What can go wrong with a vinyl gate? Here are the top 7 problems and fixes that I have seen over the last 40 years.
Hello, I’m David Bryant from Knoxville TN. I owned and operated a vinyl fence company (factory and installations) for over 35 years and I gave a 5 YEAR LABOR WARRANTY on my installed premium vinyl gates. How could I do that when the industry NEVER gave labor warranty on vinyl gates? It’s simple! We built our vinyl gates right!
Your vinyl gate is a dead weight hanging off a single post!
Vinyl Gates (plastic, pvc) are like other gates for your fence. They are the only working part of a fence and will also take the most abuse. So for the best use and longest life out of your vinyl gate follow these tested tips!
#1 Top 7 Problems with Vinyl Gates Vinyl Gate bracing which way does it go?
Here is the #1 Most Common vinyl problems that I have seen over the last 4 decades! No gate bracing or gate bracing installed backwards.
Vinyl fence is hollow inside and to remain square and operate correctly ALL vinyl gates need diagonal gate bracing! Installing vinyl gate bracing correctly the brace starts at the upper hinge side corner and goes diagonally downward to the opposite lower top corner. This prevents your vinyl gate from sagging!
Most people, installers included, think that the bracing goes the other way and PUSHES UP from the lower corner. NOT SO! Same as with cable turnbuckles, start at top hinge and attach lower opposite side to keep gate square.
#2 Top 7 Problems with Vinyl Gates David Bryant’s Vinyl Gate Tips
Premium Vinyl Gate Frame is Sagging | Alternate Picket Heights
When building square vinyl privacy gates in the shop we would have a slight gap (1/8″) in the top and bottom frame channel. This gap allowed for expansion and ease in installing.
ALTERNATE VINYL PICKETS WHEN INSTALLING VINYL DIAGONAL BRACING
Since we used individual tongue and groove vinyl pickets, we could push one to the top rail and the next one to the bottom of the rail, then screw them thru the diagonal bracing. Following the alternating pickets increased the vinyl gate strength and rigidity.
Box Store Vinyl Gate is SAGGING | No Gate Frame
Some box store vinyl fencing will not sell a gate. They only sell panels and want you to make a gate out of a panel. The problem is there needs to be a frame around the panel section to create a gate out of a vinyl panel. You should have a top and bottom rail to the fence panel, now just add the left and right sides with a heavy piece of hollow 2×4 vinyl extrusion. Cut out for the opening and slide over the sides and attach with color coated self tapping stainless steel vinyl fencing screws.
#3 Top 7 Problems with Vinyl Gates How your vinyl gate hinges work!
Problems with vinyl gate hinges. There are different materials used for vinyl gate hinges and after replacing most of them I found the absolute best vinyl gate hinges are stainless steel powder coated. Stay clear of box store hinges, I have replace many of these and the metal is so weak I can bend the hinge in my hands. Vinyl and aluminum posts are hollow and will need hinges that cover two faces of the post (corner angles). Here is the brand I recommend and have had great success Nationwide Industries you can even find these online.
Adjusting Your Hinges
So what to do if you have the correct latches and hinges for your gate and the latch bar is dropping so that it will not latch? This is a very simple fix to adjust the hinges to bring your gate back into alignment. Brandon Jensen’s video from Best Vinyl Fence is the correct way to adjust your gate paneland clearly demonstrates how to adjust your hinges.
WOW! I have seen this many time by contractors cutting corners or from DIYers that did not know any better. By using wood gate hinges on a vinyl gate you are simple asking for trouble! Vinyl gate hinges ARE going to be about 3 times the cost of wood gate hinges for a reason! Vinyl gate stainless steel hinges powder coated black do not rust out like wood gate black zinc coated hinges. Also wood gate hinges are made for flat surfaces and will waller out screws set in vinyl. Vinyl hinge frames are set on 2 faces so the screws attach to 2 sides of the vinyl extrusion for a secure long lasting fit.
Many of the vinyl hinges are self closing which is required for swimming pool gates and are really nice for all fences.
#4 TOP 7 PROBLEMS WITH VINYL GATES Vinyl Gate Latch
So how important is your gate latch? It is critical to the security for your fenced area! Vinyl gate extrusions are hollow so your gate latch needs to attach to 2 faces to fasten the hardware securely.
#5 TOP 7 PROBLEMS WITH VINYL GATES Anti-Slam cushion/handle
Who hasn’t slammed a gate, or seen the wind catch and slam a gate? To keep from breaking the latch bar and springing the hinges (overextension) we include a minor piece of hardware that I like to call an anti-slam cushion.
Our homeowners requested handles for inside and outside so that became a standard installation for us as well as an anti slam cushion. The anti slam cushion helped protect the gate latch AND the hinges from over extension and also keep visitors from forcing the gate in the wrong direction ( LOL that really happens, common service issue).
#6 TOP 7 PROBLEMS WITH VINYL GATES Concrete your gate posts stiffeners
Another critical part of your successful gate is concrete, real 100% concrete. Now some people will use a scat mix (mixing portland with sand and gravel) but how do you know the ingredients are not contaminated? Just be safe and use real 100% bagged concrete from the box store. Also dig your hole deep! 3′ deep with room for concrete all around. Once you pour in the concrete shove a stick in it to make sure no air bubbles. Concreting the aluminum I beam will fill in tight on all angles. This goes without saying, or does it? Some contractors use concrete on only 3 sides (cutting corners) be sure your concrete encapsulates the post completly.
How Much Concrete
How does that work? Ground holds the concrete, concrete holds the post, post holds the gate.
I always go heavy with gate post concrete because they are holding up the weight for the gate day and night 24 hrs a day. In hard pack soil the ground supports the concrete, however in softer soils you will need to go deeper and use much more concrete to stabilze the post.
So for a regular gate I would use 2 bags of 60lbs concrete per gate post, and for larger gate panels use 2 bags of 80 lbs concrete. When in doubt overkill. Better to do that now than to have to pull a loose post out and reconcrete!
#7 TOP 7 PROBLEMS WITH VINYL GATES Aluminum I – BEAM gate post stiffener
Vinyl Gate Leaning in at Top | Post NOT REINFORCED
Looking at your vinyl gate in a closed position, do you have a narrow gap at the top of the gate where it meets the latch post? What causes that?
Vinyl gate post reinforcement is a common problem.
The most common problem for a vinyl gate panel that is square and rubbing the top of the latch post is hinge post failure. Vinyl gate post reinforcement is a common problem. Fence contractors cutting corners will use pieces of wood to try to stiffen up the gate post and that will work for awhile.
We use the aluminum I beam, a heavy aluminum extrusion specifically made to stiffen and support the vinyl gate post. The heavy aluminum I beam should be wet poured (minimum 120 lbs concrete) concreted into the ground about 3′ deep leaving the last 4″ at the ground level open. This will set the aluminum I beam concreted tight to the ground . Once the concrete is set (24 to 48 hours) then you can sleeve the vinyl post over the aluminum I beam dropping it to the concrete (2″4″ below grade) and backfill with dirt.
Vinyl Latch Post Flimsey | No Metal Post Stiffener
Is your gate slamming closed against the latch post and the post is becoming flimsy? How to fix that? Check for a metal post stiffener for the latch side. This will be concreted in just like the hinge side post and sleeved over with the vinyl post. Many fence contractors don’t reinforce this latch post since it doesn’t support the gate. BUT the latch post take a tremendous amount of abuse from the wind slamming the gate closed to regular closing of the gate. And the bigger the gate the more wind resistance and force it exerts.