Fence Gates: An Open and Shut Case

by Jon Nunan

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While well-maintained fences go hand in hand with the idea of prosperity and dreams fulfilled, off balance posts and squeaking fence gates are more reminiscent of nightmares and classic horror movies. Instead of adding beauty and value to a home, fences and gates that are not taken care of actually do the opposite.

Fence gates are frequently subject to more wear and tear than the rest of the fence. A fresh coat of paint is often all you need to breathe new life into posts and pickets. Extra care and attention might be needed, however, to optimize the form and function of a fence gate that's seen better days.

Gate Hardware
To make sure that your fence gate is performing its best, it might be necessary to repair or replace your gate hardware. Though security gates and automated gates can get rather sophisticated, most gate hardware is pretty easy to fix and repair. The best part about it, however, is the price of the material and the quickness with which it can be installed. Unless you absolutely must have something rare or extravagant (say, an authentic 16th century latch), replacing gate hardware could possibly be the most inexpensive home improvement project you can do in an afternoon to make a noticeable impact on your property.

Fence Gate Function
The job that your particular gate is intended to perform could make a difference in how you fix it, or what you replace it with. If the wrong type of gate was already in place, it could be one of the reasons it has problems to begin with.

A gate is more stable in its locked position, so it matters less what a fence gate is made of if it is used infrequently. A gate that is used often, on the other hand, needs to fit what it is supported by. Stone or metal should ideally support a heavy hardwood or iron gate. The weight of these types of gates could be too much when secured in something like soft pine.

Gates that stick or scrape are very common. Many times the problem can be solved with new hardware or an adjustment to the existing hardware. The longer these problems are left unchecked, though, the more likely it will be that the gate itself will be damaged.

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Garden Gates
While some garden gates are entrances to actual gardens, the term often describes a gate that is short in stature. Garden gates can be seen, however, on fences and walls that tower over them as well as those that match their height.

A short gate might keep some critters (or kids) in or out of a specified area, but they are often more decorative than they are about function. Sometimes, garden gates can be attached to nothing at all! They are installed between plants or shrubs and attached to no fence or wall; they're just a gate, and two posts (one with hinges, and one with a latch). Because of their size and sometimes freestanding nature, a garden gate is a good choice for homeowners who want a decorative iron or wood entry gate, but don't want to spend a lot of money on a wall or fence.
Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.