The chain link fence does two things. It either keeps something in a location, or it keeps something or someone out. Often it will combine these functions, but what ever the intent of the fence, without a means to get through the fence when needed, the fence becomes an even bigger obstacle than intended. It may even lose the ability to serve its very simple functions. You cannot keep something inside of a fenced yard if you can’t get it in!
As we have discussed previously, gates are generally simple affairs. The amount of engineering that goes into a gate for a chainlink fence will depend upon the required size, method of opening, and the amount of security required. Every gate will require a means to keep it closed when necessary. This function is usually answered, at least one manually operated gates, by a latch of some sort.
Fence latches tend to be of very simple and robust design. This works to the benefit of the fence owner, because a simple design will require less maintenance attention. Many popular latch types can go for years, even in adverse conditions, with little more attention than a squirt of lubricating oil, and still perform their function of holding the gate closed and allowing it to open, just as well as the day it was installed.
Outdoor latches depend upon spring action or gravity for operation. Both types will feature an automatic or semi-automatic latching action. This means that when you push the gate closed, the latch will engage all by itself. Other latches will require the operator to manually latch the gate, however these latches tend to be more secure.
Speaking of security, some latches will include a keyed locking device in their design. More often, the owner will have to provide a separate padlock. Although this seems an added expense, a padlock is generally more secure than an installed lock as well as more weather resistant. If the lock is not needed, there is no worry of the padlock inadvertently locking itself.
One of the simplest of automatic latches is the single flat spring latch. The spring itself is the latch, when the gate is closed the spring will ride over a two sided cam and snap into the notch between the cams. This type allows two way swing of the gate, but may fail to latch if the gate is swung too hard. Another popular and simple dual swing latch is the butterfly latch. A plate on either side of the gate’s upright pole will be lifted as the gate is shut. The plate on the other side prevents the gate from swinging past the shut position, and the plate that lifts out of the way will drop to hold the gate closed.
The fork latch takes several forms. The most common seems to be the manual fork latch. The latch is lifted to unlatch the gate, and then pushed over the gate pole when the gate is closed. Although this type of fork latch is very secure, it will require that the gate be held in the closed position until the latch is engaged. The semi-automatic fork latch is mounted on a rod which is lifted to unlatch the gate. When the gate is closed it will be caught in the fork and the rod will drop back into place.