Gates that don’t work properly seem to be the norm rather than the exception. No matter how well installed, many gates end up sagging over time and can’t be opened or latched shut properly. For those using electric fencing, the frustration can take the form of metal gates that can pack a real punch when the wire hits them. Here are a few ideas to deal with some of these common gate problems.
We use electric fences around some of our horse pastures and pens to keep horses from chewing the fence or rubbing on it or to keep livestock from trying to crawl through. We have several metal gates, but wherever there is a metal gate to be spanned by the electric wire, the wire can sometimes touch the gate and short out the fence—or run current through the gate, which can lead to a nasty shock for the user. And, if you forget to unhook the electric handle, the same nasty surprise awaits. Even if the electric wire and its insulated gate handle are a few inches away from the metal gate, the wind can sometimes cause the wire to touch the gate.
A good way to eliminate the chance of having the hot wire touch the gate is to put that segment of wire through an old garden hose. The piece of rubber hose adequately insulates the wire where it travels along the gate, and prevents any short-outs or shocks if it does happen to touch or brush against the gate. We’ve found this to be a good use for old garden hoses—even old leaky ones or hoses with ruined screw-ends.
The Sagging Gate
A wooden or metal gate can become a heavy burden to open and close if it begins to sag and drag on the ground. Even gate posts that are sturdy and set deep in the ground can occasionally “give” a bit over time, unless they were originally set in concrete. Sometimes frost pushes posts upward, making them less secure.
This problem can be solved, however, by putting a small wheel on the moving end of the panel or sagging gate. The wheel takes all the weight and supports the gate—preventing it from sagging any further—and also enables it to move more easily.
Just about any type of small wheel will work. On our gates, we have used old wheelbarrow tires, or small metal wheels—the kind you sometimes find in old junk piles or might salvage from a piece of ancient farm equipment. A wheelbarrow tire can be easily adapted by bolting one or both of the uprights (the piece of metal that comes down either side of the tire to hold its small axle) to a wooden or pole gate.
An old wheel or tire with any kind of long axle attached to it can be securely wired to a metal gate. The horizontal piece of axle can be fastened to the bottom rail or pipe. If you use stiff, strong wire and securely wire it at each end of the axle (close to the wheel, and at the opposite end also) the wheel will stay solidly in place and the weight of the gate will not alter the angle of the wheel very much, if at all.
For the same reasons that gates begin to sag, the latch systems found on many metal gates can also start to fail when the latch no longer reaches the hole in the post.
A simple way to fix this without having to reset the gate post or rehang the gate is to securely attach two small poles or boards on either side of the latch hole on the gate post. Then the metal latch (when shut) will catch between the two poles or boards to hold the gate shut.
Occasionally, a gate may be made of wire rather than of metal or wood. Wire gates (made of netting, or six to eight strands of smooth or barbed wire, with stays to keep the wire properly spaced) can sometimes become difficult to close, especially if they are tight gates that livestock can’t crawl through. One way to make these gates easier to close is to put a handle on the gate post to give you more leverage for pulling the gate shut.
A metal handle with a wire loop attached can be securely fastened to the top of the gate post. The handle, when open, with the wire loop attached, gives an extra 12 to 18 inches of reach for shutting the gate, eliminating the struggle to get the end of the gate into the wire loop.
When the gate end (small upright post) is put into the loop, you can use the handle for leverage, pushing it up and over, which automatically tightens the gate and brings it up snug to the post. When it’s closed, and the metal handle is folded back over the top of the gate post, it can be secured with a pin in the raised metal tab to keep the handle from ever popping up or coming open accidentally.
Time spent fixing the gates around your property is time well spent. Not only will it alleviate the frustrating, back-breaking opening and closing process, but it will also allow you to handle your horses more safely without the worry of gates that don’t work properly.