What are the Different Types of Driveway Gates?
When you first decide to have an automatic gate installed, you may feel like you’re delving into a world of cryptic and esoteric lingo that all sounds like something out of The DaVinci Code or just plain ole gobbledygook. Couple that with the many choices and considerations you must muddle through and it might all start to seem too much.
Let’s demystify this Klingon Gate language so that you can start to decide on the type of gate that would work best for your project.
This article is a bit involved so let’s break the general categories down first. We’ll discuss:
- Slide Gates;
- Swing Gates;
- Barrier Gates;
- Vertical Pivot Gates;
- and Vertical Lift Gates.
So now that we've introduced you to the general gate “ice cream flavors”, be on the lookout for some “toppings”, so to speak. The “toppings”, in this case, are that there are different gate types in each category. For example, you’ll find that there is more than one type of slide gate.
Don’t worry, though, this is all a piece of cake and soon enough you’ll be a well-informed consumer, speaking the very same Klingon Gate language of your gate installer, and communicating your needs to him or her with ease.
Now let’s dive into the differences of each gate type, and learn what makes each gate a preferred option for different applications.
Automated Slide Gates
As its name implies, a slide gate either slides on wheels from left to right or right to left, not unlike many department store automatic doors.
In order to accommodate a slide gate, on either the right or left of the gate, you must have space that is at least equal to the width of your driveway, and then some. Imagine you have a 16’ wide driveway and, therefore, a 16’ slide gate. When that gate opens to allow you to drive into your garage after returning home from shopping, the entire 16’ gate needs enough room to its right or left to fit its 16’ heft, plus an additional 3’ of room, so 19’ of space to the left or right of your gate would be required in this example. If you don’t have enough room to fit the gate on either side of your driveway when it’s open, then a slide gate isn’t likely to work for you (unless you can somehow trade a fresh baked lemon merengue pie or two for some of your neighbor’s driveway space).
Okay, now on to the different types of slide gates:
- Rear Pipe Track;
”V”-track Slide Gates
“V”-track gates are the most common type of slide gate and are quite reliable. They are, however, not a good option in areas where there will be a lot of snow or ice buildup, as the “V”-track needs to be kept clear of debris.
A “V”-track slide gate typically needs to be 3’ wider than the gate opening in order to have an electric gate opener installed.
Rear Pipe Track Slide Gates
A rear pipe track is common on lower end chain link gates. Just like the “V”-track option, the rear pipe option also need to be 3’ wider than the opening.
So here’s a wee bit of detail about rear pipe track gates to wade through that leads to an important point, so hang in there.
On the tail end of the gate there are two wheels mounted that sit on pipes which are mounted to fence panels. On the front end of the gate there is usually a wheel carriage assembly that consists of one rubber wheel and one “V”-track wheel.
If you have an existing rear pipe track slide gate with two rubber wheels on the front of the gate, the gate should not be automated without replacing one of the wheels with a “V”-track wheel and installing a ground track. Your gate installer should know this already but it doesn't hurt to discuss it with him or her.
Cantilever Slide Gates
If the gate is going to be installed somewhere where there is a lot of snow or ice, a cantilever gate is preferable. Cantilever gates do not have any wheels on the ground, and therefore slide over the driveway without being bothered by debris on the driveway.
The wheels, instead, are on a vertical post on one side of the gate--the gate then fits in between those wheels, like cheese in between two pieces of bread. The wheels on the post pull or push the gate to open or close it.
Here we go with the “toppings” again. There are a few different types of cantilever gates:
- Full cantilever gates
- Top hang cantilever gates
- Bottom track cantilever gates
We’re not going to get into the weeds by going over the details of these different types of cantilever slide gates lest your eyes begin to roll back in your head. A professional gate installer can help you pick the best option for your application.
The biggest downside to all cantilever gates is that they require more space to slide into than a typical slide gate. Cantilever gates have to be 150% longer than the driveway opening, so if the opening is 20 feet, the gate must be 30 feet long.
