The Do’s and Don’ts of Gate Latches
Can I Use Regular Door Hardware for My Wooden Gate?
In our humble opinion, NO! Don’t do it! Door hardware is fundamentally different than gate hardware. We recommend that you never use regular door hardware with an outdoor wooden gate.
Door hardware comes with an internal latch and strike plate, just like your front door. In order for these doorknobs or leversets to function, the edge of the door needs to be very close to the doorjamb. The latch extends only so far to engage in the strike. Your front door does not swell and shrink slightly with the seasons the way that an outdoor wooden gate does.
Seasonally, wood “moves” slightly, expanding and contracting a bit. Let’s say you use regular door hardware on your gate that’s installed in June when it’s dry and sunny. You install the gate quite close to the jamb (~1/8 to 1/4″ away). It opens and closes just fine. When January rolls around and you’ve had wet, cold weather for several months, your gate might swell slightly and wedge itself up against the jamb so you have to pull really hard to get it open. Over time this can take a toll on not only the gate latch, but also the gate and the hinges the gate is hung on. In the reverse situation–where you install the gate when it’s “swollen” slightly–when the season dries out and the gate shrinks a bit, your regular door hardware might not even engage because the gate is too far from the jamb for the latch to engage in the strike.
Door hardware is also usually only available for standard door thicknesses and many gates are quite a bit thicker than that.
Gate latches, on the other hand, are produced to be installed externally to accommodate seasonal wood movement. We recommend that gates are installed with between 3/8″ and 1/2″ clearance between the edge of the gate and the jamb (standard door sets are recommended to be installed no more than 1/4″). This will allow for seasonal movement without ever compromising the integrity of the gate or latch. Latches use an external latch-bar to engage with the jamb.
The only instance of something being recommended for internal installation in a wooden garden gate is a deadbolt. When a deadbolt is thrown (turned), the bolt is long enough to allow space for seasonal movement of the gate.
We know that there are people who have used standard door hardware and everything is fine. Depending on your location, it might work out well for you. But from our perspective the risk is not worth it.
Can I Install The Gate Latch Myself?
Sure. To install a gate latch properly, one needs to be very detail oriented. Since an incorrect measurement or placement of the latch will leave holes in your beautiful new wooden garden gate, we’d recommend you do the installation personally only if you’re very handy and have the appropriate tools.
Each gate latch is installed slightly differently, depending on its design. In general, thumb latches are the easiest to install. If you’ve spent the money to buy a beautiful wooden garden gate and you’ve chosen a great gate latch to adorn it, don’t skimp on installation. Measure twice, drill once!
Oftentimes you can order a gate and hardware from the same company. If you do, ask if the gate builder will bore for your hardware so you or your installer don’t have to.
What Is A Gate Stop and Why Would I Use One?
Every wooden gate needs a gate stop. Your gate builder can provide one with your new garden gate, or if you already have a gate installed you can purchase a stand-alone gate stop.
What does a gate stop do? It creates a boundary beyond which your gate can’t travel. If you or the wind were to slam the gate closed, that force could push the gate further than it should go. The result of this is extreme force on your hinges and on your latch-arm. The latch-arm could bend or break; the hinges could be pulled out of the post. With a gate stop your gate cannot go any further than the stop. They are easy to install and inexpensive and will really save your gate and hardware from damage.
See 360 Yardware’s collection of Gate Stops.