A fenced-in yard is high on the priority list for many homeowners.
Whether your goal is to keep children and pets safely in your yard, or to keep the neighborhood kids out, a chain link fence is a practical solution. Chain link is sturdy, virtually maintenance-free, and will last for decades.
It’s also one of the most cost-effective fencing types available.
If you really enjoy DIY and want to save on your fencing project, here’s how:
1. Pre-installation preparations
a. Before you start work on your fence, be sure it’s legal. Check with your local city, county, or village to find out if you are subject to any zoning, height, material, or style restrictions. If you belong to an HOA, you will likewise want to be sure your proposed fence meets its specifications.
b. If you are not sure where your property lines are, reference your plat of survey. If you do not have a plat of survey, you may want to get your property surveyed by a professional.
c. Finally, ensure all underground utility lines are clearly marked. Call your local utility locating service to mark the public utilities in your yard – the main electrical, gas, and cable lines for your home. If you have any additional utilities, these are private utilities, and they are up to you to locate and mark. Marking utilities is critical to maintaining on-site safety while digging.
Once you’ve done all the preliminary work, the next step is to measure your yard to determine how much fencing you need. Chain link fencing in the U.S. typically comes in 50-foot rolls, so it’s best to measure in feet.
Measure the perimeter of your yard to determine how many rolls you need. Don’t forget to plan where you will put gates. To determine how many posts you’ll need, first locate where the terminal (end) posts will go. These include corner posts and one on either side of each gate. Intermediate posts are usually set a maximum of 10 feet apart, but it’s best to follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Do the math to determine how many of these you need. Gates are sized to include the space between posts and gate. For instance, a 4-foot gate will require exactly 4 feet between posts.
Using a tape measure and stakes, lay out on the ground where your fence will go. It helps to mark the corners first and run a string between them to ensure a straight line. Then mark the location of each fence post with a stake.
Use a post-hole digger to create a hole for each post. Each post hole should measure three times wider than the post diameter, and the depth should equal one-third the length of the post.
5. Mark the ground line
Use paint to mark the ground line of each post. The top of each end post should be 2 inches above the top line of the fence. The top of each intermediate post should be 2 inches below. If you are installing a fence on ground that isn’t level, you may need to adjust the ground line accordingly.
6. Set and pour terminal posts
Starting with one of your terminal posts, set the post in the center of its hole, and position it to a plumb position using a level and plumb line. Secure it in place, and fill the hole around it with wet concrete. Be sure to slope the concrete away from the post to allow water to run away from the base. Also, fill concrete in each hole up to approximately 4” below grade. This helps prevent future heaving and allows the holes to be back-filled with dirt for a more aesthetically pleasing install. Repeat with the remaining terminal posts.
7. Set and pour line posts
Line posts are set in the same manner as terminal posts. To ensure proper placement, you might want to delay marking and digging the line post holes until after your terminal posts are in place.
8. Add fittings to posts
Once your concrete is set, apply tension and brace bands to each post. Be sure to position the long, flat side of the tension bands toward the outside of the fence (facing the chain link side.) Each end post should have evenly spaced tension bands. To determine how many tension bands you’ll need on each post, take the height of the fence and subtract one. For example, on a 5 foot fence, each post would need 4 tension bands. Top each terminal post with a post cap. Attach a loop cap to each line post.
9. Install the top rail
Slide the top rail through the loop caps. Trim it with a pipe cutter, if necessary. Secure the rail ends to the terminal brace bands. Tighten the hardware.
10. Attach one end of the fence fabric
Slide a tension bar vertically through the diamond ends of the starting end of fence fabric. Fasten it to the tension bands on your first end post.
11. Hang your fence
Unroll the fence mesh along the length of your first section of fence. Affix it to the top rail with fence ties as you go. Cut to length; you may have to splice lengths together for long sections.
12. Stretch your fence
Use a fence puller to stretch the mesh taut between end posts. Slide a tension bar through the far end next to the fence puller and secure to the terminal tension bands on the far end post. Repeat steps 10-12 for additional sections of fence.
13. Install your gates
Follow manufacturer’s instructions to install your chain link gates.
If you enjoy DIY projects and have strong construction skills, you should have no trouble installing your chain link fence. It will also save you the labor costs of having it installed. However, if you are at all unsure whether this project is for you, consider having a fencing company do it for you. Either way, you are sure to enjoy the result — a sturdy, attractive fence.
Dean White is owner of The Fence Store, part of Peerless Enterprises, one of the largest fence companies in northern Illinois. He has more than 30 years of experience in the fence industry.
Here’s a video tutorial:
The following video does a really nice job showing you the 13 steps set out above.
1. Top featured image: Home Depot