I’ve decided to decorate the sliding gate with fencing board from the very beginning. Now the posts were set, the gate was assembled, and the gate opener was installed and powered. Finally, it’s time to start mounting the fencing boards to finish this project!
There are many different ways to mount fencing boards on round steel pipes. The two most common ways shown in the photo below, however, wouldn’t work for me. I couldn’t mount the boards flush against the frame pipes because the cantilever roller will need to roll on the horizontal pipes. Nor would I cut the boards shorter to avoid protruding the top & bottom frames because I wanted to use full 6 ft length of those boards. This way, I will be able to keep the sliding gate same height as the neighboring fence.
My idea solution would be mounting the boards a few inches away from the gate frame to allow free rotation for the U-groove rollers. The fencing boards, or the top/bottom rails still attach to the frame, but not flush against the it. This will keep the top and bottom pipe clear of any obstacles for rollers. The photo below show how I spaced a few inches between the gate frame and the fencing boards.
The key elements here are some home-brew brackets that were welded on the gate frame, but not touching any area of the very top or very bottom of the gate frame.
Finally, it’s time so say good bye to the old gate!
There is a wide selection of gate opener products available online or at local shop, The price would range from several hundred dollars to more than a grand. It is really hard to tell the difference by the appearance. After intensive research on reviews, I decided to purchase the ALEKO AR1450 sliding gate opener with gear rack.
It comes with the kits that meet all my basic needs in my plan:
Two (2) remotes.
Screws and nuts.
Gear lock/unlock key.
20 ft (3.3 ft x 5 pcs) linear gear rack.
Other specs all look fine to me:
Opens gates weighing up to 1600 lbs. — Mine won’t be more than 300 lbs.
Opens gates up to 55 ft. in length. — Mine is about 12 ft in length.
Soft starting / stopping
Gear-driven vs chain-driven
Chain-driven is the most common way to drive a sliding gate, it’s relatively cheaper and easier to install. However, gear-driven mechanism produces quieter and smoother transition. Plus, the linear gear rack looks more attractive than the sagging chain.
Receiving the packages
The first impression upon receiving the packages were heavy, both for the AR1450 opener and the nylon gear racks!
Don’t worry if you couldn’t find the remotes, they were actually hiding inside the opener’s plastic cover. Removing the plastic cover will expose the key components: the giant motor taking most of the space, the circuit board leaning against the motor, magnetic sensor and capacitor. It is not necessary to understand what they are. All you need to do is to wire your power cord to the connector shown in the photo below.
As soon as you get power cords connected correctly, the indicator on the circuit board will light up, and you can immediately control your opener with the provided remote! For tweaks like changing open/close direction, increasing/decreasing force or enabling pedestrian mode, you will need to dig a little deeper into the manual. Other than those, the gate opener almost requires zero effort on the electrical setup. Most of my work, however, was spent on the masonry work — taking measures, assembling mold and pouring concrete for the opener’s base.
Assemble the mounting base and concrete mold
It took me quite sometime to figure out how to assemble the metal mounting base for the gate opener as the manual didn’t seem to be very helpful on this topic. The assembled mounting base looks like a mini oil rig: four anchors shown as below were to be buried in the concrete pouring to produce strong clamping force. Another set of bolts that go straight up are for the gate opener.
If you recall my last post about trenching, you’d probably have noticed that I dug a pretty big hole where the PVC pipe terminated. That hole was actually prepared for the gate opener. A rock solid base made by concrete is very important for the gate opener to provide enough force to move the gate. The hole was about 2 ft wide by 2 ft long, 1.5 ft deep. Since the gate opener was measured to be installed at 8″ above the ground, I made a mold of the same height with width / length at about 1′ / 1’4″. Mold was then installed on the site with proper bracing and supporting to receive concrete.
After I acquired a cement mixer (shown below), my concrete pouring work became so much fun! Before that, I was basically mixing it with shovels….worked fine but not easy. I depleted fours bags of 60 lbs concrete mix to fill up the mold for the gate opener base pad. So total 240 lbs, Heavy!!! Considering the force the motor is going to push on the gate, the heavier base really pays off.
