10 Different Types of Gate Latches (With Buyer's Guide)

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

Your home’s curb appeal begins at your front gate. Whether you’ve recently installed a new fence or are looking to give your current one a much-needed upgrade, it merits well-coordinated hardware. Gate latches are categorized under essential elements of your landscaping that everyone has, but no one seems to talk about.

Picking out the hardware for your fence can be overwhelming. Not only do you need to determine the right style and material for you, but you also need to understand the various gate latch types so you can properly install and operate them. Gate latches are broken down into four main types: thumb latches, ring latches, lever latches, and bolt latches.

However, when it comes to choosing the right gate latch for your fence, there are many other things to consider. Continue reading for our comprehensive guide on how to choose the right gate latch to increase the functionality, curb appeal, convenience, and security of your property.

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What is a Gate Latch?

Simply put, a gate latch is used to secure the gate on a fence. In its’ most basic form, gate latches consist of a metal bar and lever that raises lowers to open and close a gate. Or, it may be secured using a padlock, or some other locking device. They are traditionally made of durable metal components, allowing smooth operation each time.

While some gate latches are one-sided, there are others that allow you to open the gate from either side of the fence. For a latch to function properly, it needs to be paired with the proper hinges and also be attached to a fence that is professionally designed and built.

Gate Latch Operation

Based on how they are designed and function, there are three main gate latch categories. These categories consist of gravity, spring-loaded, and bolt-secured gate latches. Let’s examine each of these in detail to understand how they work and which one may work best for your particular situation.

1. Bolt Latches

When most people think of gate latches, their mind tends to land on the bolt option. The conventional deadbolt operation works by simply sliding a rod into a securing bolt that holds the gate door in position. Because it is a one-sided latch, it can only be secured from the inside of your fence. As far as installation goes, this is the easiest option.

Bolt latches can be installed on fences that swing outward or inward. You also have the additional option of locking them with the use of a padlock. Aside from being simple to install, the bolt gate latch is also the most cost-effective and comes in a wide array of materials and sizes to fit your needs.

2. Gravity

Gravity gate latches function, as their name suggests, by using gravity. As the gate closes, the force of the swing allows the latch arm to push past the strike plate and fall into the catch, securing the gate. This is a very desirable option as they can also be self-operated, meaning you can easily open or close it without the need for any outside intervention. These gate latches are always two-sided, due to the fact that the arm needs to fall into the strike to function properly.

While this option is very easy to use, the most basic model offers little in terms of security. To remedy this, consider opting for a design that is lockable or you can add an additional deadbolt or side bolt to reduce the chance of unwanted entry.

Most of the models that can be locked with have a hole for inserting a padlock. In this case, you can choose the type of padlock you prefer – whether it use a key or combination to gain access. When it comes to installation, gravity gate latch designs are most often used in in-swinging gates. Though, it is possible, albeit more complicated, to reverse the installation and use this option with an out-swinging door.

3. Spring Loaded

The final category of gate latches, based on operation, is the spring-loaded variety. As opposed to using gravity to function, these latches use a spring to facilitate the closing of the gate. Though they tend to be more expensive than the alternatives, spring designs offer a smoother action on the handle when opening or closing the barrier.

The spring component of this design happens when the latch arm snaps into place due to the pressure exerted on the spring that secures the arm. Spring-loaded varieties are always two-sided designs. They allow the door to be operated from either, and can also be locked with a variety of lockable models available.

Like gravity designs, spring-loaded gate latches are generally used on in-swinging gates but you can also switch the install for an out-swinging option as needed. Depending on the particular manufacturer, installation can range from relatively simple and straightforward to difficult and complex.

Types of Gate Latches

In addition to function, gate latches are broken down into four distinct types, based on the style. Each can be found available in a variety of materials, which we’ll cover later on in this article.

1. Thumb Latches

Thumb latches are two-way designs and can only be installed on in-swinging gates. On the outside of the gate (street-side) a decorative plate with a thumb depressor is installed. When the thumb is depressed, a latch arm on the opposite side of the gate lifts up and allows you to open up the gate.

To close a thumb latch, the latch-arm has to hit the strike, lift up, and then fall into the catch on its own accord. Based on the way it operates, a thumb latch is essentially a gravity latch model. If the latch is mounted properly, it will fall into the catch on its own, when activated. Some thumb latch models offer the additional benefit of being lockable.

2. Ring Latches

Ring latches are also two-sided, allowing you to operate them from both sides of the gate. The street side, or outside of the gate, features a backplate with a ring on it. Whereas the inside, or yard side, of the gate also has a backplate with a ring but the ring is attached to a latch arm.

By turning the ring on either side of the gate, you lift the latch arm out of the catch to open the gate. Depending on the manufacturer, these types of latches can be spring-loaded or gravity-assisted. They are able to be installed on both in-swinging and out-swinging gates, making ring latches a very versatile option. Additionally, some ring latches are lockable, while others are not.

