Chain link fences are an economical way to fence in your property and keep everyone safe. Chain link is also one of few fence materials that creates a secure barrier without impeding your sightline. And chain link fencing is tough, with very little maintenance required over the years.
Chain link fences can be a bit tricky to install because nearly every component is unique to this type of fence. But after you've constructed one post-to-post stretch of chain link fence, all other sections are easier to build.
Working With Chain Link Fence
A full chain link fence consists of many parts, especially when you add gates or build corners. But there are a few major components common to all chain link fences:
- Chain Link: Available in rolls 50 feet long, chain link mesh or fabric is usually galvanized for long-term durability and to prevent rust. Vinyl coated chain link in green or black blend with many landscapes and usually cost about 25 to 30 percent more than galvanized steel chain link fence mesh.
- Terminal Posts: Each section of chain link fence is 10 feet long. At each end is a thick, sturdy terminal post that provides most of the strength. Terminal posts are mounted in concrete in the ground. For a 4-foot-high chain link fence, you'll need 6-foot long terminal posts.
- Line Posts: Line posts go between terminal posts every 5 feet.
- Top Rail: The top rail is a 10-foot, 6-inch metal pipe that runs across the tops of the terminal and line posts. The top of the chain link attaches to the top rail.
- Tension Bars: Tension bars are flat vertical strips of metal that weave into the chainlink material. Running parallel to and near the terminal posts, tension bars help you tighten the chain link material against the terminal posts.
- Tension Bands: Tension bands are open-ended bands that fit over the terminal posts and attach to the tension bars. Tension bands are placed about every 12 inches.
- Tie Wires: Tie wires or fence ties are 6 1/2-inch-long aluminum wires that let you attach the chain link to various points on the posts and top rail.
- Terminal Post Caps: Dome-shaped post caps fit over the tops of the terminal posts to improve the appearance and to prevent debris from settling in the open-ended posts.
- Line Post Eye Tops: Eye tops fit on top of the line posts. The top rail fits through the circular top (or, the eye) of this piece. The eye top helps hold the top rail in place.
- Rail End: A rail end is a metal cap that fits over both ends of a top rail, helping to hold the top rail to the terminal posts.
Codes and Regulations
Codes and permitting vary per location. In many areas, a fence permit is required only if the fence rises above a certain height, such as 4, 6, or 8 feet. The fence must also comply with municipal setback and location restrictions.
Houses in developments with private Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and an HOA (homeowners association) may not be controlled by municipal codes and restrictions, so check with the HOA before installing the chain link fence. Many HOA communities control the types of fencing materials and will not allow chain link fencing.
You may be required to speak to your neighbor about the fence and obtain written permission to build it. Whether or not it's required, it's always good etiquette to first speak to your neighbor about the fence.
When to Install Chain Link Fence
Because chain link fence materials are waterproof and impervious to rot and freezing, they can be installed at any time of year. If your area requires the terminal and line posts to be sunk below the frost line, it will be difficult to dig fence post holes by hand if the ground is frozen.
Always wear safety glasses and heavy gloves when working with chain link material. Be careful when tightening the chain link material from one post to the next post, as the come-along tool creates high tension. If the tool or materials break, you may become injured.
Chain Link Fence Pros and Cons
Inexpensive compared to other types of fencing
Impervious to rot and rust
Allows a sightline for observation of children or pets
Requires almost no maintenance
No privacy unless additional covering added
Less desirable appearance
Not allowed in some communities
Adds little resale value to most properties (unless farmland or industrial)
Equipment / Tools
- Come-along tool with stretcher bar
- Ratchet wrench set
- Post hole digger
- Garden hose and water supply
- Trenching shovel
- Bubble post level
- 1 roll chain link fabric
- 2 terminal posts, each 6-foot
- 1 line post, 6-foot
- 1 top rail, 10-foot, 6 inches
- 2 tension bars
- 6 tension bands
- 1 bag tie wires, 30 count
- 2 terminal post caps
- 1 line post eye top
- 2 rail ends
- Tension wire
- 2 brace bands
- 4 bags quick-set concrete
- Wood stakes and twine
- Landscape gravel
Call 811 at least two weeks in advance to give your local utility marking service enough time to show up your house to mark vital underground lines with temporary paint.
