Gates and Perimeter Fencing

June 1, 2003

6 Min Read
Gates and Perimeter Fencing

Gates and perimeter fencing are some of the most important components of a well-designed self-storage site. In most cases, they are the first things your drive-by customer will see and, therefore, make an impression. When used correctly, they add beauty and attract the eye of anyone who passes by.

Early planning is key to having the proper gate and fence layout. Care should be taken to ensure there is enough room for traffic to pull in off the street. This distance should include footage for a rental truck and other similar vehicles. In addition, 15 to 20 feet are necessary from the gate itself out to the keypad. Ideally, the office will be set back to allow for these distances. Parking should be available outside the fenced area for customers and new prospects. Leave space for the safe operation of the main property gate.

Perimeter fencing can be kept to a minimum by having the buildings back up to the property boundaries wherever possible. Then only panels between them are necessary to enclose the project. This can save on fence costs and create a more appealing look. Zoning requirements may influence what types of fence you can use as well as their height. Most municipalities limit height to 6 feet.

Fence Types

The three basic choices for fence type are chain-link, wrought iron and wood. Wood is probably the least desirable because of wear and tear; but it could be used between buildings around the property to limit visibility.

Chain-link fencing is sturdy and allows for visibility into the complex. Heavy-duty, 9-gauge wire mesh should be used. Many sites will combine chain-link around the sides and back, with wrought iron across the front. Again, this provides a better appearance to the drive-by prospect.

Wrought iron has a nice ornate look. It adds a certain amount of class to catch the eye. (I know of one site that mounted decorative coach lights at each post by the entrance to complete the picture.) Generally, local ordinances will restrict the use of pickets or barbed wire on top.

Wrought iron is the most expensive of the three styles. For projects being done in phases, wrought iron can be floated along the lines that will need to be moved. This will allow for easy movement when the next phase is built. Keep in mind, because the fence panels are mounted perpendicular to the posts, it is more difficult to follow the contour of a slope. Only necessary posts are cemented. The rest are simply set in the hole and filled with dirt or rock.

Gate Types

There are four basic types of automated drive gates: barrier arms, swing gates, vertical-lift gates, and slide or roll gates. Of the four, barrier arms are the least likely to be used in self-storage. These are simply arm gates similar to those used for railroad crossings or parking garages. They can be made of wood or tubular steel. This style provides the least amount of security, and its cost is very similar to other automatic gates.

Swing gates are seldom used for self-storage. The number of cycles per day gives too much wear and tear on this style of gate. Traffic flow is also restricted because of the area needed to swing the gate back and forth. The length of a swing gate would be limited for this application due to the overall weight of the gate.

Vertical-lift gates pivot like an elbow on a table. They are counter-balanced, so they can be easily raised manually if necessary. This design is used when there are space limitations. When no area is available to roll a gate back, vertical gates are ideal. I know of one owner who chose a lift gate so it could be viewed swinging up in the air from the street to attract attention.

One of the advantages of the vertical-lift gate is it can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. A standard size for a self-storage facility is 16 feet. The length can be shorter or longer, but it is recommended that you not exceed 20 feet. Wind bracing is a must, especially for the longer gates.

Flexibility in shape is also beneficial. For example, if your driveway slopes from each side down toward the center, the gate could be made to follow the contour of the drive while remaining straight and level across the top. Other designs can also be accomplished. The gate can be higher on one end than the other, allowing you to compensate for drives sloping toward or away from the operator. In a normal situation, the top and bottom of the gate will be level and parallel to the ground. When the gate is in its upright position, the width of the gate will be directly in front of the operator box; therefore, no part of the gate is extended into the driveway.

The most popular gate style is the slide or roll gate. Early installations had these gates on rollers on the ground. These days, a cantilever design is recommended. The cantilever gate has rollers that roll on a mid-rail attached to a fence section. This mid-rail supports the gate and allows it to open and close without touching the ground.

Slide gates require the space to roll the gate back from the drive along the fence line. The planning process should take the design into consideration. Sometimes the layout will require more than one gate location. Keep in mind this can drive the costs up. If a gate is only to be used for emergencies, a moving van, or a garbage truck, it may not need to be automated. Maintenance includes regular lubrication of the chain and a check of its tension.

Other Essentials

The mechanism that automatically moves the gate is known as a gate operator. Vertical-lift-gate operators are usually purchased as a package with the gate. Slide- and swing-gate operators can be purchased separately. Any brand gate operator should work with the different keypad systems available. If you are working with a particular installer, he will recommend the brand of operator with which he is familiar for the particular application.

Every main entry gate should also include a walk gate, which should be locked from the outside and unlocked on the inside. The manager can have a key if it is necessary to enter. Wire mesh may be welded on to keep someone from reaching around the gate and gaining entry. Fire departments may dictate fence and gate choices in some locations. Sometimes a "pin-up" or crash gate is sufficient for access beside the main entrance. These are less expensive alternatives to adding a second automated gate.

Safety devices for the automatic gate must be used. Safety loops in the drive and photocell eyes are recommended. Miller strips mounted on the edge of the gate sense contact and can reverse the gate.

The automatic entry gate is a necessity for basic security. Its installation makes a self-storage business competitive by supplying safety and protection. With proper consideration and design, it will also attract the attention of the public eye and the future storage user.

John Fogg is general manager for Sentinel Systems Corp. of Lakewood, Colo., which has manufactured self-storage software and security systems since 1975. Though he has worked in self-storage since 1986, Mr. Fogg has been with Sentinel for the past 11 years. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]; call 800.456.9955; visit

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