You have several different gate latch types to choose from when you start to shop, so knowing which one is the best choice can be a challenging task. For starters, you can break your gate latch types into two broad classes, including actual types and gate latch categories. The gate latch categories typically refers to the latching mechanism’s design, and the gate latch types refer to the style of the locking mechanism and the materials used in the design.
For this reason, we’ve created a simple and straightforward guide to help you find the perfect gate latch type for your privacy fence, shed, or project. We’re going to outline both classes with pricing, materials, and more below.
Three Main Gate Latch Categories
The gate latch category refers to how the latch is designed. In short, the category your gate latch falls into will depend on what mechanisms it uses to make the gate latch. There are three main categories.
Category One – Gravity
The first category for latch gate types is a gravity gate latch. Just like you’d get from the name, these latches use gravity to close. This means that gravity will slowly force the latch down into the barricading strike plate. Once the latch hits the strike plate, the gate is considered to be locked and closed. Since the latch has to fall into this strike plate in order for it to lock, this gate latch type is always two-sided. This means that you can open the lock from either side without an issue in most instances. In a lot of the designs, you’ll get a hole for a padlock to go through.
When you install your gravity gate latch, you’ll install it on the inside of the door. However, you can install it on the outside if you so choose. Whichever way you prefer, you can easily open it from either side of the door. A lot of people pick out this latch if they want to keep their children or pets inside of a fenced in space. They won’t give you a lot of protection from intruders since there is no pin or key, and because you can open them from both sides.
The biggest benefit of this gate latch type is that it is self-latching. So, whenever you close the gate or the wind comes up and blows it shut, the latch will lock by itself without any influence from you. This makes it very simple to use. It’s also nice if you have kids because they can lock the gate too. The only thing you have to do is close it all of the way.
A second benefit of this locking system is that it’s very easy to install. Even if you don’t have a lot of tools or experience, you should be able to install it on your own. The biggest downside is that it’s not a security measure that will prevent any intruders from coming in.
Category Two – Slide Bolt
The slide bolt gate latch type is one of the most common ones for helping you secure your fence. It comes with a traditional deadbolt design that works by sliding the rod mechanism into the securing bolt, and the bolt will hold the door in place. These are one-sided latches, and you can secure them from the inside. You can even add a bolt gate to both an out and in-swinging fence door, and this makes this gate latch type more functional and versatile than others. The functionality is the biggest benefit of this latch too. It will help to hold the door in place in virtually any scenario because the only way to move the rod is to lift it and slide it out of the latch.
Also, this option is a lot more protective than other options. Almost every gate latch type on the list comes with a lockable feature, and you can add a padlock for more protection. This makes this option the most protective out of the three broad classes. Aso, they are very cost-effective while coming in a range of options. So, it’s a great pick for anyone who is on a tight budget.
The biggest downside of this latch is that it can be a little more challenging to open the fence doors since it’s a one-sided lock. However, this is also an upside for security purposes, but it can be annoying if you have to enter and exit the area several times a day.
Category Three – Spring Loaded
The spring-loaded gate latch type is another popular class. This latch will vary from gravity-style latches because the latching mechanism has a spring to move it instead of relying on gravity. The spring gives you a much smoother closing action, but it also drives up the cost of the latch system. How this latch operates is that the latch arm will snap into place because of the spring’s pressure, and you’re the one that applies this pressure.
Just like the gravity-style latch, this one is also a two-sided design. So, you can easily open the gate on your fence from either side of the gate. However, unlike the gravity system, this one has locking options, and this makes it more secure out of the two. You’ll typically find these latches on in-swinging doors, but you can do a reverse installation and put them on out-swinging doors.
One big reason why you may want this gate latch type is because it’s very easy to install, and virtually anyone will be able to install it themselves with little experience and minimal tools. This can save you on installation costs. However you do have to keep in mind that they’re less secure than bolt latches. They’re also the most challenging to install out of all three categories.
When you pick a category for your gate latch, you’ll instantly narrow down your search criteria and make it easier to select the one that is going to work best for your needs. IMG_1873 by Giles Moss / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Four Main Gate Latch Types
Inside the three categories we touched on above, you can break it down further. When you pick from this category, you’re going to focus on your aesthetic preferences more than anything else.
This gate latch type works just like you imagine it would. They are a one-way lock that will keep a single side of the gate shut when you activate the bolt. You’ll also only be able to slide the bolt closed on one side unless you have a setup where you can reach over and unbolt it from the other side. It’s an ideal choice because it’s much more secure than other choices. Additionally, many of these latches come with additional locking options like space to put a padlock to make it even more secure and more difficult to open.
The biggest downside of this gate latch type is that it can be difficult to get back into your space if you accidentally lock yourself out. You’ll have to go over your fence, go through the house and around into your yard, or call and have someone come and open it for you for a fee.
