How to Repair a Gate

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A wooden gate takes a lot of punishment from all that opening and closing--and even more abuse once your kids find out how much fun it is to hang on and go for a ride on it. If your gate sags, or it won't open or close easily, first check the gatepost with a carpenter's level to make sure it is plumb and sturdy, and then fix it with the techniques below if necessary. Without a strong supporting post, any repairs to the gate itself will just be a temporary solution.

Things You'll Need

  • 2-by-4 Scrap Lumber
  • Turnbuckle Tension Rod Kit
  • Wood Putty
  • Paint Or Stain
  • Shovel
  • Carpenter's Level
  • Electric Drill With Bit
  • Galvanized Or Stainless-steel Screws
  • Hammer
  • Plane
  • Screwdriver
  • Long, narrow stones

Straightening a gatepost

  • Dig away the soil from the side toward which the post is leaning to create a hole about 18 inches (45 cm) deep and 10 inches (25 cm) around.

  • Loosely pack some long, narrow stones into the hole; stop a few inches (about 7 cm) below ground level.

  • Position the post so it is perfectly vertical (check this with a carpenter's level).

  • Cut a piece of 2-by-4 scrap lumber to make a 2-foot-long (60- cm-long) wedge, cutting the angle along its length. Place the long, flat (not angled) side of the wedge against the post.

  • Hammer down the top of the wedge (see A) until it is flush with the ground level and the stones are locked in place.

  • Shovel soil on top of the rocks; tamp down.

Pulling up a sagging gate

  • Reinstall any gate-hinge screws that are coming out of the post. To do this, first remove the screws holding the bottom hinge to the post, then remove the top hinge screws. Remove the gate.

  • Fill the holes with wood putty; let it harden.

  • Replace the top hinge first, then replace the bottom hinge. Use screws that are as long as possible without coming out the other side of the post.

  • If there is enough room, add a new third hinge in the middle for extra support.

  • With a level, check to see if the gate is now level across the top and plumb at the end.

  • If the gate sags at all, install a turnbuckle tension rod assembly to opposite corners of the gate frame (see B). Make sure the high side of the cable is installed on the side of the gate with the hinges.

  • Tighten the turnbuckle until the gate is level and clears the ground properly.

Making a gate close smoothly

  • Check with a level to make sure the side of the gate with the latch and the post next to it are both plumb. Straighten the post or the gate as above if needed.

  • If the gate sticks closed in wet weather due to wood expansion, plane off 1/4 inch (6 mm). Paint or stain the newly exposed wood.

  • If the latch falls short of its catch in dry weather due to wood contraction, remove the latch and reposition it so that it easily reaches the catch.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the wood at the base of a gatepost has rotted so much that you can push a screwdriver into it more than 1/2 inch (12 mm) all the way around, you'll need to replace the whole post. Another option is to support it with a new sister post (see How to Repair a Picket Fence).
  • Another way to support the gate itself: Square the gate, then screw a long wooden brace diagonally to two opposite corners. Wooden braces are attached in an opposite direction from the turnbuckle assembly shown here: The lower end of the brace goes on the side of the gate nearest the post.
  • A turnbuckle tension rod can also be used to straighten and support any gate or fence post.

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