Swing gates swing open like the door to your bedroom or bathroom might, simply opening inward or outward.
Oh, and keep in mind that an outward swinging gate must be set back from a street or sidewalk enough so as not to bap a passerby or car in the “face” when it opens.
Here we go with the options again. There are two main types of swing gates:
- single swing gates;
- and double swing gates.
Single swing gates open like your bedroom door might while double swing gates open like French Doors would.
It is preferable to keep single swing gates under 16’ wide, however some gate operators are rated for up to a 20’ gate. Swing gates are typically installed on a level plane, so your driveway should be fairly flat.
Double swing gates are more aesthetically appealing, and allow for smaller gate leaves (you can think of this as smaller “doors” if you’d like) which don’t allows the gate opener to take a break and not work as hard to open and close the gate as it would for a single swing gate.
Live on a hill so that your driveway has a slope? Uphill swing gates may be required in some applications.
Uphill swing gates present an engineering challenge and should only be installed by the most experienced of driveway gate installers. There is a limit as to how much of a slope a swing a gate can be installed on. This maximum slope limit is dependent on the type, weight, and length of the gate, as well as on the type of gate operator.
Another option for your consideration: Lift and swing gates. The hydraulic lift and swing gate openers actually lift the gates up before they start to swing--they then continue to rise as they swing open. Although these gates are more expensive, these are perfect if you live in an area where you can expect a lot of snow and ice and you don’t have room to have a cantilever gate installed.
Barrier gate operators are what you see in parking garages, at toll booths, and at other traffic control areas. Imagine sticking your left arm straight out at your side at shoulder-height, and then when someone wants to walk to your left, you lift your arm up so that your fingers point toward the sky and let them pass, then lower your arm back to your side to stop the next person from passing. That’s a barrier gate, except made of wood or steel or aluminum and not human tissue—at least we’ve never heard of a human flesh gate but who knows what’s possible with these new 3D printers. But we digress…
Barrier gates are intended purely for vehicle or traffic control.
Barrier gate operators can be a cost effective solution to reduce unwanted traffic, but they do not provide any security and are not very visually appealing. You probably wouldn’t see one installed in the driveway of a multi-million dollar mansion unless, maybe, it’s Hugh Hefner’s mansion. But we digress again…
Vertical Pivot Gates
Back to imagining that same up and down action of the barrier gate, but instead of a scrawny piece of wood or steel, you've now got a hefty 8' tall steel gate rising and falling to let cars through. In the closed position the gate is across the driveway but it’s in the open position where you get to see the magic happen, as 8+ feet of gate rises so that its side now sticks vertically up into the air.
Such gates can be a good option when there isn't enough room for a swing or slide gate, and a barrier gate does not provide enough security.
Vertical Lift Gates
Vertical lift gates are almost exclusively used in industrial applications. This is partially due to their cost.
Despite their industrial use, they really are an incredible sight to behold.
Let’s try a little role playing again.
Hold both arms straight out in front of you, zombie-style, and pick up a 12” wide rectangular plastic block (an imaginary one will do just fine).
With arms completely outstretched, raise that block almost above your head and then imagine a wee one runs towards you, wrapping an arm around one of your legs, and asks if she can have ice cream. You say she can and she heads off towards the kitchen to fetch some Cherry Garcia. Once she’s gone, you lower your arms and the block back down to their starting position.
Now put the block down and go enjoy some ice cream.
What does that have to do with a vertical lift gate? Well it’s almost exactly how such a gate operates.
The gate, say 8’ tall and 16’ wide, lifts vertically, straight up above vehicles, allowing a vehicle to pass directly under the gate.
Such a gate is very secure and, in fact, probably the most secure type of gate that can be installed. They can be used with any type of gate panel, and therefore can be aesthetically stunning.
Summing it Up
Any of our certified driveway gate installation partners will be able to help you pick the type of gate that is right for your application.