Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Gate

WELL....let's start at the beginning. When we bought the house, the entire fence run on the South side of the house was disintegrating, and needed replacement FAST.

Since the tree guys needed access  to the backyard, we scheduled the fence guy to come out on the same day so he could remove the single gate and posts, opening up the entire short run of fence between the South run and the house.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the short run with the original single gate. Still kicking myself over that one.

Here's a pic of the tree service truck that was hauling the chipper. The one panel to the immediate left of the truck is an original one. The section running to the left an out of the frame belongs to our neighbor Sara, and she had it replaced while our fence was being rebuilt. You can see how weathered the wood is, and it was cracking and splitting on the pickets and the posts.

SO....during the week or so after we moved in, all the old fence posts had been replaced, new panels installed, and a custom double-wide (14' total; two 7' gates) gate was built and installed.

This is it before the gates were installed. In a reply to Beans in my previous post, I said he used two 4x4 posts at the gates. I goofed; He used a single 4x4 post. I've had my level on the two 4x4 posts you see in the photo below. They're still dead plumb on all four sides, so they've held up.

And when the gate panels were finished and hung, it looked quite nice. Nice and square, and the gates opened easily.

And looking at the back shows it has "good gaps", a car term meaning everything is in alignment, evenly spaced, and square.

One thing you'll notice, is that there's a significant gap at the bottom of the gates. The area seen above had a gravel bed with a cast-in-place concrete border, which runs around the entire yard at the fence line. Sort of like having flower beds along the fence line, but a LOT lower maintenance. Well...the fence guy said "It's a landscaping thing", and the fly-by-night Bozo landscape guy said "Oh, no, it's a GRADING issue, and I don't do that". The gates lead out to a common "drainage area" for our yard and the yard next door. Bozo Landscaping, LLC called it a "swale", and all of the houses I saw growing up in Illinois had them.

Wikipedia has a nice picture of one:

Bringing in two BIG trucks for the tree removal really beat that area up, busting up the nice concrete border and some large pieces of slate that were there, as well as depressing the ground permanently, as seen below.

Fast forward from last November from when the gates were built to the first howling snowstorm we had. Sorry, no pix available as the news crew couldn't get to the site, but it wasn't much snow. It was the 45MPH sustained winds with gusts to 50 that clobbered it.

The latch failed, causing the left side gate as seen above to tear the drop rod out of the ground, and swing full open. Then the wind would shift, and it would slam shut. Why did the latch fail? The buffeting caused by the wind shook the lag bolts loose, and they soon pulled completely out.

I used some 1/2" wide, 48" long cable ties to secure the gates shut, no small feat in a 40MPH wind.

OK...I'll admit it. Right here, at this point, I should have called the original builder and screamed "HELP", and I didn't. My error. BIG mistake. I remember having something else on my mind we were dealing with at the time, but I admit I should have at least called him. I screwed the latch back in, and left it cable-tied shut until we needed it opened again in Spring, at which the young handyman guy straightened it out some, and installed some longer lag bolts.

Then we got clobbered with some Big Spring Winds, sustained 45+MPH with gusts of 65+, and it blew open again. Out came the cable ties until I could figure out what to do.

Yep....should've called the builder again, but I didn't. About this time, the Windbag Bozo Landscape Company offered to fix it, and my wife said to go ahead. He put in a much better latch, and two additional drop rods to anchor the bottom edge better when the gates were closed.

And it worked quite well until I noticed the gate was getting harder and harder to open. I loosened the lag bolts on the hinges while pulling the gate square with a ratchet strap, and the gate leveled out OK, at which point I ran the lags back in. As soon as I released the ratchet, the gate sagged, leading me to believe the holes the lags originally made are now oversize from the battering these 7' gates received from the wind. It was better, but over the summer it's sagged really bad, as seen in the pix below.

 We no longer have "Good Gaps" on this side.

While the other side is fine.

And this is where the two gates meet.

OOOPS! Kinda hard to put my "Katie Bar The Door" (KBTD) kit on here.

From the outside.

So the first order of business is to get the gate leveled again by pulling it straight (I'm going to jack the lower end this time, too, for some stability) as I loosen the lags holding the hinges to the post, then drill through holes for the new hardware, then install same. Then I can put the KBTD kit on it, and hang the "Closed Until Spring" sign on it.

Hardware measurements are completed for this phase, as well as for installing the KBTD kit, and hardware will be purchased tomorrow.

BTW...this is a temporary patch that I made to the gate latch. It's also an example of why you don't use lag screws for something like this. If you look closely, you can see the original mounting holes for the fixed part of the latch just down and to the left of the bolt heads. These are the holes the fixed part was in the last time the latch blew. I moved the fixed part "up and over" a bit, and added flat and split washers to it. It hasn't loosened since I did that last Spring, so it looks like the lock washer helped. Properly installed through hardware should fix the "Moving Hinge; Sagging Gate" issue, and the KBTD kit should mitigate the wind buffeting issue.

And we still have to resolve the landscaping/grading issue.


  1. Don't you have friends in the contracting biz? If so, trade some more radio help for them putting in the correct posts and hardware, as it now looks like the posts themselves are outa wonk.

    Yikes. Hate have to follow around contractors and point out their mistakes.

    1. Yes we do. Our daughter-in-law's Dad owns a contracting business. The original builder is one of his guys. Highly recommended, and except for the gates, the fence is rock solid.

      He'd never done anything quite like this, so I have to cut him a little slack.

      The posts are dead nuts plumb. I've repeatedly checked them thinking that was the problem. The hinges have shifted on the posts, caused by the lag bolts getting loose from the buffeting.

  2. First thing I notice is the diagonal braces on the gates are backwards. Compression braces should go from the top horizontal brace to the bottom hinge. Your braces are in tension and the gates will sag. I verified this information on the internet.

  3. Your work is cut out for you. The good news is the gate isn't in daily use.

    1. Just going out to re-check my measurements, and then off to HD.

  4. Give a bit of thought to installing a pair of stainless screw-in eyebolts on the sagging gate(s), one at the top of the gate and close to the post hinge, the other at the lower part of the gate and at the end far away from the hinge.
    Run some stainless cable between them with the appropriate wire rope clamps, and put a turnbuckle in a convenient location.
    That way if you get a bit of sag, you can make adjustments.

    1. Home Depot sells blister packed kits that have all those items, and I picked up a couple of them yesterday when I bought the galvanized hardware.

      I checked the gates with a large framing square, and they're square, no sag.

      From the fix I tried to do this summer by loosing the lag bolts and pulling the gate square with the posts, I'm almost positive the problem is the lag bolts loosening up, and allowing the hinges to shift.

  5. Agree with John, and that's going to be a PITA to get right.


Keep it civil, please....