After I removed the mold, I painted the concrete base with wall sealer. Totally unnecessary, but I just happen to have it around. So why not?
Now the concrete pad is ready to receive the gate opener. Make sure the opener is not too far nor too close to the gate frame. Measure the distance by roughly placing a nylon gear rack on the gate. When you are happy with the position, lock the opener with nuts provided. Make sure the opener is tightly secured on the mounting base.
Mounting the gear racks
If my gate were composed of square metal tubes, it would be fairly easy to mount the gear racks — just to place the racks flush against the frame and use self-tapping metal screws to fasten them. However, circular pipes like mine doesn’t provide any flat surface to be flush against. I would have to “create” some.
Looking back into the gate opener kits, I noticed one type of parts that I never realized what to do with before. The small metal bracket shown in the photo below is actually a piece of perfect gadget to “create” such flat surface for the purpose of mounting the gear racks on round pipes.
In order to “create” such flat surface, I would need to weld this bracket on to the pipe. Since I welded the whole gate frame together, this small task wound’t be a challenge for me any more.
I still don’t know if I am making correct use of those brackets, but they do look perfect for this purpose. The bracket has a open slot in the middle, so I could easily adjust the height of the gear rack. Here is the final assembly of the gear racks on those brackets, and I connected four racks together to make a 12-foot long continuous gear rack.
This ALEKO AR1450 gate opener relies on magnetic limit to control the stop of the gate. Basically the magnetic limit is mounted on the gear rack, when the sensor inside the opener senses the passing magnet, it will trigger the stop operation of the motor. Two sets of magnet / brackets are provided in the kits: a taller one for gate open limit; a shorter one for close limit.
Note that the gate won’t stop immediately when it sense the magnet, the control circuit inside the opener will ramp down the rotation of the motor. When choosing the location for the magnet limits, make sure leave some buffering distance before the gate completely stops. This is very good design of the gate opener to have the ramp up / ramp down mechanism. Without it, the abrupt start or stop will result in tremendous momentum on the gate frame, gate opener and posts, just like the gate is actually crashing on the gate opener every time it starts for stops moving. Frequent crashes day after day like this will eventually break the gate and the opener.
[Edited on Mar 28th, 2016]
In case you would like to know more details about wiring the AR1450 mother board, please refer to the following image that came with the product.
Gate frame is up, now it’s time to do the electrical work. First of all, I needed to have power on the site! After searching around the house, I decided to run the power cord from my garage. I already noticed that my garage is on a 25 Amp breaker in my plan. 25 AMP should allow enough juice to flow through for the gate opener.
Drill a hole through the wall and run the cord to the outside.
Care must be taken on the location where to extend the power cord. It’s better to start from the main power cord directly from the breaker panel. DO NOT extend the power cord from a light fixture or an outlet. I used 12-3 building wire for my total extension distance of about 40 feet. Smaller gauge (thicker copper) might be necessary if the distance is longer.
Install a pull box on the outside wall.
Drill a hole through the wall so that the power cord could go outside. Hang a pull box on the wall and now you can terminate the power cord inside it. Just like the name, a pull box is where you can “string” and “pull” the wire that will need to go somewhere, or in my case, across the yard. There are various options for a pull box shown as the photo below. I chose a relatively big one because I needed to install an outlet in it. I used a GFCI outlet because the outdoor environment is prone to get wet and cause electrical shock. And plus, I could use the “TEST/RESET” button as a switch to turn on / cut off the power for the gate opener without affecting the rest of the garage. This idea turned out to be very useful, especially during the installation process.
Dig a trench for the conduit across the yard and lay the PVC pipes.
According to the local code, I needed to bury the conduits 12 inches deep if I use PVC pipe. It took me some serious efforts to dig the trench, especially when the dirt is dry and hard. I highly recommend dampening the soil first before putting your shovel on it.
Worrying that I don’t have the tool to string the cord through a long pipe, I was struggling between stringing-wire-before-laying-pipe and after-laying-pipe. However, stringing the wire in advance didn’t turn out to be an efficient way as the PVC glue and dirt together were just enough to make everything in a mass. Miraculously, I though of my drain cleaner snake and it ended up to be a great tool for this job!
