Building A Chain Link Fence

The easy way to install a chain link fence.

Does your dog keep running away? Do you want to keep your kids from running into the street? Then it's time you put up a chain link fence. You could hire someone to do it, but you can do it yourself. It's not that hard.

The first thing you have to do is decide where you want the fence placed. When you have done that call city hall and find out what restrictions there are on fence building (height, distance from property line, etc) and what building permits are needed.

Now measure the distance of where you have planned your fence. This measurement will tell you how much chain link you will have to purchase. Don't forget to figure how many gates you want and where you plan to place them. You also need to figure how many posts you need. The fence merchant can tell you how many posts you will need based on number of gates and linear feet. Posts are usually equidistant from each other. Once you get to the store you will also have to decide on the chain gauge (the thickness of the chain material). There aren't a lot of choices, but obviously the thicker the gauge the sturdier the material.

Don't forget to buy caps for the posts. The caps help keep the rain from running down into the posts and prematurely rusting the posts. It also takes the sharp edge off the top end of the post making for a safer fence. You will also need the gear (hinges and handles) for your gates. You need fasteners or wire to connect the chain link to each of the posts.

In terms of tools you will need a screwdriver to fasten hinges and fasteners, a wire cutter, a bolt cutter to cut the chain material, perhaps a hammer to tap in the posts caps, a shovel, a level and a post hole digger. The post hole digger may be the most important tool for chain fences. Depending on your plan you may have many post holes to dig. If you just have a few holes and some loose soil, then a hand held post digger will work well. On the other hand, if you have a lot of holes to dig or the soil is hard and compact it may be worthwhile to rent a power post hole digger. Any tool rental shop has power post hole diggers available. They can be powered by electric or gasoline. The gasoline models are usually more powerful.

You now have all your tools. The fence material has been delivered. It is a nice sunny day. You can't put it off any longer. It is time to build the fence. The first thing you need to do is make certain your fence runs a true, straight line. This is done easily by sinking a stake in the ground where you plan your first fence corner. Then sink another stake where you plan your second fence corner. Tie a string from one stake to the other. You now have your straight line. Remember, when digging your holes always dig them in the same place in relationship to the line; either directly under the line, to the right of the line, or to the left of the line. Just repeat this process for every length of fence.

This should be a tall stake. It should be at least as high as the top of your planned fence. At the level that will be the top of your fence run a string from one post to the other. All your posts should be set at the depth in the post hole so that the top of the post meets the highest string. This ensures the posts will all be at the same height.

Your top line should also be level for a uniform appearance on the finished fence. Place your level on the top string at various points along the string to make certain it is level. You can also purchase a line level. This is a level with hooks at either end of the level. The level hangs on the string to measure the string's levelness.

On the string use a marker to mark the location of your posts. Use the distance between posts recommended by the manufacturer. Don't forget your gate posts. Now start digging the post holes. The depth of the hole is important. Generally the taller the fence material the deeper the hole. Again, the manufacturer can tell you the recommended hole depth based on the fence's height. The other thing to check is the frost line for your region. This is the depth that the ground usually freezes in your area. Your hole should go past the frost line. If not the post will heave up and become loose as the frozen ground moves during its freeze and thaw process. The frost line can be determined by calling the building department at your city hall.

Once the holes are dug it is usually helpful to fill the bottom of the hole with gravel; just enough to cover the hole's bottom dirt. The posts will rest on this allowing air to circulate around the bottom of the post. If the post sits directly on the ground it can attract water and the post will eventually rust off.

Now place your post in the ground. It is time to make cement. This is very important. Don't place the posts in the ground and secure with soil only. This will not be strong enough to hold the fence. Buy some quick cement mix at a hardware store or big box home improvement store and follow the mixture directions. You'll need some water, a large tub or wheelbarrow for holding the material, and a hoe to mix the material. If you have a lot of post holes you can rent a concrete mixer at your local tool rental store. The folks there can show you how to use the machine. If you have an incredible amount of post holes you can order cement premixed from a cement company. The post holes do not require a lot of cement. So unless you have hundreds of post holes a cement truck is probably not required.

With the post in the hole pour in the cement. Make certain the post is plumb (vertically level) in the ground. Use a level for this task. Occasionally tamp down the cement as you pour it into the hole. Then let the cement set for at least 24 hours to make certain it is firm and secures the post. The instructions on the cement mix bag will usually tell you how long the cement needs to set for it to be secure. Don't forget the top of the posts should meet the top string strung between the two stakes.

There is another way to cement in the posts. But this method is more hit and miss and requires a little knowledge and experience in cement mixing. First pour some dry cement mix in the hole. Then pour in some water and stir until the mixture is the consistency you want.

After you have let the posts firm up until they are solidly set in the ground it is time to connect the chain fence material to the posts. Start at one corner of your fence. Roll out the chain on the ground, alongside the fence posts. There are thin metal slats that you now weave through the chain material at each fence post. This slat helps keep the material fastened to the post. Weave a slat through the material by the first post, hoist the chain up to the post and secure it to the post.

The chain can be secured to the post with a heavy wire. This works but is not as secure as the fasteners supplied by the manufacturer. The fasteners are usually a c clamp style that surrounds the post and the chain material and is secured with a bolt or a screw. As chain fences tend to sag over time secure post fastening is very important.

This sagging almost makes the next step very important. You want to make the chain material between each post as absolutely taut as you can before you affix it to the next post. This is at least a two person job. As one person pulls the fence taut the other person attaches it to the post. Have a healthy, strong person as your fence puller. You can also purchase or rent a cable puller. This is a lever and pulley tool that you connect to the fence at one end and then use it to pull the fence taut for the next post. Don't do the "taut pull" at once from one stake to the other. The distance is too far. Do it only from post to post. This ensures a tauter fence.

Gates attach very easily to the post. Gates usually come with connectors attached to the gate. All you need do is attach the gate to the post. Again these are usually some type of c clamp. Some chain link fences also come with slim metal slats that you can run the length of the fence along the top of the chain. This helps keep the top of the fence from bending over due to time or fence climbers. Once the chain material is completely attached to all the posts you have your fence. All you have left is to place the caps on each fence post.

Now you can let the dog out.

© High Speed Ventures 2011