For many people, having a fenced-in yard is high on the priority list, especially if you value your privacy. It can also help to keep your kids and pets safely contained in your yard while keeping any animals in the neighborhood out. A chain link fence is a great type of fence to have, and it will last for decades while being sturdy and almost maintenance-free.
Also, this is one of the most cost-effective fences on the market. Unlike a solid fence, the open weave design on this fence allows people to see through your fence while serving as a barrier. If you want to save even more money and you’re wondering how to install a chain link fence yourself, this is for you. We’re going to break the process down into several parts below.
A chain link fence is very sturdy, and it is the perfect barrier that doesn’t completely obscure your view outside of your yard. Chain link by Dvortygirl / CC BY-SA 2.0
When you start learning how to install a chain link fence, you have to start with the pre-installation steps. One of the first things you want to do is get your hands on any permits you may need. Your local government may require you to meet zoning or building regulations that will regulate your fence type, height, and setbacks. If you install a fence without it, you could end up with fines and they could tear it back down.
You should also establish where your property lines are. You can get this information from a realtor’s line plot map, city records, or from hiring a surveyor. Once you find them, mark the lines off to ensure that your fence stays inside of it. It’s also a good idea to find out where your utility lines are. Call the utility company and have them come out and mark where the utility lines are so you don’t accidentally hit them.
You can call 811 anywhere in the United States to start. The local company will send out an employee to mark off the lines so you can avoid them. Finally, review any neighborhood covenants for fencing regulations. Some HOAs have rules regarding fence style and height, and the town could enforce additional rules.
Once you finish all of the pre-installation steps and have your yard marked, the next step you have to take is to measure the yard to figure out how much fencing material you need. In the United States, chain link fences usually come in 50-foot rolls, so you want to measure in feet.
Measure your yard’s perimeter and divide by 50 to figure out how many rolls of fencing you’ll need. Don’t forget to plan out where you’ll put your gates. In order for you to figure out how many posts you need, locate where you’ll put the end (terminal) posts. This category includes the corner posts and one on either side of every gate you have. The intermediate posts are usually 10-feet apart at the most, but you want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Do the math to find out how many posts you need so you can pick them all up at one time without having to go back for more. The gates on these fences get sized to include the space between the posts and the gate. So, a four-foot gate will need four feet between the posts.
Get a tape measure and stakes and lay out on the ground where your new fence will go. It is useful to mark the corners first and run a string between them to ensure that you’re working with a straight line. Finally, mark the location of each fence post using a stake.
Know the Parts of the Fence
A big portion of knowing how to install a chain link fence is knowing the different parts of the fence itself. This will give you a good understanding of what you need, and they include:
- Chain Link Fence Posts – These posts support the top rail and your chain link fabric for your fence. You’ll need one of these for every 10-foot run of fence material.
- End or Corner Post – These posts add support and rigidity to your chain link fabric. You’ll need one at each end of the fence in the corner. For each gate opening, you’ll need two.
- End Post Cap – Better known as the terminal cap, you’ll need one for each end post you have.
- Line Post Cap – This part holds the fence rail in place at the top of the fence. You’ll need one of these for each line post.
- Rail Ends – These ends cap the rail and each end post, corner post, and gate post. You’ll want one for each end post, one for every gate post, and two for every corner post.
- Tension Bands – They hold the tension bar in your fence. You’ll need three tension bands for each gate post and end. You should have six for each corner post for a fence that is up to four-feet tall, and you’ll need four for every gate post and end. For fences that are up to five-feet tall, you’ll need eight per coner and five per end and gate post. Finally, for six-foot fences, you’ll need 10 per corner post.
- Tension Bar – This vertical bar gets women into the ends of your chain-link fence fabric at each corner, gate post, and end post. You’ll need one on each gate post and end post, and you’ll want two in each corner.
- Tension Wire – This wire will add rigidity to your bottom of the fence to prevent things from pushing it around. It’ll have to run along the bottom of the entire fence.
- Tie Wire – These wires tie the chain-link fabric to the line posts and top rail. You’ll want one every two-feet along the top rail and one every foot on the line posts.
