Do I need a permit or variance to install a fence?
The answer is probably yes. It can get confusing on Long Island with the various county, town, and village regulations. (In some cases, you may also need to work with neighborhood associations.) What type of fence is permitted on your property, or required for a pool, can vary greatly from town to town, so our advice is to check with your local building department before installing a fence.
How do I contact my local building department?
The phone numbers for the various local building departments on Long Island are listed below. Call your local building department for information on obtaining a fence permit.
Nassau County Towns
Town of Hempstead 516-538-8500
Town of North Hempstead 516-869-7680
Town of Oyster Bay 516-624-6266
Nassau County Villages
Atlantic Beach 516-371-4600
Centre Island 516-922-0606
East Hills 516-621--4251
East Rockaway 516-887-6310
East Williston 516-746-0782
Floral Park 516-326-6300
Flower Hill 516-627-2253
Garden City 516-742-5800
Glen Cove 516-676-2000
Great Neck 516-487-0775
Great Neck Estates 516-482-8283
Kings Point 516-482-7572
Lake Success 516-482-4411
Laurel Hollow 516-692-8826
Long Beach 516-431-1000
Manor Haven 516-883-7000
Massapequa Park 516-798-0244
New Hyde Park 516-354-0022
North Hills 516-627-3451
Old Brookville 516-671-4664
Old Westbury 516-626-0800
Oyster Bay Cove 516-922-1016
Plandome Heights 516-627-1136
Rockville Centre 516-766-0300
Roslyn Harbor 516-621-0368
Russel Gardens 516-482-8246
Sands Point 516-883-3044
Sea Cliff 516-671-0800
South Floral Park 516-352-8047
Stewart Manor 516-354-1800
Valley Stream 516-825-8201
Williston Park 516-746-2193
Suffolk County Towns
East Hampton 631-324-4145
Smithtown 631-360-7520 (see list below)
Suffolk County Villages
Belle Terre 631-928-0020
Brightwaters 631- 665-1280
East Hampton 631-324-4150
Lake Grove 631-585-2000
Laurel Hollow 631-692-8824
Lloyd Harbor 631-423-9044
North Haven 631-725-1378
Port Jefferson 631-473-4510
Sag Harbor 631-725-0224
The Town of Smithtown does not accept applications for the following, as each has their own building department:
Head of the Harbor 631-584-5550
Village of the Branch 631-265-3315
Village of Nissequgue 631-862-9424
It is best to call your local building department, but for additional information you can visit
What should I consider before hiring a contractor?
Ask if they are licensed and insured.
All fence and railing contractors need to be licensed and insured in the county, town, and/or village they are working in. Hiring an uninsured or unlicensed contractor can lead to liability problems. You can call Consumer Affairs in Nassau County 516-571-3871 or Suffolk County 631-853-4600, to verify the status of a license and to check a company's history. You may also need to contact your village since a Nassau or Suffolk license may not be enough. For example, in the Town of North Hempstead, both a license to work in Nassau County and a license to work in the Town of North Hempstead are needed.
Ask if their employees are covered by workers compensation and that the Company carries enough insurance.
A reputable business will carry insurance for their protection as well as yours. Nobody expects there to be problems, but if there is, you do not want to be responsible. If a gas line is hit, or an employee gets hurt, without a licensed and insured company, the homeowner will likely be responsible. Warning signs that a contractor may not be legitimate: if they insist on cash only, a check made out to cash, or if there's no contract. Contracts protect both parties, and are required of any licensed contractor.
Check how long have they been in business and if they are qualified to do the job.
Bad companies don't survive long. Ask how long they have been licensed and in business. Make sure they are trained to do your job by looking at their work on similar projects.
Make sure they belong to Trade Associations.
Great companies belong to trade associations such as The New York/Long Island Fence Association, or The American Fence Association. Trade Associations require companies maintain standards and provide companies an opportunity to train employees in new installation techniques, learn about new products, and stay up to date on ASTM standards and such. Ask your fence or railing contractor if they belong to these associations.
Check if they use their own employees or sub-contractors.
Instead of relying on sub-contractors, it is best that a company uses their own highly-trained, properly-insured staff. This way, standards and procedures have a greater chance of being followed, and employees have a vested interest in getting the job done right. If a company uses a sub-contractor, it is important for the homeowner to verify that the company they hire has the proper insurance for hiring sub-contractors.
