How to Paint Chain Link Fences: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are so many different ways on how you can paint a chain-link fence. I combined all of these methods into one, comprehensive process that will be the most beneficial for your fence.

1. Identify The Type Of Chain Link Fence

Chain link fences with a galvanized coating (plastic coating or vinyl coating) are discouraged to paint on because it can be relatively tough for the paint to stick on your chain link fence. You will need to remove the last coat of paint before you move forward with the new paint.

If you do not remove the last coat, it can react with the other coatings of the paint and make you repaint the surface almost immediately after you put it on.

Many have found that hiring a professional is better than trying to do this themselves, so it would be best to just avoid it if you fall into this boat. Source

2. Create A Clean Work Environment

Since we are working with a chain-link fence, there are some extra precautions we need to make to allow the fence to look good and for everyone involved in the process to remain safe. Please exercise caution by performing these steps thoroughly:

Things To Look Out For Outside The Fence:

  • Clear off any plants or weeds outside of the chain-link fence as the chemicals you will use will affect the whole yard if cross-contaminated. Source
  • Be sure to trim any grass near your chain link fence. Source
  • Place sheets or newspapers along the borders of your chain link fence. Source
  • Get any kids or animals out of the way while you are painting your chain link fence. Source
  • If you do not want to paint the posts on the chain-link fence, use masking tapes to avoid getting loose paint on the fence. Source

Things To Look For On The Fence:

  • Please wear a mask if there is a lot of dust on your chain link fence, to avoid breathing in any hazardous materials. Source
  • Clean off any blatant dirt or grime off your chain link fence.
  • Be sure to sand off any rough edges or loose paint using some fine sandpaper before applying any other materials on the fence. Source
  • Remove any fence ornaments you would not like on the chain-link fence. Source
  • Eliminate any sort of rust on the chain-link fence. Individuals have used either a sandblaster or a wire brush for the part of the process. Source

3. Apply Rust Inhibitor

Note: Some newer kinds of paint comes with rust inhibitors. If the paint you are going to use has rust inhibitor in the paint (it will note it usually on the front of the can), skip this step. If you are unsure of what paint to use, go to the next step for some ideas.

Once your workspace is clean and good to go, apply some rust inhibitor to prepare your fence for painting. Experts recommend slowly spraying the inhibitor in small sections, instead of using it all at once so it is easier to handle. Source

The best rust inhibitors are the HoldTight 102 Rust Inhibitor, 5-Gallon Pail, Fluid Film 5gal Pail NAS Rust Inhibitor, and the XIONLAB 2 In 1 Rust Converter & Metal Primer. You can find rust inhibitors in most home hardware stores or online retailers.

“To use (the rust inhibitor), simply clean existing rust scale from the area you want to treat, leaving (the surface) as clean and debris-free a surface as possible. Then, apply the product with a brush or roller. The rust is neutralized and transformed into a dark coating. Once set, the coating acts as a primer, and can be painted for added protection.” Source

4. Prepare The Paint

The paint best suitable for chain link fences will have some/most of these properties. There is no such thing as the perfect type of paint, but here are some things to look for, from greatest to least:

  • Rust Inhibiting Aluminum Flake Paint. This is the most important characteristic. Using this specific type of paint creates a reaction that will cause your paint to bond very easily and make your paint last for a while. Source
  • Oil-based paint Source
  • Weather Resistant Source
  • Pet Resistant (even if you don’t have any pets). The chemical properties of pet resistant paints are more suitable for chain link fences. Source

Unfortunately, you are not able to use spray paint or use any type of paint sprayer on chain link fences. The properties will not stick with the chain links, and it will also leave you with a big mess. Source

The top three colors for chain link fences are silver, black, and green. It will be very difficult to find most other colors of paint that will be beneficial for the chain-link fence. Source

The Highest Rated Paints For Chain Link Fences:

  1. Rust-Oleum 7787402 Chain Link Fence Paint 
  2. Behr 5 gal. White Exterior Barn and Fence Paint
  3. Valspar Anti-Rust Armor Rust Control Enamel

Source For List

5. Roll The Paint In An Even Motion

  • Use a paintbrush roller on your chain link fence. Make sure to only use a little bit of paint at a time so the paint does not run at all. Rollers are beneficial because according to fence installation experts, “it only applies paint to what it touches and has no need to bounce back while applying a reasonable amount of pressure to leave paint behind.
  • A roller also produces enough paint when filled for the paint to fall on either side of the chain link fence, giving you ahead-start on doing both sides evenly. By applying the paint roller, you can create a solid swath of painted links without the waste of spray-paint or the mess and hassle of a brush.” Source
  • It is best to start at the top and work yourself down, then up again. Make sure that your strokes are symmetrical to each other (like you are cutting grass). This is important because every stroke you make is very visible, and wrong marks can ruin your entire paint job.
  • You can paint both sides at once and on the same day, despite popular belief.
  • Be sure to paint slowly to avoid spillage and to avoid the chemicals getting on other equipment. Some have used the rim of their painting pan in order to get the excess paint off. A few coats of paint will stick onto your fence better than one thick coat of paint will. Source

Here are the best paint rollers that are optimized for chain link fences:

6. Keep In Mind These Painting Tips:

I found these HGTV Tips to be a helpful checklist for any painting project:

  • “Plan for any help in advance—working with a friend or neighbor will make the process faster and more manageable.
  • Budget your job and determine your needs for tools and materials. You can find a calculator that can help calculate the cost of painting your chain link fence here.
  • Make necessary repairs and prepare the work area for painting/staining.
  • Check the weather forecast for optimal time period to complete the project. It is best to work on your fence when temperatures are between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is low to moderate. Do not paint when precipitation is in the immediate forecast or expected within the time necessary for drying. Avoid painting your fence on windy days to prevent paint drifting into unwanted areas.
  • Plan to complete the job within a specified time frame, including drying times.
  • In addition to maintaining the seal on your wood fence, be sure to keep moisture away from the surface by having the wood slightly above grass level, keeping grass trimmed and bushes and ivy out of direct contact.
  • Always use gloves and a face mask when sanding and working with toxic chemicals (which is very common when working with chain link fences).”


7. Thin Out The Fine Edges

Use a bristled paintbrush to thin out the fine edges and anything the roller missed. Be sure to fill in every crevice of your chain link fence before adding on another layer.

8. Rinse and Repeat This Method

  • Redo this process till you feel like your chain link fence is good to go! It usually takes a couple of coats.

General Information About The Painting Process:

If you decide to follow through with the process of painting your chain link fence on your own, you are looking at about $55 total for the entire process. If you decide to hire a professional, you will be looking at around $199 on average (on the lower end) “to prime and paint 150 square feet of fence (e.g., a 3-foot high fence 50 feet in length). That includes labor and material.” Source

Chain-link Fences last about fifteen-twenty years. If your fence is older than that, it is best to just replace it before trying to repaint it.

The paint on your chain link fence will last for about four years, but be sure to touch up your fence every two years (eliminate rust, dirt, etc.) to make sure it looks the best it can be. Source

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