Cover with trench and seal the conduit for next step
Welding was the only worrisome part of this project when I decided to build this cantilever gate because I never welded before, nor do I own a welding machine. And I had no idea of the difference between MIG welding and ARC welding. Fortunately I made a wise decision to buy a ARC welding machine, which plugs into your outlet just like other appliances, and most importantly, it did a great job. Forget about MIG welding if you don’t want to keep a gas tank in your garage….Negative side of the ARC welding is that the learning curve is steeper. But once you overcome all the difficulty as a beginner welder, ARC welding turns out to be a lot of fun!
I purchased a 200AMP ARC welding machine from eBay, model BX1-200C1 for about $100. It is a simple, heavy and “analog” machine – no fancy LED indicators or digit display, all it has inside its steel case are sets of beefy coils, which, I believe, is to transform AC to low voltage DC for ARC welding. Electrical current could be adjusted through a knob, which actually is just pushing / pulling a metal core in / out of the coils to achieve various transformer turn ratio.
The BX1-200C1 welding machine comes with a unfinished power cord, so you will need to wire a plug on the power cord. The color code on the power code is probably the Europe/China standard, in which brown stand for live, blue for neutral and green strip for ground. Since I was going to source the power from a standard 110VAC outlet from garage, I wired the cord onto a U.S. NEMA 5-15P plug. Having a 25-amp circuit breaker for the garage, I was a little worried in the beginning whether my garage circuit is beefy enough to handle power consumption. Amazingly, the breaker only tripped very few times when my washing machine was also spinning at full speed in the garage. When the welding machine is the sole electricity user, it worked perfectly fine without any glitches.
I didn’t get to try the 220VAC mode yet, as 110VAC already gave me more than enough power to finish my gate project with 1/8″ welding electrodes. I guess 220VAC will be necessary when thicker than 1/8″ electrodes are required for heavier-duty jobs.
Properly fastening/clamping your metal parts is another critical step to yield a successful weld. Parts to be welded together must stay solidly together during the welding process. I used the same “parallel clamping” idea as I did to set the post, in which I set up two pieces of wood stud of exactly same length perpendicularly to ensure same distance between the galvanized pipes. In order to fasten everything together before welding, I used the same tie-down straps during the transportation step. The following picture shows my work setup during the welding process.
Check out the video for the actual welding process.
Once the frame is mostly welded together, it is time to hang the whole thing onto the post. The 18 ft gate was really long, I had to cut down vegetables to make some room. The weight of the gate frame is still manageable at this point, but definitely I needed help from others. I continued to weld more pipes (diagonal direction) on to make the frame more structurally sound. It was actually easier to weld when the frame was up.
The best way to notch galvanized pipe is to use professional pipe notcher, however those tools are not cheap, especially for pipes bigger than 2″ in diameter. It doesn’t seem to be a good investment if I only need to use it for only a few times. After intensive search on internet, I decided to use a hole saw and power drill to notch the galvanized pipes. It cost me $30+ to buy a good bi-metal hole saw, which did an amazing job. Don’t use those hole saw for wood as they tends to wear out easily on metal.
To notch my 2-3/8″ dia. galvanized pipe, I used the hole saw of the same size, which produces a very tight fit. I did find some comments about using slightly bigger hole saw (e.g. 2-1/2″ dia.) to leave a little bit tolerance. I tried that too and it worked just fine. But I still prefer using the same-dimention hole saw as the pipe
Other tips & Comments about notching steel tubes with hole saw:
Pilot drill is a must option. Without it, your hole saw couldn’t stay on the circular tube to start cutting.
The depth of the hole saw (the one I was using is about 1-1/2″ deep) is usually not enough to notch the tube (2-3/8″ in diameter) in one cut. You will need to flip the tube to start from the other side. Again, the pre-drilled pilot through hole will help line-up the two cuts.