This gate latch type is very similar to the ring latch. It also operates very similarly to it, even if they have differences. The biggest difference between the two is that the lever has a lever handle on it instead of a ring on both sides of your fence. To open the door, all you have to do is open the lever. Once you do, the door will open if you push it. Closing the door is a little more involved since it depends if your gate latch type is a spring loaded or gravity-based one. Most options fall into the gravity category.
One big benefit of this latch is that it’s very easy for adults to open but children can struggle with it. So, it can easily hold both pets and children into your fenced-in space more effectively while making it easy for adults to come and go. Additionally, you can install it on swing out or swing in gates. So, you can access your lever from both sides of the fence. However, this same feature makes it less secure than other options, and this is a significant drawback. However, you can also purchase lockable levers to negate this.
The ring gate latch type has a two-sided design to it that allows you to operate it from either side of your fence. On the outside of the fence, you can easily put the backplate with a ring on it, and the inside of the fence will have a backplate and a ring that attaches to the latch arm. To open the door, all you do is turn the ring. Once you do, the arm will lift out of the catch and allow you to go through the door. You can also open the door from either side.
How this particular pick closes will depend on which gate latch category it falls into. This style can have spring loaded or gravity lock activations. You can refresh how each works by looking back at the categories we touched on above. The biggest benefit of this type of latch is that you can open it from the inside or outside without a problem. This is great if you’re not trying to add layers of security to your home or yard. The downside is that it’s not a secure option. If you’re worried about slowing down or stopping potential intruders, this isn’t the gate latch type you want.
The thumb gate latch type is very popular. It works well because it has a thumb depressor and a latching mechanism. When you push down on the setup’s thumb depressor, the latch will lift up and let you open your gate. When you don’t press down on the thumb depressor, the latch will fall and lock your gate.
Most of these latch styles are gravity latches. The gravity will force the latch to fall into the plate whenever you release the pressure from the thumb depressor. This gate latch type will only work with an in-swinging gate style. However, you also have the option of installing it as a double-sided mechanism. If you pick this one, it can come with a lock to increase your security measures.
The biggest benefit of this latch is that it’s very easy to use. All you have to do is push down on the thumb depressor and pull the door open. To close the gate, you have to push the door shut without pressing on the thumb depressor. Another benefit is that this style is very aesthetically pleasing, and it goes with many decor types. Since it’s very elegant and simple, it’s a great choice if you’re concerned with appearances.
You can further break down the categories into four specific types, and this allows you to compare similar lock styles quickly and easily to speed up your shopping experience. Gate Latch by Can Pac Swire / CC BY-NC 2.0
Five Popular Gate Latch Materials
When you start looking at gate latch types, you’ll notice that they come with several material choices. Any of these materials work for gate latches, but some come with more benefits than others. Also, the cost can vary significantly between material types.
First up is aluminium, and it’s a very popular material choice because it’s resistant to wear and tear while staying durable and lightweight. Aluminium is silver, but you can easily get different aluminum gate latch types in different colored powder if the silver color doesn’t match your look. The biggest benefit of picking out this material is that it is very naturally-resistant to corrosive chemicals and elements. So, you’ll be able to use it in virtually any planting zone without an issue.
A second benefit of this material type is that it is very budget-friendly. It’s usually one of the most cost-effective choices out of any of the materials in this list. However, if you choose to get a latch that has a color painted on it, it can eventually chip. If this happens, you’ll have to repaint it.
- Cost: $5.00 to $20.00. The cost depends on the design, additional features, and design you pick out.
Bass is a slightly less common material used for different gate latch types. You may choose it if you’re trying to get a colonial or traditional look to your home, or if you like the heavy metal feel that brass can give you. The biggest reason that someone would choose this material over others is if you’re specifically trying to achieve the colonial style in your home. Brass can immediately make a space look a lot more traditional and dated.
A lot of people choose other materials over brass because brass can tarnish over time. You’ll have to make a point to clean it regularly and apply a UV-resistant coating to the metal to keep it in good working order. If you’re not a fan of the extra work, you should pick another material.
- Cost: $20.00 to $50.00. The cost depends on the design, additional features, and design.
If you’re more concerned about the final look of your fence, you may want to pay a little more to have a bronze latch installed. This gate latch type will age beautifully, and this is part of the reason they cost more. They’re also usually very ornate when you compare them to traditional gate latch types, and most of the latches get specially designed with high-end and artistic looks in mind.
Bronze also ages very well, and it doesn’t need any powder coating because it’ll naturally age with exposure to the elements. It’ll get darker over time, and it’ll eventually turn from a dark copper color to more of a dark green. You can avoid it getting this green coloring by applying a wax coating on an annual basis.
