Today we're walking through how to install a gate latch. Since this gate swings just fine, we’re not having to fix sagging or other problems. The homeowner wanted a new type of latch that was easy to operate from either side of the gate, and we replaced the hinges and handle to refresh the whole look of the gate.

Step 1: Choose gate hinges and prep the gate

Replacing hinges can update the look of your gate or add new functionality, like a spring-hinge that closes the gate for you. You’ll find a variety of hinges to choose from at Dunn Lumber or your local hardware store. Most are either silver or black in color, and some hinges are more decorative than others. A “T-hinge” will provide more support to your gate, since the gate-side leaf of the hinge stretches out horizontally and attaches to more of the gate’s frame. (Note: In terms of the "anatomy" of a hinge, the pin is what the hinge pivots on, and the leaves are like wings that stretch out in either direction from the pin.) Some hinges have an adjustable spring, which can close the gate behind you. A galvanized metal hinge will resist corrosion longer than a basic hinge—especially near saltwater.

Generally speaking, larger hinges will come with larger screws, and larger hinges will make your gate sturdier than smaller hinges.

• Start with the gate closed and latched. Place blocks of wood under the gate to support it when you remove the hinges.

• Unscrew the existing screws from the upper hinge. You’ll be backing out the screws from both the post-side of the hinge, as well as from the gate itself.

Step 2: Mark and pre-drill holes for new upper hinge

Open your new hinge up with the leaves stretching out from the pin, then hold it up to your gate and gate post in the spot where you’ll be attaching it. Mark the spots for the new holes. Make sure you’ll be screwing into the gate frame and not just a fence board. Pre-drill if necessary. 

If you’ve chosen a nice, beefy hinge, it likely came with lag screws, which are large-diameter, hex-head screws. They will probably require the pre-drilling of an undersized hole before installation of the lags.

Step 3: Anchor the new hinge to the gate and post

Install gate screws loosely. Attach both wings of the hinge—one leaf to the post and the other to the gate (making sure there is something for the screws to bite into). You’ll tighten the screws fully once you know the gate is true in its opening.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 for the lower hinge

• Repeat for the second/other hinge(s)

• With the hinge screws snug (and while lifting up on the gate so as not to have it sag), swing the gate open slightly and close it to see if everything is aligned properly and ensure the gate will latch. Adjust if necessary. When it's working smoothly, fully tighten the screws.

Step 5: Remove the old latch

The most common gate latch is the “gravity gate latch,” but there are different types out there that meet different needs. Just as with hinges, black and silver are common colors, but there are differences in the way these latches work, the way they lock, and how easily they operate from either side of the gate. Our homeowner wanted a latch that worked just as easily from one side of the gate as the other, so we installed a post-mount gate latch. This design has a stationery bolt which mounts on the gate. It latches into a double-ended handle that eliminates the need to reach over the gate to unlatch it.

When replacing your gate latch, make sure you pay attention to the direction your gate swings (outward, inward, or in both directions) and purchase a latch that fits your needs.

Step 6: Install the new latch

• Mount the bolt to the gate frame

• Align the post-side latch and affix with screws

It’s that simple!

One important element we had to consider was making sure the bolt didn't stick out from the gate too much and run into a corner of the house that juts out near the gate opening. Make sure the placement of your gate latch doesn't interfere with the swing of the gate.

Bonus: Replace the gate handle

Our gate had a basic (and completely functional) pull handle, but since we’d just replaced the hinges and latch with black hardware, we replaced the handle as well. Handles are an easy thing to add or replace—often only a screwdriver is needed to install them. Remember to fasten screws into gate framing wherever possible (versus just into a thin fence board).

This is the fourth installment of a four-part fencing series. Check out our other posts: How to Replace a Fence Gate, How to Fix a Sagging Gate, and When to Repair Your Gate