Chain link fences are a functional way to enclose an outdoor space. They're known for their durability and strength, but this style of fence isn't known for its privacy or aesthetically pleasing properties. Other than being an affordable, effective method of keeping pets and children safe, chain link is sometimes viewed as a blight on yards. In fact, some communities even ban chain link fences in incorporated, residential areas.
Rather than building a privacy fence or removing the chain link fence, an easier and far lower-cost alternative is to upgrade the fence for a polished look with plenty of privacy. Covering your chain link fence also helps protect it from the elements to make it last longer over time. Options range from traditional chain link fence slats and mesh to bamboo, reed, and wood fence panels.
Here, discover inexpensive ways to cover a chain link fence to upgrade your space.
Chain Link Fence Covering Considerations
When choosing a chain link fence covering, consider the following:
- Durability: A chain link fence may outlive any covering you choose. Decide how often you are willing to redo a chain link fence covering.
- Ease of installation: How much labor do you want to put into installation? Some solutions are easy, others are more labor-intensive.
- Maintenance: Some solutions, like plants, require maintenance.
- Cost: Most solutions are inexpensive, except for a couple of full-coverage options. The lower the cost, the less durable the option, which means the more frequently you'll need to buy a new covering.
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Chain Link Fence Slats
Chain link fences allow for long, narrow pieces to be inserted vertically to add privacy. Individual slats slide in easily from the top and stay in place without means of attachment. Slats are made of either high-density polyethylene or aluminum and can last for decades or be quickly changed out if damaged.
The slats offer 75 to 80 percent visual blockage for privacy. Ten linear feet of chain link slats at 6 feet high cost around $90 to $110.Pros
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Full Bamboo Screens
Rolled bamboo fencing can be a natural, attractive way to camouflage a chain link fence. The bamboo fencing is constructed from attached poles ranging in thickness from 3/4-inch to 2 inches. Full bamboo pole screens can be installed directly onto a chain link fence by tying it to the rails and poles with foot-long pieces of 16-gauge wire. Bamboo is durable but it is organic and can deteriorate over the years.
This fencing can offer 85 percent coverage for privacy. A 16-foot long by 6-foot high panel of bamboo fencing can run between $50 to $100 but prices greatly vary per company.Pros
Not durable if untreated
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Thin bamboo reeds about the thickness of a drinking straw are woven together into 8- to 16-foot-long mats. These rolls are easy to carry and transport back from the home improvement store. Reed screens are usually installed vertically and stay attractive for about two years before needing replacement.
Reed screens offer about 85 percent privacy when new. As the screen falls apart, privacy drops as well. A roll of 6-foot by 16-foot reed screen costs about $28 to $35.Pros
Fast and easy to install
Rapidly changes color
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Mesh Wind Screen/Privacy Screen
At first glance, a mesh windscreen on a fence looks like a tarp. But a mesh privacy screen is designed specifically for fences. A mesh privacy screen is very durable and can last for years since it's UV-rated polypropylene, water-, and wind-permeable. It has a double-thick trim around the perimeter, and brass grommets on the trim so that you can attach it to the chain link with zip-ties. However it's woven, so it will eventually wear.
Privacy ranges from 80 to 96 percent, depending on how much you are willing to spend. Mesh screening is a low-cost solution. Lower-quality privacy screens (85 percent blockage) are the least expensive, costing under $100 for a 6-foot high by 50-foot long screen. But costs vary greatly per size of screen, manufacturer, or seller. Screens with 96 percent blockage may cost about 50 percent more.Pros
Nearly 100 percent privacy screens available
Inexpensive coverage for large expanses
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Basic, utilitarian look and not very attractive for residential use
Dark colors succumb to UV rays faster
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Wooden Fence Panels
Regular wooden fence panels can be screwed onto chain link fences using U-brackets. Since these panels are been pre-constructed in a factory, there is no need to individually nail up boards. You will need access to the back side of the chain link fence in order to attach the panels to the fence.
Durability is usually excellent. If you use cedar, this wood is naturally weather-resistant because it is very oily but any species can be sprayed with sealer.
Privacy coverage is high (about 90 percent). It is not inexpensive. A single wood fence panel 6 feet high and 8 feet long costs between $145 and $160.Pros
Good for privacy
Looks like a real wood fence
Offers full coverage of chain link fence
Large, heavy fence panels difficult to handle and install
May need fence permit to install
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Live or Artificial Plants
If you're hoping for a wall of greenery, you have a few options, including artificial or real plants. Privacy screens woven with faux ivy vines is an option that can be rolled across one side of a fence. It can instantly camouflage the chain link fence but weather will affect the aesthetics of the material over time. It offers just about full coverage. A 3- to 5-foot by 10-foot high panel can cost between $40 and $80-plus depending on the level of detail, such as faux flowers.
For real ivy, try evergreen vines, such as English ivy, to create a living wall, but you will need to be patient to see results that will offer season-to-season coverage. Otherwise, plant taller privacy hedges in front of the fence, though the faster-growing shrubs will only grow around 2 feet a year.Pros
Artificial screening offers full coverage
Artificial screening can be inexpensive
Artificial screening is easy to install
Artificial screens may fade
Real plants take too long to grow for coverage
Covers only one side of fence
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Privacy tape differs from slats in that the tape is thinner and installed on a diagonal through the chain links. The tape is typically made of low-density polyethylene treated with color and UV inhibitors. But it's labor-intensive to install, especially on large expanses of fencing. Tape usually comes in a variety of colors and it attaches with fasteners. The tape is highly durable and is designed to withstand high heat and frigid temperatures, usually only requiring pressure cleaning to freshen it up.
Diagonal weaving with tape offers more privacy coverage (about 90 percent) than vertical slats. Tape is also less expensive, costing about $40 to cover 40 square feet (250-foot long roll).
Not the most aesthetically pleasing option
Thinner material than slats
How to Choose a Chain Link Fence Covering
There are more options than ever for covering up a chain link fence. It just depends on how much work, maintenance, and money you want to put into the project. For the least expensive route, choose tape, mesh, or even rolled bamboo. For the more expensive way to achieve full coverage that's attractive, go with wooden fence panels.