Saturday, July 8, 2017

Need to replace our gate to the back yard

So this access gate on the side of our house was kind of janky when we moved in in 2008, but today, it's down right awful. I use the gate enough that it makes sense to replace this with something that will work nicely, won't drag across the pavement and feel like it's going to jump off it's awful hinges at any moment.

I had some notion of a field gate much like Roy Underhill demonstrated in one of his episodes with real mortise and tenon joinery. But first I need to make sure the hinge post is still serviceable. It is a 4x6 pressure treated stick of wood set in concrete at the base that still appears to have some years in it. I'll try salvaging this. If anything it would be nice to have some sort of attachment about 3' off the ground to the house. It would *really* help stiffen the post, and I think it's feasible since the house's cripple wall reaches up this high, so I could just drive in a few long skrews to attach a firing block between the post and the house siding. maybe?

I'd use this type of hook-strap hinge, fully threaded through.
See where I'd apply a spacer block to brace the hinge post. I was thinking of using some spare teardrop siding from the house to attach upside-down to the house proper so that the surfaces mate better. Do I apply caulk to prevent water intrusion?


  1. Do not in any way, shape, or form attach the hinge post to the house. Not only will you have a bad gate dragging the ground, but there will be structural damage to the house. Hinge posts almost always need backer posts, all tied together so the cantilever can be supported. The post will still move with a 4-foot gate. When I designed gates for streets (14-15 foot span) we used heavy 8-inch min. square steel posts anchored by as many truck loads as required to keep them from tipping.

    The best you can hope for is double swing; existing house post, and second on the fence line. Split the weight in half. Next, reduce the weight of material. How tall is it? Six feet? Make it five. Avoid extra weight at the extreme end. All that stuff in the middle is useless weight. Provide solid bracing from the bottom hinge. Use the biggest hinges you can find. And, lag and carriage bolt them into the posts. I tried those corner brackets, too. Nails are not good for structural anchorage.

    Oh, count on about 5 bags of premix for each post. I hate suggesting using dry concrete because it seems counter productive, but posts rot at the surface line when wet concrete is used for back fill. And, use a 1/3 ratio of post length buried. If 6 feet is exposed bury 3 feet--in this case 4 feet for the 10 foot post.... Your soil is less compact at the house foundation. But that is where all the big boulders are dumped from clearing.

    That's it.

    1. thank you bruce for your input. you sound like you've done this sort of thing before :-)

      Overall dimensions are about 6' high gate by ~8' wide. The trouble with making a double gate is that my neighbor's fence line is fairly decrepit as well and I dont think i could land a hinge post there without a lot of extra trouble.

    2. Yup, I have built a few and designed many.

      Be critical. If you don't use it for access very often, design it for easy breakdown--no gate--with sections you can pull out. Does it need to be where it is? Do you really need a sight obscuring fence/gate? Burglars like concealment. Give them an open barrier; and no cover. Finally, how much space does the truck need? Measure.

      A lot of people think your gate should work, probably because so many are confronted by the same need; and it is a quick fix. The laws of physics won't change, so change plans to accommodate. The next gate will have the same issues if you build it the same way.

  2. Bruce has a few good comments there, Adam. Especially his comment on the weight. Have you thought seriously about two gates ? Adding another post on the other side of the way? That would really help a lot. We got to that part around here with our pasture access. Maybe use 2 gates, less over hung load but more fittings and then there is security (in the center) with probably some concrete hole drilling involved... a wiggly potential.

    Then there is the idea of employing an outboard wheel...It's attractive structurally but needs to have some slick design and mfgr/instl skill. What is there now, with its nod to a spring suspension...(?) - (!), is not quite working. The wheel doesn't need to caster - just get a simple, heavy duty wheel with a larger diameter and line its axis sorta toward the hinge.

    Another issue is locking and external access. You might consider doing all that from the inside. It might look like a monolith, maybe it should - ("Is this a gate or a fence/wall?") To open the gate you have to know the people who live there...

    I recall trying to fix/get that damn gate to operate well a few years ago. It's a real s.o.b. and it's a good project. Wish I was down there to participate.

    A brace into the house structure would help relieve the cantilever loading though. You might want to spread out that load with some additional structure on the house side of the equation. It's all going to be stuff in tension so if you use nails make sure you have them in shear otherwise its bolts as Bruce counsels.

  3. thanks Bruce and pop for your input. I want to use a Sussex field gate type of design where the rails taper towards the edge and save some weight towards the outer radius. E.g.

    I would use Redwood which is fairly light weight to begin with.

    I had figured I would only attach the hinge post at one point about 3' above grade to the house, anchored to the 2x6 studs that make up the cripple wall of the house. I'd recruit 3 2x6s with a horizontal 2x6 on the outside of the house via skrews, and then bridge the remaining gap with some sort of block which would finally attach to the hinge post. I gather from @Bruce that this is a bad idea. however it doesn't seem like it would be the primary load bearing joint (wouldnt that be where it's stuck into the ground?). I'll stand down from the idea for now. I think the existing hinge post is still pretty good, should have a few more years on it for sure. just seems like it could use a bit more sheer/tension support but we dont' ahve a lot of elbow room here...

    Securing the gate would probably be from the inside, with a combo-lock. it's a bit of a hassle but it makes it harder for poeple to just walk around back and start looking for windows to kick in.

    I still want to have a single-gate as securing a hinge post between the adjacent property is definitely a NO GO. Plus it reduces the overall width of the entry way (probably) and i still want to be able to back a pickup truck into this space.

    With light weight materials(redwood) which are wide where they need to be (at the hinge) and narrow/lighter at the outer radius, I hope to have a better overall design.

    I don't think a wheel will be practical since the drive way is likely not level enough.