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Some people say that the gate is the front door to your garden and your home. It’s the first thing that a visitor sees when they come to visit. If your gate has been designed badly, the experience can be aggressive and not a nice start to a fun day. But if it is well designed, the correct gate in the right setting can be a marvelous statement.
Before we go any further we need to get straight in our mind what reason we have for wanting a gate. If we understand this then the correct gate should just fall into place.
Before you start thinking about what kind of gate you require you should do some research;
✓ Spend some time and analyze the traffic to and from your house. Is it mainly foot or bicycle traffic? Is it mainly car traffic?
✓ Is your gateway near the house or at a distance?
✓ Is the gate mainly for security?
✓ Is the purpose to keep people or animals in or out?
✓ Is the purpose mainly about privacy?
✓ What is the overall architectural theme of your home? What period? Is it a rural or urban setting?
✓ What kind of setting is implied by your street?
Discuss this list with your family and pretty soon you will start to build up a picture of the kind of gate you require.
It will tell you whether you need a small personnel gate to one side of the main gate and what kind, as well as telling you something about the material, height and whether they need to be automated or not.
Keep the answers to all these questions in the back of your mind as we work our way through the information of what is available and how much things cost. If you do this you will eventually end up with a gate that not only looks good but also fulfills every requirement you can throw at it.
Firstly think to yourself about the question of positioning. The driveway gates (and the driveway) will direct your visitors to a certain place on your property. Everyone wants to park as close to the front door as possible but a bunch of cars parked in front of the house doesn’t do any good for the front elevation; your home can appear and feel cluttered.
There are many driveway gates available off-the-shelf and they are all perfectly good, but the real opulence comes when you have your gate designed to your exact specifications. Most of the gate suppliers will provide a manufacturing service where they will take your design and build one from scratch for you. In fact, as so many driveway openings are not standard sizes anyway most gates are built to fit the width of your driveway, even if they are made from standard patterns.
There are many different styles of main gates but they all fall into one of the following categories that have evolved over the years. Their names will evoke certain images in your mind’s eye but over the years the names have really lost their full meaning so it is quite acceptable for a modest suburban house to have an ‘Estate Gate’.
The names are as follows:
Courtyard gate. This gate is designed for privacy and is taller than the rest. They are usually between six and eight feet in height, often with a scalloped shape on the top edge to reduce the appearance of being overbearing, otherwise, they can look like a prison or fortress gate.
Estate gate. These tend to be grand as if they were designed for the entrances to large country estates. They were not so much as to stop people from looking in; they were originally more about keeping animals in and people out but then evolved into giving the appearance of wealth. Traditionally these are a full six to eight feet in height but these days they tend to be low and sweeping gates, usually made from metal and hinged on brick or stone pillars.
Agricultural gate (field gate). These are based on a typical farm gate with five or six horizontal bars and a diagonal brace. They are functional rather than ornamental and strong enough to withstand a lot of use.
Picket gate (wicket gate). These are made from closely fitted vertical boards with a horizontal support at top and bottom joined by a diagonal brace. Sometimes they also have a horizontal support fitted half way up the gate, depending on the height of the gate.
The type of material the gate is made from also has a great bearing on the character of the gate:
Metal bars (wrought iron). These always look grand and expensive but usually suffer from privacy because the slats are open and able to be seen through. Wrought iron gates always look impressive and come in a variety of different patterns and styles and will be guaranteed to add elegance and beauty to your home. Wrought iron gates will last for a very long time and will require very little maintenance. Remember this when comparing the price with other materials, although there may be a higher initial payment, the lifespan of the gate will outlast just about any other type.
Metal sheet (steel or aluminum). These ensure privacy but look harsh and aggressive. They fulfill a security as well as a privacy role. There are many different types of aluminum gate and they have come a long way since they first started to become available. Typical types include arched, tubular and slide and aluminum will always be cheap so are good if you are on a budget.
Wood. These are very versatile depending on the arrangement of slats. If the gates are close boarded such as courtyard gates they offer good privacy whereas farm gates with open wide spaced slats will keep livestock enclosed but do nothing to deter people and dogs. Wooden gates need regular maintenance otherwise the boards can twist and warp.
Vinyl (PVC or polyvinyl chloride). These have been available for domestic use for about twenty years. As will all PVC items they are renowned for their durability and need for little maintenance. They will never rust or rot and are impervious to insect attack. The color will never fade as it runs through the entire gate. PVC gates are available in a variety of different styles and colors and you can be sure to find one that matches your requirements.
Pedestrian gate. A problem with large gates is that they are a nuisance to open and close if you want to walk back and forth. Often a smaller pedestrian gate is provided next to the large gate.
