Creating a private outdoor oasis in the heart of Chicago can be challenging, but with the right landscaping solutions, homeowners can transform their yards into secluded sanctuaries. This article explores the various aspects of landscaping for privacy in Chicago, including permit requirements, plant selection, and design strategies.

Assessing Your Privacy Needs
Before embarking on a privacy landscaping project, it is essential to identify the areas of your property that require screening. Consider factors such as the proximity of neighbors, street traffic, and noise levels. Visual barriers, such as fences or hedges, can block unwanted views, while dense foliage can help reduce noise pollution, creating a more serene outdoor environment.

Chicago Permit Requirements and Regulations
Chicago homeowners must navigate the city’s permit requirements and regulations when installing privacy fences or making significant landscaping changes. Fence height restrictions vary depending on the location of the fence on the property. Front yard fences are typically limited to a height of 3 feet 6 inches, while backyard fences can reach up to 6 feet. It is crucial to obtain the necessary permits before beginning any fencing project to avoid potential fines or legal issues.

Eligibility Summary

Additional terms, conditions, and limitations may apply.


* Installing a front yard fence up to 4.5 feet (54 inches) tall
* Installing a front yard fence up to 6 feet tall, so long as the fence is at least 80% open
* Installing a backyard fence, up to 6 feet tall
* Installing a fence up to 15 feet tall, with zoning approval
* Legalizing a fence built without a required building permit

With drawings prepared by an Illinois-licensed architect or structural engineer:

* Building a wall or fence using masonry (brick, stone, or concrete) construction
* Building or replacing a trash enclosure

Not Eligible

* Installing a fence or trash enclosure that violates any requirement of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance
* Installing a fence or trash enclosure that is more than 15 feet tall
* Installing a roofed trash enclosure structure
* Excavating more than 5 feet below existing grade


A building permit is not required for the following types of work:

* Installing a fence that is no more than 5 feet above the ground (measured on both sides) and that conforms to the Chicago Zoning Ordinance
* Removing a fence that is no more than 5 feet above the ground (measured on both sides)
* Maintaining an existing fence by painting or replacing limited damaged elements
* Installing or removing a retaining wall that is not more than 4 feet in height (measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall), not supporting a surcharge, and not impounding liquids

Historic Buildings

These exceptions may not apply to work on a property that is a proposed or designated Chicago Landmark or part of a proposed or designated Chicago Landmark district. For more information, contact the Historic Preservation Division in the Department of Planning and Development.

Structure in the Public Way

Installation or maintenance of a temporary or permanent structure of any size below, on, or above a public street, alley, sidewalk, or parkway (the “public way”) generally requires a separate public way use permit from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP). A temporary structure in the public way that is used for a special event requires a special event permit from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE).

Use of the Public Way

Use of a public street, alley, sidewalk, or parkway (the “public way”) for construction or demolition activities, the installation of scaffolding, or to store construction or demolition materials or equipment requires a separate permit from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT).

Code Compliance Required

Any work performed without a building permit, as allowed by Section 14A-4-402 of the Municipal Code, must still comply with all applicable requirements of the Chicago Construction Codes. Section 14A-4-402 does not waive any applicable requirements of the Chicago Construction Codes or of the Municipal Code other than the requirement to obtain a building permit.

If you have a question about whether proposed work is code compliant or requires a building permit, please visit the Department of Buildings assistance counter on the 9th floor at City Hall.

Choosing the Right Contractor
Working with an experienced Chicago landscape designer can make the process of creating a private outdoor space much smoother. R & G Almanza Landscape Inc is a family-owned business that has been serving the greater Chicago area for over 20 years. We specialize in a wide range of services, including:

  • Landscape design and installation
  • Fence installation and repair
  • Lawn care and maintenance
  • Tree and shrub planting and trimming
  • Hardscape installation (patios, walkways, retaining walls)

By choosing a reputable contractor like R & G Almanza Landscape Inc, homeowners can benefit from expert advice, quality workmanship, and a customized approach to their privacy landscaping needs.

