A good gate latch is the key to a functional and long-lasting gate. If you’ve ever had to deal with a sticky, rusted, or poorly fitted latch – then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Luckily, installing a new latch (or replacing an old one) is a pretty straightforward task. It requires just a few basic tools and can make a huge difference in the performance and overall look of your gate.
There a wide variety of latch styles and looks, but installing them will generally follow the same process described below. Let’s take a look at how to install a gate latch step-by-step!
Tools & Materials Needed
How to Install a Gate Latch – Guide
Step 1: Position the Gate Latch Bar
Most gate latches have an arm or bar section that attaches to the gate as well as a latch section that affixes to the gate post. Installing the arm section first is easier as it allows you to match the other section to fit the arm.
First, position the latch arm section that will attach to the gate and mark the holes with a grease pen or marker. Make sure that the gate can swing freely and won’t be obstructed by anything when installed.
Also, make sure that the latch arm will fit into the other section.
Step 2: Drill Pilot Holes & Screw Latch Bar
Nest, you’ll want to use a drill bit that’s slightly smaller than the size of your mounting hardware to drill pilot holes in the spots you marked before. This will ensure the screws go in straight, and won’t torque or bend.
After that’s done, remove the pilot hole drill bit and replace it with a screwdriver bit that matches the screws or bolts included with your gate latch.
Hold the latch bar in position and drive the screws into place.
Step 3: Position and Pre-Drill Gate Post Section
Now, using the latch arm as a guide, position the other latch section so it lines up with the already installed portion. Then use your marker or pencil to mark the positions for pre-drilling the pilot holes.
Drill the pilot holes, and then screw the second portion of the gate latch to the gate post.
Check to make sure the latch arm fits comfortably into the section mounted to the gatepost. Try to center the arm so that it sits in the middle of the section mounted to the gate post.
Gates have a tendency to sag over time – especially if the gate’s hinges aren’t up to par. This can lead to the gate not sitting flush and will make the latch difficult or impossible to use.
One way to ensure your gate latch will last over time is to look for one a self-leveling or self-adjusting gate latch. These latches utilize some form of moveable arm which is mounted to a single point. This allows the arm to shift up and down slightly so it works even if the gate starts to sag.
Optional: Install a Gate Latch Pull String/Cable
While it’s not necessary for every gate, installing a gate latch cable or string makes opening the latch from the outside much easier. This is especially true for a taller gate where you can’t easily reach over and undo the latch.
- First, you’ll want to mark the location directly behind the top of the gate latch mechanism or striker. This is the ideal placement for a gate latch cable – as it will allow you to pull the cable or string completely unencumbered. You’ll often see gates with holes places too high above the latch mechanism, which leads to a poorly functioning gate latch cable.
- Then use a 5/16 to 1/2 inch drill bit to drill a hole straight through spot you marked on the gate post. You may need to drill from both sides, depending on the thickness of your gate post.
- Thread the cable or string through the hole you just drilled, and tie or mount it securely to the hole at the top of the gate latch mechanism.
- Close the gate, and test out the function of your new gate latch!
You can also cut a hand-hole through the gate itself to access the latch from the opposite side. This can be accomplished fairly easily with a jigsaw and something to trace a circle onto the gate.
I’m more partial to the cable or string method myself, as it’s more secure, maintains the look of your gate, and can be done with a simple power drill.
If your gate also needs a fresh coat of paint, check out my post on how to paint a wooden gate.