A chain link fencing (also referred to as wire netting, wire-mesh fence, chain-wire fence, cyclone fence, hurricane fence, or diamond-mesh fence) is a type of woven fence usually made from galvanized or LLDPE-coated steel wire. The wires run vertically and are bent into a zig-zag pattern so that each “zig” hooks with the wire immediately on one side and each “zag” with the wire immediately on the other. This forms the characteristic diamond pattern seen in this type of fence.
Quality chain link fences are strong, resilient and extremely durable. Neither snow, rain, UV rays, high winds, or errant baseballs will keep your fence from standing tall and performing its duty. By contrast, cedar fencing (the people’s choice) is far more vulnerable to all of these destructive forces. The other primary benefit of chain link is that it’s relatively see-through, which also happens to be one of its main drawbacks, depending on your perspective. If you’re in the former camp, you might not like how monolithic wood-panel fences dice up the landscape, making a backyard feel a bit like an office cubicle. Chain link can work especially well for dividing small yards that back up to each other (particularly when the respective homeowners are chummy). The open mesh of chain link also means the fence won’t block sunlight to gardens and other areas that crave the rays. Cost-wise, chain link is cheaper than wood privacy fencing, and chain link lasts longer and requires no finishing, so its lower cost gets even lower with time.
Standard chain link may all look the same to the layperson, but there are important differences in quality. When shopping for a fence, consider its four main components: the mesh (or “fabric”), the framework (posts and rails), the fittings (ties and clasps that hold it all together) and the coating (for rust-protection and, if applicable, color).
Heavier-gauge mesh and framework are stronger and more expensive than lighter-gauge and smaller-diameter material. Fittings should be well made and consistently shaped. Coatings include standard galvanized—a zinc layer added before or after the pieces are shaped—and PVC or polyester. The plastic coatings are applied on top of the galvanized metal and provide additional rust protection along with the color. As a general rule for the primary fence materials, follow the ASTM standards for your application, as well as any special recommendations dictated by your city’s building department or the local climate.
Steel fencing takes many forms, the most popular of which is chain-link. Though it’s not normally thought of as pretty, chain-link fencing can certainly be used without becoming an eyesore. For starters, the mesh is immediately useful as a trellis for everything from moon flowers to morning glories.
Chain-link is sturdy, maintenance-free, durable and economical. Plus, it’s ideal for situations in which you want your fence to be see-through (burglars cannot hide behind chain-link, after all).
Installation is easy. Most of the fittings are tightened down with a socket wrench. The only special tool you may need is a second pair of hands to assist in pulling the mesh tight. While it’s often possible to re-stitch damaged mesh fabric, repairing a chain-link fence is relatively easy.
Another pro: Chain-link fencing is considered “green,” since any scrap metal dealer will be happy to receive (and may even pay for) one you’re discarding. Try that with an old vinyl or composite fence!
Inevitably, chain-link fencing possesses a utilitarian aesthetic, but style options exist. Different mesh sizes and wire gauges are available, and the polymer coatings now come in colors, such as brown, green, and black (any of these provides a softer look than silver). When installed among shrubs or along the border of wooded areas, it’s possible for a chain-link fence to be nearly invisible, especially if outfitted with fabrics or lattice panels.