The Ups and Downs of Electronic Access with Wood Gates
Prowell Woodworks does not warranty any gate for eventual repairs that are the result of 'strike-plate actuated' electronic access hardware or the use of standard residential locksets.
Such hardware requires a swing clearance of 1/4" or less. This is the standard clearance for residential doors utilizing residential locksets. Unlike a front residential door which is insulated on one side and further protected by jambs and headers and a roofline, the gates are fully exposed to the elements on 360 degrees to a combination of rain, sleet, snow, sunlight, heat, dew and the relative humidity of the air itself. All of this absorbed and released from the wood as a living environment, resulting in a gate width that changes and will continue to change, or breath, for the 50 years or so it adorns your property.
If you are in, say, South Carolina or Hawaii or the Caribbean, with excessive humidity and heat interspersed with afternoon rains, the gates will breath more heavily. Therefore the risks of swelling beyond a narrow 1/4" swing gap to bounce off the posts is much higher. If you are in San Francisco, with its even temperate climate, the risks are reduced simply because the gate is not reacting to excessive shifts in weather.
When a gate has only 1/4" clearance, it runs the risk of expanding to wedge against it's post or jamb and require yanking and shoving to open. The repeated yanking and shoving over the course of weeks or months is not good for the joinery. The gate in many cases will continue to expand to where it simply bounces off the jamb or post. This results in the potential damage due to the wind catching it and slamming it repeatedly to bounce off the jamb or post for the duration of the wet season, which again is not good for the joinery.
The percentage of those gates with 1/4" clearance resulting in the above scenario is about 20%, which is far too high a risk if you are in the gate business. We are not willing to replace 20% of all gates we build simply to accommodate a request for 'strike-plate actuated' electronic access or the aesthetic preference of a standard residential lockset.
If you prefer to move forward, we will build your gate, but we will not be liable for damage due to the above issues. In other words, we will repair or replace your gate, but not for free. This is a contingent appearing several places on the web site, such as the Payment Page, as well as the statement requiring an approval sign-off.
A thorough explanation becomes complicated, and for those of you who are interested, the remainder of this page will address the issue on a more technical level.
STANDARD LOCKSETS: You'll notice that the latch bolt below has a beveled edge. This interacts with the strike plate and as the door closes, the beveled edge of the bolt withdraws into the lock cylinder with a spring action. Once the bevel bolt reaches the center of the strike plate (the hole in the center of the plate), the spring releases and the bolt is fully engaged into the center of the strike plate. Because the bevel is on only one side of the bolt, it cannot be pushed open without turning the lock handle that withdraws the beveled latch bolt back into the lock cylinder in the door. To open the door, you must turn the lock handle.
The latch bolt is a standard diameter, simply because all doors are standard thicknesses from 1-3/8" thick for interior doors to 1-3/4" thick for entry doors. The diameter of the latch bolt dictates the angle of the bevel, which in turn dictates the actual length of the bevel that comes into contact with the strike plate. By the nature of this, virtually all of your interior and residential entry doors are relegated to a gap of approximately a nickel's thickness. You might now go have a look at all the doors in your house to verify this. Bearing in mind that these doors are not gates. The residential entry door is insulated on one side and protected by a jamb and header, as well as a roofline. The interior doors are 100% insulated from the elements.
THE 'STRIKEPLATE ACCUATED'' ELETRONIC RELEASE LATCH: These are mounted to either 1) the post / jamb, or 2) the gate itself.
Because the length of the steel bar mounted to the jamb or post is negotiable, the proper 3/8" swing clearance can be accommodated. Any handle or grip becomes a non-functional dummy. (The only disadvantage is the added cost of us embedding the wiring within the gate from the strikeplate to exit along the hinge edge of the gate. )
MAGNETIC LATCH: Although this is the only system that allows for the expansion and contraction of the breathing wood, it is also somewhat complicated to install on site, and somewhat cumbersome visually. A plate is mortised into the latch stile of the gate that contacts the wired corresponding box mounted to the post, making a connection that comprises a 300lb rating. As the gate swells and shrinks with the seasons, the plate simply slides across the magnet, allowing for the full 1/2" swing gap we recommend.
