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 “Standard/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 1 7/8” 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 1 7/8” O.D. and 2 3/8” terminals, especially if you ever plan on installing privacy slats in the future. 1-3/8″ O.D. top rail is sufficient for most residential jobs. We typically do not recommend this tubing for fences higher than 6′.
Residential Chain Link Fabric/Mesh/Wire “Standard/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 “Heavy/Medium Duty”: We recommend a larger diameter 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. The diameters for posts and top rail are the one size larger as above; 2 3/8” for gates and terminals, 1 7/8” for lines and 1 5/8” for top rail. 7′ and 8′ high fences will often feature a 2-7/8″ terminal post and 2-3/8” line posts.
Residential/Lig ht Commercial Chain Link Fabric/Mesh/Wire “Heavy/Medium Duty”: 11 gauge is the preferred gauge for residential and light commercial use.
Commercial Framework “Full Weight/Heavy Duty”: SS40 framework is far superior to any and all previously mentioned framework options. It is also manufactured domestically advertised as being 30% stronger and 20% lighter than mill structural pipe.
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. 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.
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 the entire framework. Using 2-3/8″ terminals and 1-7/8″ posts for the 4′ high fence is sufficient. Use 2-7/8″ terminals on the 8′ high fence and 2-3/8″ line posts for the best performance. 9ga. galvanized wire is the norm, knuckle x knuckle (abbreviated as KK). 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 2-7/8″ O.D. posts will suffice.
Hopefully this has helped differentiate between various grades of chain link and framework on the market.