Oak gate fix, any thoughts?


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28 Aug 2016
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I have been asked by a customer if I can sort out their Oak gates, it's a bit of a tricky one so thought I would ask on here in case anyone has done similar?

It's a pair of electric driveway gates about 15 years old. The T&G boarding hasn't had enough clearance so is popping out on both as you can see in the photos.

Oak gates 1.jpg

Oak gates 2.jpg

Oak gates 3.jpg

There is so much pressure on the boards they are causing the Oak rails to bend 😬

Oak gates 4.jpg

If they could be laid down on the floor to fix it would be a much easier job but unfortunately that won't be happening.

It's going to be a bit of a suck it and see job, I guess ideally all the boarding would come out and each board would be reduced in width by maybe 3mm but it certainly won't be that easy! I'm guessing the bent boards wont go back flat so will need replacing. I suspect you could almost lose a board from each gate to give the desired clearance but because of the shaped tops this wont work.

The more I look at it the more problems I see, like removing the boards that are behind the bottom hinge and of course these are the problem boards.

I think the customer would be happy if I just took out the badly bent boards and replaced them with narrower new ones but even just getting the boards out won't be easy, although looks like they are just screwed and plugged.

Any thoughts?
I think I might sacrifice one board in the middle or so. Setting a circular saw to the right depth and ripping it a few times down the middle (have to chisel the top bit ) until there is enough gap to pull out either side of that board from the tongue/ groove.
Once that has released the pressure then I guess it would be a case of trying to carefully drill out the plugs and hope you can unscrew the rest and move them all a bit.
Looks like it could be pretty difficult, I can`t see much of a way to do it without eventually removing them all.
Do you have a biscuit jointer or router with slotting bit.

If so remove the offending planks and slot them deeper before taking your plane and reducing the width and putting a bevel on again.

Just a thought!!
Yikes - I have to assume your customers didn't buy the gates or I'd be suggesting they bang the sellers door down to get THEM to fix the problems they created.

This problem was always going to happen, it was just a matter of WHEN.

I'll bet those gates were not cheap.

I think as Ollie said you'll have to sacrifice a board and drill out the plugs, and even then I doubt the warped boards will go back so you'll have to make replacements.

How long have then been like that - you might end up having to replace the bent support rail as well if it's warped so badly it won't go flat again.

That job is going to be a pig, so I would be honest and tell the customer it's not going to be cheap and make sure they understand that and you either charge them a BIG fixed rate price for at least a weeks work minimum (like £1000 or more) or you'll go by time taken plus materials, if you get lucky and the warped slats go flat and the rail too.

Also make sure they know colourmatching the replacements if needed will be next to IMPOSSIBLE with the 15 years of weathering and staining**, so they either accept that too or pay to have the whole thing stripped back and refinished; even then it won't be perfect, you'll have to add some stain to the new slats.

** (unless they are prepared to pay for even more time to do a cosmetic hide with various stains etc etc such as restoration people do)

If they don't like those answers and try to negotiate, walk away. Seriously.

This is very much a "managing customer expectations" scenario so I would tread carefully here or you could end up working for very little money if any.
I’m no expert on this type of joinery but if the gates have been under that much pressure for most likely several years what will happen to the frame when you start removing boards- it sounds like a right can of worms and once you commit to working on them the problems are now yours . I would suggest the customer weighs up the cost of replacing the gates against your quote for repairs. As above you could end up working for nothing so your quote will have to include a decent amount to cover the issues you can’t see or if your work inadvertently causes other problems. As per the above post there would have to be a serious conversation with the customer so they are under no illusions as to what they can expect and what you can deliver . Personally I would give it a very wide berth unless the customer is super understanding and understands the risks . Good luck 🤞
Getting a quality finish by repairing what is there is debatable and time consuming.

Alternative approach may be to:
  • remove the tongue by running a saw down between the distorted boards which should relieve the pressure
  • add a couple of new rails to the frame
  • screw through the gate panels to the frame/new rails behind in the hope that this will force the panels back into alignment
  • Plug screw holes or use (say) coach bolts as a feature.
That looks a challenge, interesting that its the same issue with both, as you say taking them off is going to be a pain, could you chock them up (I've got 2 timber A frames I use to hold big doors and frames upright, loads of wedges & a bottle jack with an L shaped shoe on it to get underneath to lift) and swing the bottom hinge out of the way to get a free run at taking off the last few boards and reduce/replace in isolation, rather the strip the lot down, doing it on a T & M basis.
If they could be laid down on the floor to fix it would be a much easier job but unfortunately that won't be happening.

Any thoughts?
I really don't see why those gates can't be taken off the hinges and laid down flat to undertake a repair. Are you saying that they have to remain in situ and vertical as you do the job? If that really is the case I think I'd be rather tempted to simply sidestep the job.

Anyway, if you can get the gates out and horizontal I suspect you'll need to replace every, or almost every existing board primarily because each one is custom cut to length and scribed at the top end. You might be able to take some of the longer boards and recut them to fit in shorter spaces, and at the same time reduce their width a bit to match the width of slightly narrower new replacement boards. Doing this would allow for a bit more movement. Of course you'd need to roughly know the existing moisture content of the old boards as well as any new boards in order to make a reasonable estimate of likely cross-grain movement in future service. I'd suggest any new boards ought to have an MC somewhere in the region of 20% ± 2% so that you'd be somewhere near the top end of the MC range replacement boards might experience. That way you'd probably be more concerned, initially anyway, with shrinkage than expansion across the grain.

As to colour matching new to old afterwards, I suspect that's something of another can of worms: it appears the existing gates have had some sort of finish on them, possibly a varnish, but you might just get away with a sand down and refinish the lot, then just leave the new to blend in with the old over two or three years. And then there's the possibility that both frames have become unacceptably warped because of the swelling of the panelling: so maybe more work, and will that work fix the problem?

It all puts me rather in mind that it might even be cheaper and easier to offer to make a new set of gates. That last sentence was thrown in as a slightly jocular and radical alternative, but maybe it's not quite as daft or as jocular as I intended. Only you will really be able to make that judgement. Slainte.

PS. Edit. In saying above about reducing the width of the boards in the second paragraph, whether rejigged originals or new boards, my intention was that this would allow a bit more space between each board, but at the same time it would need a wider tongue and a deeper groove to take the tongue. The idea being that this would better accommodate larger cross-grain movement than was allowed in the original build. It would also mean exposing some of the tongue at assembly time to allow for the greater movement, so perhaps something other than the existing V matched tongue and groove, which I think it is, might be needed, e.g., perhaps some form of bead and quirk mould on the wide face, or some other alternative.
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I'd also be tempted to suggest painted accoya due to the width of those gates. either that or as richard suggests very careful thought as to gaps and moisture content. I did attend to a set of bifold garage doors that were the same ( although panelled) I told them it was a manufacturing fault and get in touch with the large manufacturers. anyway after much stalling they did come out and fix them. After a few months though they were replaced with a roller shutter.


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I would try a track saw clamped to the gates and run the saw between the two warped boards, then a new cross piece on the back plugged and screwed to the boards, worth a try.