Upgrading A Chain Link Fence: The Options


Despite them being strong and functional, chain-link fences aren’t among the most visually appealing types of fencing. Of course the other major downside is that they don’t provide much privacy. However, there are a range of DIY upgrade options available to give it that visual lift or convert it into a privacy fence.

Option 1: Convert It Into A Wooden Fence

If your existing chain link fence has sound posts and rails – and they often do because they are metal and the posts have been cemented into place, then you can convert it into a wooden fence. Here is the basic DIY process. 

Remove The Mesh

For an upgraded wooden fence based on the old post and rail infrastructure of the chain-link fence, you are not going to need the mesh. Remove it and dispose of it as metal waste. This is not absolutely necessary as you will see in some of the YouTube videos below. If you don’t mind the look of it, it is possible to simply leave the mesh on to help provide additional support and make less work.

Remove The Rails Option

If you decide to only use the posts of the existing chain link fence, you will need to remove the rails as well. You may well find the process a bit tedious because all the brackets have to be unscrewed with a wrench. Use a ratcheting socket wrench to save time and effort. 

Check Existing Posts For Structural Integrity

There is a possibility that some posts may not be as strong as you thought they would be without the rails. In that case, you should avoid using them since a wooden fence catches the wind more strongly than a chain-link fence and puts more strain on the posts. Reinforcing concrete posts can be challenging, but you probably need to replace the loose wood or metal posts with new ones to keep the whole thing robustly strong.

Keep The Existing Rails Option

If the rails are in good condition, to save money, you can attach fence boards directly to the existing chain link fence rails. This approach helps keep the overall structural integrity in place because everything is locked together.

Using an electric- or battery-powered drill and a metal-boring bit, drill pairs of 1/4-inch-diameter holes in the rails to accept wooden fence slats. Plumb bobs are a useful tool for marking the corresponding holes in the bottom rail for every hole you drill in the top rail. The boards can be leveled even with the holes a bit misaligned. The wooden fence slats, or boards, should be attached to the rails with 1/4-inch carriage bolts that are long enough to protrude about 1/2 inch behind each board, and every board should be leveled with a 4-foot-long level before being attached.

Using New Wooden Rails

Connecting wood railings to metal posts doesn’t require any magic. Just a U-shaped bracket that slips over the posts does the trick. With flat wings and holes for connecting to wood, it is easy to install. The rest of the project can be completed as if you were constructing a wood fence after attaching conversion brackets to each post and connecting wood railings to pairs of bracket ties. In this case, you will have to construct a box around each post. Use the same lumber as you have for the slats to make the box.

Option 2: Add Trellis To A Chain Link Fence For More Privacy

There is more privacy and beauty in a wooden trellis fence than in a chain link fence. A chain link fence can be enhanced with trellis or lattice panels made of wooden or composite wood for that extra level of privacy. It is even possible to use zip ties for attaching.

In layman’s terms, lattice refers to a grid of inches wide made from wood or composite material. The most common use of lattice fencing is to decorate an existing fence. A fence can also be functional by making fences more dense, thereby allowing plants or other objects to be attached to them.

The wood pieces in a lattice can be arranged in different ways, with varying sizes of holes between them. Choose a lattice with smaller holes if you’re adding height to your fence for privacy. There are privacy panels available with smaller holes that can be seen through.

Basically, the process is as follows:

  • Measure between the existing posts to ensure you get a lattice wide enough to cover the distance. 
  • Determine how high you want the lattice to be. Most lattices come in 4-by-2 feet or 8-by-2 feet panels that can be cut with a table or hand saw. 
  • Add extension posts to the existing fence posts with a metal tie plate so the posts go to the height you need.

The good thing about this approach is that the lighter structure of lattice doesn’t put such a large weight and wind load on the existing posts as a full wood upgrade does.

Option 3: Use Privacy Fence Slats On Chain Link Fences

To upgrade the privacy of an existing chain link fence without adding additional infrastructure, chain link fence slats can be installed in an existing fence. You can also do this in a DIY way. 

PrivacyLink, a U.S company, offers these slats in a variety of colors and styles. To hold the fence slat securely in place and to fit into any fence or project requirements, the fence inserts can be locked at either the top or bottom. 

Anyone can install this aftermarket upgrade option.

Using a DIY approach, you can simply take cedar boards and lumber, add metal straps, and completely cover your chain link fence.

Option 4: Windscreen And Shade Cloth On Chain Link Fences

Windscreen as an attachment for chain link fencing is knitted with polyethylene and constructed for excellent outdoor longevity. If the material is cut or torn it will not unravel because of our knitting process. It comes in a variety of styles, colours and sizes. The windscreen material can also be purchased in a range of opacities depending on the privacy needs you have. 

A cheaper alternative is to use shade cloth attached to a chain link fence in a similar way.

Acoustifence is another product that can be attached to an existing chain link fence for both privacy screening and noise reduction outcomes. Read our blog post on AcoustiFence here.

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