How to Install a Chain Link Fence Yourself

Lead Image for How to Install a Chain Link Fence Yourself
What You'll Need
Tie Wires
Premixed cement
Fence mesh
Terminal (or corner) posts
Line posts
Tension bars
Rail caps
Top rail
Tension wire
Tension bands
Post caps
Shovel
Wheelbarrow
What You'll Need
Tie Wires
Premixed cement
Fence mesh
Terminal (or corner) posts
Line posts
Tension bars
Rail caps
Top rail
Tension wire
Tension bands
Post caps
Shovel
Wheelbarrow

Attractive and versatile, chain link fencing is an excellent choice for any property. By adding security without obstructing views, chain link fences boost property values. Best of all, installing a chain link fence is not too difficult, and the average person can install one in a weekend or two. Check out the materials and process so you can consider adding this durable boundary feature to your home.

Chain Link Fence Parts

Chain link has four elements: fabric, framework, fitting and gates. It’s how you combine them that makes all the difference.

Each of these components are available in a range of weights (gauges) and types of protective coatings. The most common coating is zinc (galvanized), but you'll also find chain link components with vinyl or polyester color coatings in addition to zinc.

These color treatments enhance landscaping and blend naturally with trees, shrubs, and bushes. They'll also give your chain link even more protection against corrosion or rust.

Choosing Materials for a Chain Link Fence

Select your chain link fence fabric based on these three criteria: gauge of wire, size of mesh and type of protective coating.

Gauge Size

Gauge or diameter of wire is one of the most important factors. This helps tells you how much steel is actually in the fabric. The smaller the gauge number, the more steel, the higher the quality and the stronger the wire.

From lightest to heaviest, common gauges are 13, 12-1/2, 11-1/2, 11, nine and six. Unless you are building a temporary fence, choose fencing between 11-1/2 and nine-gauge. Six-gauge is typically for heavy industrial or specialized uses and the lighter gauges are best suited for temporary fencing.

Mesh Size

Mesh size tells you how far apart the parallel or diamond shape wires are in the fabric, and it's another indication of how much steel is in the product. The smaller the diamond, the more steel is in the fabric. From largest to smallest, typical mesh sizes are 2 3/8-inch, 2 1/4-inch and two-inch. Smaller meshes such as 1 3/4-inch are common for tennis courts, 1 1/4-inch for pools and high-security mini meshes of 5/8-inch, 1/2-inch and 3/8-inch are also available.

Coating

Several types of surface treatments help protect and beautify steel chain link fabric. As we mentioned previously, the most common protective coating for chain link fabric is zinc. Zinc is a self-sacrificing element. In other words, it dissipates while protecting the steel. It also offers cathodic protection, which means that if the wire is cut, it "heals" the exposed surface by developing a white oxidation layer that prevents red rust.

Typically, galvanized chain link fabric has a 1.2-ounce per square foot zinc coating. For specification projects requiring greater degrees of longevity, two-ounce coatings are available. As you might expect, the longevity of the protective coating is directly related to the amount of zinc that is applied.

There are two primary ways that chain link fabric is galvanized or coated with zinc. The most common is Galvanized After Weaving (GAW), where the steel wire is formed into chain link fabric first and then galvanized.

The alternative is Galvanized Before Weaving (GBW), where the strand of wire is coated with zinc before being formed into the mesh. There is some debate over which is the best method. GAW ensures that all of the wire is coated, even the cut ends, and galvanizing the wire after it is formed also tends to increase the tensile strength of the finished product.

You'll also find aluminum-coated (aluminized) wire on the market. Aluminum differs from zinc in that it is a barrier coating rather than a sacrificial coating and as a result cut ends, scratches or other imperfections are prone to red rusting in a short period of time.

Want color? Look for polyvinyl chloride applied in addition to the zinc coating. This provides a second kind of corrosion protection and blends aesthetically with the environment.

These colors come in three principal coating methods: extruded, where the vinyl jacket encompasses the steel core (suitable for most residential and light commercial applications), extruded bonded (an adhesive bonds the vinyl jacket to the core wire) and thermally fused (the vinyl coating is fused to the galvanized steel core and it's suitable for all applications).

Gates

No chain link fence is complete without the gate. After all, you want access to whatever the fence is surrounding. For consistency, the fabric and framework of your gate should be the same as that in your fence.

For example, if you choose 11-gauge fabric and 16-gauge framework for your fence, you should make the gate from the same materials. There are three types of gate construction: bent-fame, square-welded or aluminum-corner. Bent-frame gates have all four corners mechanically bent, square-welded gates have all four corners welded and aluminum-corner gates are assembled with four die-cast gate corners, or ells.

Other Parts of a Chain Link Fence

Before you install your fence, make sure you have all the parts to it, including the little odds and ends.

Terminal Posts

Terminal posts (frequently called corner posts) are the steel posts installed at the corners of a chain link fence. They are normally two to three inches in diameter and are made of galvanized steel. They are usually set into concrete so that they cannot be easily removed.

