How It’s Made - Chain-Link Fence: History, Materials, and Method

The chain-link fence is a staple in the American front and backyard, tried and tested for generations. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful, and it leaves your outdoor spaces a little more open for conversations with the neighbors. Being easily set up, simple to maintain, and basically effective, there are a great choice for the homeowner on a budget. Along with being used in homes and yards, chain link fences are also found on school playgrounds, sports courts, professional locations, animal enclosures, and more!

Despite all this, when you really look at one you may ask yourself “what is a chain-link fence exactly?” And while the answer “a fence made of linked chains” may seem obvious, things can be too obvious. That’s why we’ve put together this article, to break down the history, materials, and making method of chain link fences, so you can better understand this classic piece of American outdoor home decor.

When was Chain-Link Fence Invented?

While no one can be 100% certain on the true inception point for chain-link fences, most sources report the first commercial production of chain-link fences as coming from the same place and time. All the arrows point towards Barnard, Bishop, and Barnard in the year 1844. This company was based in the United Kingdom, with a history of ironmongery and clothes manufacturing, which makes perfect technological sense once you learn about the machines that are used to make chain link fences, but more on that later.

What is Chain-Link Fence Made Of?

So as mentioned before, the name gives a pretty good indication, but what are chain-link fences made of really? Generally, chain-link fences are made from wire, which is itself made from either galvanized steel or aluminum and comes in massive pools prior to production. The wire may either be solely galvanized (meaning coated in a thin layer of protective zinc), or in many cases, they’ll be coated in a layer of PVC plastic, which will often be green.

How is Chain-Link Fence Made?

We’ve got some background now but how is a chain-link fence made? The short answer is by machines, but we’re not here to make a long story short, so we’re going to break down the technical process into steps for your better understanding.

  1. The giant spool of wire is transported across the factory to the production floor.
  2. The wire is then fed through machinery to become straightened out.
  3. At this stage, it is often coated in hot plastic and cooled in liquid to set said plastic.
  4. Once coated, the wire is re-curled back onto spools once again for transportation.
  5. Now the wire must be transported to the “knitting floor” where it will become a fence.
  6. Once on the floor, the wire is semi spiralized to create a sort of coil.
  7. Coils of wire are made atop one another, making the connected fencing we know.
  8. Once large sheets of fencing have been formed, they are cut and sold for usage!

If that wasn’t illustrative enough for you we have a great video of chain-link production that you can watch, straight from the National Film Board of Canada.

Chain-Link Fencing Post Shapes

When it comes to the fence posts used to support chain-link fences, there are two main forms of posts, regardless of the material used.

Straining Posts

These posts are braces used at the corners, ends, and direction change points of chain-link fences to provide their primary upholding support. You can get by with just straining posts, as long as their distances between one another don’t exceed 69m. These posts must be firmly planted into the ground, as they are the anchors that will hold the fence together.

Intermediate Posts

These are posts used to further support chain-link fences when it’s felt that straining posts might not be keeping things as steady as needed. To use them properly it’s worth setting them up in around 3m intervals, with iron posts being driveable into the ground, and concrete posts needing to be dug in. They’re held in place by additional wire, cable ties, or hairpin staples.

Chain-Link Fencing Post Materials

While there are two main ways that stretches of chain-link fence sheeting can be connected and supported, there are varieties of fence post materials that can be used for either segment. Each of these post varieties has its own advantages and disadvantages, along with unique methods necessary for successfully putting them up.

Angle Iron Fence Posts

These are likely the most popular form of fence posts used for chain-link fences, being inexpensive, easy to set up, and capable of holding up fences from the corners. The straining posts are flattened rods of iron, with a 90-degree bend in them, supported by one or more added struts, while their intermediate posts are the same without the angle.

They feature pre-drilled holes, through which the chain link can be threaded, or alternatively attached via cable ties. They can be used solely as straining posts, or supportingly with intermediate posts along the length of the fencing. Note that painted painted angle iron posts will rust quickly when left outside, so an extra coat won’t go amiss prior to completing an installation.

