Hanging Gates

These pictures have been sitting around for a while, as I finished hanging gates in the first field months ago. But, since I had a hard time developing a strategy for hanging big gates, I thought I’d share what I came up with.

The first time I tried it, I found the gates to be very awkward and unwieldy to handle. Trying to  hold them up to the posts and just mark where they should go does not work! Especially if you are doing it solo and don’t have a helper, which is often the case for me. I needed a more accurate system. Uneven ground increased the challenge: I prefer my gates to be fairly low to the ground so the dogs can’t get under, but they need to be high enough to swing easily, even over time as they sag.

What I found worked well was to use a “string level” to determine where I wanted to position the bottom of the gate. These are inexpensive tiny levels that hang on a piece of string, as shown in the picture.

They aren’t perfectly accurate, but if you position it roughly in the middle of the stretch of string, it’s good enough guidance to let you visualize where the bottom of the gate will be. Once I decided where the bottoms of each gate post went, I marked that on the posts. Then I measured up to where the bottom bracket should be in relation to the bottom of the gate posts, and drilled a hole for that bracket’s hanging bolt. From that bolt, I’d measure upwards to determine the position of the top bracket’s bolt. Here is a picture of the string level marking the gate’s bottom:

The trick with most of these gate hinges is they are intended for the bolt “finials” (this is not the right word, but I’m not sure what the correct term should be…) point towards each other. This is counter-intuitive to some, and if you don’t plan right, you won’t end up being able to achieve this. The biggest reason for them pointing towards each other is: if, for example, a strong cow got her horns hooked in the gate and pulled upwards, you wouldn’t want her to be able to slide the gate right off the bolts. So, having the top “finial” point downwards prevents the gate from being removable in this fashion. (You could imagine that it makes it less trivial for thieves to break in too, but it’s still simple for them to break in: they can just unscrew the hinge bolts, or snip right through your fence wire!)

To make sure you can have the top finial pointing downward, it’s important to place the top bolt high enough that you can have the hinge positioned lower on the gate that the bolt’s “finial” and then slide it up onto the “finial”. Err on the side of putting the bolt too high than too low. Once the hinge bracket is on the finial,  you tighten the bolts down, and the weight of the gate is actually pulling mostly sideways against this “finial” (thus it doesn’t need to sit “down” on an upward-pointing “finial”- only the bottom hinge needs to do that). I had a couple of cases where I didn’t plan right, or had another object in the way, and ended up with the top “finial” pointing upwards. It turns out, it works OK as long as the gate is a big one– the weight of the gate still “binds” it plenty on the hinge bolt to where even a lot of force won’t slide it up and off the bolts. But, this would not be true for smaller gates.

Here are two gates where I was pretty happy with their final hanging height and smooth ability to swing in both directions. I had one gate opening that ended up being too narrow, so the gate only opens inward. I can live with that, but much prefer them to go both ways. It just makes it convenient to get vehicles and animals in and out when the gate can move in the direction that’s most accommodating to the flow of movement.

In case my use of the word “finial” isn’t clear, here is a photo of the part of the bolt I’m referring to (in the red circle). In this photo, the hinge and bolt are positioned as they are when you purchase the gate, such that they won’t fall off during transport. You have to swing the hinge around 180°, which can be tricky. I find that I need to bring several extra tools down to the field for this purpose: a big screwdriver for leverage, some channel locks, extra pliers and a hammer. It seems it’s worse on these mesh gates, as sometimes the hinge gets hung up on the wire. On some I had to completely remove it and then re-attach it in the other direction. It takes a lot of force to bend them enough to get them off, and then narrow them back up again to re-bolt them in their final position.

7 thoughts on “Hanging Gates

  1. Wardeh says:

    Michelle,

    That is great! I appreciate you sharing the detail of the string leveler. We have three 16′ gates to hang, they look much like yours. That last closeup makes me almost certain. We are probably going to use chain link fence posts on which to hang them and use the chain link hardware, too. But the biggest deterrent to getting the job done has been a wariness of not getting the gates lined up properly! So reading your experience will help us, I know!

    And very good job! They look great! As usual, you amaze me!

    Love, Wardeh

  2. workingcollies says:

    Thanks, I hope it helps a little! They are unweildy things to wrestle, for sure! I wonder about chain link fence hardware-does it use the same dimensions? And are the posts stiff and long enough to hold that heavy of a gate? My neighbor has metal “tube” posts for his gates, they are thick though, maybe 4″+ thick pipe.

    He drilled holes through them, inserted his own “finial” bolts (I’m still using the wrong term-I don’t know what to call them!) that were longer than what came with the gates, they go all the way through with nuts holding them on the opposite side. It looks very robust, and I imagine was easier to wrestle than the darn 6″ wood posts I used!

    Good luck, hope to see pictures when you are done!
    Love, Michelle

  3. L. Smith says:

    Good info. but I’m having a hard time trying to hang a 16′ metal ranch gate across my very uneven dirt driveway. It’s 7″ off and I have no money to hire someone. It’s supposed to keep dogs in so it has to be just off the ground.
    Thanks.

    goodshepobed@gmail.com

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      L. Smith, I’ve had that issue too. I just cheat and move some dirt in a mound to fill in under the high spot under gates. That works fine on the sheep. Our guardian dogs are more clever about squeezing through an opening, or digging a little if they can see there isn’t much to dig. So sometimes I bungee-cord a little piece of wire fencing to cover up those holes when I put a dog in a pasture where I definitely don’t want them going under. But other times I don’t mind if they do, if they are just moving from pasture to pasture; and sometimes it’s even convenient. If I call up to the house to ask my husband to send a Border Collie down, I don’t have to walk to open any gates, they can get under almost all of them! 🙂

  4. Patricia Lee says:

    Do you have any advice on how to get the clamp part of the hinge onto the tube gate? We were able to get the first set done okay, but it appears the second set is too narrow to be hammered into place. Can’t seem to figure out how to get it spread open just a bit more.

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      Patricia, I’ve run into that too. Use a crowbar or a long, thick screwdriver as leverage to widen the clamp so it slips over the tube more easily. Hammering it once it’s partway on also helps. If you widen it, then you’ll have the opposite problem of needing to clamp it back down again; channel locks usually do the trick, as you have to get it squeezed narrow enough to get the bolt and nut threaded, then you can use the nut to tighten it down the rest of the way.

      • Patricia Lee says:

        Thanks! Apparently leaving them in a hot car to warm up a bit also works. They went right on with a little encouragement from a hammer that time.

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