If you’re searching for a device to hold your gate closed and secure your property, family, or animals, this guide will help you pick the best one for you.
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Fence Gate Latch Buying Guide
There are many different options when you’re in the market for a way to secure your fence. You’ll first want to understand the various categories of latches available and how each model works.
Next, it’s important to choose a material that works with your existing fence, and that provides the level of security you desire.
Finally, installation and budget are considerations for the project. Here, we’ll delve into all the details that you need to know to find the type that is the right fit for your access point.
A. Categories of Fence Gate Latches
There are three main categories of gate latches you can choose from that are defined by how they are designed. Let’s look closer at the gravity, spring loaded, and bolt options and discuss how each works.
The latch is named for its operation mechanism, and as such it uses gravity to close the catch. It works as the barricade is closing using the force of the swing to push the latch arm past the strike plate and allowing the arm to fall into the catch.
This is an attractive option because it can also be self-latching, meaning that if the door gets captured by the wind and closed the arm should fall into place on its own without any outside intervention.
Gravity based models are always two-sided because the arm must fall into the strike in order to operate. On a wooden barricade, you can open it from either side of the door.
While the option is simple to use, the basic model doesn’t provide much security. You can look for lockable designs, or add a second deadbeat or slide bolt to the barrier if you want it to be impenetrable.
Most designs with locking options will feature a hole where you can insert a padlock. You’ll need to either remember a combination or carry a key to use this feature.
From an installation standpoint, double sided gravity designs are usually used with an in-swinging option. However, it’s possible to reverse the installation and put the arm on the street side to use it with an out-swinging door.
Depending on which gravity model you choose and how many installation modifications you want to make, it can be an easy job or one that requires more time and effort. Generally, gravity based designs are easy do it yourself project to install.
2. Spring Loaded
Source: Home Dept
Spring loaded varieties differ from their gravity counterparts because they utilize a spring to facilitate the closing action. Typically more expensive than a gravity option, spring models provide a smoother action on the handle when you open or close the barrier.
The spring mechanism works when the latch arm snaps into place by pressure put on the spring that secures the arm.
Spring loaded options will always be two-sided. These two-way models allow the door to be opened from either side, and there are lockable varieties available.
Just like gravity models, spring loaded latches are typically used on an in-swinging option, but you can reverse the installation for an out-swinging gate if needed. Depending on the style and manufacturer you purchase from, installation difficulty can range from straightforward and simple to complex.
Source: Home Depot
For many people, when you picture a way to secure your fence, you picture a bolt latch. The traditional deadbolt design works by sliding the rod into the securing bolt that then holds the door in place.
In terms of installation, this is the simplest and least involved option as it’s a one-sided latch and can only be secured from the inside. They can be added to both in-swinging or out-swinging fences and may be lockable with the addition of a padlock.
These are usually the most cost-effective model, and come in a variety of sizes and materials.
B. Gate Latch Material
Durability is an important consideration in your fence latch. The materials they are most commonly crafted from are high-quality metals that do well outdoors and can stand up to the elements.
You’ll find a price difference between each of the substances, and here we’ll give you the pros and cons on iron, aluminum, bronze, stainless, and brass designs.
Source: Iron Valley Hardware
Iron is one of the most widely used latch materials and is crafted in a variety of ways including Old World, Antique, Colonial, and traditional styles. Manufacturers use both cast iron or wrought iron as it has a heavy, stately appearance that looks good against the fencing.
The metal typically receives a powder-black coating to give it a layer of protection against the outdoor elements, but it may not be a good choice if you live in a location with a lot of corrosive elements. Beachfront or seaside homeowners may want to shop for another material as the salt in the air and water could cause the mechanism to rust prematurely.
In normal conditions, iron lasts a long time and offers a good value for its price. You’ll need to do regular maintenance, like using steel wool to clear away any rust spots and touching up with a protectant spray regularly to keep it looking new.
Price wise, iron options run between $20 and $100 depending on the size, shape, and intricacy of the design. Some packages will also include handles and fixtures to complete the look of your outdoor boundary design.
If you’re worried about wear and tear or corrosion, aluminum may be the best material for you. Both lightweight and durable, it has a natural resistance to corrosive elements and can be used in virtually any environment.
It is a more brittle material than iron, so you may want to invest in a gate stop to prevent everyday movement from putting undue stress on the latch arm which could cause breakage over time.
