Chain-link fence installation involves a lot less cutting and measuring than installing a wood fence; the chain-link fabric comes in premeasured widths, and the posts, rails and connectors are all designed to fit. The posts typically get set in concrete. Besides the ones you need for digging, you need a different set of tools for chain-link installation than you do for installing a wood fence.
The Tools You Need
You may have to cut some of the posts and railings, and you may have to pound something, but hammers and saws generally give way to pliers and wrenches. The tools you'll need include:
- Digging tools -- The type of digging tools depends on the soil characteristics, but usually a post-hole digger, shovel and digging bar get the job done.
- Measuring tools -- You'll need a tape measure and 4-foot level for setting the posts. In addition, get a roll of surveyor's string for lining up the post holes.
- Cutting tools -- When you have to cut one of the steel posts or rails to length, nothing does the job like a reciprocating saw with a steel-cutting blade, although a plumber's pipe cutter can also do the job. It's good to also have a hacksaw and a strong pair of linesman's clippers for cutting wire.
- Stretching tools -- When you install the fence fabric, you'll need a come-along to stretch it.
- Tightening and gripping tools -- You'll have a lot of bolts and nuts to tighten, and while you can do this with a wrench, a socket wrench is faster and more convenient. You also need a strong pair of gripping pliers.
Setting the Posts
You'll probably want to consult the instructions that come with your fencing for the proper post spacing. In no case should it exceed 10 feet.
Set the end, corner and gate posts first. Once these are stable and won't move, you can stretch strings between them to help align the line posts, which are the posts that go between them.
Dig holes that are, on average, three times as wide as the diameters of the posts. That means if you're using 2-inch posts, the holes should be 6 inches in diameter. Make the gate posts a little wider than this. As far as depth, the holes should be below the frost line -- at least 30 inches deep. A rule of thumb is to make the depth of the post one-half the height of the finished fence. Dig the gate posts a little deeper so they can support the gate.
Measure a distance from the top of each post to ground level; that is the width of the fabric plus 2 inches for corner and gate posts and the width of the fabric minus 2 inches for the line posts. These measurements account for the top rail. Make a mark denoting ground level on each post, using a felt-tip marker.
Fill the bottom of each hole with enough gravel to bring the mark on the post that goes in that hole to ground level. Level the post with a 4-foot level, brace it with scrap lumber and clamps and backfill the hole with concrete mix. Tamp the concrete down to about 2 inches below ground level.
Installing the Fencing
Chain-link fencing systems come with hardware for connecting the rails to the posts and the fence fabric to the rails. Check the instructions for the proper way to orient the hardware for your system.
Slip tension bands onto the end and corner posts. As a rule of thumb, the number of bands you need equals the height of the post in feet minus 1. That means you need four bands for a 5-foot post. Space these equally and tighten the nuts with a socket wrench, then install post cups and tap on a cap.
Place a cap on each line post that has a ring to hold the top rail. The rings should lean toward the side of the fence on which you install the fabric.
Slip the top rails through the rings on the line posts and into the cups on the end and corner posts. Tighten the nuts in the cups to hold the rails. Fit the rails together by sliding the large-diameter end of one over the small-diameter end of the one before it. Cut the last rail to fit with a saw.
Line up one end of the fabric with the tension bands on one of the end posts and slip a tension bar through the links and the bands to hold the fabric to the post.
Unroll the fabric to the other end of the fence, arrange it upright against the rail and secure it to the rail with a few wire ties to hold it on place. Tighten the ties with pliers.
Insert a tension bar through the links about 3 feet from the post and connect the come-along bar to it. Connect the other end of the come-along to the post and crank it to tighten the fabric. Slip another tension bar through the end loops and the tension bands on the posts, then tighten the tension bands to hold the fabric. Release the tension on the come-along and remove it.
Secure the fabric to the rails and line posts with chain-link wire ties. Tighten the ties with pliers.
Attach the gate, using the hardware provided. Adjust the hinges as needed to make the gate swing freely, then attach the latch.