- Top Rail – This rail runs along the top of your posts, and you’ll need it to run around the entire linear length of the fence.
If you want to understand how to install a chain link fence, the following pieces are critical to know:
- Brace Bands – These bands hold the rail ends and mount above the tension band. ‘
- Gate Frame Hinge – These mount to the gate, and you’ll need two for each swinging gate.
- Gate Post Hinge – You’ll mount this to the post, and you’ll need two per swinging gate that you install.
- Gate – The gates on these fences come pre-assembled. You’ll need one for every opening you want to create. You can create a double opening if you install dual gates.
- Top Rail Sleeve – This connects two rails to the top rail. You’ll need one for every two top rails you have to join.
Knowing the different parts of the fence is a huge component to learning how to install a chain link fence because you’ll need set numbers of these parts, depending on your fence’s size and length. Sick by visualrhetor / CC BY-NC 2.0
Part One – Marking & Installing the Terminal Posts
Start by finding the property lines to mark where your post holes are going to go. You’ll want to measure around four inches inside your property lines. This prevents the concrete footings in the fence from encroaching onto your neighbor’s property. Clear the working space along the whole property line’s length to make it easier to move a wheelbarrow through. It’ll also make it easier for you to roll out the fence.
Measure out the complete length of your planned fence as this determines how many feet of fence material and hardware you’ll need. Go to your local retailer and ask their recommendations on post spacing to find out how many posts you’ll need. Locate each location for your terminal posts and mark the exact spot using a stake or spray paint. The terminal posts are the corner, end, or gate posts. Spray paint usually works better because a stake is a tripping hazard.
Dig all of your terminal post holes before you do anything else. You want to dig your post hole surround three times the width and one-third the length of the post. Add an extra four inches for gravel. Try to slope the sides so that the hole is wider at the bottom than on the top. Add in four inches of gravel and tamp it down to give the post a solid foundation to rest on.
Stand your terminal posts up in the center of the hole and mark the side of the post at ground level using chalk or a marker. The height above the line should match the fence mesh’s height plus two inches. Next, plumb the post. Doing so will help to keep your fence looking straight. Get a plumb line or a carpenter’s level to check the balance, and position the post until it’s plumb.
Secure your post at this point. Get clamps and pieces of 1-inch by 4-inch by 4-foot to 6-foot lumber angled on two sides to brace the post until you reach the plumb position using the wooden stakes and screws driven into the ground. Double-check that all of the post spacing, measurements, and the height are exact before you secure the post to your bracing material because you don’t want it out of alignment in any way when your concrete hardens.
Fill the hole with your concrete, and pour or shovel it up around the post. Get a trowel to smooth the surface, making sure that you slope it away from the post to direct water to run off. Repeat this process until you have all of the terminal posts installed. Now you have to wait for the concrete to set, and this will vary from company to company. At a minimum, you’ll have to wait 24-hours before putting tension on your posts.
Part Two – Marking and Installing Your Line Posts
Once the posts are set, run a string between the terminal posts. You want this string to be low to the ground, taut, and positioned on the outside face of the posts. Mark where you’re going to put each line post. Get a post spacing chart and measure and mark the spot with spray paint or a stake.
Now you’re ready to dig the line post holes. These holes should be 6-inches wide and 18 to 24-inches deep with sloping sides. Right before you get ready to install the line posts, you want to run another very taut line from the terminal posts to ensure everything is the correct height. As always, double-check everything before you brace it. Fill your line post holes with four inches of gravel and pat it down to give both the concrete and the posts a good foundation.
Position your line post in the center of the hole and use a chalk or marker to mark ground level on each side of the post. Again, the height above this line should be how high the fence mesh is with another two inches tagged on. The post should be plumb, and you want to go around the post with your plumb line or carpenter’s level to make sure everything balances nicely.
Secure the post once it reaches the plumb position by adding your clamps and longer lumber pieces to hold the post in place. Double-check that it’s straight once more. Pour in your concrete and smooth over the surface using a trowel. Create a slope to encourage water to run off and repeat the process until you install all of these posts. Again, allow at least 24 hours for the concrete to cure.