This cheap notching solution works best for T-shaped conjunction, in which you will only need to notch perpendicularly (90-degree) to the tube. I haven’t tried to notch with hole saw other than 90-degree, it might work, I guess, if you have a long pilot drill bit. Instead, I used miter saw to cut the galvanized pipe at an angle of 22.5 degree for diagonal (45 degree) conjunction. As you can see from the photo below, the fitting looks pretty loose, not as nice as the hole saw. But welding will help to fill the gap.
Be patient and careful. Hole-sawing a steel tube is a slow process, and it generate a lot of heat! Applying a little bit lubricate onto the saw blades is always a good practice to help preserve the sawb blade. Stop from time to time to give some break to the saw, power drill and, most importantly, yourself.
After collecting all the necessary materials for my cantilever sliding gate project, it’s the time to start the real work! Let’s begin with setting the post.
I chose 4 in. diameter galvanized pipe for durability. I was not sure at the beginning whether 4″ is overkill, but it turned out it is a must after you realized that all the weight of the gate was going to be supported by those two posts only, not to mention the center of its gravity is about 6 ft away from the first post. As I mentioned in the “plan” section of this series, the post pipe was 9′ long, of which 3 ft was going to be buried under the ground. So I dug two holes about 12″ in diameter and 3’6″ deep.
Digging up holes like those was nontrivial task, I only wish I could have dug them bigger and deeper. But it looks it is fine so far. Tips: dig a hoe with wider base and add some “anchors” to the post for more gripping.
Time to set them up in the holes! It didn’t take long before I found out that the post are TOO HEAVY (80lbs/pcs)! And unfortunately I was working all by myself. Usually you would prefer at least two persons: one to straight the post up while the other could make measurements and do adjustments. I came up with a one-man-only solution in which I hung the post with tie-down strap on a piece of wood that sat across the hole. So I could easily wiggle the post around and make adjustment before setting up braces to keep it upright.
Another point in setting up the cantilever gate posts is that they must be strictly parallel to each other. You might think that individual leveling of each post seems to warrant the parallelism, but I don’t quite trust my lever manipulation skills. I would feel more comfortable if I have extra physical assurance of that. In order to achieve this, I cut two pieces of spacing wood for exactly same length and, again joint them with tie-down strap in lateral direction in the upper and lower positions. A “rectangular” structure was formed this way to make sure posts are vertical and parallel to each other.
Now the posts are set, and it’s time for pouring the concrete. Here is the photo after the concrete was cured, and I put some wall sealant for protection.
As you can tell from the photo that I couldn’t wait to see how the other parts are going to work together. I bought those nylon roller wheels from Hoover Fencing Co., they came in a box of four, and are really heavy!
Before setting my hands on to the gate framing, I temporarily set up the frame pipes for a quick test to make sure all the measurements are right. So I followed the same idea of the “spacing holder” by cutting another two 2 by 4’s of exactly the same length, and temporarily assembled the gate frames.
After the plan was consolidated , the first thing I needed to do is to purchase the material. With all sorts of hardware stores around, nothing was difficult here except for 2 pieces of galvanized pipes that would be 18ft long. My van can accommodate up to 11ft long if I remove the seats, but I didn’t want to hang 7ft-long pipe out of the back of the truck while driving on the freeway. So I decided to give them a ride on the roof. However, my basic model van doesn’t come with travel rack…..It’s time to build a track.
Since I knew I was going to transport pipes of 2-3/8″ in diameter, I drilled the holes of same size with hole saw on two scraps of 2 by 4’s — both to sit vertically, but with one on the front roof and another in the rear respectively. The pipes would “string” through those holes and hopefully, the wood would “clamp” down the pipes on the roof.
In order to secure the 2 by 4’s on the van roof, I drilled some smaller holes to let my tie-down straps string through and then I wrapped those straps around the roof very very tightly.
Those methods made me feel comfortable about the vertical stabilization, I also needed something to secure on the horizontal direction. Just think what if I got rear-end or emergency brake. I didn’t want to see those pipes got shot out off the roof while driving on the free way. So I made another two similar “clamps” for both ends and used ropes to pull them from the engine mount and the rearmost pillar.
And don’t forget the red flag! Before I took off, I intentionally test with hard brake, just to make sure those pipe stayed on the roof rock-solid!