While you can purchase designs in the traditional shiny silver color of the metal, they are also often powder coated to coordinate with other fence hardware in more rustic colors like black. This locating may chip off over time from repeated use, but you can re-paint it with a product like Rustoleum to keep it looking new.
Generally, aluminum options are the least expensive of the bunch, but that won’t limit your style choices. Crafted into the old world, antique, traditional, and modern designs the metal is both attractive and functional.
You can spend as little as $5 on an aluminum design, or upwards of $20 depending on the style and features you require. Lockable models cost the most, and some will require a separate padlock or combination lock to operate.
Source: Signature Hardware
One of the most expensive materials of the bunch, bronze is a substantial material that ages well. It’s a popular choice for those with high-end design taste because it looks beautiful and feels dense to the touch.
Most bronze designs are crafted with an element of artistry, and they feature traditional, contemporary, and old world elements. The metal ages well, and doesn’t require a powder coat to finish it, which eliminates the risk of chipping or the need to refinish it over time.
If you leave the metal to age naturally, it will darken over time to a dark copper penny color and then will eventually evolve into a faded green. If you want to prevent the green tinge, you can apply a coat of wax once a year to protect the metal and enhance its lifespan.
You might be able to snag a copper design for around $25, but expect to pay closer to $75 on average for something crafted with this metal. Especially intricate or ornate craftsmanship could cost as much as $500.
Source: Home Depot
Stainless steel is a distant cousin to aluminum. Similar in appearance, stainless steel is a heavier metal that is stronger and less likely to dent, warp, or bend under pressure or temperature.
While it is a bit more expensive, it’s a good material choice for a durable fence catch. Usually used in modern and contemporary designs, it’s highly rust resistant and you’ll usually see it in its raw silver form.
Powdered coated models are available, which give them an extra layer of protection if you live in a corrosive environment like near the beach. You may need to re-touch the coating over time to keep it looking fresh.
It’s also important to maintain the metal to add to its longevity. Rubbing it monthly with a lubricating oil will give it another layer of protection against the elements and eliminate any annoying squeaking during use.
From a price standpoint, expect to invest $30 to $75 into a high-quality product. Of course, you could spend a lot more for intricate details and design, but this is a mid-level option in terms of cost.
Source: Signature Hardware
Brass is one of the least conventional materials used in outdoor gate catches, but if you like the look of a traditional or colonial design, it’s a great choice. It’s a heavy metal that feels hefty in your hand and adds a great design element to your closure.
The biggest potential drawback to the material is that brass will tarnish over time. While you may enjoy the aged look, it’s important to diligently maintain the surface to preserve the life of the mechanism.
By regularly cleaning with a brass cleaner and applying a UV resistant urethane clear coating to the metal, you’ll not only keep it looking shiny and new but maintain the integrity of the lock.
Price wise, you’ll spend an average of $20 to $50 for an option in this category.
C. Types of Gate Latches
There is four main fence gate latch styles from which you can choose. Each of these styles can be made from several of the materials we discussed above and may use one or several of the locking mechanisms we mentioned previously.
Here we’ll give you the specifics on how they work, and what fence types are best provided the installation requirements and limitations of each.
Source: Hoover Fence
The thumb style is an option only if you have an in-swinging gate. Always installed as a double-sided mechanism, you can purchase one that is lockable for added security.
This model works when you depress the thumb depressor mounted on the decorative plate on the outside of the door. When you push down, the latch arm on the inside lifts and allows you to open the gate.
As the door closes, the arm hits the strike, which then rises and falls onto the catch on its own. Based on the way this model works, it is a gravity latch.
Source: Home Depot
The ring option is a two-sided design that is operable from either side of the gate. On the street side, you’ll install a backplate with a ring on it, and on the yard side, you will also have the backplate and ring, but the ring will be attached to a latch arm.
When you turn the ring on either side, it lifts the arm out of the catch and allows the door to swing open.
This model can be either gravity assisted or spring loaded and may be used on both in and out-swinging gates. You’ll want to ensure that you install the latch-arm on the side that the gate swings toward when it opens.
Source: Home Depot
Lever designs operate nearly the same way as a ring option, but they have a lever handle rather than a ring on each side of the barrier.
They can also be installed on both in and out-swinging gates and may use gravity assistance or spring loaded technology to get the job done. Some lever options may be lockable, and some are not.
Source: Home Depot
Bolt designs are both classic and a bit old-fashioned and are one-way options. Remember, if you have the bolt locked on one side, you won’t be able to get in from the opposite end unless you can reach up and over to disengage the lock.
