Fences are great for protecting your land, separating sections of your yard, or sitting on if you can't make up your mind. But even the best and most attractive fence needs a place where you can get from one side to the other, which is where the gate comes in. Maintaining the integrity of the boundary while allowing privileged travelers to pass, gates come in many sizes and styles. Although they are different in appearance, there are similar characteristics from which all can benefit.
When selecting where to place a gate, it's helpful to keep in mind how you are going to use it and where the most traffic will naturally want to pass through your fence. Its location should provide the most convenience without getting in the way of anything or damaging plants or neighboring structures when it's opened. When deciding on its location, also consider whether you want it to open in, out, or in both directions and ensure that you have enough clearance. If the perfect location for the gate happens to be where it's in the way or may hit something when opened, consider adding a gate stop to limit the gate's range. A gate stop can be as simple as a slender strip of wood installed near the hinges, wedging against the gate before it gets to the trouble area.
Once you know where you want your gate, determine how large it should be. If you think that only people will pass through it, the gate can be fairly skinny, although it probably shouldn't be less than 24 inches. If the gate will be used to bring objects into your yard, make it big enough for the largest item you might want to bring through; a wheel barrel, mowers, a large cart. If the gate's opening needs to be larger than five feet wide, consider either creating two gates that meet in the middle or, if you choose to use one long gate, putting a wheel on one end of the gate so that it carries the weight of the opened gate and the posts don't have to withstand excessive pressure that may damage them.
The gate's posts are its pillars, enduring the use and abuse unintentionally delivered from opening and closing the gate. To ensure the gate stays true and that you don't have to continually fix it, set your posts about six inches deeper than the rest of the fence's posts. Also, if the ground freezes where you live be sure to dig your post holes deep enough to get below the level of the future frozen ground so that your posts don't shift over time. Some people dig a trench that they fill with concrete between the two gate posts to make things even more stable. To help drain water away from your posts, fill the post holes with gravel before putting in the posts and concrete, then slope the top of the concrete away from the posts so that the water runs off and doesn't pool.
When creating the gate's frame, be sure it's square so that it opens and closes easier. If you place its crossbar diagonally from the top near where the gate latches down to the bottom by the hinge of the gate it will help prevent it from shifting, getting out of square, and causing problems. Hang the gate with enough space to clear any objects beneath it, usually one to three inches works well.
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