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  • Writer's pictureMikes Fences

5 Things to Consider when Building a Gate in SoCal

Gates are most typically the entry point A) from the street to your yard or B) from your front yard to your backyard. Gates are typically broken down into Pedestrian Gates and Driveway Gates. Pedestrian Gates are smaller (usually 3 to 4 feet wide) and used for people, while Driveway Gates are larger and meant for cars to pass through. For the purpose of this article we will be focusing on pedestrian gates.

There are many things to consider before building a new gate, but here are the 5 most important factors you will consider before building your gate (each of which we will go into detail below):

For a point of reference, here are some gates we have recently built in Orange County and Long Beach:

1. How big should be gate be?

The standard size gate is between 3 and 4 feet wide. Any smaller than 3 feet feels a little tight; and any larger than 4 feet can feel pretty large and is more prone to sagging. A great question when determining size is asking yourself what will this gate be used for? For trashcans, we would recommend 42 inches or larger. If you eventually want to a large project in your backyard that would require a Bobcat, maybe look into a double gate for more space (see below). For single gates larger than 4 feet wide, we will typically recommend using a metal frame gate for more security (see Frame Section). For a point of reference, most backyard gates in Southern California look like the below diagram, which will help you determine the layout for your new gate.

2. Should I build a single or a double gate?

If you want the ease of a modest sized pedestrian gate but still want the option be able to get large equipment or plus-sized deliveries, a double gate could be a great option for you.

Double gates operate similarly as a single gate where you have a main gate that you use every day, but have the option to use the secondary gate if you need a bigger opening. The secondary gate is held in place by a "drop rod" or a "cane bolt" that you have to pull up in order to release the secondary gate.

3. What type of frame should I use?

The frame of the gate is what gives the gate its structure and strength. The frame will usually either be visible just from the backside; or be visible from both sides. The majority of gates we build at Mike's Fences are wood gates so that will be our focus on this section. The two frame options for a wood gate are: wood or metal. Wood frames are easier to build and significantly more affordable than metal frames; however metal frames generally are much stronger and less prone to sagging over time. Here are a few rules of thumb when choosing which frame is right for you:

  • Will this gate be used every day (i.e. a courtyard gate before your front door)? We highly recommend metal. An exception is if the gate is a short front yard gate.

  • Do you want a key or code handle entry system? We only install handles on metal frame gates. Handles require a high degree of precision and since wood frame gates are more prone to sagging, we do not recommend using handles on wood frame gates.

  • Is this a side gate that you don't use often and isn't that large? You can probably get away with a wood frame in this situation, although a metal frame will perform better over time.

4. What hardware should I use on my new gate?

The two main hardware decisions for a gate is 1) the type of hinges and 2) how the gate latches.

Hinge Options:

  • Spring Loaded Hinges: These type of hinges will automatically close the gate if it is open. The amount of closing force/speed can usually be adjusted within the hinge. Necessary for pool gates

  • Standard Hinges: These hinges do not have a spring and will generally stay open if left open.

Latch Options:

  • Standard Latch (or K-Latch): The most common closing mechanism is a K-Latch. These have a larger margin of error so they work well on wood frame gates. They are typically accessible from one side and will require a wire or string to open from the other side. In addition, most work with a padlock if you need more security.

  • Thumb Latch: Thumb latches operate similarly as K-Latch but can be opened from both sides. While useful, these latches usually do not perform as well as K-Latches over time and we generally recommend a K-Latch or a handle over a Thumb Latch.

  • Key or Code Handle: Gate handles operate similarly as the handle for your front door, where you can open with either a physical key or a punch code. Handles generally have much less margin for error than latches and so we only recommend installing them on a metal frame gate (see above). One thing that is really important to consider when choosing a handle is that gates are generally thicker than doors, so not all handles that work on doors will work on gates! Doors will generally be around 1-1/2" (one and a half inches) thick and many wood gates will be around 2-1/4" thick, depending on the design.

5. Will this be a pool gate?

Given safety concerns of pools, most building departments in Orange County and Los Angeles have special safety requirements for gates around pools. We highly recommend speaking with your local building department to get the specific rules for your area before building your gate if you have a pool in your backyard. Here are some of the normal rules for pool gates:

  • Gates must open out (away from pool)

  • Gates must be at least 5 feet high

  • Gates must be self closing (see Spring Hinges section above)

  • Gates must be self latching (K-Latch works well for this)

  • Latches must be out of reach of children/near the top of the gate (handles will need an additional latch up top)

  • The gate can't act as a ladder (have large gaps between horizontal members)


Overall, there are a lot of decisions that go into building a gate. Asking yourself "What is the purpose of this gate?" will help you narrow down which option is best for you and your home. We hope you enjoyed this article and feel free to send us an email at or give us a call at (949) 610-6859 if you want to go through your gate in more detail.

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