Chain Link FAQ | FAQ INDEX
What are the differences between the various grades of fence?
Chain link fence.
As you may have noticed, chain link fabric, framework, and fittings are all available in various grades, gauges, and with different types of finishes. Briefly, I will attempt to differentiate between a few of the options.
Residential Grades "Good/ Light Duty": Framework (terminal posts, line posts, and top rail) The minimum we carry in framework is .065 wall thickness (16 ga.) tubing. This is typically the minimum any professional fence company would offer. There are cheaper options on the market, however with all the hard work involved with installing fences, the cheaper, thinner pipe is hardly worth the effort. A cheaper pipe for use for framework for example is a .035 wall thickness. This is typically found at do-it-yourself type stores and chains nationwide. Most of this type framework one can bend over one's knee. We suggest 2-1/2" (2-3/8" actual) O.D. (outside diameter) for terminal posts, i.e. end, corner, and gate posts. For line posts, or the intermediate posts as they are sometimes called, we recommend 1-5/8" O.D. posts for up to 5' high fences. 6' high chain link fences should be installed with a 2" O.D. . 1-3/8" O.D. top rail is sufficient for most residential jobs. We typically do not recommend tubing for fences higher than 6'.
Residential Chain Link Fabric/ Mesh/ Wire "Good/ Light Duty": Most do-it-yourself centers offer a 12 or 12-1/2 gauge chain link fabric. Typically this has a 2-1/2" mesh. We offer at minimum an 11 ga. fabric which has an approx. 2" mesh. With chain link wire, the smaller the number of gauge - the thicker, stronger it is. Although a 1-2 gauge difference does not appear to be much, experience would teach you otherwise. Not only is one stronger than the other, but the galvanized coating is much better on thicker wire. The thicker the wire, the longer it may be hot dipped in zinc without melting which creates the rust prohibiting galvanized coating. This principle also applies to the pipe framework. The cost difference between what one might find at a do-it-yourself center and what we carry isn't much and well worth the investment.
Residential/ Light Commercial Framework "Better/ Medium Duty": We recommend SS20 framework for residential customers wanting a higher quality fence which will last longer. It is also a cost efficient solution for light duty commercial use. SS20 framework is manufactured domestically by Allied Pipe and Conduit. It is 30% stronger and 20% lighter than mill structural pipe. It also has a far superior finish than domestic or import mill pipe. We do also carry import and domestic structural mill pipe (schedule 20, 40 for example). The savings may be approx. 10% and is fine for fence use. Many of our customers who need to fence miles may prefer domestic pipe for economical reasons. The diameters for posts and top rail are the same as above. However you may use SS20 for heights above 6'. It would be unusual to use SS20 for heights above 8'. 7' and 8' high fences will often feature a 3" (2-7/8" actual) terminal post and 2-1/2" (2-3/8'' actual) line posts. More information regarding SS20 is found online here: http://www.hooverfence.com/catalog/ss20_spec.htm .
Residential/ Light Commercial Chain Link Fabric/ Mesh/ Wire "Best/ Heavy Duty": 9 gauge is the preferred gauge for use with finer residential and light commercial use. This is typically what one will find at public facilities, airports, and commercial locations.
Commercial Framework "Best/ Heavy Duty": SS40 framework is far superior to any and all previously mentioned framework options. It is also manufactured by Allied and advertised as being 30% stronger and 20% lighter than mill structural pipe. More information is found here: http://www.hooverfence.com/catalog/ss40_spec.htm . Please note both the pages I've mentioned for Allied pipe have a specification/ comparison page for details. These pages may be visited by clicking the hyperlink.
Additional Notes Pertaining to Baseball/ Softball Field Fences: We suggest all SS40 pipe for backstops. 'Hanging Canopies' may use a lighter gauge to cut down on weight. Fabric should all be 9 gauge minimum to withstand public and sporting abuse. It is not unusual for the bottom portion of backstops which receive the majority of abuse to utilize stronger 6 ga. mesh. The diameter of posts to use will depend on height of backstop and other structural details. We would quote a 20' backstop with 4" terminal posts. All horizontal rails and bracing should be 1-5/8" diameter. More information on typical backstops may be found here: http://www.hooverfence.com/backstop/ . Sideline fencing is often 6' high or taller. Dugouts and player benches are often located here. Many quality fields will have mid and bottom rails for the sideline fences for additional strength. Outfield fences rarely have mid or bottom rails. Many are only 4' high and most have bottom tension wire. Knuckle x knuckle chain link fabric is the norm for public facilities. This simply means the top and bottom of the mesh is bent over "knuckled" so that sharp ends are not exposed. Knuckle x twist means the mesh will have bent over on one end and twisted to a point on the other and is typically used for security fences. The twist portion may be installed up or down. Check out this page for more info and a simple b/w picture: http://www.hooverfence.com/catalog/cpage7.htm . Chain link has never been called 'high-tensile' to my knowledge. 'High-Tensile' is a type of agricultural fence which is usually one single or multiple wires strung horizontally for cows and horses. Many simple tie white scarves to this fence so that animals can see it. Some styles of high tensile have a white PVC band-like material to them. I doubt you will be needing this for a baseball field! To conclude, SS40 is the fence industry's premium pipe. If your city's budget permits, we highly recommend using SS40 for all the framework. Using 2-1/2" terminals and 1-5/8" or 2" posts for the 4' high fence is sufficient. Use 3" terminals on the 8' high fence and 2-1/2" line posts for the best performance. 9ga. galvanized wire is the norm, knuckle x knuckle (abbreviated as KXK). Consider 6 ga. for the bottom portion of the backstop, mid rails for sideline fences if they exist, and bottom wire for outfield fences. Larger gates will have larger gate posts. There is very little price difference between a 10' and 12' gate; most of the cost is associated with labor. Assuming this is a double gate, 8' high, the normal 3" O.D. posts will suffice. You may read over the page found here for some information regarding gates: http://www.hooverfence.com/general_gate_information.htm . Although this article was written primarily for vinyl gates, the information regarding sizing is universal.
Hopefully this has helped differentiate between various grades of chain link and framework on the market.