of Appropriateness is still required for properties in a Historic District.

Although the City of East Lansing does not require any special permits for fence construction, there are some regulations to keep in mind when constructing or rebuilding a fence.

  • Fences generally cannot exceed 6 feet in height in the side or rear yard and cannot exceed 3 feet in the front yard.
  • For properties on corner lots (lots that have streets on two sides of them), fences, plantings or any structure cannot exceed 3 feet in height when located closer than 40 feet from the intersection of the two streets.
  • Retaining walls are treated similarly to fences, but may require a building permit for their construction.
View the Fences OnePager Plus (PDF) for additional information.

Swimming Pools
Swimming pools, both permanent and temporary, are a great way to beat the heat in the summer. There are some important things to keep in mind when installing a pool.

  • Construction of any swimming pool deeper than 24 inches, including temporary pools, requires a Building Permit and approval from the Planning, Building & Development Department.
  • Swimming pools deeper than 24 inches require protective fencing surrounding them to prevent accidents. This includes any temporary pools, including inflatable ones.
  • The fence must be four feet high and include pickets no wider than four inches to prevent small children from getting into the pool.
  • Swimming pools are considered accessory structures and must be located in the rear yard, set back appropriately. It will be counted toward the maximum lot coverage of 25% for any residential lot.
Paving of Driveways, Parking or Sidewalks
Paving requires a Paving Permit before construction can begin. Generally, properties must maintain 60% of the property as green space. A paving permit is required by the Planning, Building & Development Department for paving on private property. An additional permit is required by the Department of Public Works for paving in the public right-of-way, including driveway approaches and sidewalks located along streets.The submission of a scaled survey of the property (a mortgage survey usually works) showing the existing conditions and a drawing of the proposed paving, along with a completed permit application, is required.

Historic Districts
Please contact the Planning, Building & Development Department BEFORE purchasing or signing contracts for new windows, siding, doors or roofs to ensure conformance with the Historic Preservation Code.