Garden and entry gates normally take a sound beating. They’re exposed to the wind and weather and to young garden gate swingers and hurried deli very men. And they often hang from a fence that is not too rigid a structure and one that tends to expand and contract with the weather. So gates often bind, refuse to latch, or drag on the ground. If yours has one of these annoyances, here are some ways to eliminate the trouble.
A major cause of trouble is inadequate hinges. Check them – if loose, either replace with larger hinges or replace their screws with longer ones or bolts (most screws that come in hinge sets are too short for gate use). Any gate over 5 feet high or over 3 feet wide really needs three hinges, unless it has two extra heavy ones. If yours has only two weak hinges, you can strengthen the gate with a third hinge of similar type, located between the other two and a bit above the middle point.
A leaning hinge-side post is another problem. It’s the one that carries the weight of the gate and of anyone swinging on it. If yours has leaned, you will need to straighten and stiffen it in some way. Straightening it up and then tamping the soil around it may work -but not always. If it hasn’t been concreted in place, It probably should be.
If the hinge post has simply leaned straight over from the weight of the gate, you can straighten and hold it with a turnbuckle and heavy wire or threaded steel rod running to the bottom of another post down the fence line. Do the same to the post on the latch side if it has leaned.
The gate itself is a third major cause of sagging. Most wooden gates aren’t overly strong and, subjected to the weather, will sag out of shape. Many good wooden gates have 2 by 4 diagonal braces and are glued together as well as nailed or screwed. For others, you can add a wire and turnbuckle on the opposite diagonal to pull the gate back up in place.
Sometimes a gate is given too snug a fit; it works nicely in dry weather but binds when it rains. Plane or cut off some wood to have at least a 1/2-inch clearance between the gate and the latch post for expansion in wet weather.
Conversely, a fence with a gate in it may dry out and shrink so much in hot weather that the gate latch will not catch. You need to relocate the latch or replace it with one that has a longer reach.
If your gate has masonry posts and one has tilted slightly, the best answer usually is to trim, shim, or otherwise adjust the gate, leaving the masonry alone. If your masonry post has a considerable tilt, it needs to be plumbed and have more concrete poured around its base.
In some soils, a gate post will sink straight down, particularly if it is of heavy masonry, to a point where the gate latch will not work or the gate drags on the ground. Simply reset the latch or the hinges, whichever is needed.