Vintage Iron Gates

In December 2010, PG&E drove through our driveway at 2:30am to repair a downed electrical line. As a result, the heavy trucks sunk in the gravel and left holes in our beautiful circular driveway.  We decided to seek out an entrance gate for security.

Front driveway before the gate installed.

Front driveway before the gate installed.

After more than a year, we found the PERFECT gate from a landscape contractor in Half Moon Bay. I responded to the craigslist.org post within a day and picked it up on October 26, 2011. The wrought iron gate, 14′ wide and dating to the 1950s, was removed from an estate in San Bruno. The style and vintage look was exactly what I was searching for.

However, the size of this gate was a better match for being used on an inside gate to replace an old wooden fence that was falling apart.  We actually found this vintage grape-stake wooden gate laying in the redwood grove.  We installed it using pressure treated 4×4 posts.  Replacing it with a metal gate would be a solution for making it stronger and last longer.

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When I was picking up the gate, the landscape contractor offered to sell me a second gate that was still being removed from the property. I negotiated to buy this larger, 16′ gate for the same price, $500. This gate would be the one for the main entrance road.

Since it would take a few weeks to get this second gate, I took advantage of the time to research the installation.  I was concerned that the hinges were the style that had to be attached to columns with mortar.

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GateView

Waiting for installation

Being that the hinges are still attached to the wrought iron gate because each side had been mortared into cement/brick columns, I was unsure of how to attach the metal gate to fence posts. On November 5, farrier Javier Contrares confirmed that he could weld the gate onto steel posts and recommended SIMMS Metal in downtown San Jose for hinges and beams.

Within a week, I spent my lunch hour at SIMMS metal, asking questions, taking notes and photos. Jesse, an old timer, told me that a steel metal 4 x 4 x 1/8 inch post was strong enough to hold a 150 lb. wrought iron section of fence. The price for a new 20′ beam = $140.00 which they cut in half for you. $70 per 10 foot section.

The other option, 4 x 4 x 1/4 inch was too expensive, a new 20′ beam for $274.40. The one thing I do like about SIMMS metal is that they carry used materials, so for a pricing comparison, a used 4 x 4 x 1/4 inch 8 foot beam would only cost $63.43. Unfortunately, they did not have any.

4x4x1/8 inch beam

4x4x1/8 inch beam

While at SIMMS metal, Jesse told me to go visit P.D. Steel, Inc. 2115 South 10th Street in San Jose because he said they carry hinges and latches. When I arrived at their warehouse, I was blown away. It is owned/operated by a Chinese family who seem to carry every wrought iron design imaginable.

Amazind display of wrought iron.

Amazing display of wrought iron.

I priced steel beams at this shop and learned that they carry 4 x 4 x 3/16 inch thick posts, priced at $175 for a 20′ section.

Also, I had searched and searched online for heavy duty hinges that seemed to cost a fortune with shipping. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that their price was $12 per weld-on barrel hinge. What a deal!

Weld on barrel hinge

Weld on barrel hinge

After this preliminary research, I emailed a long lost friend’s husband, Adam Jacobsen who works as a welder and steel artist for Brianswelding.com.  I wanted an expert’s opinion, and he emailed me back on 11/8/11:

“For a hinge I recommend part#44-2003 from kingmetals.com At my work we use this hinge for all driveway gates, Even very heavy ones. They work great for welding to steel posts. You’ll only need two per post/gate. We’d use 4 x 4 x 1/4′′ steel posts. Let me know if you have any other questions.”

This was helpful feedback, but I did not want to spend so much for that size post, and the hinges through this web site are costly compared to what I could buy in person from P.D. Steel, Inc.

Thanks to Adam’s email and Javier’s ability to weld, I felt comfortable purchasing the second gate for the main driveway entrance. On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2011, I drove back to Half Moon Bay to pick it up.

On December 27, I drove back to SIMMS metal to check out any used steel posts. They didn’t have anything recycled. I was about to purchase the 4 x 4 x 1/8 inch steel posts and then changed my mind. Jesse tried to convince me to purchase this size by jumping on the 20′ beam and telling me that it’ll support the weight of wrought iron since he weighs 200lbs. He said they didn’t carry the 3/16 inches. I tried to learn the difference between 1/4 and 3/16 inch since Adam only uses the 1/4 inch. I did learn that 1/4 inch weighs 12lbs per foot whilst the 3/16 inch weighs 9.5 lbs per foot. I had looked that up online anyway and that didn’t really help figure out the strength in supporting a gate.

I walked out and immediately purchased all my materials from P.D. Steel, Inc. The price of all the materials cost a little over $500.00 which I had budgeted from my first visit to steel warehouses.

I don’t imagine myself being an expert at any materials, but I try to be resourceful at asking professionals advice to gain knowledge.

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The end of December, 2011 was spent removing the pressure treated 4×4 from the old wooden fence so I can get a hole ready for the metal beam. Javier will be coming on Sunday, January 9 so I want one beam ready for welding to see how it works out.

It was quite a challenge to dig a deep hole by a redwood grove.  The roots were in the way, and I did not want to cut them out.

After the hole was dug, the bottom was filled with 6 inches of gravel, and two 2 5/8′′ rebar stakes 5 feet long were added for the ultimate support.  Six bags of cement were used and about half a bag of mixed cement was funneled down the post to secure the rebar inside. It was recommended to mix the cement with water, don’t dump a bag in the hole with water which leaves air pockets.

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It was also advisable to cement in one beam and then weld on one half of the gate in order to get the exact measurements for the other side.

January 2012

Fortunately, we were able to attach one section of the wrought iron gate to the steel 3/16 inch posts with weld-on barrel hinges (5/6 inch thick). First thing I learned is that the reason professionals use 1/4 inch thick steel posts is because the thinner the metal, the more likely the heat from welding will burn a hole in it.  The 3/16″ posts worked out just fine.

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Javier removing the original hinges.

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Welding on the gate, making sure it is level.

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A few days later were worked on installing the second beam, trying to get the measurements exact.

Posts slide over the rebar before cementing in place.

Posts slide over the rebar before cementing in place.

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The side of the gate was warped. It had to be cut off and a new piece of metal welded on before the hinges could be added. A slight delay.

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The metal beams were spray painted black with a special paint, and an end cap added for decoration and to keep out water.

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Finished. Now the search was on for a smaller metal entrance gate to go next to the driveway gates.

February, 2012

Now, we tackled the main driveway entrance gates.  The same scenario of digging large holes, cementing in the beams, and welding on each gate.  This time, instead of digging into roots, we ended up finding large chunks of cement.  Always something!

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March, 2012

Thankful the project is finally finished.  We have two beautiful, vintage gates.

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