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I bought a house which has a side fence gate with a latch scratching the side of the house. The damage was already there. It's not that bad, but I'd like to adjust the latch to prevent the damage from getting worse since the latch still scratches the house wall and thus continues to dig in.

Here is a picture of the latch:

Fence Gate with Latch Scrape

I think that the only way is to unscrew the latch and screw it back on "at the correct location". I think that's doable because it is currently too low anyway. However, I think that the screw on the right, for the latch to be at the correct location, would need to be in between the door pull and that small trapezoid addition. Here is another picture with a slightly different view:

Fence Gate Latch Flat View

I know that trying to use a location just a few millimeters away from an existing hole is not going to work. The only thing I can think of is that I'd have to replace the trapezoid part or at least move it to be able to do new holes.

At the same time, I'm thinking that the door is sagging toward the house. Here is a picture of the whole door, and there are two support (diagonal) bars, but in the wrong direction. So I'm thinking that the scratching will start again soon even if I spend time fixing the latch. Actually, seeing how the latch is currently screwed on, it feels like someone already spent some time on it.

Side Fence Gate Full View

What would you do in this situation?


Update:

Here is a picture of the fixed latch. I just unscrewed the whole thing and placed it straight. It doesn't wobble and doesn't scrape the wall anymore. I guess I was a bit scared by the way it was setup before with the latch and "latch holder" (totally useless addition!?).

enter image description here

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    the diagonals are the oriented in the wrong direction to prevent sagging
    – jsotola
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 16:39
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    @jsotola Would a tension cable be sufficient to help prevent sagging? That would be easy enough to add here. Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 17:06
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    Try the tension cable, but sometimes those turn flat gates into tortilla shaped affairs. You can also move the entire latching mechanism up a bit and avoid the screw-hole-proximity problem. The real fix might be in resetting the hinge post or resizing (subtly) the gate. Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 18:18
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    Is the post to the gate's left plumb? The gate sagging would theoretically move the latch away from the house (level gate rails would trace circular paths centered at their respective hinges). This suggests that the supporting post leaned toward the house to cause the damage. A tension cable from the gate post's top to the base of an adjacent post could pull the post away from the house. A compression strut from the base of the gate's post up to the top of an adjacent post could pull the post away from the house, but you'd need to double check that the top rail connections can fight tension.
    – popham
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 20:40
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    "Still wondering about that job"? I would say the overall job for this door is really bad, structurally, esthetically, anything.. Personnally I would take the last comment's advice, grind the end off the latch as a quick temporary solution, then when I have time I would build a new door, with the diagonal in the good direction, better supports for the hinges, and aligned with the supports of the fence, but I know one of my flaw is perfectionnism
    – Kaddath
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 15:46

3 Answers 3

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Move the latch further away from the wall, of course…
Your 2nd picture shows you've a good ½" to play with, if not more. Fill the old holes with dowel & glue, to avoid proximity to the new holes being an issue.

The issue isn't that it's sagging - & whether it is or not is actually unimportant to the latch clearance itself. It probably is actually sagging, which is what's making it worse over time [leading to someone re-jigging the latch at an angle, badly], but it's not the central issue.

The actual issue is that the gate is not at 90° to the wall it meets, so as it opens & actually reaches 90° [ie, the centre of the scratched area], that's the near-point you need to measure to, to avoid it hitting the wall.

Alternatively, move the right-hand post along the wall to make the gate sit correctly at 90° when closed, then you don't have to account for the 'lengthening' effect as it passes that point.
At least that way if it does sag further, it will start to hit the gatepost long before scratching the wall, so you'll get advance warning of further remediation required.

enter image description here

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  • Good point. I think it's not 90° because it's a continuation of the fence from the neighbor, which is a continuation of their home front wall... I'd have to look closer. Although for a quick fix I'll first try to move the latch in a better position. Thank you for all the info! Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 19:00
  • Well, since someone deleted my comment, I guess we'll never know. But I distinctly remember suggesting that he replace the latch with a different type of latch - such as a regular doorknob. I do not see any comments anywhere that suggested switching to a different latch.
    – Ed on PCR
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 14:02
  • @EdonPCR - then that should be in an answer, not a comment. Comments are for requesting clarification.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 15:06
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The fix the gate needs will rest on a few things. One already mentioned in the comments, adding cable or re-orienting the diagonals to support the gate properly. I would choose the redoing of the diagonals over a cable for esthetic reasons, but the cable will do a great job of correcting the sag.

Some of the sag may be from the top rails to the left of the gate in the picture, may have separated a bit, although it cannot be readily seen in the picture. If it has, pulling it back perhaps into plumb may relieve the rubbing the latch is doing to the wall, or maybe lessen it.

Looking at the latch itself, it appears there is a little room to relocate the latch that does the rubbing, perhaps a 1/4" away from the wall from where it is now. It may need less to clear, it does appear there is about 1/2" to work with, but to move the latch less than a 1/4" will be difficult since the screws would try to go back in the old holes. The 1/4" back should get the screws into new wood, I would still fill the old holes with wood carved to fit the old holes, so the wood where the new screw locations are will be well backed up and last longer.

Edit: I just seen the screw hole relocation was mentioned too. Also the comment about the turnbuckle is correct, I have seen them twist gates too. If the hardware is included, set the turnbuckle within the gate, not applied to the face edge of the frame, but inside, centered within the frame width itself.

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If you can't move the screws, for a quick but lasting fix, you could file or grind down the ball end on the latch. Take a few mm off the length, and smooth it over nicely to more of a ball shape.

But it might be preferable to move the screw holes anyway, if necessary by filling the existing holes so you can drill close to them. To fill outdoors I'd drill out for dowels, glued in with exterior wood glue, but a simpler approach is to use epoxy.

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  • I'm not sure how difficult it would be to file the latch unless I remove it (I have a vise in the garage). I think I'll just try to move it. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 18:58
  • Fair enough. If the screws turn out to be a problem, I'd get a chair, sit on it with the gate held between my knees, and file it. Or use 2 sandbags to hold the gate, which is what I'd do if using the angle grinder
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 19:15

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