How to Fix a Sagging Wood Gate

A wood gate with a hinge.

It’s been a few years since you acquired your house or built your wood gate. Now that beautiful wood has taken the abuse winter weather and summer sun have thrown at it, so it’s beginning to sag to one side or the other. Or perhaps the gate just won’t open anymore. You can use your DIY skills to get it fixed up and functioning like new. Here are some pointers to help you fix your sagging wood gate.

Step 1 - Evaluate the Cause

Before you can make adjustments, you’ll need to get to the root of the cause. During your evaluation, you might find that there is more than one thing out of whack. For example, the gate might be working fine, but you may find that rocks, dirt, or debris have shifted over time and are now blocking the gate from opening. The most common cause for a sagging gate is that one or both of your so-called stationary posts have shifted and are no longer plumb, or perpendicular.

This can happen when the ground becomes unstable due to too much moisture or if the weight of the gate is too much for the post to handle. Grab a level and get a quick read on each post. Be sure to check all sides of each post for an accurate reading. Also look for wiggle room around the base of your posts. They shouldn’t move when you push on them. If they do, they will need to be restabilized.

Step 2 - Relevel Posts

If a post has shifted in one direction or another, you have a few options. You could use a come-along, which is a winch that allows you to ratchet the post back into place. Alternately, hammer a triangular wedge into the ground adjacent to the post in order to push the post. You could really use any shim that does the job. For a longer-lasting solution, dig out and reset the post and then restabilize by pouring freshly-mixed concrete into the hole. Allow it to set completely before hammering hardware or reattaching the gate.

Hinges can be replaced.

Step 3 - Replace or Repair Hinges

If your posts are plumb, the problem may lie in the hardware. After all, hinges and locks take a lot of wear and tear from frequent opening and closing, and the weather. If a hinge is bent, it will cause your gate to hang crooked. Either hammer the hinge straight again or replace the hardware.

Another option is to place a shim behind the hinge plate to see if you can straighten out the way the gate hangs. Make sure to use larger screws than you did the first time for a solid grip and additional length. If you are not able to get your posts plumb or the hardware is bent but strong, the easiest solution might be to readjust the location of one or both hinges. To do this, remove the top hinge. Slide the hinge right to left until the gate is plumb. It might help to wedge a block of wood beneath the gate to hold it in place or have a second person help you out while you screw in the screws in the new location. If you’d like to cosmetically fix the scars left in the old screw locations, you can fill the holes with wood putty.

Old wood gate.

Step 4 - Add an Anti-Sag Device

Are your hinges and posts all working properly? If they are but your gate is still off, it might be because the gate itself has fallen out of square. You can make an adjustment to the hinges to help with this. Another effective option is to install a $10-15 anti-sag kit. This hardware uses a cable to create tension between opposite corners and keep the gate square. They can be found at most hardware stores and are easy to install.

A saggy gate can be a downer, but it is typically easy to fix. Put your DIY skills to use and open the gate to another great season of gardening and outdoor fun.