Chain Link Fence Top Rail

The top rail on a chain link fence provides extra bracing for the terminal posts. As a result, allowing the wire fabric to be stretched tightly. Furthermore, top rail helps to support the weight of the chain link fabric when it does not make contact with the ground. Providing a horizontal framework support, the fabric gets fastened to the top rail with fence ties.

Galvanized fences will have galvanized top rail. Vinyl coated chain link fencing will have matching vinyl coated top rail.

chain link fence top rail

Do you need Top Rail on Chain Link Fence?

Top rail is not mandatory for a chain link fence. However, it is recommended. Adding strength and support. The benefits of top rail far outweigh any extra costs associated with having it installed. So much so that your local fence installation professional most likely will not install a chain link fence without it.

How do you Attach a Chain Link Fence Top Rail to Posts?

Chain link fence top rail connects to the terminal posts and line posts by means of a few specialized fittings. It is easy to install. Allowing for quick installation of long lengths. Below we’ll review the fittings required to attach top rail to fence posts.

Loop Caps

pressed steel loop cap

A loop cap is a special cap with a “loop” or “hoop” attached to the top it. Sometimes referred to as eye tops, loop caps install onto a line post by simply sliding overtop of the exposed ends of the posts.

Because the diameter of chain link fence top rail is smaller than the posts, loop caps are offset to one side. The offset should face the same of the post that the fabric is stretched on.

Top rail slides though the loop caps and terminates at each terminal post.

Barb Wire Arms

Bar wire arms, or barb arms, are loop caps with extended arms attached to the top of the loop. Therefore, providing an attachment point for for strands of barbed wire.

Common configurations for barb arms are 3 strands either at a 45 degree angle, pointing outward or inward, or vertically straight up. 6 strand “V” arms are also available.

Rail Ends

Rail ends are used to start and stop chain link fence top rail where it meets end and corner posts. Also known as “end rail cups” they connect to the posts using brace bands and a carriage bolt and nut.

Offset tabs allow for top rail to stay aligned at the corner posts.

What Size is Top Rail on Chain Link Fence?

Chain link fence top rail comes in three main sizes. 1-3/8″, 1-5/8″ and 1-7/8″ diameter.

The diameter of the galvanized top rail pipe isn’t the only option when relating to the size of top rail. The wall thickness of the pipe also comes in various sizes. Known as the weight of the pipe.

However, in most cases, the grade the chain link fence will determine what wall thickness or weight the top rail will be as well as its diameter.

Top rail length is yet another option with most pieces cut to 21′ or 24′ long widths. Some big box stores and fence suppliers offer x 10 ft 6 inch length for easier transport.

Residential Grade Chain Link Fence Top Rail Sizes

Most residential grade chain link fences have 1-3/8″ diameter top rail installed. Sometimes, residential fences that are taller in height, or customers wanting added strength will have 1-5/8″ diameter top rail installed.

The wall thickness of residential grade top rail comes in .055 or .065 thousandths.

Commercial Grade Chain Link Fence Top Rail Sizes

commercial grade top rail

Commercial grade fences offer more strength. Therefore, larger galvanized top rail is installed. 1-5/8″ and 1-7/8″ are available options. However, 1-5/8″ is far more common. The larger 1-7/8″ galvanized top rail size is rarely used and only found on commercial fences of the heaviest grades.

The wall thickness is more crucial to the overall strength of top rail. Commercial grade weights are referred to as 20 weight and 40 weight. Measuring .085 thousandths for 20 weight and between .111 and .140 thousandths for 40 weight top rail.

Connecting Chain Link Fence Top Rail Together

Chain link fence top rail connects together to form one continuous piece. However, depending on the grade of the rail, there are two different methods in which each piece connects to the next.

Swedged End Chain Link Fence Top Rail

Almost all residential grade and some commercial grade 20 weight top rail with have a swedged end on one side. A swedge is a tapered designed that allows the end of one section of rail to fit into the next section. This provides a very secure connection post with the cleanest look.

However, the once the wall thickness of the top rail reaches a certain size, manufacturers cannot produce the swedged end. Therefore, a rail connector is required.

Chain Link Fence Top Rail Connectors

rail sleeve for top rail

A top rail connector is an external sleeve that fits over the ends of two sections of rail. As a result, providing a connection post. Swedges cannot me manufactured into the heavier 40 weight top rails. So a top rail connector, also called a top rail “sleeve”, is used to connect two pieces.

The external sleeve does not proved as clean of a look as the other method. However, when dealing with commercial chain link fences, it is more about function than looks. Furthermore, when a top rail connector lands on a line post, one side of the rail must be cut back to avoid loop cap or barb wire arm.


Top rail is an integral part of the framework for a chain link fence. Providing extra strength and support, I highly recommend it and would not personally purchase a fence without it.

After reading this article, you now know everything there is to know about top rail. From size options to the installation methods.

About the Author

Jeff Becka

Hi, I'm Jeff
I am the President and owner of R&T Fence Company and the Fence Resource website. With 29 years of experience in the fence installation business, I have held every position at R&T Fence Company, from shop helper and laborer to crew leader, sales, general manager, and now owner and president. I know just about everything there is to know about fences and fence installation.

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