However, on an out-swinging gate, the latch arm side with be located on the street side, as opposed to the inside. The best way to remember how a ring latch should be installed is that the latch arm must be installed on the side that the gate opens toward.

3. Lever Latches

Lever latches, on the other hand, operate the same as ring latches. However, instead of a ring, they have a lever handle on either side. To operate this type of gate latch, you turn the lever on the interior side. This moves the arm out of the catch, allowing you to operate the door.

These types of gate latches can be installed on both in-swinging and out-swinging gate models. Also, like ring latches, the latch arm side must be installed on the street side (outside) of the gate. Remember, the latch arm of a lever gate latch needs to go on the side that the gate opens toward.

Lever latches come in both spring-loaded and gravity assisted designs, depending on the specific manufacturer. Additionally, some lever latches can be locked, while others cannot.

4. Bolt Latches

The final type of gate latch option you have to choose from is a bolt latch. These types of latches are very reminiscent of the good old days, when it wasn’t uncommon to simply tie a string to the latch, toss it over the gate, and call it a day. Fortunately, nowadays, there are some far more advanced designs out there.

Bolt latches are one way only options, only allowing you to lock the gate from one side. When locked, you cannot get into the gate from the opposite side unless you reach your hand over the top of the gate to disengage the lock. Though they are one-way, you can install a bolt latch on either side of a gate.

These types of gate latches can also come lockable. The lockable designs generally require the additional installation of a padlock. You can decide the type of padlock you prefer, whether it be a combination lock or operated using a key.

Gate Latch Materials

Like function and type, there are several gate latch materials to choose from. When it comes to what your gate latch is made of, durability should be a major consideration. In most cases, they are made from high-quality metals that withstand the elements and work great outdoors.

It can be very disappointing to find a gorgeous cast iron latch that complements your home, only to find it rusting a mere three weeks after it’s installed. With that said, it’s important that you consider the environment when you’re examining the durability of gate latch materials.

Steel stainless, bronze, aluminum, brass, and iron are the most common materials used for gate latches, and none of them are without flaws. With all outdoor hardware, you’re still going to perform some maintenance to ensure that it holds up. In addition to durability, the material you choose sets the tone for the latch’s overall design, finish, and color.

With that said, let’s take a look at your gate latch material options.

1. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is similar in appearance to aluminum, but is a much heavier, stronger, and more durable material. It is highly resistant to denting, warping, or bending under pressure or temperature shifts. Although it is one of the more expensive options, it is a great material to choose if you’re looking for something that is durable, modern, and long-wearing.

Often found in contemporary and modern styles, stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion and is generally found in a raw silver tone. Or, you can opt for a powdered coated option, which provides an extra layer of protection in especially corrosive areas like near the beach or a body of saltwater. However, to keep the coating looking great, you may need to apply regular touch-ups.

Like most gate latch materials, you’ll want to put forth some effort at maintaining it to extend its longevity. To provide an additional layer of protection, apply a lubricating oil monthly. This will help prevent that annoying squeaking noise and also eliminate the chance of the material being damaged by the elements.

As far as pricing is concerned, you can expect to spend between $30 and $75 for a high-quality stainless steel gate latch. But, since this is generally a mid-level option, you’ll spend much more for a more detailed, intricate design.

  • Pros: Durable and resistant to rust, except in salty environments.
  • Cons: Very style specific, meaning it only works if you’re looking for a very clean, contemporary look.

2. Bronze

Bronze is considered one of the most expensive gate latch material options. It is a very durable material that tends to age exceptionally. This material is the ideal choice for those who have a more high-end taste, as it feels very dense and looks stunning.

Many bronze gate designs are made with a strong emphasis on artistry. They consist of contemporary, traditional, and also old-fashioned elements. As a result, bronze can make an excellent statement piece for the outside of your gate. Since the metal ages well, it does not require a powder-coated finish to protect it.

The durability of bronze reduces any risk of chipping or the need to refinish it over time. If you let this metal age on its own, it will gradually darken to display a dark copper penny-like hue. After some additional time, bronze changes to a faded green color. While this shade is often very desirable, you can prevent the metal from turning green by applying a coat of wax annually. This prevents discoloration, enhances lifespan, and protects the metal.

In some cases, you may be able to acquire a copper gate latch for roughly $25. However, for something that is very intricate, ornate, and artistic, it is more likely that you’ll spend closer to $75 on average. In fact, some bronze designs could cost you upwards of $500.

  • Pros: Substantial density and gorgeous patina. It also presents no risk of chipping and does not rust.
  • Cons: The most expensive gate latch material option.

3. Aluminum

If you’re concerned about wear and tear and rust, aluminum might be the ideal choice for you. It is both durable and lightweight, and also has a natural resistance to corrosion. This allows aluminum gate latches to be installed in virtually any environment.