Post box. The person who delivers the mail has a difficult enough task without having to gain access through large security gates. Provide a small opening through the gate with a box on the inside face through which the mail and any deliveries can be posted.
The way to make your gate look right is to choose the correct style for your house, the street, and neighborhood if you choose the wrong style; your gate will stand out, look wrong and probably upset the neighbors.
No matter what you tell yourself, a gate is a way of protecting yourself from the prying eyes and presence of strangers but don’t go overboard and make it look like your home is a fortification otherwise you are giving a clear message to burglars that you have something worth stealing.
Manual gates cost the least to buy and install but they need to be opened by someone once it is known who the visitor is and what they want. If you expect to use your gates regularly or are unable to leave your car on the street to go and open the gates, you should invest in an automatic system to open and close the gate. These are really useful if your area is prone to bad weather and you don’t want to get out of your car to enter your property.
If you have a security system installed then you need to have an intercom fitted as well so that you can question potential visitors from the comfort and safety of your home.
If you decide on a motorized gate there are two types you can choose from:
If it opens upwards then you need a continuation of a wall above the gate. If the gate drops underground then you need a space underground for its storage.
Motorised kits for swinging gates are usually designed to cope with pairs. They can have a hydraulic arm that opens and closes the gates or can have a motorized wheel fitted to the latch side of the gate.
Sliding kits usually use wheels in tracks but you will need space to the side of the opening at least the width of the gate.
Up and down moving gates can either open into a roll or disappear into a cavity.
Remember that motorized kits can be retrofitted to your gates after they have been fitted but will be cheaper to fit at the time of installing the gates.
Easy mistakes to make. The most common mistake to make is ordering the gate that is the same size as the opening and forgetting about leaving room for hinges and posts. You will also need to allow some space either side of the gate to allow it to open and close easily. Most gates are installed with about two inches below the gate.
This will allow for any small variations in the ground surface. Remember too that if your driveway slopes upwards away from the opening then you cannot use swinging gates that open to the uphill side. When ordering or looking for a suitable gate, always take the advice of the experts. Suppliers and installers are fitting gates all the time and know what the common mistakes are and how to overcome the problems. It would be better to get an installer in to measure up and give you a quotation rather than trying to organize it all yourself.
Wooden gate maintenance. The worst thing that can happen to a wooden gate is for it to become warped. Choosing the correct kind of wood will make all the difference when it comes to warping and the gate’s long-term stability but whatever you do don’t forget to look after it once the gate is installed.
Hardwood vs softwood. The classic argument as to which type of wood is better just doesn’t hold up when we are talking about gates; hardwood is not automatically better than softwood. The key to success is how the gate has been constructed. A good gate will have been made from laminated wood to prevent warping and natural timber movement. The type of wood will have a say in how durable the gate is. Two top varieties of wood that produce marvelous gates are iroko (a very durable hardwood) and cedar (a very lightweight and stable softwood).
How to maintain the gate. Look out for physical damage. This may have been caused by an attempted break-in or may just be natural wear and tear. Next step is a stain and oil finish. The important thing is to keep the moisture in the wood below 20% so that the wood remains stable. How you do this is to apply as many coats of oil as you can in the first year and after that, reapply oil about twice a year.
Do I need permits? Usually, if the gate is taller than about three feet high and is next to a public road or footpath you will probably need to have a permit. If you aren’t sure then get in touch with the planning department that issues permits and asks. If you live in an area with historical links or your home has special historical significance then there will probably be restrictions on the style and type of gate you can install. Again, you should ask the department that deals with issuing permits.
Pedestrian gate. Remember to install a small personnel gate that you can use when you intend leaving or entering your home on foot.
Friendly security. Try to avoid the tall close boarded gates and those with pointed spikes on the top. It gives the impression of aggression and fortification. You want your home to be secure but you do not want to make the visitor feel uncomfortable and intimidated.
Remember the direction of swing. If you decide on installing a swing gate hinged at the side, then you must remember that the gate should open into your property so that you do not cause an obstruction to passers-by or traffic.
A gate designed to increase your security at home will always add to the value and curb appeal of your house.
A secure gate (and fence) will also reduce the insurance premiums for your home insurance policies. The added security will decrease the risks of vandalism and theft from your home and garden. Remember that the money you save from lower insurance payments can be offset against the added costs of installing the security systems.
The costs of various items discussed in this article are dependent on many factors.
Size of the gate. The width of your opening will be a big factor whether you have a single or double gate and the height of your gate.
The material is chosen. Both the type and quality of the material chosen will be significant factors in the cost of the gates.
Method of construction. How the gates have been constructed will be a big factor.
