What You Need To Know: Using Deadbolts for Gates

Using a deadbolt to lock your gate can be done! The KEY (pun intended) is PLANNING. There are several factors that will make it nearly impossible to install a deadbolt on your gate – if you plan your gate project to work around those factors, you’ll be ready to go. I can’t tell you how many phone calls we receive from folks who have had a gate built and want a deadbolt – but there is no physical way to make it happen without rebuilding the gate.


The reason a gate deadbolt is desirable is so there can be a keyed entry on the exterior of the gate and a thumbturn on the inside (or a second keyed cylinder on the inside, in the case of a double cylinder deadbolt).



: You’ll need to choose either a 2-3/8″ or 2-3/4″ backset. What’s a backset? That’s the distance from the edge of the door/gate to the centerpoint of the deadbolt.

Gate Thickness: As mentioned above, deadbolts come as either single cylinder (one keyed side) or double cylinder (two keyed sides). Single cylinder deadbolts can fit on thicker gates than double cylinder. Each deadbolt listed on our site has the maximum thickness noted in the product description.

In general, standard deadbolt thicknesses are the following (but check the specific deadbolt you’re interested in):

  • Single Cylinder: 1-1/2″ to 3″
  • Double Cylinder: 1-1/2″ to 2-5/8″

deadbolts for gates





So what to do when you have a thicker door or gate? We have designed an extended deadbolt for gates up to 5-1/2″ thick – this is a single cylinder deadbolt.

See Deadbolts for Thick Gates and Doors

Currently there is no extended deadbolt for a double cylinder application. What options do you have a thicker gate when you hope to use a double cylinder?

The only thing to do is to ‘take away’ thickness from the gate – create a pocket on each side of the gate so that you ‘nest’ the deadbolt plates in there. For example, your gate thickness is 3″. The double cylinder deadbolt you’ve chosen will allow a maximum thickness of 2-1/4″. The difference between those two figures is 3/4″. You’ll need to take away 3/4″ from your gate thickness by creating a pocket on each side that is 3/8″.

Creating a pocket to take away gate thickness for a double cylinder deadbolt to fit.

The Basics of Installation: In order to install a deadbolt, you need to bore a 2-1/8″ diameter hole through the gate. The centerpoint of that hole will be at either 2-3/8″ or 2-3/4″ from the edge of the gate. You’ll also need to make an edge bore for the bolt to fit through.


Important Factors to Consider

  • STILE WIDTH: First: what is a stile? The stile is the vertical framing member of a gate when it’s built like a door. If your stile is too narrow, it won’t accommodate the hole that you need to make for the inner workings of the deadbolt.


As a general rule, a stile must be at least 4″ wide to work with a deadbolt. There needs to be enough wood on the outer edge of the hole to keep the structure intact. The image below shows a 4″ wide stile using a 2-3/8″ backset. That leaves 5/8″ of material.


There are many gates built out of 2×6 material (actual size 1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″). If your gate is built of 2×6’s, you want to choose a 2-3/4″ backset so the center of the deadbolt will be centered on the stile.


  • MIND THE GAP: The gap between the gate and the post needs to be 1/2″ or less. When the bolt is “thrown” (locked) it extends 1″ out from the edge of the gate. With a maximum gap of 1/2″, that leaves 1/2″ of the bolt to be engaged in the strike plate. The ideal gap is more like 1/4″ to 3/8″, which provides for even more engagement of the bolt. On a double gate, the same gap is suggested.

maximum-gapEmtek deadbolt thrown



What if you don’t have the door style of gate construction?
What follows are some photos and discussions of
how to approach different gate setups.

2 x 4 or 2 x 6 On Edge Construction


This client built his gate out of 2×4 material set on edge. On the interior of the gate (shown in the photo, left), he needed to build up the thickness in order to have a flush surface to install the deadbolt to. He created a block and affixed it to the 2×4 frame, then followed up with a regular installation of a stainless steel round deadbolt and Elise Latch.


Horizontal Gates



With a horizontal gate, whatever the framing inside or behind the horizontal slats, you’ll need to ‘block’ an area (similar to photo above) to create a solid element for the deadbolt to be installed to. A block would be a solid piece of wood fastened to the frame of the gate. Most often it’s hidden from view by the horizontal slats.

Metal Gates


On metal gates, you need to incorporate a lock box into the structure – a lock box is a metal box, the same thickness as the gate, that has the holes pre-made to take a deadbolt and/or leverset installation. Metal fabricators are familiar with these and can either build one for you, or can source an off-the-shelf lock box.

Lockbox for metal gate
Lock Box for Deadbolt


What You Can Expect From A Deadbolt on a Gate

While the exterior plates of your deadbolt may be bronze or stainless steel, the interior mechanism is steel. We don’t know of any deadbolt mechanism on the market that is made of anything but steel. It’s important to manage expectations about what deadbolts used on gates can require. Regular maintenance will help the deadbolt keep working for the long term.

Rust + Maintenance: In order to maintain the surface of your deadbolt trim plates, periodic washing with a gentle dish soap will help. We recommend Dawn or Joy (original blue formula, not anti-bacterial). Dip a clean soft cloth in sudsy water, wipe the deadbolt plates to rid them of salt or dirt depositions, and then wipe again with a clean wet cloth. Dry with a separate cloth. Depending on your location (coastal or not), we’d recommend 1-2 times a year. For the internal components, the best option is to keep the parts lubricated. To do this, you’d remove the interior trim plate and apply a lubricant.

Security: Deadbolts on a gate provide a deterrent to access. We have heard client stories of various ways that criminals have bypassed a deadbolt. Gates are different than doors because they’ve got a gap below and are open above.

Do you have more questions about using a deadbolt?

E-Mail us!