Garden Gate from Window Grate

Repurposing a window grate.

I found a pair of 19th-century cast-iron window grilles, three feet tall. Detailed with starbursts, spears, finials, and cartouches, they’d originally protected ground-level windows but could be repurposed as a double gate. If you go this route, consider (1) scale and proportion: The gate height must be in proportion to the connecting structure, whether that’s a fence, a hedge, or just two gateposts. Most window grilles are sized to work best with a low fence or hedge. Allow two inches of clearance between the gate and the ground. Posts should stand several inches above the top of the gate; round finials are one traditional finishing touch. (2) the finish: Iron gates get rusty, and you may prefer to leave rust and chipped paint for a timeworn look. The best way to protect the iron, though, is to remove flaking paint (take precautions against lead) and rust with a wire brush, and a rust remover if necessary, then apply rust-inhibiting primer. Finish with rust-inhibiting enamel paint. Black semi-gloss finish goes with any garden scheme.

For more formality, sparingly apply accents of gold paint or gold leaf, say, on the tops of spears. Gates are easy to construct between a pair of posts, to which the gate is attached with hinges and brackets. (Here’s a great source: Amazing Gates, Iron window grilles are heavier than wood and thus require more support. Posts may be masonry, wood, or iron, heavy enough to bear the weight. It’s best to set posts in concrete, or affix them to a wall or bolt them to an existing concrete footing. The addition of a sleeve to slip the post into the ground allows easy adjustment of the post height. There are three ways to hinge a gate. You can center the hinges on the posts so that the gate swings both in and out; be sure there’s enough space between gate and posts for the hinges and latch. Or you can install the hinges flush with the back of the posts, so the gate will swing inward. If the gate is unusually wide or large, you can hang it on the backside of the posts, overlapping on each edge for extra support.

Hanging the Gate
My grates were hinged using the outer rod as a pintle that swings in brackets I welded at top and bottom of the metal posts. You can buy premade hinge and bracket sets, but it may be more elegant to simply weld a rod onto the grille and brackets to the posts. Also, add a nylon washer on the bottom bracket hinge point, so the swinging gate won’t squeak.

1. Decide on Placement
The gate should be the focal point for the place where people enter. The best side should face the public.

2. Check Codes
Local building codes may have setback requirements; also get a permit if one is required.

3. Hang the Gate
Cement the side posts after ensuring they are plumb. Attach hinges to the gate first, then check for ground clearance and level, then screw or bolt the hinges into the post.

Tags: Architectural Salvage Fences garden gate gardens Gates landscaping OHJ August 2015 window grates

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