Can You Make a Gate Electric? Gate Conversion Explained

Automatic gates allow greater control over who can enter your premises. They also make it a lot faster and more convenient to get in and out of the driveway as you won’t need to get out of your vehicle to operate the gate manually.

If you’re considering upgrading to an automatic gate, but you already have a manual gate installed, you might be wondering if it’s possible to save on time and costs by simply converting it.

When you buy a complete automatic gate system, typically around a third of the cost goes into the gate itself. By utilising your existing gate construction, you can achieve the same level of convenience and security at a lower cost by purchasing a DIY gate motor kit.

Converting a manual gate to automatic is a potentially complicated DIY project demanding a wide range of skills, tooling and experience. So while this is often a task best left to a professional, it is certainly possible to do it yourself with enough time, research and suitable parts.

That’s the quick rundown, but there’s more to it than just a summary so let’s get into the nuts and bolts to answer the question of whether you can make your gate electric…

Before you start – is it feasible?

Before launching into your gate automation DIY project, go through the checklist below to make sure your existing manual gate is suitable for the upgrade.

– The gate itself is attached level on the hinges and can freely swing (or slide) all the way open and closed smoothly without hitting or dragging on anything.

– The ground is more or less level all the way across where the gate will swing or slide open (or if not, that the groundwork can be modified first to meet this requirement).

– The gate and supporting posts, walls or columns are strong enough to hold the actuation mechanism (wooden gates are viable) and to withstand adverse weather events (strong winds, storms, flooding, etc.) as well as any minor impacts such as low-speed collisions or someone climbing over the gate.

– The gate and associated components are not rusted, rotted, warped, split, dented or otherwise damaged.

– There are no immovable objects underground where ducts and cabling need to be installed (e.g. roots of large trees, existing cables, water mains, drains, and gas pipes).

Keep in mind that most manual gates made from timber are not designed for the additional stress of automation gear so, even if it’s in tip-top condition today, you can expect its life expectancy to be reduced if it’s upgraded to an automatic gate.

You’re going to have to decide whether the benefits of an automatic gate are worth the life expectancy trade-off. Or you can consider replacing the gate with one that has a purpose-built steel frame ready for automation.

One last thing: you’ll want to think about whether having a motorised arm, control box and potentially some exposed cabling will actually suit your property on an aesthetic level.

While the electricity conduits can be installed hidden away underground in most cases, there will always be some degree of exposed gear in any electric gate build.

Try to picture the finished project and think about whether it would make the space look and feel better overall. Of course, there may be a trade-off you’re willing to make for the benefits of convenience and security that an automated gate can bring you.

Is it legal to build my own powered gate?

Legislation varies by country and region, so be sure to read up on any regulations concerning gates in your local jurisdiction.

Ideally, the gate should be force limited such that the motor cuts out if it is met with enough force in the other direction. That way, the gate will stop moving if it hits something or someone during operation.

Automatic gates can also be equipped with other safety equipment such as obstacle sensors which detect whether an obstacle (like a car or person) is obstructing the path of the gate, allowing it to stop the motor before a collision occurs.

Choosing the right motor

For sliding gates, it’s ideal that the ground be level all throughout the track where the gate feeds into while opening. If it’s at any inclination, it will required a raked or tapered gate when converting to an electric gate unless you can adapt the groundwork to level it out.

Swinging gates also have to be ideally on level ground in order to be motorised. They can be automated with one of three main types of motors.

Underground motor

It’s an expensive but sometimes viable choice to install the motor underground since an above-ground motor can be an unsightly addition to a driveway, and being underground means less noise coming from the motor as well.

The motor is encased in a metal housing and buried a short distance below the surface along with the necessary ducts and cabling.

Another benefit of burying the motor underground is that it’s less likely to be damaged there, except perhaps by extreme storms or prolonged flooding, which may be a risk depending on location and climate. They are also better protected from theft and tampering.

The main drawback of an underground motor is the setup cost in terms of both time and money as it’s necessary to dig up the groundwork before installing everything. It’s also much harder getting access to it for any maintenance purposes later down the line.

Above ground motor

An above-ground motor is better suited to areas that are prone to flooding.

As with underground motors, an above-ground motor is protected by a metal casing. It’s usually mounted to a nearby fence or wall.

One major benefit of the motor being above ground is, of course, that it is far easier to get access to it should it need to be serviced later down the line.

Articulated arm

Also known as crank arm operators, these are ideal for gates with wide posts where there isn’t much space for the gate to swing open in.

All the gate motors that Mackson supplies can be fitted by a handy DIY warrior with enough experience or patience to learn. Of course, the simple solution is to call in experienced experts to install your gate safely and efficiently.

Access control and intercom

Now that you have a secured gate separating your front door from the street, you’ll need a way to communicate with visitors and allow them through.

Unless you have a separate pedestrian entrance, that means you’ll need a voice intercom or a remote doorbell system so they can get your attention.

Should I automate my gate myself?

Converting manual gates to automatic is a serious undertaking and not for the casual DIY hobbyist as it demands a wide range of skills, tooling and expertise that not everyone is going to have.

So while it is certainly possible to do it yourself with a bit of time and no small amount of ambition, this is often a task best left to a professional.

Mackson specialises in the supply, installation and servicing of automated gate systems for homes and businesses in Perth and surrounding suburbs.

As well as offering complete automatic gate solutions, our experts can take a look at an existing gate to assess whether it’s viable for conversion to an automatic gate and work with you to create a plan for your property’s entrance, whether domestic or commercial.

All our gates are custom made in our workshop in Maddington. We can tailor a gate design to meet your specific requirements, with a choice of design, materials and colour to match the exterior of your property.

Choose from our affordable range of sliding or swing automated gates or get in touch with our friendly team today to discuss options.

What are the next steps?

If you want to install automatic gates or would simply like to learn more as part of your assessment, then we’re here to help.

We have years of experience installing automatic gates in and around Perth. We can custom-build your gates at our workshop in Maddington. Plus, we cater to both commercial and residential projects in and around Perth. So give us a call today!