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Commercial Pedestrian Gate Access Control

Updated on May 30, 2015

November 2010

Gate lock installations are fun! Yes they are.

Two main factors complicate gate access control installations:

  • Gate construction
  • Gate location

This article will discuss five kinds of access control used on gates:

  • Keyed Locks
  • Stand-alone mechanical combination locks
  • Battery operated stand-alone pin code / credential locks
  • Hardwired electric locks with hardwired access controls
  • Electromagnetic Locks

Gate Construction

Gates can be made of a wide variety of materials ranging from wood to vinyl.  This article will deal with installations on gates made of wood or metal.  The factor that most affects access control installation is the dimension of the pieces of material into which the locking devices will actually be installed.  Gates usually require modification before a lock can be installed on them.  Usually the gate is designed to blend in with a fence without forethought concerning any kind of locking device. 

Another consideration is whether or not it is possible for people to reach through the gate in order to let themselves in.  If so, then it is necessary either to specify a lock that is locked from both sides or to arrange for the gate to be modified so that people cannot simply reach through.   At right are shown gates modified to inhibit reach-through unauthorized entry.  

Average gate made with steel bar stock.
Average gate made with steel bar stock.
Metal gate with expanded steel mesh to guard against reach-through unauthorized entry.
Metal gate with expanded steel mesh to guard against reach-through unauthorized entry.
Metal gate with sheet metal applied to guard against reach-through unauthorized entry.
Metal gate with sheet metal applied to guard against reach-through unauthorized entry.
Pipe type guard for doorknob locks and cylindrical deadbolts
Pipe type guard for doorknob locks and cylindrical deadbolts | Source


Before prepping your gate for access control, get the template or installation instructions for the access control lock you want to install. Then you will know how to prep your gate.

Wooden Gate Prep

Wooden gate installations can be very similar to wooden door installations except that the sizes of what on a door would be called the lock stile or the door frame are not sized to accommodate any kind of standard installation. If you have the luxury of ordering a gate to your own specifications, you can provide the fence company with a lock and it will be their job to make sure that the lock works properly.

If you are installing a simple mechanical key or combination lock or a stand-alone access control lock, measure the piece of wood into which you would be installing the lock and compare these measurements with those indicated in the lock installation instructions. Typically, if you have a piece of wood that is 1-3/4 inches thick, 5 inches wide and high enough to accommodate the lock height, you are good to go.

On the strike side, the gate post is the place that will receive the latch or bolt or armature of the lock when you close and lock the gate. Therefore you need to prepare the gate post such that when the gate is closed, conditions are nearly identical to conditions when a regular door is closed. In the case of a cylindrical lock or deadbolt, this means the gap between gate and post should not exceed 1/8 inch.

Metal Gate Prep

Usually, unless a gate was manufactured to accept a lock, some welding is required to make a metal gate ready to accept a locking device. Several companies make weldable gate boxes to accommodate a wide variety of locks, and weldable boxes as well to accommodate the strike side. You can see many examples of weldable gate boxes at the Keedex web site.

Metal gates are typically constructed of metal bars that are welded together, so it is easy to reach through them. See illustrations above right for ideas on how to inhibit reach-through unauthorized entry.

Another way to use welding to protect locks from reach-through attack on gates is to enclose the inside turn knob, doorknob or lever in a short length of steel pipe welded otherwise fastened to a weldable gate box (see pipe type guard photo above). This is a little awkward and not always a good solution, but it can be an easy fix if it will work in your application.

Weldable Gate Boxes
Weldable Gate Boxes | Source
Classic Marks Gate Lock
Classic Marks Gate Lock | Source
Securitron GL-1 Electric Gate Lock
Securitron GL-1 Electric Gate Lock | Source
SDC Electric Gate Lock
SDC Electric Gate Lock | Source
Securitron Electromagnetic Gate Lock
Securitron Electromagnetic Gate Lock | Source
Brackets for Securitron Gate Mag Lock
Brackets for Securitron Gate Mag Lock | Source
International Electronics fully weatherproof exit pushbutton
International Electronics fully weatherproof exit pushbutton | Source

Gate Locks

Any lock can be used on a gate given the correct prep, but different kinds of locks offer different levels of access control. This also is where gate location comes in. Exterior gates offer special challenges because whatever lock you choose must be capable of operating out in the weather.

Keyed Locks, Stand-alone Mechanical Combination Locks and Battery Operated Stand-alone Pin Code / Credential locks

Any locking device that can be applied to a standard door can be applied to a gate that is prepared to receive it, e.g., by the installation of a weldable gate box (photo at right). The disadvantage to this is that these locks were not necessarily designed for gate installation.\

Therefore, weather resistance can be a big issue. A very common lock used in gate applications is the Kaba Ilco EE1000 series double sided combination cylindrical lock. In my experience this lock stands up pretty well outside with the exception that, given enough freezing rain, the buttons may freeze. Advanced access control can be accomplished this way by using something like an Alarm Lock PDL3000 series that comes rated "weatherproof". Both Kaba and the Alarm Lock products can be easily retrofitted to existing steel or aluminum gates using weldable gate boxes.

A classic mechanical gate lock is the Marks gate lock, an example of which is shown at right. These locks are primarily designed to go on woven wire gates, but can be used on any gate designed or retrofitted with the specific prep for this unique lock. Made mostly of non-ferrous materials and few moving parts, these locks to very well in exterior gate applications.

It is possible to use a standard key-in-knob or key-in-lever lock with a weldable gate box and an electric strike with its own weldable gate box, and this can often stand up out in the weather for years, but I know of no electric strike that is truly designed for outdoor use.

Hardwired Electric Locks with Hardwired Access Controls

There are many electric gate locks on the market. Most are designed to have a key override, though some have this as an option. A couple of examples are shown at right.

Electromagnetic Locks

Many companies offer sealed electromagnetic locks with electrical conduit fittings that are very suitable for both indoor and outdoor gate applications. As with any outdoor electric device, weatherizing all joints is key to the longevity of the system.

Key to ease of installation is the availability of suitable brackets on which to mount magnet and armature, given the wide variations of gates that are out there. I suggest looking for mounting versatility when choosing an electromagnetic lock for gate application.

When installing any electromagnetic locking system, one needs to provide an means of entry, a means of egress, and a power supply. It is vital to remember that in exterior applications every link in this chain is subject to weather exposure considerations. Choose your components accordingly.

OEM Gate Products

If you don't have a gate yet but want one, you have the luxury of getting a gate already equipped with a locking device, and your choices are myriad. Doing so saves all the work and creativity that goes into retrofit applications and in the end gives you a product that was conceived, designed and built to do what you want it to do, that is, let authorized people in and keep unauthorized people out.

Gate locking is a wonderful and challenging part of the security hardware business. So have fun!


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