Our place has a large wooden fence and gate. There's a gate for people, and then the fence itself can actually be opened by pulling up a latch from the ground. The gate for people ("door"?) has become unhinged this year and I want to figure out how to best repair it. Photos below to show damage:

Here's the gate itself. The hinge at the bottom-left is where the damage is. Gate

Close up of the bottom hinge's current condition. Hinge

Another view of that busted bottom hinge. Hinge from above

It looks like the hinge itself is undamaged, and it's simply that the screws lost their bond with the wood, either due to the wood deteriorating and/or too much force on those screws. That bottom horizontal 2x4 is pretty solid (aside from the torn up screw-holes).

I'm thinking to reconnect the bottom hinge back to that same horizontal 2x4 with longer screws and in slightly different screw holes. I'm not sure how to avoid the same problem happening again however. Should I first beef up the bottom horizontal 2x4 by screwing in another piece of wood on top of it (but that would tilt the door)? Should I add another hinge, but where (there's no horizontal 2x4 in the middle, and if I added one, it wouldn't extend across the door)? Can I add another latch on the right side of the door to take off some pressure from the hinges when it's closed?

Currently, when the door is closed it leans against the 6x6 beam it latches to, and when the door opens it has to be held up by the user or its latch-side will scrape against the ground. I presume both of those things happen because of the broken hinge.

Note that the 6x6 beam the door latches to is starting to bow a little bit, as are other 6x6s supporting this fence/pavilion (similar to this). We've asked carpenter and engineer friends about it and they said those posts should be OK for quite a while, but it does worry us (they're big, and all this wood is heavy and on one end attached to the house itself!) I share all that in case it affects options for supporting the gate.

  • SE keeps rotating images I upload, not sure why. Sorry about that. Image is oriented correctly when uploading and even when I rotate them to fix SE's error, it still ends up posting as sideways. – cr0 Aug 28 '18 at 17:10

The hinge is damaged, it's bent. You should either bend it straight or get a new one. The hinge has three holes for screws your only using two of them. That's putting extra stress on the two that you are using which is probaly why they pulled out. Hard to tell from the picture how bad the wood is split. I would not try to add any wood, if anything perhaps replace the bottom horizontal piece if it's split badly. If it was my gate I would drill holes all the way through and use a nut and bolt as opposed to wood screws to re-fasten the hinge. You should be able to find decorative ones that match. Someone else may come along with a better answer.

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    Absolutely through bolt it with big fender washers. Even if you squeeze that "undamaged" but bent all2hell hinge in a vise to flatten it back out, it will have been weakened; consider replacing it. – Jimmy Fix-it Aug 29 '18 at 2:34
  • Would you bolt all the way through both the hinge to the gate's frame, and the hinge to the fence post? Wondering if bolts should be going all the way through the fence post on the hinge side. – cr0 Sep 9 '18 at 14:34
  • On the post you shouldn't need to bolt all the way through. I would use as long a screw as possible though. If it ever does loosen up you can drill through and put a nut and bolt with washers. – Platinum Goose Sep 10 '18 at 13:51

You may need to through bolt the bottom hinge. I can't tell if the gate is dragging when opened even grass puts a huge strain on the hinges especially the bottom one. If dragging this will pull the lag screws over time but through bolts will hold longer. Once the hinge attachment point is repaired if the top of the gate is still hitting I would add a steel tensioning cable with a turnbuckle to tension where the current 45 brace is (do not remove the brace) add the remaining cable and tighten to square the gate and that should solve the problems. I would agree with your friends the posts should be plenty strong to support the gate.

  • Could you clarify what you're referring to as the "45 brace"? I'm a bit new to all this. A tension cable does make sense to bare a lot of the load of the latch-side of the gate, greatly reducing strain on the hinges and letting them smoothly open and close the gate rather than have to hold the entire thing up. I'd imagine the tension cable would need to go from the top of the latch side of the gate, extending up at a 45 degree angle toward the hinge side of the gate, but right now the hinge side of the gate is connected to a post that is only inches higher than the gate itself. – cr0 Aug 29 '18 at 14:02
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    On the latch side, fasten through a clearance hole in the diagonal and well into the bottom horizontal cross piece (very long screws so you go a good 1 1/2" into the horizontal board; same depth at the top). The turnbuckle won't be centered on the diagonal; make it fully accessible between two pickets on one side or the other. – fixer1234 Aug 29 '18 at 21:47
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    @cr0, if you rebuild it, you can construct it so you don't need a cable and it won't sag. See this video: youtube.com/watch?v=3Wiw22GRgX0 – fixer1234 Sep 9 '18 at 15:27
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    @cr0, I wouldn't reuse the old holes as-is for this kind of load. Old, weathered wood loses its resilience, and the old threads are a weak area. If you can, relocate the hinges to 1/2" away and fill the old holes (glue in wooden skewers or toothpicks); those holes are a weak spot and source of deterioration. Alternative: drill out the old threads to the depth of the old screws and glue in a tight-fitting (i.e., need to tap it in with a hammer) dowel that's well oversized for the new screw (at least triple the screw's shank diameter), and let the glue dry for a day. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Oct 11 '18 at 0:53
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    If you can't find pre-scored dowels the diameter you need, make some full length scores manually (you can use the teeth on a pair of pliers to scrape some grooves); that will allow excess glue to be squeezed out so you don't end up with a pocket of glue preventing the dowel from being fully inserted. Then drill a pilot hole through the dowel and into the post for the length of the new screw. – fixer1234 Oct 11 '18 at 0:54

I would remove the entire gate and rebuild it with a new 2x4 frame. When rebuilding, I would switch the direction of the diagonal brace, so it extends from the latch down to the lower hinge.

Carefully remove each fence board and hammer the nails out. Build a new 2x4 frame, attach the fence boards to the frame with exterior screws. Bend the hinge back into place and rehang the gate.

You can probably save the existing gate with some through bolts and tensioning cables as @EdBeal suggested, but it probably would not look as good as a new gate. Price would be similar a new PT 12' 2x4 vs the steel tensioning cable.

  • How about new PT 12' 2x4 and a steel tensioning cable? Of course more money, but with a gate as substantial as this, I'd rather the thing be over-engineered and last than just deteriorate and strain the rest of the wooden structure again. – cr0 Aug 29 '18 at 14:03
  • When you say "attach the fence boards to the frame with exterior screws", do you mean screw into the fence board toward the 2x4 frame? That's actually how the fence boards are connected to the frame now, screwed from fence post inward toward frame. – cr0 Aug 29 '18 at 14:04
  • Last question for now: I was thinking to replace the bottom 2x4 of the frame since it's been damaged. Is there a reason you'd go ahead and replace the whole frame? Simply 'while doing one, do it all?' – cr0 Aug 29 '18 at 14:05
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    @cr0 I would replace the entire frame to address the sagging issue. Right now, the diagonal brace is only held by the fence pickets themselves. I'd build a 2x4 frame that is self supporting, without the pickets. Running the diagonal from the latch to the bottom hinge would hold up the top 2x4 without the pickets. – Gary Bak Aug 30 '18 at 15:43
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    @cr0, yes you can always use both a new frame and a tension cable if you want to spend the extra money. I built a gate over 10 years ago now that has not sagged a bit with wood only, but I did use half lap joints and glue. – Gary Bak Aug 31 '18 at 11:03

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