How to Install an Inviting Front Gate

It's probably the first thing your friends will notice as they pull up to your house: the gate. Whether picket white, wrought iron, rustic or sophisticated, your gate is the "official" doorway to your property. It not only sets a style, but a well conceived gate will provide security and help create a solid first impression. You'll likely find a selection of pre-finished, ready-to-hang gates at your local home improvement center, but if you're after a particular style (and being a Jane you probably are) you may need to widen your search to include lumber suppliers and specialty gate suppliers online. Finding the perfect gate may take a little searching, but putting one up shouldn't take more than a weekend.

Don't be fooled! Building a fence—even a pre-sectioned one as described here—is no easy task. Like painting, putting up a fence is all in the preparation and planning. Your success will rely almost exclusively on methodical planning, measuring and re-measuring, and an endless source of patience.

  • Prefinished gate
  • Posts ( usually 4 x 4, available at home improvement stores)
  • Stainless steel latch
  • Galvanized screws
  • Posthole digger
  • Tape Measure
  • Shovel
  • Cement
  • Wheelbarrow or large bucket (for mixing the cement)
  • Fine gravel
  • Tamping bar
  • Cordless drill
  • Pencil

Don't Scrimp

We all love to save money (that's part of why we are doing it ourselves, right?), but buying a flimsy gate should not be an option. Think of how many times it will be used in just a single week. A gate that hangs open, is lopsided or constantly creaks is reminiscent of a haunted house, so spend the extra dough on a quality product.

Go Wild!

Jane Tip: Remember, it will be easier to paint or finish your gate before you install it.


Where to Put Your Gate


Be sure to take precise measurements from all possible angles so the gate is symmetrical and well balanced with its surroundings. Take your time with this process since you have to live with the position of your gate until your sell your home, unless you want to do it all over again.

Placing the Posts

Once you have determined the right spots for the posts, make sure to add a ? inch of space on either side of the gate and its posts for the hinges. Heavy gates should get ? of an inch.

Jane Tip: Before you start digging, make sure you aren't going to hit any pipes, electrical wiring or other buried debris! Your utility company should be able to tell you what lies beneath the yard. As you dig, go slowly; having to repair a punctured sprinkler line or pathway lighting cable because you were burrowing like a crazy gopher can take the whole fun out of your gate project.

A few key points to remember:

  1. The posts should sit 24-30 inches deep in the ground; keep this in mind as you cut the posts to the appropriate length. (The tops of the two posts should be equal in height to each other.) The width of each hole should be roughly two to three times the diameter of the posts.
  2. Fill the bottom of each hole with 3-6 inches of gravel.
  3. Place each post squarely in the ground.
  4. Mix the cement per the instructions on the bag and then fill each hole until it creeps one inch up the post.
  5. Tamp the post to knock out any air bubbles and secure it in place.
  6. Brace each post in vertical position. Use a level to make sure it's plumb (i.e., perfectly vertical), in line with its mate post (if you're installing the second post), and then secure it in position by attaching 1 x 4 board to support the posts.
  7. Read the instructions on the concrete for drying times and make sure the post is secure before you add the gate panels.
Jane Tip: For a watertight seal, consider applying a bead of butyl caulk around the bottom of the fencepost once the concrete is dry.

Mounting the Gate

  1. To attach the gate, first screw or bolt the hinges to the gate.
  2. Using a prop, hoist the gate up against the post so that you can attach the hinges to the post. Make sure that the gate is level. You can either eyeball it or place a level on the top of the gate. You may want someone to help you by holding the gate in place.
  3. Once the hinges are secure, and the gate is attached, remove the props. Open and close the gate several times to make sure that it is not loose or wobbly. Make adjustments as necessary until your gate is working smoothly.

Meet Your Latch

It's doubtful that your gate will come with a pre-mounted latch, so you may need to buy and attach your own. Again, try to buy the top of the line. Though a latch isn't designed to keep intruders out, you don't want it to become loose, rusty or inoperable. Nothing is more annoying than struggling with a lock when you are in a hurry or are carrying an armload of groceries (or both). It may seem easy (and it is) but don't rush through the latch installation. After all, you are in the home stretch!

  1. To attach the latch, first mark where you want the latch.
  2. Using a cordless drill and galvanized screws, attach half of the latch to the gate.
  3. Close the gate to see where the other half of the latch will go. Almost always it will be different from your original pencil marking.
  4. Mount the other half of the latch to the post using galvanized screws.

Maintenance and Upkeep

To keep your gate looking great, re-apply a coat of finish within the first year and then every two years thereafter. The gate may need a coat of paint every couple of years, depending on your climate. To clean, use a pressure washer. If the lock should get stiff or rusty, spray with WD-40.

Installing a gate can be a bit time consuming, but we know you'll love the way you'll feel about the new look of the front of your home!

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