What is a Chain Link Fence?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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A chain link fence is a fence "woven" from galvanized steel wire into a mesh or net-type configuration that forms a series of interlocking squares. This woven mesh is referred as the "fabric" of the fence. It is secured to steel posts embedded in the ground, often used to enclose schoolyards, parking lots, industrial property, tennis courts, baseball fields, and even residential yards. It can also be used to create dog runs, kennels, and animal pens, and is regularly used as a temporary fence to safeguard construction sites.

The wire of a chain link fence can come in various gauges or thicknesses. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire and the more expensive the fence will be. Typical sizes are 11 gauge (thin), 10 gauge (thicker) and 9 gauge (thicker still).

Another specification of a chain link fence is the diameter of the mesh. This is the diagonal inside measurement of one of the "squares" taken in both directions. The most common mesh size is 2-inch (5 cm), normally used for 9 to 11-gauge wire, but slightly larger meshes are used for thicker wire.

Aside from bare galvanized steel, chain link fences can also come with a PVC vinyl coating that resembles a rubberized sheath. This coating is thermally fused and bonded, providing a permanent, smooth finish that comes in many colors and protects the fence from rust. Vinyl coated fencing material are normally 2 — 3 times more expensive than standard chain link fences.


The fabric of a chain link fence is usually sold in rolls of 50-feet (15.2 meters) or more. Line posts are embedded into the ground at particular intervals depending on the height of the fence, length and other factors. Holes dug for the posts are "bell-bottomed" or larger at the bottom. Concrete is poured into the holes and the poles are set. Terminal posts are used at corners and alongside gates. Top rails are attached along with tension bars that run horizontally. A fence stretcher or come-a-long is used to stretch the wire fabric as it is secured to the posts with steel bands.

For privacy, chain link fences can come with slats installed. These are plastic rails woven into the fence. They do not create a complete barrier, however, and only provide partial privacy. Slats come in various colors and can also be added afterwards by the owner.

Windscreen is also available, often secured to chain link fences surrounding tennis courts. It also provides a measure of privacy in addition to blocking wind, and can come in weave opening ranging from about 70% — 90% or more. Windscreen is made of various fabrics, has bonded seams and aluminum grommets that are used to secure the screen to the fence.

If interested in assembling a chain link fence rather than having it installed by professionals, kits are available with instructions and fence stretchers can be rented. However, it is first recommended to check for any necessary zoning or building permits, as there may be restrictions as to the height or type of fence that can be built in the area. Follow surveyor pins if the fence is to be near property lines, or have the lot surveyed, and contact the local utilities company to locate any buried utility lines.


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