However, this is a very expensive latch type to have, and it’s easily one of the most expensive picks on the list because it’s a more high-end option. So, this makes it not suitable for tighter budgets, but it never hurts to look.
- Cost: $75.00 to $500. The cost depends on the design, additional features, and design.
When it comes to materials for gate latch types, iron is usually the most popular. It has a rich history that dates back to the Old World, and it’s still in use today. The reason that it’s been popular for so long is that it’s heavy, strong, and attractive-looking. Any gate latch that features this material will have a powder coating on it. The coating helps to protect your latch from rust and elemental corrosion. Because of this, you should have no problem for years with this gate latch type. However, you do need to clean it regularly using steel wool and spray it with a protectant.
The biggest downside of iron is that it’s not very long-lasting when you have it exposed to corrosive environments like the beach or on the seaside. If you live in these areas, it’s a good idea to pick out another material to ensure that it lasts.
- Cost: $20.00 to $100. The design, size, and additional features will determine your final price.
Stainless steel is another popular option when it comes to gate latch types. It’s very similar to aluminum. However, it’s stronger, heavier, and less likely to sustain damage under pressure or fluctuating temperatures. So, that means that latches made out of this material will be extremely strong. It’s also not likely that you’ll have to purchase a new stainless steel latch for several years because it has a much longer lifespan to it.
As a bonus, you can also find stainless steel options in several different colors. This is possible because the stainless steel gets covered in a colored powder coating. They can add another layer of protection to the latch itself, and they also change the color of the material. However, stainless steel is also a slightly more expensive pick. If you’re on a tighter budget, you may go for an aluminum latch material over this one due to the price without sacrificing durability.
- Cost: $30.00 to $75.00. The additional features, design, and size will dictate the final price.
Important Gate Latch Type Considerations
Now that you have a decent grasp on the main gate latch types, materials, and how they work, there are a few things you should consider when you start shopping for your new latch to make sure you get the correct one. If you’re after something to improve your security, or you have a fence that serves a specific purpose like to go around the pool, there are gate latch types that may serve you better than others.
You may be tempted to use traditional door hardware on your outdoor gate, but the experts don’t recommend it. This is due to the fact that it doesn’t come designed to handle seasonal wood movement, and it’s limited to working on doors or items with the traditional thickness levels. If you’re not sure what we mean by seasonal wood movements, we’ll explain it below.
Any wood that you leave outside and exposed to the elements will contract and expand throughout the year as the seasons change. If you install normal door hardware during the drier summer months, you’ll notice that the wet wood in the winter expands slightly due to the moisture content. This can cause the latch to not catch properly.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you install your latch during a time when the wood was wet and expanded, it can cause problems when the wood shrinks again as it dries out. This can lead to the latch not catching properly and holding it closed during the hotter summer months.
Also, the front and internal doors in your home don’t have the same response to weather, heat, and moisture content in the air. So, traditional door hardware isn’t designed to work with these issues. To prevent all of this, you want to ensure that you pick materials that are designed for outdoor use. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure it allows for seasonal movement, and you should pick out a gate latch type that is specifically made for an outdoor gate. You should also note that wood has a different installation method over iron, aluminum, steel, or other metals.
Double or Sliding Gates
If you have two or more moving doors, you’ll have to factor design decisions into which gate latch type you pick out to ensure that it’s both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Bigger openings that span 10 feet or more will require more prominent hardware to complement the design. It’s also important that you pick out a latch that has a complementary dummy handle on the fixed look to give you a symmetrical look.
Installing a gate spot can also help your gate latch type last much longer than it originally would in this case. Sliding or double doors are notorious for banging together, and this puts a lot of stress on the materials and metal of the latch to lead to failure or malfunction if you don’t address it.
A gate stop is a mechanism that you install to stop the door from swinging wildly and damaging the latch arm or hinges over time. The stopper forms a boundary that your door can’t go past. This protects it from damage when it gets windy out and the breeze’s force can push the fence much further than it gets designed to go. This is good because it can help prevent damage. It can also shield a rolling or double gate from crashing into one another when it closes. The jarring movement can eventually cause the arm on your gate latch to break, bend, or sustain damage that interferes with how it operates. It can also pull them completely out of the post.
You can buy this inexpensive addition to your gate for $20.00 or less. However, it’s a great investment to help prevent expensive repairs in the future. Broken latch arms or hinges mean that you may have to replace the full hardware package to get it working correctly again.
When you install your gate latch type, you want to take a close look at the instructions attached to the latch itself. Each latch can come with different instructions, so you should look at the directions first before you start anything. Also, when you read through the manual, make sure that you have the necessary tools. Once you have everything you need, you can start the installation process. Make sure you measure accurately as you work to get good end results.
We’ve outlined seven different gate latch types for you to consider for your next project. You can go through and decide which ones will work best for your wants and needs, install it, and see how well it works for your space.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.