Wooden gates can either be made from laminated wood or from pure wood. The laminated type will resist warping and remain stable for many years.
The type of labor. Fitting the gate can be done by specialist contractors, carpenters, handymen or general contractors. If you decide to have security systems or automatic motors then you will also need electricity to be supplied to the gates. Posts can either be metal or wooden posts or can be pillars built from brick, block or stone.
The type of finish. The type of material the gates are made from will determine the type of finish. Metal gates will require three different kinds of paint; a primer coat, first coat, and top coat. Wooden gates will require stain and oiling to protect it from the weather. PVC gates will just need a wash now and again.
Other work. Posts will require proper installation into concrete foundations and security systems will require fitting to the appropriate codes.
Locality. Labor costs will vary depending on the area in which you live.
Shipping. Depending on where you live and the distance from the nearest supplier will determine if you have any delivery costs to pay on the cost of the item.
Availability of contractors. The cost of the contractors chosen to install the gate will vary depending on their availability and how near they live to your house.
The costs in this section are based on average costs and are indicative of the amount you will find in the industry.
Depending on the type of gate you install on your driveway you can add a bit of value to your home. Many potential homeowners view a driveway gate as a really good addition and see it as a way to make their home more secure.
Remember that the cost of purchase as well as the installation cost will vary depending on the area in which you live. You can save a lot of the cost by installing the gates yourself but remember that you will need to be experienced in different trades in order to do a good job and that you need to know safety codes. If you must install your gate then stick to the simple manually operated ones and leave the large automatic ones to the experts.
Remember that you will need the posts to be installed and this is a job that would suit a DIY project. If you want to do this work then you can save up to $500.
|Average costs to install different material gates|
|Type||Purchase cost||Installation cost|
|Aluminium||$1,800 to $4,000||$1,100 to $1,800|
|Wood||$300 to $4,000||$1,000 to $1,500|
|Wrought iron or steel||$600 to $4,000||$1,200 to $1,700|
|PVC (vinyl)||$120 to $800||$800 to $1,500|
Modern security additions to your gateway:
Automatic opening and closing. These will vary in price and can be controlled by a static keypad fitted to your gate, a remote control operated from inside your car or a system operated from your phone.
Security systems. If you have an automated opener installed then the majority of home owners will also opt for a security system as well. Available systems will add to your home security as well as alert you if you have unwanted visitors. You can either have security features installed when the gate is installed or you can have the system installed at a later date.
Both these systems will require electricity to be run to the motor for the systems to work. This will increase the cost of installation considerably.
|Average costs to install security extras|
|Automatic gates||$1,500 to $3,500|
|Security system||$1,500 to $4,000|
Always make sure there is a warranty supplied with the gate and any security systems to install. The warranties will also come with an overriding condition of the circumstances of installation. You will find that the warranty is only valid if the gate has been installed complying with the manufacturer’s fitting instructions. Exceptions to this include the condition of the gate as it was bought from the supplier, there may be splits or damage visible on the surface of the gate. If so then choose another one.
If you choose a licensed contractor to install the gate then you will have a guarantee to cover the quality of labor.
If you have anything more exotic than a basic manual gate you will want to think about accessories that help power and secure your gate. We have briefly mentioned these earlier but now let’s talk about them in a bit more detail.
Intercom. You have a motorized gate protecting your property but how do you know if you have a visitor? And do you really want to go out and see who it is on a cold and stormy night? The answer is to install an intercom. These can be connected to the house by copper wire or it is easier to install and maintain the wireless types that are in radio link to a receiving station in the house. These days there is also an added advantage from using the home Wi-Fi to link the intercom to the house as you can incorporate voice recognition and CCTV.
Card reader. These slotted or proximity sensitive card readers will allow access to anyone who holds a swipe card. These are useful for quick entry access as well as being able to program access rights to various doors in your home. You can also keep a log of whoever is coming and going in your home.
Pin number pads. These are a basic security system and consist of the numerical pad similar to a phone keypad. The pad is mounted onto an easily accessible position outside the gate and allows access to people who know the code number.
Sensors. You can install sensors that can detect and operate depending on the outcome of the detection. For example:
✓ Motion detectors can turn on lights and CCTV when someone approaches the gate.
✓ Timers so that the gate will automatically close a set time after it has opened. This will allow cars to drive through and not be required to stop to close the gate after driving through.
✓ Photo beams to provide safety so that someone does not become trapped and injured in the moving gate.
Vehicle sensors. These allow vehicles to enter and exit without having to stop and exit the vehicle.
Programmable timers. These can be added to close and lock the gate as well as open it during specific times of the day. This is more often used in a place of work than in a domestic situation.
