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Hamptons Life

Mar 6, 2017 9:39 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Deer Fences Of Many Stripes Protect Landscaping

Mar 6, 2017 10:02 AM

Gates, entryways and cattle grates across driveways can add elegance to a property and prevent deer and wild animals from coming in and eating shrubs that screen one house from another.

For the majority of homeowners living on the East End, deer grazing can be prevented only by a high wire fence.

“The most popular type of fence is the agricultural farm and field,” said Shane O’Neill of The Deer Fence LLC, a local installer. The best color for a fence to help it disappear from view is black, he said.

Michael Marran of East Hampton Fence & Gate concurs. “Most of this is about the deer, so it’s a combination of keeping out the deer and that you don’t see the fence.” Choosing black or a combination of brown and green can help camouflage a wire fence. “The idea is, it blends,” Mr. Marran said. “We hide wire fencing in plantings, weave the fencing into the plantings.”

Rabbits and turkeys can prove destructive for other homeowners, especially to residents growing vegetable gardens. “We trench down 2 feet, with 1-inch wire installed a foot underground for bunnies,” Mr. O’Neill said, describing the types of fences for backyard gardens. “Your next concern is turkeys, because they can fly. Turkeys the size of dinosaurs are dangerous. They pull stuff out of the ground, like perennials.”

Height and width restrictions on gates are also listed in the town codes. There are height and width restrictions on any new gates installed across driveways. The size of a new gate is regulated according to the requirements of the fire department, so that fire engines can get to the house. “Every property is different,” Mr. O’Neill said. “People should go through the ARB because you won’t have a problem in the future. It’s what the towns are allowing these days that is the most difficult.”

New York City architects and landscape designers hired by the owners of large properties may be unaware of local laws that govern fence and gate height and width. Property owners who research town codes in advance are sure to save time and money.

To keep deer out of yards, a full-size entrance gate or cattle grate—cement grids or lines of pipe that run across the driveway—may be necessary. “They can be effective,” Mr. O’Neill said. “We build deer grates out of steel. Concrete ones are cattle grates.” Severe winter weather can make cattle grates ineffective, however. “If they fill up and get clogged—if there’s a sheet of ice, deer come in,” he cautioned.

Mr. Marran installs “Deer Clear,” his own brand of cattle grate. “It’s not really unique,” he said. “We put them together. We’ve been making some higher-end deer grates out of metal subway grating.

“We have different designs. I’ve installed a couple hundred at different price points,” he continued. “They prevent deer from walking across the driveway.”

Cattle grates are sometimes not safe for humans to walk across, and designs to accommodate foot and bike traffic are best. According to Mr. Marran, the cost can run from $10,000 to $15,000 for a concrete model and $35,000 for one that is best for people traffic.

Inclement winter weather can ruin the purpose of the cattle grate. “They tend to fill up with snow and ice in the winter,” he said. “It requires a backup plan—an additional piece of wire across, or a backup gate.”

Materials for gates and fences include Azek, a composite that looks like painted wood and lasts much longer than natural wood. “There’s no expiration date on that,” Mr. O’Neill said. Given current prices on clear cedar or mahogany, he recommends either mahogany or Azek for gate construction. He finds that the local regulations and their enforcement can be capricious. He believes in checking town regulations before moving ahead with any plan. “I can’t be the one that ‘yeses’ and ‘no’s’ it. Sometimes people can’t be approved that should be.”

Fences and gates can be installed any time of year that the ground isn’t frozen. “We install all year long,” Mr. O’Neill said. “A 3-acre property requiring 2,000 feet takes about four days.” He likens the current demand for so many styles of fences to the deer population. “Our business has evolved very much like the deer,” he said. “Every year the deer change, from neighborhood to neighborhood. The realities change.”

Decorative fencing and gates on the East End display a wide creative range in design, detail and color. Attractive solutions within town and Architectural Review Board standards are key. Fences and gates resulting in greater property values for individual owners is a boon to neighbors as well.

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