Timber Fence Posts

These fence posts are more well known for their presence in backyards with wooden privacy and trellised fencing, but they’re also an option for the classic chain-link. These posts add a real aesthetic element to the overall look and feel of the fence, which can be great for backyard usage, however, they’re not quite as practical for larger-scale fencing projects such as in playgrounds or tennis courts. For added visual appeal, these supports also go great with classy, stylish post caps.

Many choose to combine wooden fence posts and slats at the top and bottom of the fence itself to create what some call “California style chain-link fencing”. This is a gorgeous way to utilize chain-link fences, especially those that are a little shorter and less concerned with blocking people out rather than marking divides. Timber fence posts for chain-link can be great, but it’s worth noting that they’ll need to be specifically drilled for the sake of attaching the fencing, while staples can be used but are often not as long-lasting.

Concrete Fence Posts

Concrete fence posts for chain-link fences are known as one of the most reliable, long-lasting options that money can buy. Being heavier and sturdier than either iron or wooden fence posts, along with being firmly concreted into the ground, these are a great choice for setting up a chain-link fence that will be in use for years to come.

It’s worth noting that concrete fence posts might be the most expensive option, depending on who you ask, along with being one that requires a fair amount of additional elements to be set up properly. What you sacrifice in cost and effort will likely be recouped in reliability and a strong-standing fence.

Quantity of Fixings Required for Chain Link Posts

Below we’ve included a chart that illustrates how many additional fixings posts will need to properly uphold a chain-link fence.

End Post Two-Way Corner
Fence Height (mm) Line Wire Stretcher Bar Angle Cleat Eye Bolt Euro Loop Stretcher Bar Angle Cleat Eye Bolt Euro Loop Stretcher Bar Angle Cleat Eye Bolt Euro Loop
900 2 1 2 2 ~ 2 4 2 2 2 4 4 ~
1050 3 1 3 3 ~ 2 6 3 3 2 6 6 ~
1200 3 1 3 3 ~ 2 6 3 3 2 6 6 ~
1400 3 1 3 3 ~ 2 6 3 3 2 6 6 ~
1500 3 1 3 3 ~ 2 6 3 3 2 6 6 ~
1800 3 1 3 3 ~ 2 6 3 3 2 6 6 ~
2000 3 1 3 3 ~ 2 6 3 3 2 6 6 ~
2100 3 1 3 3 ~ 2 6 3 3 2 6 6 ~
2400 4 1 4 4 ~ 2 8 4 4 2 8 8 ~
1800 + Vert Ext 3 1 3 6 ~ 2 6 6 6 2 6 6 ~
2000 + Vert Ext 3 1 3 6 ~ 2 6 6 6 2 6 12 ~
2100 + Vert Ext 3 1 3 6 ~ 2 6 6 6 2 6 12 ~
2400 + Vert Ext 4 1 4 7 ~ 2 8 7 7 2 8 14 ~
1800 + Crank Ext 3 1 3 6 ~ 2 6 6 6 2 6 9 3
2000 + Crank Ext 3 1 3 6 ~ 2 6 6 6 2 6 9 3
2100 + Crank Ext 3 1 3 6 ~ 2 6 6 6 2 6 9 3
2400 + Crank Ext 4 1 4 7 ~ 2 8 7 7 2 8 11 3
Posts with cranked/vertical extensions, may also have 3 lines of either line or barbed wire, M8 x 30mm Bolts equal number of cleats.

This chart was lifted from this handy article by UK fence company AVS Fencing, who did an amazing job of collating the information.

Final Notes

Chain link fences are a classic for good reason, but if you were expecting to read this and find out everything you need to build a chain-link fence at home, then short of your own production factory, it’s simply not tangible.

For more interesting pieces on outdoor living and decor, check out our blog!