Thursday, February 11, 2021

Old project no more

Sometimes it just takes time to get to a project around the house, let alone finish it. We may need supplies, maybe we need some people to help us, and other times we need to do some research (which usually means Googling “how to [whatever it is we want to do]”. Whether it’s important that a project is finished or not probably similarly depends on a lot of variables, but there’s one good reason to finish them: It feels good.

Last week I finally finished an old project, fixing some gate latches (image above). It took me time to get there, but I did.

In the image above, the top photo shows a gate latch that’s not exactly latched. What it doesn’t show is that it was also padlocked at the time. This happens because in summer the wood of the fence shrinks in the heat and lack of rain, and because the latch itself was mounted too far to the left, and the bolt was too short to stay latched when closed, all of which meant that when the fence dried out in summer, that latch bolt slipped the surly bonds of security and allowed the gate to blow open. This could be a real problem for someone with dogs.

In fact, it was a problem last year. One evening Jake didn’t come back inside after going out for a wander (and, um, etc…), even though Sunny and Leo did. I went out to look for him, saw the gate was open, and knew he’d gone out to explore. I panicked: This was only some four months after Nigel died, and I was terrified I was going to lose our boy, too.

It turned out that since the next morning was rubbish day, there were several interesting smells to smell, and he was actually just a few houses up the street, on the other side of the road, sniffing rubbish bags. I called him, and he came home. I closed and latched the gate—and also put barriers in front of it so if it opened again, the dogs wouldn’t be able to get out.

At the time, I didn’t have padlocks on the gates (I’d only been in the house maybe a couple weeks or so at that point), and I thought the Internet installers had opened the gate and not closed it. It was actually only this year that I realised the hot dry summer weather was the reason the gate opened back then, and again this summer.

My original project was to relocate the latch inside the yard rather than out front of the house. That’s where they always should have been, but whoever installed the gates put them in incorrectly, and there was no timber available to fasten then to on the inside (there is timber, of course, but it’s not in a usable position).

My original idea, suggested to me by tradesperson, was to drill a hole into the upright so the latch could slide into that. However, over time that would open of the hole a bit, possibly weakening it, but definitely allowing it to make noise in a storm. The solution was to put a sort of strike plate onto the timber to protect the hole. I couldn’t find one anywhere.

New plan: Find an alternative.

I was originally going to get bigger latches and put them on the inside of the fence, but that had the same problem: No way to configure it to hold the gate closed. I found a different sort of lock latch, typically used to padlock a chest or box. It had a hinge in the middle, and that meant it could bend to the unusual way I needed one to. The photo below shows it installed, which I also did last week.

I got the padlock latches sometime last year (before lockdown, I think), but didn’t install them in part because I still thought there might be a better solution. Last week changed my mind: The gate had opened up several times.

Between the start of all this and now, I also unpacked some of the boxes in the garage, and I found a couple larger sliding gate latches that Nigel had bought for—well, I don’t know what or when it was. I realised I could use them on the gates to replace the ones there, so I did: The bottom photo in the image above shows the original short, dodgy latch replaced with the new, stronger, longer one. I did that with the gate on the other side of the house, too.

My idea was simple: First, install the padlock things at the top of the gate so I could unlock it from the outside (because where the too-short latches had been, it was impossible to unlock from the other side of the fence). Then, I wanted to put better latches on the outside so that it’s easier for me to get in and out of the yard, and to make the gate slightly steadier in the wind than a lock at the top would have made it. Plus, there were already screw holes in place, and if I removed the latches completely, they’d still be there (as it turned out, the old holes matched up with the holes for the new latch).

I plan to get a couple cabin hooks for the inside of the gate so I can give a little strength on the inside in case someone unlatches the gates on the outsideside. That way, they’ll still be secure on the inside.

So, this project is now, finally, nearly done. I say “nearly” because I have one more padlock latch to install on the other gate, but I dropped in in the garage somewhere and haven’t found it yet. Oops. However, the ordinary latch on the outside was always fine (though much better now that it has a longer bolt), so it’s padlocked on the outside (I never use that gate, anyway).

This was one of the old projects I was referring to in my post earlier this week. It was good to finish it for the whole reason I started it in the first place: To keep the dogs safe and secure. But getting a project finished feels good, and finishing one that’s been on the list for so long feels really good. In fact, it’s motivated me to work on some more projects, and some of them will be done by the end of this weekend, the rest next week.

Sometimes it just takes time to get to a project around the house. Finishing it feels good, though, no matter how long it took to get there.


Roger Owen Green said...

Seriously, we hired three different people to do a job like that before it SORT OF works. Tell you what: I'll hire you.

Arthur Schenck said...

LOL, maybe one day if the Covid ends.