Digging the holes for your fence posts can be a very labor-intensive project, especially if you’re planning for a much larger fence. Fencing at MOTSU by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / CC BY 2.0
Part Three – Add Post Bands and Caps
Slide your tension bands onto each post. These bands work to secure the chain-link mesh to your posts. You’ll need one less tension band than your fence’s height in feet. So, if you have a four-foot fence, you’ll need three tension bands on every post. If you have a six-foot fence, you’ll need five bands, and so on. You want the flat, long surface of these bands to face toward the outside face of the fence.
When you get them on, add the correct caps to your posts. Terminal posts should have end caps and line posts get looped caps. Tighten up all of your bolts and nuts, but make sure you leave some room for adjustments.
Part Four – Install the Top Rail
Feed your top rails through the loop caps before cutting off any excess pipe length using a pipe cutter or a hacksaw. If you have rails that are too short, you can create longer pieces by using rails with male/female coupling ends. Insert your rail ends into your terminal rail caps. You might have to adjust the height of the rail caps to ensure that it’s as high as the mesh with two inches added on. This will give you clearance at the bottom.
Check the caps and top rails for the correct fit and alignment before you start to tighten up all of the hardware. Add the dirt next. Fill your line post holes with dirt and make sure that you pack it in securely.
Part Five – Hang the Fence Mesh
Slide your tension bar vertically through the starting end of the roll of mesh. This will help to stiffen up the mesh so that you can attach it to the fence rails and posts. Bolt your tension bar to one of the terminal posts’ tension bands. You want your mesh to overlap the rail by one to two-inches and be two-inches above the ground. You’ll most likely need a second person to help you stand the mesh up to the end post. You’ll also need a socket wrench to turn the bolt.
Start unrolling your mesh by standing it up against the ence frame and taking out the slack as you move. Fence ties will hold it into place. You should separate enough length from the roll to span the opening between your terminal posts, and you may have to splice actions together if they’re not long enough. You can do this by getting a single strand of wire and corkscrewing it through the end links. You may have to add a second wire to create the diamond pattern.
Remove any excess mesh. Using pliers, carefully untwist the top and bottom loops on the fence on a stand of wire where you want the mesh to separate. Work the freed wire strand out until the sections come apart.
Part Six – Stretching the Chain-link
Get a fence puller and pull the meesh taut. The stretching process is necessary so that your fence doesn’t start to sag. You want to thread the fence puller’s bar into any unattached mesh section a small ways away from the far end post. Attach your yolk for your fence puller to the pull bar and connect the other end to the far fence post.
Carefully stretch the mesh with this machine until the mesh loops can move less than ¼-inch when you squeeze them with your hand. If you find that it gets pulled out of shape during this process, it’s easy to reshape it later.
Add your second tension bar, and run the bar through the end of the mesh right by the fence puller. This will allow you to attach your stretched mesh to the far post’s tension bands. Next, thread your bar for the fence puller into an unattached mesh section slightly away from the far end post.
Complete the fence with a tension barn. Terminate your chain-link mesh with the tension bar on tension bands on the far end posts. Remove any excess material that you have leftover from stretching the fence. Tie your mesh to the rail with aluminum wire, and space your ties roughly two-feet apart atlon the top rail and a foot apart on each line post.
As an optional step, you can add tension wire. If you do, thread it through the bottom mesh loops and tighten the tension wire around the end posts. Draw your wire tight before wrapping it around itself next to your posts. This can prevent any rabbits or animals from pushing under the fence.
Part Eight – Attach the Gate
Attach your gate hinges to the posts around eight inches from the bottom and top of the post. The top pin should be facing down and the bottom pin should face up. Attach the frame hinges to the gate loosely. Use blocks to set the gate around two inches off the ground. Adjust your frame hinges to fit on the post hinges before tightening it. Now you know how to install a chain link fence.
Attaching the gate is usually a two-person project, but you can do it by yourself if you have bricks to prop the gate up on as you tighten the hinges.
Three Things to Avoid When Installing a Chain Link Fence
We’ve gone through how to install a chain link fence, however, as you know by now, there is a lot more to the installation process than meets the eye. There are several things that could easily go wrong when you’re learning how to install a chain link fence and doing it for the first time. So, it makes sense that there are mistakes you want to avoid.
