Home Improvement Guidelines

New Roofs

When putting new shingles on a roof, the maximum number of layers of shingles is two. Manufacturers typically void warranties when there are more than two layers. A building permit is required when the existing shingles are removed and replaced. Adding a second layer of shingles over existing shingles does not require a permit. However, in all cases, a Certificate of Appropriateness is required for any properties within a Historic District (PDF).


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 40% 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. View the One Pager Plus (PDF) for additional information. 

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.

Roof and Sump Pump Drainage and Discharge

The City does allow residents to connect their sump pumps, french drains, foundation drains and roof drains to the City’s storm water system with proper permitting. Keep in mind that the storm water system is distinctly different from the sanitary system and that storm-related connections are not permitted for the sanitary system. Learn more