What's eating my chainlink fence?
September 23, 2019 7:01 AM   Subscribe

My chainlink fence has been damaged by something and it almost looks like the fence is being eaten. Here are some pictures. What's happening?

The damage is only happening on one length of the fence, and only to the ties that hold the fence to the top pole. About 75% of the ties have already broken through completely, all with apparently similar damage.

This piece of fence is not touching our house and does not have anything that's regularly rubbing against it. There are a couple trees near it, but none of the branches touch the fence. The fence is in relatively dense, suburban Boston, so it does get snow built up against it. It doesn't get a lot of sun.

What's damaging the fence and how can I prevent this from happening again?
posted by msbrauer to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think it could be galvanic corrosion, which happens sometimes when you have two different metals (in this case steel and alumin(i)um) in contact. Rainwater acts as an electrical conductor between the metals, and the reaction produces (if my rusty school chemistry serves) hydroxide ions, which act to corrode the alumin(i)um.
posted by pipeski at 7:11 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


Bored kid with a file?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:13 AM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Are you positive the damage hasn't been there a long time and you're only noticing it recently because of the breakage? It looks like it was cut with a tool, i.e. an angle grinder, but that doesn't make sense because such a tool would almost inevitably have scratched up the pipe that the wire is wrapped around. If I had to guess I'd say this happened before the fence was even installed.
posted by jon1270 at 7:37 AM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


I think it could be galvanic corrosion
I think that would exhibit more where the two metals are touching. Here it's where the metals are not touching.

If I had to guess I'd say this happened before the fence was even installed.
I'm not sure it'd be possible to install the ties with that damage. Further, other ties on other parts of the fence, which was installed at the same time, don't have the same damage.

Could it be squirrels? Another example of someone with metal being chewed by squirrels. We do have a lot of squirrels.
posted by msbrauer at 7:45 AM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think you need to put a camera on the fence, just to confirm that it is squirrels. Are there alternative ties that you can install, like heavy duty zip ties in the right color?
posted by soelo at 7:50 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


That tie is aluminum; the rest of the fence is galvanized steel.

Those are definitely marks from a tool, and they're fairly recent given the brightness of the metal revealed. Most likely a grinder or a rotary saw.

It doesn't look like it's an intent to cut, otherwise it would have been cut through in just one place.

Has a landscaping or arborist company been near recently to tidy up some overhanging trees or a hedge? That's my guess. Someone on a job, being careless.

Nothing to worry about.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:51 AM on September 23, 2019 [10 favorites]


Tool/wear marks. No way corrosion is happening this fast and in this manner unless you are next door to the oddest chemical plant I can imagine. They're even coplanar.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:10 AM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


Looks like squirrels to me - the orientation of the marks is not regular enough to be a tool. Google has a lot of documentation of people with similar complaints, probably because aluminum is soft enough to mark but hard enough to help with dental wear.
posted by Think_Long at 8:19 AM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


Squirrels. Seriously.
posted by zenon at 8:23 AM on September 23, 2019 [12 favorites]


Wow wtf squirrels? That's crazy, it absolutely looks like it was done by an angle grinder to me too.
posted by pilot pirx at 8:26 AM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


The thing that's swaying me more towards squirrels now is that there's no coincident tool marks on the fence rail. It'd be almost impossible to use a tool to make those marks and not dink the pipe, which would certainly show tool marks too.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:28 AM on September 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


Looks more like teeth marks than file/grinder marks. They aren't especially uniform or patterned. Look around the neighborhood for other similar ties and damage. Replace your ties with something like plasticated steel wire. And cross your fingers that squirrels don't get dementia from eating aluminum.
posted by rustipi at 8:29 AM on September 23, 2019


These are squirrels at work. These marks are identical to those on my suet feeder, where the squirrels tried in vain to chew through a ton of PEX. Also identical to the marks on a coyote skull outdoors that I've seen a squirrel chewing on repeatedly.
posted by MonsieurBon at 8:30 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


My immediate thought on seeing the photos was also squirrels. As rodents, squirrels gnaw on hard objects to sharpen their teeth, and aluminum is actually a really good material for that. You could try using squirrel repellent to protect your fence, but honestly I wouldn't have too much faith in that. Probably you're going to need to reinforce the attachment between the wire and the rod using stainless steel wire or something similar. I'd guess the squirrels are less likely to gnaw on the parts of the aluminum wire that aren't wrapped around the rigid rod of the fence, since it's less stable and under lower tension.
posted by biogeo at 8:46 AM on September 23, 2019


Another vote for rodent teeth.
posted by jquinby at 8:46 AM on September 23, 2019


Prevention: I have used the sour apple spray, which worked to encourage the little furballs to eat something else. Some dog bone chew toys left in the yard have been claimed by the squirrels and have the added benefit of being cheap, if a little mad max.
posted by zenon at 8:54 AM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


Wow. I'm more scared of squirrels now than I was yesterday.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:12 AM on September 23, 2019 [19 favorites]


Squirrel teeth (incisors, anyway) grow about six inches a year(!)

They must chew on something.
posted by jamjam at 9:14 AM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Squirrels not only can chew on metal, they do so regularly enough to be considered a serious threat to infrastructure. Greater than terrorism!
posted by jquinby at 11:02 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


Squirrels are rats with bushy tails and they do chew on metal.
posted by mareli at 11:17 AM on September 23, 2019


Squirrels with angle grinders?
posted by quacks like a duck at 11:20 AM on September 23, 2019 [10 favorites]


It is highly unlikely that it is an angle grinder or even a file. It would almost be impossible to use either of those tools and leave zero marks on the top bar to which the tie is attached.
posted by jmsta at 12:00 PM on September 23, 2019


Definitely squirrels.

As rodents, squirrels gnaw on hard objects to sharpen their teeth,

They don't do this to sharpen their teeth, but to file them down from overgrowth.
posted by agregoli at 12:03 PM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


The suggestion of sour apple spray made me also think of pepper oil as another possible deterrent. Has the added benefit of not affecting birds at all (they don't have receptors for capsaicin so can't taste spiciness). I don't know if long-term use might corrode the fence; I wouldn't think so but it's not impossible.

They don't do this to sharpen their teeth, but to file them down from overgrowth.

I think it's sort of both. Rodent incisors keep growing indefinitely so that they don't wear out with use, but because of this they are also structured with layers of different hardness enamel that means that as the teeth wear with use, the wear pattern restores a sharp edge instead of just leaving a blunt surface. A harder object gnawed on will wear the softer part of the tooth more rapidly leaving a keener edge in the very hard enamel. The best thing to gnaw on would be something just a little softer than the hardest part of the tooth but harder than the rest of the tooth. But I think you're right that it's more correct to say the primary function of gnawing is to wear rather than sharpen the tooth, even if it has both effects.
posted by biogeo at 1:32 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


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