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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored project/product by National Hardware, but my opinions are, as always, 100% my own.
My backyard gate: it was one of the first projects ever completed at the house. So, of course, it’s also one of the first things to break.
Twice. Or maybe three times. I’ve lost count.
The first time, I don’t even know what happened to make it break. I simply came home to missing parts. But, the latch had also originally been installed on the wrong side of the fence (in that it was on the front of the gate instead of behind it). So when I did the last fix, I simply flipped the replacement around, but didn’t really think it through. The problem, as you can see above, was that I didn’t think to install it along the support of the gate and instead attached it to one of the fence pickets, just as it originally had on the other side. It worked for a while, but a windy storm this past winter split the picket down the middle, and off came the hardware along with it.
The last time it broke, I was able to fix the malfunction with a zip tie. But now that the other side broke off completely, I decided that it was finally time to upgrade and put the hardware in the right spot.
Luckily enough for me, National Hardware reached out and asked if I’d like to work on a few projects with them this year. Uh, duh. I have like 30 things on my to-do list that could use some hardware, so this was a perfect match. I described what I needed, and they immediately sent me a heavy duty latch:
Not only was it stronger, but twice as wide (insert dirty joke). The reason for this being that the original 4-inch latch needed only to span the distance from the post to the first picket; but because there was existing hardware attached to the end of the gate support, the new latch would need to fit on the other side while still reaching across to the same spot on the post. If that sounded like complete gibberish, let’s try a visual demonstration:
To do this project, you’ll need (affiliate links):
- gate hardware
- Phillips head drill bit
- 3/32″ pilot hole drill bit
- 3/8″ hex nut driver bit
- optional: magnetic bit holder (extends the bit length)
Also optional: your curious fur helper who just wants to bark at flying flower tufts floating in the air.
Step one: remove the old hardware and toss it in the garbage.
This includes the rusty old screws of the picket still stuck to the gate.
The only tricky part about installing a new latch is remembering what goes where. For example, there is a piece that gets screwed into the post (the “strike”, A in the photo below) and a piece with a long arm that gets screwed directly onto the gate (B). I wanted to screw the post side in from the left rather than the right, so it required unscrewing the bolt that held the strike in place (the part that catches the arm when closing the gate). This could all be done by hand, and I was able to flip the mechanics of the keep around by simply turning it upside down and tightening the bolt back down.
As always, drilling pilot holes will keep the screws from slipping away from you and help the installation go much faster. Once you’ve lined up where the new hardware is going to be, mark the holes with a pen, then use a bit that is slightly narrower than the width of the screw to create your pilot holes (using an exact width will prevent the threads on the screw from catching in the wood).
I chose to start with the gate side because that seemed easier (attaching the latch arm side, then using that as a guide for figuring out where the strike needed to be on the left in order to catch it).
Unlike the previous hardware I’d installed, this set came with lag screws (or lag bolts, whatever you prefer), so I had to use a different bit on the end of my drill (the instructions say to use a wrench, but this also works!).
Even though I have lots of bit sets, this was definitely not a bit I get to use very often, so the novelty of it was actually kinda fun.
For the final screw, thread the adjustable arm through the hole on the right and tighten the bolt down like the others, but leave a little wiggle room so that the arm can move up and down like so:
And before ya know it, my heavy duty gate latch was in place, looking spiffy and solid:
Another thing I made sure of with the new latch was that it still had the same adjusting feature of the old one. Over time, fences settle and move around a little, so it’s better to spend a few extra bucks and buy a latch that can handle a slight shifting every now and then (on this particular model, this feature is called “Adjust O-Matic”, which makes me think of those funny infomercials for kitchen appliances that dice onions or peel boiled eggs). This new hardware can adjust on both sides. On the left (the part that was screwed into the post), the screw holes are taller than needed for a single screw to fit. This longer notch means that if the fence ever settles more and the latch piece could stand to shift down by a quarter of an inch or so, I can easily accomplish this by unscrewing it slightly, moving the hardware down slightly, and tightening the screws again — no new pilot or screw holes needed.
On the right, the screw that holds the arm of the latch in place is a little loose, so it has a small range of motion that helps it move up or down as needed to catch itself on the other side. This means that if it too ever needs a slight adjustment, I won’t have to break out my tools again.
With the new hardware in place, I could now unscrew the old, split picket and replace it with an equally old one that I just happened to still have left over from this project and this project (which were leftover scrap projects of their own!). Done!