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Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

Hi All,

So I've noticed a lot of local building codes lump free standing masonry walls and fences together in some of their regulations such as requiring engineering when going over six feet in height. Is there some language in the IBC that defines a masonry wall as a type of fence? Are all free standing walls as property edges considered "fencing?" If so when and how did this start?


RE: Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

Dictionary definition of fence:

"a barrier, railing, or other upright structure, typically of wood or wire, enclosing an area of ground to mark a boundary, control access, or prevent escape."

Typically of wood or wire doesn't mean always, and a freestanding masonry wall over 6' tall isn't good for much other than controlling access, marking a boundary, or preventing escape (or infiltration). It isn't likely to have any structural purpose beyond itself (not supporting additional structural elements).

If there's a history to the code language, though, I don't know it.

RE: Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

Not in all cases.

A trash enclosure on the property line is still a trash enclosure, subject to wind and seismic forces, but not area separation requirements as for fire, which would require solid grouting.

Just have to be reasonable in your interpretation.

It could also be considered as a screening wall to restrict visually, instead of a fence to delineate a boundary,

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA, HI)

RE: Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

I sort of agree that a free standing wall can be categorized as fence, regardless of materials, but, at the minimum, needs to be designed for self weight and environmental loads, and detailed in according to its intended function, such as fire wall, or sound barrier. However, as an extreme, I believe the border walls proposed by President Trump were designed for loads of all kind, although the walls were having identical function as fences. "Just have to be reasonable in your interpretation.", well said, msquared48.

RE: Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

Mostly, whatever it is made of, and whatever you call it, any useful structure has to be able to resist the loads and actions imposed upon it to be functional. We like our structures and machines to be functional and safe so they don’t unintentionally kill a lot people. After that, it becomes a great matter of semantics, what we call them, and we can go on forever arguing about minutia. What does that wall or fence do, what is it intended to do, where is it located, etc., then what you call it makes little difference. Just look here on these E-Tips forums, there are many local names for the same general thing, and this can cause considerable confusion. And, today, many people are not very careful about describing what they are actually talking about. The exact name is probably not as important as its intended function, in describing the thing.

RE: Free Standing Masonry Walls are considered Fences?

For what it's worth, by agreeing that such a structure is typically a fence doesn't mean I was suggesting it not be designed. If it's large enough to topple over and hurt somebody, it needs careful consideration just like any other structure. Take a look at the NCMA web page and the Tek guides. They have a pretty good one for the structural design of masonry "fences" that does a decent job of looking at applied loading.

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