How to Paint a Chain-Link Fence

Half Painted Chain Link Fence with Blue color with background of trees

In time, a chain-link fence will start to wear and look dirty and rusty. But you can bring it back to life with a little paint. While painting a chain-link fence isn’t easy, you can tackle it as a weekend DIY project.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Can You Paint a Chain-Link Fence?

Yes, you can paint a chain-link fence. Chain-link is made to stand the test of time without ever being painted. However, painting a chain-link fence is a great way to dress up an otherwise boring, mundane fence. By adding a coat of paint, your fence and yard will come back to life.

Generally, if you want color on your chain link, it’s best to install a vinyl-coated chain-link fence. But if you currently have a vinyl-coated chain-link fence you would like a different color, you will have to remove the vinyl coating first. Same thing applies for a previously painted fence. All paint needs to be removed before you can repaint the fence.

Then, you will have to apply an oil-based paint that has anti-rust protectant.

Signs It’s Time to Paint a Chain-Link Fence

A newly installed chain-link fence needs six months to weather before it can be painted. However, if you are looking to paint an older fence, you will know it’s time to paint when you see the fence paint peeling and cracking or rust building up.

It’s also important to note that if your chain-link fence was painted before 1978, this is NOT a DIY project. You will need to call a professional to remove the fence or remove the paint as it may contain lead

The Best Time to Paint a Chain-Link Fence

Photo Credit: Pxhere / CC0

It’s preferable to paint your chain-link fence on a day with low humidity and low winds and no rain in the forecast. You also don’t want to paint during the extreme heat of summer or cold of winter. This could cause problems with the paint drying. It’s best to paint when it’s 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oil-based paint takes longer to dry than most other types of paint, so plan accordingly when checking the weather forecast. Check your paint can for specific dry times, but oil-based paint can sometimes take a few days to fully dry.

How to Choose Paint for a Chain-Link Fence

It’s not only important to get the color paint you want, you have to start with the right type of paint for metal.

Selecting a Paint Type

It’s very important to get the correct kind of paint or you risk your paint not lasting as long as it should or worse yet, not sticking at all. For chain-link fencing, you want an oil-based paint that is weather-resistant and pet-resistant, even if you don’t have pets. The chemical properties in these paints are more suitable for chain-link fences.

When picking out paint look for an oil-based, rust-inhibiting aluminum flake paint. This type will help your paint easily bond and make your paint last. The small flakes of aluminum will overlap and develop a long-lasting, watertight bond.

What to look for in chain-link fence paint:

  • Oil-based
  • Rust-inhibiting
  • Aluminum flake
  • Pet-resistant
  • Weather-resistant

Tip: Don’t use spray paint. It will not stick to the metals and will leave a big mess.

Selecting a Paint Color

Choosing a paint color can seem like a daunting task. There are never-ending options. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed, it may help to focus on the top three colors most people choose for their chain-link fence: silver, green, and black.

Many people choose silver for a fresh, renewed look. Other homeowners choose green to seamlessly blend in with their landscaping. Black is also popular for its ability to blend in with its surroundings. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference. Choose the color that will work best for your home and tastes.

Supplies You Will Need to Paint Chain-Link Fence

  • Wire brush
  • Water hose
  • Bucket with soapy water
  • Sponge
  • Pressure washer
  • Rust-stopping spray
  • Metal primer
  • Drop cloth
  • Long nap roller
  • Metal or acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Mask
  • Gloves
  • Tape
  • Lawn mower
  • Trimmers

Tip: Wear protective gear as much as possible. Many products will have strong fumes and dangerous chemicals.

6 Steps to Painting a Chain-Link Fence

chain link fence in a lawn
Photo Credit: Aiempp147 / Canva Pro / License

1. Prep the Area Around the Fence

Before you start any painting project, you need to clear the area where you will be painting. This includes mowing the grass and trimming vines, bushes, or tree branches near your fence. You must remove all overgrowth.

Use a drop cloth to cover any nearby plants, flowers, landscaping, under the fence, or anywhere you don’t want paint. Tape borders you don’t want accidentally painted, such as your house if it comes in contact with your fence. 