Maglocks. These locks are magnetically operated and can be far stronger and more secure than any other type of lock. In fact, they can hold up to 1200 lbs when engaged.
Remote entry. Some mechanisms can be triggered by a signal from your phone so that the gate can be unlocked, opened and closed remotely.
Solar photovoltaic cells. These can be installed to provide the power for your accessories to operate. The main problem with this is that you have to live in a region that has a lot of sunshine all year around otherwise after a few days of cloudy weather you might find that the gates won’t have enough power to open.
The last thing you want to happen when you open or close your gate is for your children or pets to become trapped and injured by the moving gates.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) among other things maintains the safety standards of automatic gates within the United States.
Since 1985 there have been at least 32 deaths occur that have been related to automatic gates, twenty of these were deaths to children.
In the ten years from 1990 to 2000, nearly 25,000 injuries have occurred, of these 9,000 were to children under the age of fifteen.
Every year, more than 2,000 people are treated in hospitals (800 of these being children) for injuries to the hand, arm, head, and neck caused by automatic gates.
The range of injuries caused by being trapped in powered gates varies from simple cuts and bruises to broken bones, hematomas and even amputations and other life-changing injuries.
Older gates do not have safety devices installed and should be retrofitted with appropriate types of sensors. New models are required to have:
✓ Sensors that reverse the gate if it finds there is an obstruction when opening or closing.
✓ Electric eye sensor that will reverse the direction of motion of the gate if it detects an obstruction.
✓ All gaps must be less than 2.25”.
✓ Manual controls must be far enough away from the gate so that users cannot operate and come onto contact with the gate at the same time.
✓ The controls must be in a position such that an operator has a full view of the gate while it is motion.
✓ All exposed moving parts, including rollers, must be guarded.
✓ Warning signs must be visible on both sides of the gate.
If you are installing a motorized gate, you must always make sure there is a way for the emergency services to gain access. Your area will have applicable safety codes about this and you can find out what these are from your installer or your local government office.
Although the work can be done as a DIY project, it won’t be easy and your finished job will probably not be as good as if you left it to a professional to do.
Installing driveway gates, even one as simple as a manually operated gate needs many different skills to do a good and secure job.
Typical skills include:
A specialist gate installer will have all the necessary skills and equipment needed to make a good job and hiring one will significantly reduce the chances of failure of the installation as well as unexpected wear and costly repairs.
When you contact the installation specialist to talk about having a driveway gate fitted you will find there is a specific procedure so that all the relevant information is gathered before the estimate or quotation is submitted for your approval.
After contacting the installer, you will meet with them to have a design consultation to find out what ideas you already have, what you require and for you to answer any questions.
Once all the relevant information has been collected and problems sorted out, the installer will summarise all the work that needs to be done and specify the materials and accessories that he will require to complete the work to your satisfaction.
Once the installer is satisfied he has all the problems ironed out and is sure you are happy with the package, he will provide an estimate or quotation for you to peruse at your leisure.
You will review the estimate. This includes all specifications, any specialist contractors and the cost of the individual and total costs.
Once you sign the contract to authorize the work to begin, you will be obligated to pay a deposit and the balance at the agreed points during the work.
The installer will prepare the site for the installation. This includes:
When the concrete has cured for the appropriate length of time, the gate will arrive on site and be installed.
All fittings and functions will be tested, including safety features, locks, alignments, and levels.
When the gate has been thoroughly tested and operates as expected, any landscaping that needs to be done will be completed.
Everything will be cleaned up and the site cleared.
You will be expected to pay the balance of the invoice.
When you have had the gateway installed by a professional installer notify your home insurance company and provide proof of the specifications of the gate and of the identity of the installation company. Because you have had the work done professionally you will have a reduction in your insurance premium to reflect that you are less of a risk. If you did the work yourself the insurance company would be very unlikely to reduce your premiums.
There is no doubt about it a driveway gate is an important aspect of our home security that must not be neglected. There are many different styles and materials you can have your gate made from and combined with security and privacy accessories you can be sure that your property will not be at risk of vandalism or burglary.
Don’t go overboard in the design, however, if you have a gate reminiscent of a prison or a fortress you may attract the attention of undesirables who will wonder what valuables you have to hide. Not only that but an incorrect decision on the choice of style will turn a pleasant suburban street into something resembling a war-torn ghetto.
Always take advice from a professional installation company who will be more than happy to work with you to make sure you have a safe and secure gateway that combines security with good looks.
Remember too that your new installation will require the addition of safety accessories and design modifications to make sure no one gets hurt when using your gateway, or worse.
We hope you have enjoyed this article and have come away from it having learned something new and useful.
Many thanks for reading right to the end.