As a final note, in choosing your fence or railing contractor, you need to feel comfortable. Every house is unique, every customer is important. It may sound cliché, but you deserve a good price, outstanding quality, and personal service.
What Fence materials are available?
Metal fencing has been popular for many years. From the fancy ornamental iron fences surrounding Victorian homes to the more recent introduction of aluminum and chain link fences, metal fences have proven their durability. Although newer metal fencing materials are often treated with special coatings to prevent oxidation, most require some level of maintenance to keep them looking their best. Iron rusts when exposed to the elements, so if you are considering a metal fence, expect to spend a little time scrubbing and painting to keep it looking new.
Chain link fencing is an excellent option from a functional perspective. Inexpensive, durable, and maintenance free, chain link fencing provides a property boundary and yard containment. While the chain links provide limited privacy, shrubs, small trees and/or vines can reduce the visibility into your yard. At the same time, gardening near the fence can increase the visual appeal and make the chain link fence a canvas for different landscaping options. If gardening isn't your thing or if you want to focus your landscaping features in a different area of your yard, you can always add privacy slats to your fence. These strip inserts that not only block visibility into your yard but will also soften the metallic appearance of the fence. Slats are available in any number of colors and can be inserted vertically or diagonally down the mesh of the fence. Artificial hedge inserts can give you the feel of gardening without the hassle and maintenance. Artificial hedges can be designed for lighter visual accents or thickly manufactured to almost completely cut off neighbors' views into your yard.
Wood is a classic fencing material. Available in treated and untreated options, there are dozens of wood varieties to choose from. Keep in mind that different wood types have different life expectancies in their treated and untreated forms. Treated lumber is injected with chemicals that slow the aging process and help extend the life of the wood anywhere from 7 to 10 years beyond its untreated life expectancy. Some wood types, however, are so inherently robust that treating them with chemicals is unnecessary. Black locust, cedar, and Osage orange are just a few of the more durable varieties. Wood certainly has its appeal, even types that require effort to maintain. Good practice for any wooden fence is to waterproof and seal the wood immediately after installation or cleaning. A little elbow grease and preventative maintenance will ensure that your wooden fence will stay beautiful and be around for years to come.
Considered to be one of the toughest natural materials, bamboo products are becoming a viable option for fencing material. Bamboo can withstand the harshest environments, with no painting or maintenance needed.
Whether using true field stone, river rock, or pre-cast concrete fencing materials, a stone fence can be an elegant and sturdy addition to your property. Although they can be expensive, a stone fence will provide years of lasting beauty. These fences can be dry set or set in mortar, depending on the desired look and durability. Dry setting is less expensive because stones are simply stacked one on top of the other, with no medium holding them together. The weight of the stones themselves keeps the structure together. With mortar setting, the stones are laid in a bed of mortar, with additional mortar used to hold the successive layers together. Mortar makes for a stronger fence, but again, it depends on your needs.
This material combines the attractive form of wood with the durability of synthetic plastics, and is available in a wide range of preset colors. Composites are designed to withstand the elements so there is no need to paint or seal this material. Another advantage to composites is that it is stronger and more rigid than wood or vinyl. Also, compared to wood, composites absorb less moisture, do not crack or splinter and better retain their color.
Vinyl is one of the more durable materials for fencing, and it is readily available in a wide variety of styles. Vinyl requires little maintenance and no painting. Plus vinyl fences are very easy to clean, and only need to be cleaned occasionally.
Although color options are limited, with white and beige being the primary options, the coloring of vinyl fences goes all the way through the material - so scratches are not as noticeable as they would be with metal or wooden fences. (When you paint metal or wooden fences, the color is only the depth of the paint, so scratches are more noticeable.)
Vinyl fences are also very durable, and look new after years of use. They won't rot like wood or rust like metal fences. Vinyl fences also won't get attacked by insects. Easy installation is another advantage of vinyl fences, so if you're thinking of "doing it yourself", vinyl may be your best choice.
One final advantage of vinyl fences is that they are resistant to fire, since they are made of self-extinguishing materials. If the fence does catch on fire, the flame will spread slowly and will go out once the source of the flame has been eliminated.