help with sliding gate please


Hi everyone,
I need some help please .....
As you know my gates are rarely regular in shape and a horizontal line is pretty rare ...I have a client who wants her gate to slide rather than turn automatically. I am so used to using hydraulic boxes that will turn just about any shape that I weld to them that I have never given any thought to sliding mechanisms.
Having scoured the internet I am no wiser ...I see rails with grooved wheels and guide rollers and chains but they are all on very rectilinear designs ...or at least there is one ( often ugly ) horizontal bar about a third up the gate that seems to be there for the drive wheels. I have written to manufacturers asking for the parameters necessary in a gate for it to work with a sliding system but all they do is recommend a particular model without giving me a hint as to what needs to be on the gate ....
So ...if anyone has used such a system, please enlighten me

Rich Waugh's picture

GuiPepsi, I've only made a


I've only made a couple sliders but they're really pretty fundamental. I use the grooved cast iron wheels with bearings and set a piece of angle iron in the driveway slab for them to run on. The drive system is basically just a motor and chain wheel with a set of limit switches and relays to start, stop and reverse the movement. The packaged systems come with all the bells and whistles like safety stop, remotes, 911 radio overrides, etc. but the fundamentals are still a motor and chain wheel setup to pull the gate back and forth.

The gate will also need some sort of guide assembly to keep it from tipping over - that can be as simple as a fabricated "bezel" it protrudes through at one side and a channel to home into at the other end. That, of course, presumes a more-or-less planar, rectilinear sort of gate, but you fiddle that in any number of ways.

If there is sufficient room to the side, say a long wall, you can have a lot of gate structure that is there primarily to balance the visible part and allow you to cantilever it and not need any guides or tracks in the opening. In the same sort of setting you could also hang the gate from a track similar to a barn door track and let gravity keep it oriented vertically. Basically though, you're going to have to have plenty of room off to the side(s) for the gate to retract to and to locate the drive assembly.

I recommend using a packaged drive system if at all possible to avoid the hassles of re-inventing the wheel, so to speak. You can bastardize it all you need to accommodate design considerations, but keep the mechanics of it pretty much unmolested for low maintenance.

I know a guy who designs, engineers and builds high-end custom door systems for museums and such - he would be able to come up with a solution to almost any problem you could throw at him, I'd think. I'd be happy to put you together with him if you like. Just let me know.


Daedalus's picture

I`m with Rich on this(and most other things)

I would approach this by way of buying the drive and then adapting it to fit the surroundings(existing wall,landscaping,etc.)
You can set everything up after fabbing a simple frame to fill the space and check operation.Once that`s done you can pretty much hang whatever your heart(and the customer`s budget) desires on that frame as long as you don`t exceed the weight limit or the clearance between the drive/frame and any obstacles.
If the people you`re talking to can`t give you simple info like weight + height limits and installation instructions then you`re dealing with the wrong vendor,go on to the next on your list.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice there is.

Giusseppe's picture


what would the frame look like .....are we talking about a rectangle and if so how high does it need to be ?for example, if I am making a free shape that is 1.5 m high, how high would the top horizontal of the frame need to be and would this frame go at the back of the gate ?
I cannot find a close up of a drive system that shows exactly where the wheel guides and drive need to be
thanks for your help

Giusseppe's picture

chain and bezel

thanks Rich,
where does the chain go it under the gate ?
I cannot visualise what you mean by a bezel for stopping the gate falling over this like a T section on its side at the back of the gate so that guide wheels on a post track into it and keep the gate upright ? would something like this work just from the back so that I can avoid a horizontal showing at the front of the gate ?
As for cantilevering ...the gate I am working on is 5m wide but I don't have a lot more than 5m extra on the side ....could I make a heavy short section as a cantilever or do you have to match length for length
once again, thanks for the help

Rich Waugh's picture

Giusseppe, I sent you a


I sent you a couple of emails you might want to check out.

Here's a rather crude advert brochure of one sliding gate actuator type that shows a bit of how the chain might be routed.  It conveniently leaves out details like how you keep the gate from toppling over and the like, but it does show where the chain is routed.

This is a link to an installation manual for another system that has more detail and may be of more use to you.  Also, this one is a cantilever gate system sold in the UK.  Details are a bit sketchy but I think you'll get the idea.

My buddy Steve should be sending yo an email either today or tomorrow with more information.

Hope this is some help, at least.  If you have a sketch of your intended design and the location that you can email to me I'd be happy to look at it and offer other suggestions.

Hope this helps some,


Giusseppe's picture

making more sense now

thanks for the links and the contact .....I will let you know how I get on .....I like the cantilever but it still needs a top horizontal but I guess I could put that behind a more random front face ....Do you think the cantilevered gate can be driven by a wheel rather than a chain ?

Rich Waugh's picture

I don't see why not,

I don't see why not, Giusseppe. Of course the wheel would have to be durable enough to hold up and have sufficient friction under all weather conditions, but it should be do-able. Or even a rack and pinion gear arrangement - I've used those in some lift mechanisms for fancy entertainment center consoles with good success. Probably have to paste several racks together to get the necessary length.

If you are short of space for the hidden part of the cantilever you could probably overcome some of that by carefully fiddling the relative weights of the supported vs cantilevered sections. I remember when I did sign painting that we used to hang our swing stages from a 4x4 beam laid on the roof with a couple sandbags on far end to balance the weight of us and the stage. Always made new guys nervous as hell to see that they were hanging a hundred feet above the pavement, supported by a cable hooked to nothing but a timber lying on the roof, but good old Archimedes told me that with sixteen feet on the roof with a hundred pound weight on it would easily support our weight with only one foot hanging over the edge. I really loved that old Greek... (grin)

Do you have room on both sides of the gate so that maybe you could have it split in the middle, thereby reducing by half the distance needed on the sides? Or even an unequal split, maybe?

The "bezel" concept I was talking about earlier is roughly like the way a door latch tongue protrudes from the lock body - it is in the open but supported by its close fit in the opening of the lock body. Alternately, you might be able to incorporate a top rail element that is disguised somewhat but would still allow a point of support for the top of the gate. Another more unusual idea that occurs to me would be a top rail that is not a straight horizontal line but that was say, an arc. The support point for it at the edge of the opening could be mounted on a vertical rail so it could slide up and down to accommodate the curve of the arced top rail. Heck, the rail could even be wavy that way. Might be a bit of a maintenance headache, though. Still, you heard it here first and I want a million dollar royalty when you get famous for using it. (grin)

I'll probably think of even more ludicrous notions as time goes on. :-)


Stephen Fitz-Gerald's picture

sliding gate

Stephen Fitz-Gerald
Dear Giuseppe,
I had this same problem a few years back and I was able to solve it in a way that did not detract from the composition.
The gate is 24ft wide and about 650lbs so it was no small matter.
The wheels are actually running on a piece of angle iron across the driveway but you can't see the track in this photograph.