A crooked, sagging or dragging gate doesn’t convey strength and security. They are wimpy-looking and ugly. This is especially sad when you took care and pride in designing your dream gate entrance to welcome guests and add value to your property.
What causes a wimpy looking gate?
The answer is almost always an insufficient post foundation. It doesn’t take an engineer to answer the question.
When people tell us about how their posts were set, it is always a story about how they are really set deep – more than deep enough for any gate. It sounds like those fish tales when no one else was there. That fish gets bigger with every story.
For example … we’ve been told that a six-foot post is four feet in the ground, but we can measure five feet of it above ground. We don’t claim to be geniuses (well – Jeffery might), but that doesn’t add up – right? And, when our niece can make a post move with a shove …
So, why does this happen?
- BUDGET: Many want to spend their entire budget on the gates – the fun and sexy part of the project. The foundation isn’t anything anyone is going to see. The emotional attachment is lower. As you are searching Pinterest and working with your designer to come up with your dream gate entrance, the foundation doesn’t get much consideration. Then, there isn’t much money left for a proper post system to hold the gates.
- BAD INFORMATION: When you purchased the property, you were told the posts were set six foot deep. Or, you hired fence builders that told you that is what they did. But sadly, they did not because they were only worried about your fence (not your gate).
- SOIL OR SEASONAL ISSUES: Maybe you live in an area where the soil is basically black gumbo, which would mean your posts need to be set much deeper than in other areas. However, that wasn’t taken into account. Or, maybe you built during a drought when the ground was hard. Then it rained, and the ground moved. Or, maybe everything was fine until the summer heat hits and every drop of moisture in the soil has evaporated.
- GATE WEIGHT OR DESIGN: You bought a place where you are replacing the gate that has the former owners name on it (or it is just ugly). It is similar in design, but the new construction is out of 10-gauge instead of 14-gauge metal which adds another 200#s to the gate. Or, you decide you would really like more privacy, so you design a gate that deters visibility. It is now a wind sail, and that is a whole new level of heavy.
In our early years, we fell prey to some of the above reasons. It is so easy. But, when we saw some our creations sagging, we decided never again.
On most of our gate construction jobs, we install an adjustable post system. The foundation width and depth would depend on the soil-type. That must be taken into account at every gate location, but unless you are building on rock – the earth will inevitably move. With adjustable posts, the gate can be slightly adjusted.
NOTE: It is not necessary to adjust with seasonal movement. We have seen some gates that move one way during the summer but move back when it gets cold. It is wasted effort to adjust twice a year. But, when it becomes apparent that the soil has moved in a way that isn’t going to be seasonal, we can adjust it.
The above diagram is for an average soil type. It shows a two-foot wide hole that is four-foot deep. It is reinforced with a 3/8” rebar cage. On double gates, we tie the two sides together with 12”x12” beam that is also reinforced with a 3/8” rebar cage. This ensures that if the ground shifts, the whole system shifts as one unit.
Above ground, the post is mounted to four one-inch J-bolts via a ¾” mounting plate with nuts and washers on both top and bottom to allow for adjustability. You have likely seen a similar system (though a bit bigger) used on the bases for traffic lights.
What about rock columns?
Posts encased in stucco or rock columns are very attractive and popular. However, if they are done incorrectly, you will soon have cracked columns and an even bigger mess to add to your sagging gate. But, they can be done right. If so, they will be fine. This diagram from The Gate Depot shows how to do these well.
On the other hand, you lose the adjustability we described above, so we suggest using our post system behind the decorative columns to camouflage the posts. You get the styled column look with post adjustability.
Did we answer all your wimpy-looking gate questions?
If not, we want to hear about your problem or question.