Metal fences have special electrical properties and some precautions need to be taken when they’re being installed. So if you need to know whether to ground your chain link fence or not, continue reading.
Chain link fences don’t need to be grounded unless they:
- Stand within 17 feet of any electrical enclosure
- Stand within 16 feet of any electrical conductors
- Stand within 20 feet of overhead power lines
- Surround a pool or body of water
Any fence that is meant to be electrically charged should ALWAYS be properly grounded.
When should a chain link fence be grounded?
Chain link fences, or any metal fence that isn’t already electrically charged, typically don’t need to be bonded or grounded when it’s installed.
There are some universal codes, according to the NEC, that relate to grounding any metal or chain link fence. The guidelines state that a chain link or metal fence needs to be grounded if it is:
- When the fencing is within 17 feet of enclosed electrical equipment
- When the fencing is within 16 ft. of exposed electrical conductors or equipment
- When the closest overhead power line is 20 ft. from the perimeter fencing
- When the fence is surrounding a pool or body of water
Besides these 4 stipulations, chain link and any other uncharged metal fences don’t necessarily need to be grounded.
The only reason a chain link fence would be grounded is if you want to eliminate any possible disaster associated with electricity touching an un-grounded chain link fence, just to be safe.
Why do metal fences need to be grounded?
Metal fences are a bit tricky, especially when it comes to electricity and the risk of electrical shock. As we know, metal is a great conductor of electricity. When electricity touches metal, it travels along and through that metal and searches for any means to get to the earth.
By grounding a metal fence, it makes it so if any electricity does travel through/along that fence, it reaches the earth and doesn’t try to find any other means to reach its destination.
So, once it reaches the earth, or the ground, by means of the metal fence, the electricity dissipates and doesn’t travel to any nearby structures; such as trees, or buildings, since it’s already reached its destination.
This “grounding” action is very crucial when it comes to avoiding any possible disaster as we know usually accompanies electrically charged objects.
What happens if a metal fence isn’t grounded?
Per the mini electrical lesson we had above, there are a lot of things that could happen if a metal fence isn’t properly grounded.
Once the electricity travels along or through the metal fence, if that fence isn’t grounded or is improperly grounded, the electricity has no way of reaching the earth, which is its only goal.
So, it finds another path to follow; the path of least resistance to reach its destination. That means it will jump to any nearby structure and travel along, wreaking havoc along the way.
This path, if it so chooses, could be a person, a tree, a building, or a body of water. These could all lead to fires, electrically charged materials, and even death.
Now, this really only happens when already charged electrical fences aren’t grounded properly so no need to get worried.
Typically, when regular, un-charged chain link fences are installed, concrete is used to set the posts into the ground. This usually alleviates any need to ground the chain link fence because it’s already in the ground.
So, if any electricity hits the chain link fence and travels along or through it, it will reach the ground no matter what, just due to the way the chain link fences are typically installed.
How to ground a chain link fence:
As mentioned above, chain link fences rarely need to be grounded. However, there are a few extra things that need to happen if you do choose to ground the chain link or metal fence.
Again, if the chain link is installed with concrete holding the posts, that usually does the trick and eliminates the need for the fence to be grounded.
For “proper” grounding to occur, however, extra steps need to be taken and certain properties need to be present.
In order to ground a chain link fence or any fence, really, you need grounding rods and copper wires. You will also need a diffuser box if the fence is electrically charged.
Grounding rods are just as simple as they sound. They’re steel metal rods that are inserted deep into the ground so the electricity has a clear, and uninterrupted path to the earth.
Copper wires are used to connect the grounding wires since they aren’t great conductors. A diffuser box is only needed when the fence is already electrically charged.
Pro tip: The grounding rods need to be placed at least 10 feet apart so the electricity can dissipate before reaching another rod.
Is special material required for grounding?
The answer to this question is YES. Absolutely. In order to properly install a grounded fence, very specific material is required.
As mentioned above, when installing grounding rods, make sure they are made out of steel.
They typically are, so you shouldn’t worry too much, but to properly ground the fence, steel grounding rods need to be used. Additionally, the wires connecting the rods should be copper wires.
All the metal being used on the rods need to match, as well. So if you’re using the steel grounding rods as the fence posts (dual purpose) your binding rings, rods caps, tension rings, and tension wire need to be steel, as well.
This ensures a proper path for the electricity.
This rule doesn’t apply if you plan to use wooden fence posts. As long as you still install the steel grounding rods intermittently between the wood fence posts, that should work.
Just remember: grounding rods should be installed at least 10 feet apart.
When it comes to the mesh, though, the typical chain link mesh can be used when grounding the fence. It doesn’t need to match the material of the steel grounding rods. No special material is required for that area in the fence.
When done properly, grounded chain link fences are as safe or safer than any other fence.