Choosing a Gate and Gate Operator for a Self-Storage Facility: Guidelines to Follow

In the self-storage industry, there are many gates and gate operators from which to choose. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right one for your facility.

April 21, 2010

5 Min Read
Choosing a Gate and Gate Operator for a Self-Storage Facility: Guidelines to Follow

In the self-storage industry, there are many gates and gate operators from which to choose. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right one for your facility.
The majority of gates fall into three categories: swing gates, slide gates and barrier arms. Each of these requires a specific gate operator, rated by class for the size and weight of the gate as well as the number of times the gate will be opened and closed per hour (cycles). The specifications and demands of the gate will determine the class of gate operator required. (Classes range from I to IV, with different applications for each.)

Single- or double-swing gates tend to be favored for residential and public-access applications, while sliding gates are more common for self-storage and other high-security applications. Barrier-arm gates are generally used in parking applications because they raise and lower faster than swing or slide gates can open and close. They can also prevent vehicles from “tailgating,” sneaking in by following the car ahead too closely. However, barrier-arm gates are becoming more popular in self-storage. 

It’s important to select the proper type of gate operator and class for your facility. Using the wrong operator can result in malfunction or accidents. Any storage facility with a decent amount of volume should always consider a continuous-duty operator, which is tested for high-cycle applications.
Swing-Gate Operators

Swing gates are operated by either a harmonic arm or an actuator, a mechanical device for moving or controlling a mechanism or system. Actuators are primarily used for residential or low-cycle applications. The actuator arm is connected to the gate on one side and a fence, post or pillar on the other. The operator doesn’t sit on the ground, so no concrete pad is necessary. 

Harmonic-arm operators can handle heavier gates. The operator sits on the ground on a cement pad. In areas that get snow, the pad needs to be below the frost line to prevent frost heave.  
Slide-Gate Operators

Slide-gate operators using chain drives are the most common, as they tend to be the least expensive to operate and install. Rolling-slide gates have wheels that roll on a track or the ground. It’s a great choice for facilities where there’s no worry about accumulating snow. Cantilevered gates, on the other hand, are suspended between rollers so the gate doesn’t contact the ground. This leaves enough clearance to accommodate up to a foot of snow.

As security is the foremost consideration at most self-storage facilities, slide gates are usually the first choice. A swinging gate can sometimes be wedged open by pushing against it with a heavy object, such as a moving truck. Because a slide gate is a single unit, it’s much harder to manipulate.  
Safety First

Gates and operators range in weight from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds. If a gate hits a car, the resulting damage can be expensive. If the gate hits a person, it could be deadly. In fact, The International Code Council approved a proposal a year ago that incorporates automated vehicular gate provisions in the International Building Code.

Something else to keep in mind is that the authority having jurisdiction―the governmental agency or sub-agency that regulates the construction process―may require gate operators to be listed to the UL 325 Safety Standard, the standard to which vehicular gate operators are designed, manufactured and tested. This is the case in Nevada, for example. 
Taking the First Step

The best place to start is with gate and gate-operator manufacturers. Most offer plenty of accessible information on their products.  You can learn about their operators as well as find a local installer. The dealer will represent the product before, during and after the sale. This is important, as his input is critical to a seamless installation.  

Choosing a manufacturer is not easy. Consider working with a company that supplies a complete range of access-control devices in addition to gates and operators, as this will make it easier to integrate your security systems. The most important thing is that you do your homework to find the best solution for your facility.   
With more than a decade of self-storage experience, Randy Johnston is the national self-storage specialist for DKS Doorking, which has provided access-control solutions for the self-storage, commercial, residential and industrial industries for more than 60 years. For information, call 843.679.5977; visit  
Glossary of Terms 

Gate-Operator Class I: Residential vehicular gate operator
Gate-Operator Class II: Commercial/general-access vehicular gate operator for self-storage, hotels, garages, retail, etc.
Gate-Operator Class III: Used for industrial-access sites including factory loading docks and other locations not for public use
Gate-Operator Class IV: Used for higher security, such as guarded industrial locations, airport security, and other restricted access that doesn’t serve the public
Continuous-Duty Operator: A gate operator that has been tested to open and close continuously for a long period of time without motor failure, used primarily in high-traffic areas
Harmonic Arm or Actuator: A mechanical device for moving or controlling a mechanism or system

Related Articles:

Finding the Right Combination of Self-Storage Security System Components

The Dangers of Gate Damage

Security Gates: Friend and Foe

Self-Storage Talk: Gate Chain Changing

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