Lay Fence Line
Drive wood stakes into the ground and run twine between the sticks to indicate the line of the fence. Drive a stake at each of the terminal post locations.
If you are laying out a corner, use the 3-4-5 method of squaring up corners. Measure 3 feet up one side, 4 feet up the other side, then measure the diagonal between the two to make a triangle. If the diagonal line is 5 feet, you have a square corner.
Dig Terminal Post Holes
Set Terminal Posts
Fill the bottom of the terminal post with landscape gravel to about 6 inches. Attach the post level to the top of one of the terminal posts. Set the terminal post into the hole. Measure its height off of the ground. It should be 48 inches high. Fill the hole with dry concrete. Add water to the concrete until it reaches the top of the concrete. Set the other terminal post 10 feet away.
Set Line Posts
Run a taut line across the tops of the two terminal posts. Dig the hole for the line post. Add 6 inches of gravel, then place the line post into the hole. The line post should be 2 inches below the string. Add the post level to the line post and plumb it. Fill the hole with concrete, add water, then let the concrete cure.
Install Hardware on Terminal Posts
Starting at the bottom and working upward, add:
- One brace band at the very bottom
- Three tension bands, spaced every foot
- Brace band at top with rail cup facing inward
- One post cap
Tighten all of the hardware with the ratchet wrench set. Repeat for the other terminal post.
Add Top Rail
Place the eye cap on the line post with the open circle facing toward the terminal post. Slide the top rail through the eye cap. Fit one end of the top rail into the open cup section of the rail cap of one of the terminal posts. For the other terminal post, cut off the top rail with a hacksaw so that it will fit in the rail cap. With the ratchet set, tighten the rail caps on both terminal posts.
Note that the top rail needs to be long enough to fit inside the second terminal post rail cap. So, add 1 1/2 inches or the appropriate length so that the rail will fit all of the way into the open cup section of the rail cup.
Add Bottom Tension Wire
Attach the tension wire to the brace band at the bottom of one of the terminal posts. Run the wire across to the other terminal post's brace band, add tension to it, then twist it into place. Cut off the excess wire.
Lay out Chain Link Material
Unroll the chain link fence material next to the post. Slide a tension bar through the last row of diamonds at one end of the chain link.
Attach One End of Chain Link Material
Lift up one end of the chain link material so that it is vertical and pressing against one of the terminal posts. With the ratchet wrench set, attach the end tension bar to the tension bands on the terminal post.
Temporarily Attach Chain Link Material
Lift the rest of the chain link material up so that it is vertical all the way across from post to post. Loosely fix wire ties across the top to hold the chain link material on the top rail. Do not tighten the ties. The goal is to have ties that are loose enough to allow the chain link material to slide when you tighten it in later steps.
Prepare to Tighten Chain Link Material
At the other end of the chain link, slide a tension bar vertically through the diamonds about 3 feet from the end. Add an extra tension band to the terminal post. This band will later be removed. Hook a stretcher bar to the tension bar. Hook up the come-along tool from the tension bar to the extra tension band on the terminal post.
Tighten Chain Link Material
Slowly pump the lever of the come-along tool to draw the end of the chain link material toward the terminal post. When it is tight enough, cut off the excess chain link material and remove the come-along tool, the temporary tension band, the temporary tension bar, and the stretcher bar.
Add Last Tension Bar
Weave a tension bar through the last set of diamonds on the chain link material. With the ratchet wrench set, tighten the tension bar onto the post's tension bands.
Attach Wire Ties
Twist wire ties from the chain link to the posts at every 12 inches. Along the top rail, twist wire ties about every 2 feet along the entire run. Attach at the lower tension wire about every 2 feet, as well.
When to Call Professionals
Because building a chain link fence requires you to learn how to work with unusual tools and materials, it's sometimes best to call a professional fence company to install your fence.
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