Deciding to incorporate a customized gate for your home’s driveway is actually quite exciting! The mere fact that a gate will be personalized indicates pride and thoughtful consideration from the one who is considering a project that reflects his or her unique tastes and interests. A friend of mine in San Francisco breeds border-collies and her home’s driveway is adorned with a gorgeous metal gate with a beautiful 3-D bronze image of her pampered pooch—a 10 year-old border-collie named Molly. It’s absolutely stunning—the gate, that is! Molly is stunning in her own way! The cool thing is, when one incorporates a customized gate for one’s property, not only is one adding aesthetics to the surroundings and enhanced security, but adding monetary value to the estate becomes a nice perk, as well.
When one decides upon having a custom gate created, one decision, in particular, has to be made: Should the gate be constructed of wood or metal? These two materials are typically the most used. The final determination will depend on several variables including 1) the width of the gate 2) the type of weather the gate will continually be exposed to and 3) how much one is willing to spend. These considerations should be thoughtfully contemplated since a customized gate is not just an item you add to your home—it’s an investment!
How Wide Will The Gate Be?
The width of your intended gate is very important for one main reason: metal or iron can support their own weight much more so than wood. Metal will provide the strength that is required to span the distance. Longer wood gates will have a tendency to compromise their own ability to hold their weight with repeated openings and closings. If the length is too long and wood is used, warping and sagging can be expected after being continuously exposed to the elements in addition to fastener joints that can work their way loose. There is some encouraging news, however, regarding wooden gates when wider dimensions are an issue. If one has a single-car driveway, a double-opening at about 4 or 5 feet in width for the two sides can be designed which will allow a wooden gate to bypass some of its own hindrances.
Metal brackets and cross-bracing becomes necessary with wood materials; and metal bracket plates need to be incorporated in wooden gates that are longer than 5 feet to ensure rigidity of the joints. Metal gate components, on the other hand, are held together with welds, providing far more strength and stability. When it comes to wider designs, such as gates that will need to be 10 feet or more in width, metal or iron is your best choice since metal will assuredly maintain its structural integrity for years to come!
What’s The Weather Like?
Both metal and wooden gates will, due to their natural characteristics, begin to deteriorate if preventative maintenance is ignored. In more humid or rainy environments, metal can rust, especially at any joints or hinges, and/or form colored markings that can leave the metal looking unsightly or even discolor the respective portion of one’s driveway. To successfully counteract this potential issue, metal gates can be shielded with protective sealants and varnishes that work very well.
Wood can also deteriorate, only far more rapidly than its metal counterpart since wood, of course, is an organic material. Wetter environments, even simple humidity, must be counteracted with specialized sealants to avoid the possibility of expected contraction and expansion of wooden materials. Hinges and gate pickets can suffer warpage; and wood-rot can set in with any wood left unprotected. Even with protection, however, metal gates would be a more lasting choice in those environments where continuous moisture cannot be avoided.
What’s In Your Wallet?
As one might guess, metal gates will cost more than wood. Like anything else, one will receive what one is willing or able to pay. Yes, the big advantage of selecting a wood gate, though, is the savings you will experience! The savings of wood over metal or wrought iron can be the difference in thousands of dollars. But the bottom line remains: considering the investment you are making with a customized gate, how long do you want your gate to last?
If you are considering installing a 120 volt gate operator, it will be presumed that you are confident with what you are doing and have 1) either done the homework on the subject and fully understand the details involved or 2) have performed this kind of project before, with success. With that being said, there are a few things one should know before this type of project ever gets underway, especially if this is your first attempt with installing a gate operator.
This presentation of information will cover basic instructions as well as some important general information. Because some welding might be involved for the arms, that needs to be taken into consideration. And no, one does not have to be a certified electrician to install this type of gate operator but that is assuming an electric outlet is within 1000 feet. Additionally the system is low voltage and everything wires to the control boards, which is nice.
If you have some basic tools you’ll be good to go; and aside from fairly easy-to-understand instructions included with the kit, online tutors are available that are worth watching before the project begins. You’ll feel primed and ready to go after you watch a tutorial or two!
The Battery Pack:
Gate operators of the 12 and 24-volt type operate via a—you guessed it—12 or 24-volt battery pack that you will find inside the control box. Batteries can last up to 5 years, depending on how often the operators are being used. The battery gets charged either periodically or continuously by the electric line. A transformer that plugs into a standard 110 volt outlet allows the batteries to be trickle-charged. What this means is that the battery is charged slowly and can remain at a fully charged level.
A low-voltage wire from the transformer to the control box can be as long as 1000 feet, but for longer distances, the 110 volt electric would require installation in closer proximity to the gate. Some operators work with solar panels but solar panels operate predominately only with low-voltage DC operators.
When you purchase an operator kit, don’t assume that everything you need will be included. There are two items you should expect to buy separately: transmitters and low-voltage wire that runs from the outlet to the control box. And the control box, by the way, is the brains of the entire system. All the wires are connected to this box and is mounted near the gate hinge post and connected to the battery.
Brackets for mounting the operator are included in the kits; and it’s important to make sure the operator is attached to a heavy-duty portion of the gate. If you find that there is no good place to mount the arm, a horizontal angle iron should be purchased and utilized. The automatic gate opener is the automatic arm which is designed to open and close the gate.