Line Posts

Line posts are similar to terminal posts, but they are inserted into the ground at intervals of 5 to 6 feet between terminal posts. There are usually a few inches shorter than a terminal post and not quite as thick. These types of posts are also set into concrete.

Tension Bars

Tension bars are flat pieces of galvanized steel that are usually attached to the terminal posts. They run parallel to the terminal posts and are attached with tension bands. The tension bars are fed through the wire mesh where the mesh meets the terminal post.

Rail Caps

Rail caps are used to secure the top rail to the corner and posts. There are two types of rail caps. One connects to the top of the line posts and is inserted on top of the post itself. Rail caps that are attached to corner posts have a ring that slides down onto the post and the cap is angled at 90 degrees so that the top rail can be inserted into it.

Tension Wire

Tension wire is pulled through the wire mesh at ground level in order to help keep it tight. Tension bands are used to connect the corner post and tension bar. Tension bands can be tightened to increase the tension of the wire mesh and make it tighter.

Post Caps

Post caps are used to cover the corner posts to keep rain from falling into the post. They can also be a bit more embellished for decorative purposes.

How to Install a Chain Link Fence

Though there are many decisions to make and many little parts to buy, installing a chain link fence isn't all that difficult.

Step 1 - Measure

Measure the entire length of your future fence lines. There will be two kinds of poles in your chain link fence. These will be terminal posts that sit on the corners of the fence and on either side of any gates, but there will also be structural support poles.

Each pole will have to be placed five to eight feet apart, so mark off each location where you will need to dig a hole for all of these posts. Tape, chalk or yard flags can be used to make marks that won't blow away.

Step 2 - Dig

Using a post hole digger will save time and ensure that the holes for your posts are dug straight down with a uniform circumference. Save yourself a lot of effort and energy with a post hole digger. Use the digger to ensure your holes are eight inches in diameter and 25 inches deep.

Step 3 - Mix Concrete

Mix the concrete that will support your posts. You want to measure everything out to mix one part concrete, two parts sand and four parts gravel. The consistency must be thick. After all, this is the support for your fence so you want it to be strong.

Step 4 - Install the Terminal Posts

Set the terminal posts with your concrete mixture. Leave the other posts for now. You will install them later. Let the corner terminal posts set for 24 hours before doing anything else. Ensure they are set square by using small stakes and a level to hold them in position while the concrete mix is setting.

Step 5 - Set the Remaining Posts

Now, measure 4 inches below the top of the terminal posts and tie a string from terminal post to terminal post. The string marks the height of the remaining posts and will serve as a guide to know that you are setting the rest of the posts at an equal and level height.

Set the remaining posts in their own concrete mix and ensure they are all level with your string. Let them set for 24 hours.

Step 6 - Terminal Post Fittings

Slip tension and brace bands onto your terminal posts. The bands look like unfinished metal bracelets that you will connect with carriage bolts. The brace band attaches the top rail (which runs horizontally at the top of the fence) to the terminal post and the tension band attaches the tension bar (which runs vertically next to the terminal bar) to the terminal post.

Step 7 - Finish the Posts

Fit the top of each regular post with a loop cap, which holds the top rail on top of the support posts. Remember that the terminal bars are fitted with flat post caps because the top rail does not sit on top of the terminal posts.

Step 8 - Assembling the Fence

Unroll the chain link mesh on the ground outside of the posts. Take one tension bar and thread it through the first row on the side of chain link mesh. Lift the mesh upright so that your tension bar is now resting on the terminal post.

Next, attach the tension bar to the terminal post with the brace bands so that the tension bar is parallel to the terminal post. As you continue to unroll the chain link mesh, attach it to the top rail at even intervals with your wire ties.

Step 9 - Hang the Gate

Apply the hinges to the gate posts with the pin of the top hinge pointing down and the hinge of the bottom pin pointing up. Hang the gate level with the top rail. Check the swing of the gate to make sure it opens and moves quite freely.

Pro tip: Attach the gate fittings to the gate posts loosely so that you can get the gate into the right position. Tighten the fittings when the gate is horizontal and the latches meet properly.

Step 10 - How to Install Chain Link Fence on Concrete

Some installers use gravel but this is far less secure than concrete. To get the sturdiest design and create a fence that will last, you must use concrete.

If your property is located in an urban area you might need to know how to install a chain link fence over concrete. Fence post installation usually assumes that you will dig a square hole in the ground and fill it with cement mix.

If you already have a concrete slab in place, you can either cut through it or fasten the fence posts directly to the slab. This is much more difficult and takes quite a bit of effort. You will need to use a jackhammer to expose the soil, dig into the soil, and carry on from there.

Can One Person Install a Chain Link Fence Alone?

Though the job does go easier if you have an extra body or two, you can install a chain link fence alone if it comes right down to it.

Once the holes are dug and everything is in place, actually putting up the fence can go pretty quickly.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Chain Link Fence?

On average, a chain link fence will cost you between $1,300 and $3,400, ranging between $5 and $20 per foot for materials and $10 and $20 per foot for labor. If you choose especially large or thick materials, you might end up paying over $5,000 total, or around $40 per foot.

Further Reading

For more info, check out our coverage of chain link fence materials, slats, and beautification.