However, aluminum is much more brittle than most other options on this list, meaning you’ll likely need to invest in a quality gate stop to prevent the daily movement from putting unnecessary stress on the latch arm. Over time, too much stress can lead to breakage.

Aluminum gate latch designs can be found in the conventional silver color, but they’re also available in a powder-coated option. That way, you can easily coordinate your gate latch with the other hardware on your fence that may be a different color. While everyday use can cause the powder coating to chip, this can be prevented by performing frequent maintenance and touch-ups.

They are available in a wide array of designs including modern, antique, contemporary, and old world, making this option both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Generally speaking, aluminum tends to be the least expensive gate latch material. You could spend as little as $5 on an aluminum gate latch, or up to $20 and more, depending on the style and features you desire. The lockable varieties cost more, and some may require you to purchase a padlock separately.

  • Pros: Least expensive gate latch material.
  • Cons: Brittle and highly susceptible to rust and breakages.

4. Brass

Of all the gate latch materials, brass is the least common type. Brass gate latches tend to be a very niche market, found primarily across the Northeastern part of the United States. However, if you’re looking to achieve either a traditional or colonial look, brass is the ideal choice.

Brass is a substantial material that feels dense to the touch and can add an excellent design element to your gate. The main drawback to this metal is that it will tarnish over time. However, if you work hard to maintain the surface of the brass, you can preserve its longevity.

Regular cleanings using a specialized brass cleaner, along with applying a UV resistant clear coating, will preserve the integrity of the lock and keep your brass gate latch looking shiny and new. As far as pricing goes, you can expect to spend an average of $20 to $50 for a quality brass gate latch.

  • Pros: Tarnishes over time, which can make this material a headache for those who are looking for a low-maintenance option.
  • Cons: Must be polished to maintain its glow. Not widely available for purchase.

5. Iron

The final gate latch material you have to choose from is iron. It is one of the most commonly used materials for gate latches and is found in an array of designs, including traditional, antique, colonial, and old-world styles. Manufacturers of these types of gate latches use both wrought iron and cast iron, which have a very dignified appearance that’ll look excellent against your fencing.

In most cases, iron features a black powder coating to add an additional layer of protection against the elements. With that said, this material isn’t always the best choice for areas that experience a lot of corrosive elements. Those with seaside or beachfront properties may want to consider a different material from this list, as the salt in both the water and air can cause your iron gate latch to rust prematurely.

In ideal conditions, though, iron has a long lifespan and provides an excellent value for the cost. You still will need to perform regular maintenance to keep it looking its best. It’s recommended to use a steel wool material for clearing away rust spots and applying a protectant spray to the surface regularly.

As far as pricing is concerned, iron gate latch designs range between $20 and $100 depending shape, size, and intricacy of the model. Some will come in packages that include fixtures and handles to help complete the entire look of your fence.

  • Pros: Long-lasting and a great value for the price.
  • Cons: It will rust eventually, especially in sea or oceanside areas. The most vulnerable spot on iron gate latches is the metal on metal interface.

How to Choose the Right Gate Latch

When it comes to choosing the right gate latch for your home, you’ll want to take a look at the big picture. As the architecture of your home most likely guided your gate design choices, the style of your gate latch should also complement your home. Additionally, it should coordinate with the exterior hardware that you already have, such as your door hardware and even your outdoor lighting fixtures.

The first step is to take a look at your home. Does it have a style that leans more rustic, modern, Colonial, traditional, Gothic, Victorian, or another era? Then, examine the existing hardware on your front door. If you like the look of your door handle, you may want to mimic the appearance and get a gate latch that is a similar style. Also, pay attention to the types of metals that your property already has.

That covers the look, the other consideration you need to make is your environment. More specifically, how durable of a material do you need to withstand the outdoor elements in your area? For example, if you live near the ocean, you’ll want to opt for a metal that resists corrosion. Likewise, if your gate is going to see a lot of daily use, you may want to choose one of the more durable options such as bronze or iron.

At the end of the day, the gate latch you choose all comes down to preference. However, don’t take the decision lightly, as your gate latch contributes to the safety, security, and convenience of accessing your home.

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What is a Gate Stop?

A gate stop is, exactly as the name indicates, a mechanism that stops your gate and prevents it from swinging out of control. This helps to protect both the hinges and the latch harm from excessive damage over time. Put simply, the gate stop creates a boundary which the door cannot travel past.

In the case of an especially windy day, the force of the breeze could push your fence further than it is designed to go, resulting in damage. This is exactly why it’s important to have a gate stop, in addition to a latch. It also prevents a rolling or double gate from crashing into each other as it is closed.

Adding a gate stop to your fence could run you as little as $20. However, it’s worth investing in something that is a little more expensive and, therefore, better quality. A simple gate stop is a small price to pay to avoid having to cover the cost of extensive repairs. After all, if the hinges or latch arm breaks, you’ll have to replace the entire hardware package.

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Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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