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Hanging Fence Gates

Hanging fence gates requires a bit of planning. Whether a gate for a livestock fence, or a simple garden gate, the same basic principals apply. If not properly installed, a gate can cause the entire section of fence to begin to deteriorate. When you hang a gate, understanding the forces at play can help and develop an appropriate solution to the problem.

How to Hang a Gate


When working with fence gates it is important to remember that gravity is not our friend!

A gate is what is known as a cantilever. It is a long lever that is virtually always inadequately supported at its hinged end. The weight of the gate is amplified by its length, and puts a constant pressure on the fence post it is attached to.

To make matters worse, the fence post itself acts as a lever, and the force the gate applies to the post is amplified by the length of the post and applied to the post's base.

No wonder that the fence post will gradually lose its plumb under the constant pull of the gate.

gate

This diagram illustrates how gravity works on the gate to pull the supporting post out of plumb over time.

Understanding the problems inherent with gates, it is possible to come up with design solutions. Let's discuss a few of the ways that the problems can be addressed.

Estate Gate

Perhaps the simplest solution is to counteract the force of gravity with mass. This is often seen with estate gates, or driveway gates, and sometimes with garden gates.

The idea here is to make the anchoring post so heavy that it will withstand any force created by the weight of the gate. "Posts" are made of brick, stone or concrete and weigh a ton or more. This is an expensive solution, and not applicable to all situations.

Ranch Gate

Another way to brace the supporting post against the weight of the gate is to use a cross-member This allows the gate's weight to be born by two posts, rather than one.

A wooden cross-member can be placed over the top, spanning the posts on both sides of the gate. This, of course, limits the usable height of the gate. It is not uncommon to see this design on entry gates to large ranches, where the gate posts are polls 15 or more feet high.

Garden Gate

The same idea can be used on a smaller fence gate. This can be quite attractive when built into a pergola or other decorative entry structure.

underground brace
gate

The same cross-member can be placed under the gate. On smaller gates, using concrete can be very effective, but simple treated lumber can be used also.

Another method is to use a "dead-man". This is simply a treated post or board set in the ground perpendicular to the post that the gate hangs from. The idea is to spread the lateral pressure created by the gate across a larger surface areas.

livestock gate

For gates on a wire farm fence, perhaps the easiest method to support the gate post is to us use a doubled H-Brace. (See our section on Fence Posts to learn about H-Braces) Here, we are bracing the posts against the pull of the wire in one direction, and against the pull of the gate in the other direction.

In conjunction with the above ideas, you will often (at least on flat ground) see the use of a wheel on a gate.

Understanding what makes a strong fence and sturdy gate will help you to design and build a finished project that will last for many years.

 
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