2. Prep the Fence

Once the area is clear, then it’s time to scrape it clean. Dirt, dust, pollen, rust, and other debris clinging to your chain-link fence all need to be removed before you can paint. 

Begin by using a wire brush to remove rust and existing coats of paint. Scrape away any loose paint or rust buildup. All existing coats of paint need to be removed. Use fine sandpaper to sand off any rough edges. 

You also can rent a sandblaster for this process, but you may still run into some areas that will still need old-fashioned elbow grease. Scraping off old paint is often very difficult, so it may be best to hire a professional.

Spot-treat any remaining rust with a spray-on rust inhibitor.

Tip: Wear a face mask if there’s a lot of dust on your fence to avoid breathing hazardous materials.

3. Clean the Fence

After removing as much paint, rust, and grime as you can with the wire brush, it’s time to clean the fence using a pressure washer. While it is acceptable to use a regular garden hose, brush, and a bucket of soapy water, a garden hose may not provide enough pressure to get off stubborn spots. You want a completely clean surface before applying a fresh coat of paint.

Tip: It’s best to wash your fence on a breezy day so the fence dries before oxidation has time to set in.

4. Apply Rust Inhibitor

Many new kinds of paint come with rust inhibitors, so be sure to check your paint and skip this step if it’s included as part of the paint mixture. Rust inhibitor acts as a primer before you apply the paint.

If you need to apply a rust inhibitor before you paint, follow the directions on the can. Generally, you can follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the fence is completely clean.
  2. Spray or apply the rust inhibitor with a brush or roller.
  3. Check the can for instructions on how long to let it sit. During this time it will darken, signaling the rust has been neutralized. 

5. Paint the Chain-Link Fence

green painted chain link fence
Green painted chain link fence
Photo Credit: Pxfuel

Using a long nap paint roller, work the roller over the chain link starting at the top and working your way down, keeping your strokes symmetrical. Spread the paint evenly and cover all the bends and loops. Don’t overload the roller with paint to avoid drips. 

Use a thick roller, as it will allow you to coat mostly both sides of the fence at the same time, making it much faster and easier when you go to paint the other side.

Use a paintbrush to paint the fence posts and small, hard-to-reach spots. Again, start at the top of the fence post and work your way down.

6. Touch Up Missed Areas

Once you’ve finished painting, go back and look for any areas you may have missed and touch them up using a paintbrush. Pay close attention to areas close to the ground and near the fence poles, as they are areas commonly overlooked.

FAQ About Painting a Chain-Link Fence

Why paint a chain-link fence?

Generally, there are two reasons why people choose to paint a chain-link fence.

One reason is to make it more aesthetically pleasing and to help with curb appeal. Instead of having a commercial metal look, paint adds character and personality to your fence and property.

The other reason is to make their fence last longer. Chain-link fences are prone to rust and damage from extreme weather. Painting them is one way to slow down and prevent this damage.

Can you paint a galvanized chain-link fence?

The short answer: Yes. However, it’s not advised for a DIY project as it requires extra effort and a certain skillset.
Galvanized is zinc-based coating that protects the fence from rust, scratches and corrosion. You need to remove the coating before applying primer and paint. If you don’t remove the original coating first, the paint and primer won’t properly bond with the metal, causing it to peel faster.

Can you use a sprayer for painting a chain-link fence?

While it may be tempting, it’s best not to use a sprayer when painting a chain-link fence. Due to the open nature of chain-link, there would be a lot of overspray, which would just waste a lot of paint and make a big mess. A paintbrush and roller are the easiest, fastest, and cleanest way to paint a chain-link fence.

Hire a Professional Fence Painter

So you’re ready to give your plain chain-link fence a little character? Leave it in the hands of a local fencing pro to get the job done right and the results you want. 

Main Photo by: Pixahive

Amy Adams

As a writer, Amy loves to test boundaries, but she also knows how important it is not to go too far. The same applies to fences. As a teenager, Amy watched her brother and a family friend build their backyard fence. It was through this that she came to appreciate the boundaries fences represent while also protecting whatever it is they surround.