Magnal locks are built on the premise of an electromagnetic field.
The product retails for $108-140.
ARMATURE MOTORS: These are designed more for driveway gates where one end of a motorized cylinder mounts to the post and the other end mounts to the bottom horizontal rail of the gate. It is wired to a junction box at the grade as well as to a keypad mounted to the post or column. When activated, they automatically open the gate at a steady rate, and close the gate at a steady rate, requiring no latch of lockset. They are effective but cumbersome. A fairly bulky piece of hardware costing about $1000 that for gates opening in toward the residence, are not visible from the street. For gates opening out toward the street, the motor is exposed and visible upon approach.
The principles of a flush-joined wood gate.
Wood comes to us from the forests of British Columbia, spec'd for a minimum number of growth rings that insures the harvest is fully matured. We cannot buy wood from the American northwest simply because it is harvested far too early. From BC, the logs are shipped to the mill of our choice in Washington state, and from the mill they are shipped to our shop in northern California as dimensioned lumber that is clear, vertical-grained, and kiln-dried to about 7% moisture. All three regions--BC, Washington, and N. California--share more or less a similar climate. Lots of rain, temperate humidity, and mild summers.
Once it leaves the shop, as an assembled product, and embarks on what's often a cross-country transit to a climate wholly different from its genetic DNA over the past several millennium, it experiences for the first time, once installed, the full 360-degree exposure to a climate of severe winters, or humid summers where the air is thick as Jello.
The result, for several weeks, is the wood breathing heavily. The way someone from San Francisco might do if visiting Mississippi in August. The wood acclimates and adjusts, gasping and panting in a sequence of expansion and contraction that goes on for several weeks until eventually stabilizing and settling into a pattern of minimal breathing that will last for the next several decades.
It's those first several weeks that present a problem for all those preferring an electronic access for their gates.
Why is kiln-dried 7% moisture preferred? If we worked with green wet wood that had been logged the week before and was still wet with the plasma of living cells, our tight joints would open up as the wood dried and shrank the way firewood must dry before being burned. For assemblies relying on woodworking joinery instead of fasteners, it is essential that the joints are cut and fashioned with a relative moisture between 7-9%. (less than this and the cell structure of the wood fiber itself breaks down, hence why you see very little in the way of exposed wood assemblies in places like Phoenix or Las Vegas).
But 1/4" is too little to accommodate the acclimating expansion of our gates. The gates, upon arriving and being installed and absorbing the changes in varying climate regions once fully exposed, naturally begin to swell once they experience their first season with humidity. (So if the gate is installed between late October and early March, everything will be fine until the heat and summer rains and daily humidity of the warmer season arrives).
The gate swells and quickly it swells beyond the 1/4" gap of your electronic lockset and it continues to swell until it becomes wedged tight against your gate post. The electronic lock is instantly disabled and at this juncture the gate must be shoved and pushed and yanked simply to gain access. A horrible set of parameters for the gate. And because the gate will not latch or close, it often is left to slam and bang against the post with each thrust of wind. And eventually something gives. First your patience followed by a temper tantrum followed by a string of cursing expletives directed toward Prowell Woodworks. Followed by the gate finally giving in to the abuse and manhandling and our homeowners calling demanding a new replacement gate.
The above scenario occurs about 20% of the time with any gate shipped anywhere with a swing clearance of anything less than the preferred 3/8" swing gap.
So you will see others with electronic access system that seem to work just fine. Perhaps even your neighbor's gate. But if you are in the gate building business, a 20% recall rate is about 19.999% higher than what is acceptable.
Therefore, any gate subsequently utilizing a standard door lock or electronic access loses it's warranty the moment it leaves our shop. We will not replace such a gate. There is no way to hide the evidence of such a lockset. You gambled, and the price for those whose imperatives are electronic security, the next option is wrought iron, preceded by a round of cursing expletives directed toward Prowell Woodworks.
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