Privacy Fencing Options
Fences are one of the most effective ways to create privacy in an urban setting. Wood privacy fences are a popular choice for their natural appearance and versatility. Other fencing materials, such as vinyl or composite, can also provide a high level of privacy while requiring less maintenance. When incorporating fences into your landscape design, consider factors such as:

  • Fence style and color
  • Gate placement and design
  • Integration with existing landscaping features
  • Maintenance requirements

Privacy Hedges and Plants

Plants are a crucial component of any privacy landscaping plan. Privacy hedges, composed of densely growing shrubs or trees, can create a natural barrier that blocks unwanted views and noise. Some of the best plants for privacy hedges in the Chicago area include:

Plant Name Growth Rate Mature Height Evergreen/Deciduous
Arborvitae Fast 20-40 feet Evergreen
Yew Slow 10-15 feet Evergreen
Boxwood Slow 3-6 feet Evergreen
Lilac Medium 8-15 feet Deciduous
Privet Fast 8-12 feet Semi-evergreen

In addition to these privacy hedge plants, several other species are well-suited to Chicago’s climate and can provide excellent privacy screening:

Plant Name Growth Rate Mature Height Evergreen/Deciduous
Norway Spruce Medium 40-60 feet Evergreen
Eastern White Pine Fast 50-80 feet Evergreen
Viburnum Medium 4-15 feet Deciduous
Hicks Yew Slow 8-12 feet Evergreen
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood Medium 15-25 feet Deciduous

Evergreen trees, such as spruce or pine, can provide year-round privacy screening. Ornamental plants, like flowering shrubs or perennials, can be incorporated into privacy landscaping to add visual interest and seasonal color.

Cost Comparison of Privacy Solutions

When considering privacy landscaping options, it’s essential to factor in both initial costs and ongoing maintenance expenses. Here’s a comparison of some common privacy solutions:

Solution Initial Cost (est.) Maintenance Cost (annual est.) Notes
Basic Wood Fence Medium Low-Medium Staining/painting every few years
Vinyl Fence High Very Low Limited maintenance
Fast-Growing Hedge Low-Medium Medium Requires regular trimming
Slow-Growing Hedge Medium-High Low Takes longer to establish privacy

Keep in mind that these are rough estimates, and actual costs may vary depending on factors such as property size, specific materials used, and labor costs. Consulting with a landscaping professional can help you determine the most cost-effective solution for your unique situation.

Low-Maintenance Privacy Landscaping
For homeowners who prefer a low-maintenance approach to landscaping, there are several strategies to create privacy while minimizing upkeep:

  1. Choose slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants
  2. Use mulch to suppress weed growth and retain soil moisture
  3. Opt for hardscaping elements, such as stone walls or gabion fences
  4. Consider grass alternatives, like ground covers or gravel
  5. Implement eco-friendly lawn care practices, such as proper mowing techniques and organic fertilizers

Integrating Hardscapes and Softscapes
A well-designed privacy landscape incorporates both hardscapes and softscapes. Hardscapes, such as retaining walls or trellises, can provide structure and support for climbing plants, creating a natural privacy screen. Softscape elements, like shrubs and perennials, can soften the appearance of hardscapes and add texture and color to the landscape. By combining these elements, homeowners can create a cohesive and visually appealing privacy solution.

Strategic Tree Placement
Trees play a vital role in creating privacy, especially when it comes to blocking specific views or shading outdoor living areas. When selecting trees for privacy, consider factors such as:

  • Growth rate and mature size
  • Canopy density and shape
  • Seasonal interest (flowers, fall color, bark texture)
  • Maintenance requirements (pruning, disease resistance)

Proper tree placement is essential for maximizing privacy while avoiding potential issues, such as overcrowding or damage to structures.

