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Good Side Of Chain Link Fence?
Do It Yourself
FAQ

Please help me with a fence problem.  My new neighbor has installed a 6'H chain link fence between our properties.  The side that faces my property has numerous sharp points, or barbs all along the fence.  The sharp points are a result of the chain link fabric being galvanized (dip drip).  The side that faces my neighbors property has a smooth finish.  Our zoning code states that all walls and fences shall be constructed so that the finished side of the fence shall face out or away from the property upon which the fence is constructed....  Unfortunately, our city building department, zoning department and code enforcement division cannot seem to figure out what "finished side" means.  I have tried to reason with them by explaining that "finished side" means a desired surface texture and that "unfinished side" would mean an undesired surface texture.  Did I mention that I have two children, 4 yrs. old and 7 yrs. old - with unbelievably smooth, precious baby skin. !!

This fence extends to a seawall (I live on a canal) and the children have a small area, 3'-4'W to navigate between our backyard deck and THE FENCE.   Our building department has told me that, "There is no finished side for a chain link fence."  Please let me know if there is some standard that applies to chain link fence fabric, and if there is a difference in the two sides of the fence fabric, or if there is another place I can get information.  I am not looking for legal advice - only technical specifications and/or standards that can help me. Anxiously waiting to hear from you.

Reply:

In general, many zoning laws do specify that the "good" side of a fence face out towards the neighbor. Some zoning laws do not. Check your local zoning always before constructing a fence. Even if a permit is not required, there usually are restrictions on fences as to height, type or setbacks from property lines, as well as what is commonly called a "good neighbor" requirement that requires the best side to face out from your property.

Basically, your building or zoning department is correct in saying there is no good side of the chain link fabric itself, however, generally the posts should be on the other side of the fence from your perspective. The good side, in my humble opinion, is the side without the posts.

Chain link fabric, which is the term used for just the woven wire, does not usually have a good side or bad. It should be the same on both sides, for the most part. Any accumulated zinc drippings from the hot-dip process would be equally deposited on both sides of the fabric. Usally these drippings are not so sharp as to cause injury. Reversing the fabric should have no affect whatsoever. Other than debating which side of the fence the posts are on, I can't see that you have an argument on the fabric. You say that one side is sharper. I have to take your word for that, but I have never seen any difference that would be noticeable.

Another recourse would be, if the fabric truely is that sharp, demanding that the safety hazard be eliminated. Many residential zoning forbids fences that have twisted barbs on the top or bottom of the chain link fabric. The only acceptable selvege is knuckled ends that are bent over. Likewise, barbwire is not usually acceptable. The reasons are obvious; to reduce hazards in residential areas. If the chain link fabric surface is sharp enough to cause injury to a child, that is a hazard. No one can place hazards on their property whether it is a fence or not. Also I would say that excessive zinc drippings that are that sharp enough to cut, like a razor blade, might be an indication of an unacceptable product.

In most cases, the sharpness can be eliminated with a pair of pliers. Although a bit of a tedious process, the sharpest drippings are knocked off easily with pliers and will so no harm to the chain link. You might consider compromising with your neighbor by getting permission to knock those off the fabric. The sharp drippings come off readily with a slight twist around the wire while gripping the wire with a pair of pliers.

In selecting a chain link fabric for your property and avoiding the pitfalls of galvanized "roughness", choose vinyl coated chain link, which is quite smooth. Also aluminized fabric does not have the drippings. It looks like galvanized, but is not quite as shiny when new. You will pay a little more for both types of chain link fabric, but each will outlast a plain galvanized fence.

Short of the preceding remedies, the kids will learn not to touch the fence after they get a scratch or two, like I did when I was a kid. I doubt if they will encounter an injury that will not heal before they reach the age of 18 and the scarring is likely to be fairly minor.

Author: Frank R. Hoover, Hoover Fence Co.
25 years+ in the fence business

Copyright 1999 Hoover Fence Co.
May be reprinted as long as source is acknowledged

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