It’s also a good idea to get in touch with professionals before you take on this project to make sure that your installation process meets local zoning codes and bylaws. We’ve picked out three things that you want to avoid when you’re learning how to install a chain link fence and putting it into practice below.
1. Incorrect Post Setting Techniques
When it comes to ensuring that your finished fence is stable and secure, your fence posts are hugely important. You want to ensure that your posts can withstand the pressure from the elements in your planting zone, like snow and wind. They should also connect the fence panels or rails securely to help hold up the mesh. If you don’t anchor your posts with the correct materials or don’t set them deep enough in the ground, it could collapse. So, the posts should be at least two feet into the ground and anchored with a layer of gravel and concrete.
2. Miscalculating the Fence Angles
It’s very rare to have a yard that is 100% flat with no slopes. Your yard could have slopes that are slight enough to make it hard to see the incline or decline. However, if you don’t take your property’s grade into account when you learn how to install a chain link fence, you’ll run into problems later on. You want to avoid miscalculating the angles and make sure that you adjust the fence to compensate for any decline or include to get a neat, uniform, and stable finished product.
3. Not Setting the Gates Correctly
Most people will install a gate on their chain link fence to allow them to get in and out of the fenced area while they’re outside. If you want to do this, you want to pick out the correct gate and measure for it. Not setting your gate correctly is a headache. You should also consider installing strong hinge posts to hang your gate. Also, make a point to inspect the ground beneath the gate to make sure that it hangs high enough off the ground to swing easily.
Five Tips to Care for Your Chain Link Fence
Although a chain link fence is low-maintenance, there are a few things you should do to care for it year after year to ensure that it lasts as long as it can without developing any broken, weak, or rusted spots. The five biggest things you can do are:
Tip One – Apply Rust Protection Once a Year
Chain link can rust if you don’t treat it once a year. All you have to do is spray it with rust-resistant coating annually, and make sure that you concentrate along the bottom of the fence where it gathers moisture from dirt and grass. Inspect the fence and look for any signs of existing rust. If you see it, call the fencing expert for repairs. If you don’t treat the rust, it can earth though and create holes or weak spots.
Tip Two – Avoid Climbing on Chain Link
It may seem easier to go over the fence than it is to walk around it until you get to a gate, you want to avoid this. When you climb on this fence, you can bend the support posts and pull the chain link mesh away from the bars. This can weaken entire runs of fencing. YOu can add vinyl slats or remove any climbing aids to keep your kids and pets down.
Tip Three – Avoid Growing Plants in Your Chain Link
It may be tempting to grow flowers, vines, or decorative plants on your fence, it’s not a great idea to actually do it. Plants can grow through the chain link and lift the fencing up on the bottom or go right through it and break the links. If you have sucker tree seedlings by your fence, get rid of them straight away so they won’t grow into the fence and destroy it.
Although it can be pretty and whimsical to allow flowers to climb all over your fence, it can be bad for it. Some After Work Quick Shots by Sue Thompson / CC BY-ND 2.0
Tip Four – Clean Your Fence Regularly
Chain link mesh is relatively easy to clean, and you’ll only have to spray it with water to remove debris and dirt. Dish soap is great for removing stuck-on stains like bird feces. Spray your fence periodically with your hose on the high setting, and grab a cotton towel or scrub brush with warm, soapy water to clean stuck-on debris.
Tip Five – Make Repairs as Needed
The connections to the posts are the areas that will wear out first. As your fence gets climbed over or pulled on, the connections get loose and whole sections of fence can fall. Another issue you might have is the gates will dig into the ground or sag when you close or open them. If the gates are starting to look uneven due to usage, you want to tighten the hinges and make sure there are no missing bolts. If the chain link mesh itself starts to pull away or sag, you’ll want to call a fencing expert and have them fix it.
You should have a good idea on how to install a chain link fence now, as well as the parts of the fence, how to maintain it, and a few things to avoid to keep it looking good. If you get it right, you can end up with a durable and sturdy fence that will last for years after the initial installation.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.