While they are based on an old design, there are aesthetically pleasing options available. They work by sliding a bolt into a catch, and some choices have room for a padlock to secure the fence.
D. Fence Gate Latch Considerations
Now that you understand the different lock types, materials, and how they each work, here are a few additional questions to ask that may affect your buying decision. If you’re looking for products that offer an additional layer of security, or have fencing that serves a special purpose, there are gate catches that may be a better fit for you.
Source: Home Depot
Only you can determine how much additional security you want to add to your clamp. Some homeowners have their barrier for privacy or to keep in animals, while others value the additional level of defense it offers their home.
Remember that adding a lock will add another step between moving in and out of your boundary, but it may be worth it.
The most common way to add security is to purchase a gate catch that locks. You can choose an option with a key, or one that can incorporate a padlock or combination lock into the design.
The secure side of the lock should be placed on the yard side of the door, away from the street and facing your home. This way, you can open it should you have visitors or family stop by, but no one will be able to attempt to override the feature from the street.
2. Door Hardware
While it might be tempting to use traditional door hardware on your outdoor gate, it’s not recommended by the experts. Not only is it not designed to accommodate seasonal wood movement, but it’s also not limited to only working on a door of traditional thickness.
If you’re not familiar with how seasonal wood movement works, let us explain.
Outdoor wooden gates will expand and contract throughout the year with the changing of the seasons. If you install traditional door hardware during the dry summer months, you may discover that over a wet winter the gate swells slightly and no longer catches properly.
Conversely, if you did your installation during a time when the wood was expanded, it could cause issues when it shrinks back down. These complications could lead to the mechanism not catching properly and not holding closed during the dry, hot months of summer.
Your front door and the internal doors in your home won’t have these same responses to the heat, weather, and moisture in the air. As such, traditional door hardware isn’t designed to combat these potential problems.
To prevent issues that can arise from using the wrong tools to do the job, ensure that you choose materials that work for outdoor use. Follow the manufacturer specifications to allow for seasonal movement, and choose hardware that was crafted specifically for the material you have on your outdoor gate.
Please note, wood will have different installation needs and requirements than metals like aluminum, iron, or steel.
3. Double or Sliding Gates
If your enclosure has two moving doors, you’ll need to make a few additional design decisions to make your latch both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Larger openings of 10 feet or more typically require hardware that’s more prominent to best compliment the design. You’ll also want to choose a latch that offers a complementary dummy handle on the fixed side to create symmetry to the look.
Installing a gate stop, which we discuss in more detail below, will also help to preserve the life of your locking mechanism. Double and sliding doors are notorious for banging together and placing undue pressure and stress on metal and materials that can lead to a malfunction or failure if not properly addressed.
4. Gate Stops
Source: D&D Technologies
A gate stop is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a mechanism that you install to prevent your door from swinging wildly and damaging your hinges or latch arm over time.
The stopper creates a boundary that your door can’t travel beyond. This protects against damage on a windy day when the force of the breeze may push the fence further than its designed to go which could result in damage.
It can also protect a double or rolling gate from crashing into each other when closing. These jarring movements can cause the arm on your closing mechanism to bend or break or damage the hinges by pulling them completely out of the post.
This inexpensive addition can cost less than $20 but is a good investment if you want a guarantee against possible costly repairs down the road. Broken hinges or latch arms mean you’ll need to replace the entire hardware package to get your door functioning again.
There are a few additional factors to keep in mind when you’re shopping for the right latch for your yard. Be sure to do your research to understand how these questions may factor into your final buying decision.
If you can follow instructions and have access to basic tools, you should be able to manage the installation of your new mechanism on your own. You’ll want to follow the carpenter’s golden rule and “measure twice and cut once” before drilling any holes into your wood, but the project should be straightforward.
If you would prefer to hire a handyman to do the job, it should take less than 30 minutes and cost less than $100 for a basic project.
Unlike some complex landscaping or home design projects, budgeting for this aesthetic or security upgrade should be easy. You’ll want to factor in the cost of the latch itself, as well as any additional tools or materials you’ll need for installation.
In addition, you may find that once you upgrade your catch mechanism, you want handles and hinges that match the new finish. If you’re someone who likes all your hardware to coordinate, take that into account and leave room to upgrade your other materials too.
Where to Buy Fence Gate Latches Online
Online hardware retailers are the best places to look at options to complete your fencing project. These are a few of our favorites that offer affordable options in a variety of designs.