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Ugly Chain Link Fence Can Be Neutralized

chain link fence along a major street

Many of you share a common aesthetic problem:  ugly chain link fences. All but the most visually oriented people often become immune to the unsightly conditions in neighborhoods where this plight is most common.  It's easy to do, but since the visitor won't be nearly as forgiving, we suggest that you concentrate on noticing them wherever you go for a couple of days.  You may be appalled.

Of course you can replace the chain link fence, which often rusts quite badly depending on the original finish.  The problem with replacement is that you still end up with a wire mesh fence that is not to most people's taste these days.  So that is where alternative treatments that are less expensive than ripping out the wire mesh fence and starting over with a more attractive fencing material are being created.

Artistic Treatments of Wire Mesh Fencing

Here is a rather simple treatment of an existing fence in St. Louis, where a textured vertical material serves as a backdrop for some dramatic flashes of color, which are held onto the fence with some high-performance twist ties.

The City of Chattanooga's public art office, through their municipality's economic development department, sponsored a year-long installation of artistic treatments of chain link fences.

Materials included vinyl banner, fiberglass resin fabrications, bicycle inner tubes, bamboo, and found objects.  The City awarded $2,500 in up-front money and a completion award of $500 to make sure the fence actually was finished.

A Dutch artist even has gone fancy on us with his lace treatment of chain link fence.  Some have tried to weave fabric strips or crochet through the fence.  All of these things require a pretty aggressive design to distract from the fence unless it is freshly painted.

Camouflage Solutions to Ugly Chain Link Fence

Sometimes the solution is camouflage. In this category fall not only the public art types of installations we just highlighted, but also measures such as repainting them in black or olive green.  Many people opt for trying to cover them with vegetation, with species varying from English ivy to climbing roses to grapes or anything that vines like crazy in your climate and soil condition. 

You can also do use a technique called espalier, which means essentially growing a fruit tree (often apple) in a flat pattern.  Of course you need to consider whether the height to which the trees might grow is suitable for your application.  It wouldn't work for a front yard.

The other somewhat obvious way to deal with the situation is to leave the posts in place but to replace the fencing material itself, probably with wood.  You could use scrap wood, even making a pattern with several different types of scrap wood from flooring leftovers, pallets, or old boards you found in the garage or attic.  You can bolt end boards onto the posts and then fasten the boards to one another or to the top rail of the chain link material

Another "solution" that is out and about is something called the put-in cup, where sure enough, you push what looks like a paper cup into the holes in the fence.  We think this is just about as tacky as the rusting fence, but in certain places, such as schools or day care centers, it might work as a stop-gap measure to brighten up the scene.

Notice that we are not advocating that you try to clean up the ugly chain link fence.  That is a losing proposition if there is any rust on the fence--and rust is the major reason that many of you would want to replace these fences.  If you simply think the industrial look is too unrefined for its application, you can use the camouflage technique quite effectively, providing your distraction for the eye is substantial enough and pretty enough.

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