You're installing a fence and automatic gate on your property for obvious reasons: security, improved appearance, and the convenience of being able to leave without getting out of your car to physically open the gate.
But what you haven't yet figured out is what type of gate you want. There are two main options and, while they're both going to give you stylish security and accessibility, one may be better for your home or property than the other. These two options are sliding gates and swinging gates.
Both are equally secure, but have different operating requirements and specifications which will be detailed below. The great thing is both allow for many different types of gate materials and have a wide range of weight and length options. Whatever your gate and property specifications are, there is an automatic gate operator that is right for you.
The first thing you have to consider with your gate requirements is the area near where you want to install the gate. This is because certain environmental features may make one model or the other impossible, and it’s better to figure out what is actually available to you right away.
The space your gate will take up is the first deciding factor. Swinging gates have to have the space on one side of the fence to swing all the way open, or at least wide enough to allow a car through. Therefore, you need approximately as much clearance space in front of your gate as the gate’s length (a 20’ gate requires 20’ of clearance).
If you have a shorter driveway area or small parking lot, or simply do not want to have to provide clearance space, then a swinging gate may not work for you. Measure the distance of the space your gate will need to cover and use that measurement to decide if you have enough clearance space. If the distance on either side of your gate is not longer than the gate itself, then a sliding gate is a necessity here.
A sliding gate, however, also has environmental qualifiers to keep in mind. A sliding gate must run along a track that follows the length of the fence next to your gate. Therefore, the area underneath the fence must be relatively flat and free of debris including tree roots, rocks, or uneven areas. If your fence is built on a steep incline that comes right up to the gate, it may be impossible to install a sliding track there.
This would indicate that a swinging gate is a necessity. However, if the track is mostly blocked by small debris like stones, small raised areas, or plants, these can be removed with just a little extra labor. For these reasons among others, sliding gates do require more maintenance than swinging gates on average.
One final environmental factor to consider is the weather your gate will have to operate in. Of course, most gate modules have weatherproof casings, so the mechanics of the gate will not be affected by wind or rain. But while a sliding gate just has to follow its track, a swing gate has to open completely in one direction. This often means operating into or against the wind. If the wind is blowing against your gate, it may struggle to open, open more slowly, or be damaged if the weight of the gate and power of the wind together are too much for the operator.
If you’re not yet decided based on the shape and size of your property, there are still more qualifiers that can help you decide which gate is the ideal choice for you. Sliding and swinging gate operators can both pull large gates, but the optimal weight-to-length ratio is a bit different for each type.
The average commercial gate opener can usually work with gates of up to about 1000 pounds while residential models usually go up to approximately 600 pounds. But the difference between sliding and swinging gate operators’ capabilities is that sliding gate operators can pull a lot more length. This is due to their sliding on a track and not having to control the entire length of the gate all at once.
Swing operators made for up to 600 pounds can generally be used on gates between 10 and 18 feet.
Sliding gates with the same weight limits can be much longer, with smaller models being able to move 27 feet and larger, heavier-duty ones pulling a solid 45 feet of gate. This can be mitigated, however, by using a double swing gate instead of a single, as each side of the gate would only need to be half as long.
Swinging gates operators also generally top out at the 1000 pound mark, while 1 HP sliding gate operators can pull up to 2000 or 2500 pounds if you are willing to invest in a larger, sturdier model. Sliding gates simply do not have to operate under their own weight. If you run a commercial property with large trucks or vehicles that need a greater width clearance, a sliding gate or a double swinging gate is probably a necessity. Like with the length of the gate, getting a double swinging gate instead of a single allows for twice as much weight as that burden will be split between two gate operators.
Last but certainly not least, whether you choose a sliding or swinging gate depends on what look you want for the front of your property. Double swing gates give more of a storybook castle feel and so this is what many homeowners are looking for. A sliding gate can blend right into the fence, leaving your gate inconspicuous and blended into its surroundings.
Once you know what you absolutely need in terms of weight, length, and environment, you can pick a gate that suits your own personal aesthetic desires! Gate operators should work with all types of materials, so whether you want a wooden, steel, or plaster gate, your operator will allow it.