Some Basics of the System:
It’s as easy as pressing a button on the remote to operate the gage—the exact same concept as a garage door opener. Gate operators come outfitted with an automatic timer-close feature, with a regulating delay. And though the programmed gate closes robotically and on its own, the timer can be simply turned off so the gate will open only via the transmitter. Most transmitters, by the way, have an operational range of 100 feet and a transmitter for each member of the family can be used without a problem. Additionally, one can opt to have keypads installed that prove to be very handy especially if a business or household has any number of delivery people to accommodate on a regular basis. Codes can be typed in for others to use yet those same people won’t necessarily have access to entering through the gate a second time, for instance, since the code can be easily changed at any time.
An on-board circuit instructs the gate to open, close or reverse once a signal is received from an access control. Access controls can be remote, manual keypads, exit sensors and intercoms. Even though all these types are of their own design, they perform the same job; and this is to control the automatic gate opener.
The Actual Installation:
Expect to devote several hours to this project. Initially, you’ll need to dig holes to mount the posts and trenches. Mark the area with spray paint and be sure to consult with your local utility company, first, so it can designate the underground utilities before any digging begins.
1: If no gate has been previously installed, drill the hole for the gate post and hang the gate.
2: Drill holes for placement of the gate-opener control box.
3: Carefully mount the control board, and ‘cautiously’ is the operative word. The last thing you need is to compromise the functionality of the gate!
4: When installing the sensor, be sure to bury the sensor on the property-side of the gate at about 1 foot in depth and about 50 feet away from the gate. The exit sensor must be buried in the trench and the wire connected to the gate opener control box.
5: Assuming you are using a keypad, connect its wires as well as the wires of the exit sensor and the power source to the control box. The control arm is directly attached and connected to the control box.
6: Install a keypad post.
Assuming all went well, you’ll be good to go!
With advances in technology and high-quality products that are used to manufacture gates and openers, maintenance is kept at a minimum. That, however, doesn’t mean proactive measures shouldn’t be taken to ensure the gate and opener remain in tip-top working order. Here are a few DIY tips regarding gate and operator maintenance, some of which, can be performed by you, the owner. You might be surprised at how little one really needs to do to keep these babies in pristine condition! With that being said, however, even though minor repair and maintenance issues can be done by the gate-owner himself, keeping the phone number of a reputable professional on hand is always a wise choice. A professional will ensure a thoroughly comprehensive analysis of your gate and operator takes place during scheduled appointments throughout the year. It’s much a car that receives regular servicing—you take care of it, and it will take care of you!
Protecting the Arm:
Grab a simple can of spray silicon and aim it directly at the inner tube that travels in and out of the arm. One would logically think that spray oils would be a good protectant, as well, but never use spray or penetrating oils since they have an inherent tendency to gather dirt and dust, resulting in harmful grunge build-up. Spray silicone, on the other hand, does an extremely effective job of keeping the inner seal soft and supple and also keeps moisture at bay which prevents the arm from ‘freezing up’ when temperatures plummet.
Protecting the Hinge Section:
Again, nothing complicated needs to be done to ensure the hinge area remains in perfect working condition—just a few simple things. Number one, since many hinges—especially for swing gates—have grease fittings, they should be greased about once every 4 months. Number two, once a year, one should remove the arm and manually swing the gate to determine if it is working perfectly. Double-check that all the hinges are tight and solid, and visually scrutinize for any cracks in the joints and welds.
Protecting the Chain:
Chains can be problematic and it’s not unusual to have chains as the culprit for many repair assignments. Chain-drive slide gates need only minimal ‘babying’. Never use WD-40 as a lubricant for any chains. The best option is spray-on white lithium grease and apply to the chain every few months to ensure the chain remains flexible and can better withstand freezing temperatures.
Protection from Pests:
Destroy any signs of pest intrusion that becomes evident. But never use chemicals or liquids as a means to rid your components of pesky intruders. This is where a professional should be called. An expert will know exactly how to counteract any and all unwelcomed guests.
Any type of electrical equipment installed outdoors has a natural enemy—and pests are it. Concerning vermin include insects, snails, rodents and reptiles. Believe it or not, snails and slugs can literally destroy a circuit board in no time. Their slimy little trails wreak havoc because they become highly conductive, in-spite of minimal moisture. Then there are the arachnids—spiders. Would you believe spider webs with minimal dew on them can also conduct electricity and damage a gate’s circuit board?–strange, but true. Gate-opener circuitry can continue to be ravaged by bee’s nests and ant hills that will do a wonderful job of corroding those things you spent good money on.
Don’t Maintain Your Gate and Operator Alone:
For those who enjoy the do-it-yourself approach, there are certainly some things that can be done on one’s own. But since an automated gate system is a significant investment, it’s prudent to allow a professional to perform scheduled services for most of the maintenance and repair. An expert in the field will leave no stone unturned. Here’s a list of just some of the many services professions will perform:
1: brackets and ground tracks—are they mounted securely?
2: control boxes—are they clean and vermin-free?
3: hydraulic oil—is it at the correct level?
4: drive belt chain—does it require any adjusting?
5: electrical connections—do they reveal any abnormalities?
6: internal moving parts—are they in need of lubrication?
7: security gate sensors—are they malfunctioning in any way?
With your regular maintenance regime as a do-it-yourselfer, combined with scheduled maintenance from experts who have trained insight from everything electrical to everything physical, your gate and gate operator will serve you well for many, many years to come!