Seasonal Tips for Chicago
Chicago experiences distinct seasons, each with its own challenges and opportunities for landscaping. Here are some season-specific tips for maintaining and enhancing privacy landscaping in the Windy City:


  • Prune deciduous trees and shrubs before new growth emerges
  • Plant new privacy hedges, trees, and shrubs
  • Divide and transplant perennials as needed
  • Apply mulch to planting beds to conserve moisture and suppress weeds


  • Water plants deeply and regularly, especially during dry spells
  • Monitor plants for pests and diseases, and treat as needed
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs after they finish blooming
  • Deadhead perennials to encourage continuous blooming


  • Plant spring-flowering bulbs for added privacy and color in the upcoming season
  • Rake fallen leaves and clean up garden beds
  • Cut back perennials and remove dead foliage
  • Apply a layer of organic mulch to protect plants during winter


  • Wrap vulnerable evergreens in burlap or use temporary windbreaks to prevent damage from harsh winds and heavy snow
  • Prune dead, damaged, or diseased branches from trees and shrubs
  • Monitor plants for damage from winter pests, such as rabbits or voles
  • Plan for the upcoming growing season by evaluating your privacy landscaping and making necessary adjustments

Protecting Privacy Plants in Winter

Chicago’s harsh winters can take a toll on privacy plants, particularly evergreens that provide year-round screening. To protect your privacy landscaping during the cold months:

  1. Apply anti-desiccant sprays to evergreens to prevent moisture loss
  2. Wrap vulnerable plants in burlap or use temporary windbreaks
  3. Avoid using de-icing salts near plants, as they can cause damage
  4. Prune damaged or broken branches in early spring to promote healthy growth

Partnering with a snow removal service, like R & G Almanza Landscape Inc, can ensure that your privacy landscaping remains accessible and well-maintained throughout the winter.

Customized Privacy Solutions

Every property is unique, and privacy landscaping solutions should be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the homeowner. Some factors to consider when creating a customized privacy plan include:

  • Budget and timeline
  • Existing landscaping features and style
  • Privacy needs (visual screening, noise reduction, etc.)
  • Maintenance preferences
  • Property size and layout

By working closely with a landscape professional, like those at R & G Almanza Landscape Inc, homeowners can develop a personalized privacy solution that balances function and aesthetics.

Enhancing Property Value with Privacy Landscaping

Investing in privacy landscaping can not only improve your quality of life but also increase the value of your property. A well-designed and maintained privacy landscape can:

  • Create a more attractive and inviting outdoor living space
  • Increase the perceived square footage of your property
  • Provide a competitive advantage when selling your home
  • Enhance curb appeal and overall property aesthetics

Working with R & G Almanza Landscape Inc

R & G Almanza Landscape Inc offers a comprehensive range of services to help Chicago homeowners create the private outdoor oasis of their dreams. From initial consultation and design to installation and ongoing maintenance, our team of experts works closely with clients to ensure a seamless and satisfactory experience.

The consultation process begins with a thorough assessment of the property and a discussion of the homeowner’s goals and preferences. The design team then develops a customized plan that incorporates privacy solutions, plant selections, and hardscaping elements. Once approved, the installation team brings the design to life, using high-quality materials and industry best practices.

In addition to installation, R & G Almanza Landscape Inc provides ongoing maintenance services to keep privacy landscaping looking its best. These services include:

  • Pruning and trimming
  • Fertilization and pest control
  • Lawn care and mowing
  • Seasonal cleanup and mulching
  • Irrigation system maintenance

Customers consistently praise R & G Almanza Landscape Inc for our professionalism, attention to detail, and exceptional results. Our extensive portfolio showcases a wide range of successful privacy landscaping projects throughout the greater Chicago area.

Creating a private outdoor space in Chicago requires careful planning, thoughtful design, and expert execution. By assessing your privacy needs, understanding local regulations, and working with a trusted landscaping contractor like R & G Almanza Landscape Inc, you can transform your yard into a secluded retreat that enhances your quality of life and property value. With the right combination of fencing, plants, and hardscaping elements, your private oasis is just a landscape away.