How to Build Your Own Gate

Building a gate can be as simple as a few pieces of odd lumber nailed together or an ornate wrought iron beauty. Most people do not have the facilities to work with iron or steel so for this article we will stick strictly with wooden gates. You must first decide where the gate will be located and secondly how large you need the gate to be when completed. With this information in hand we can get started. If your gate is to be a person gate, a three foot wide opening is generally acceptable. If you need to pass a lawn mower or tractor or perhaps even a vehicle through your gate then it has to be much wider. A vehicle gate is usually ten feet wide, mowers and small tractors may need only a four to six foot wide gate.

Gates fall basically into two categories of styles, ornamental and utility. Utility gates are built for access to livestock pens, access to yards or keeping animals out of your garden for instance. Since appearance is not the prime factor, these gates may be constructed of metal pipe, Gated wire fencing, vinyl, wood or other similar materials. Gates used for access to flower gardens, pergolas, decks and other areas where beauty is as important as the gate function itself may be constructed of cedar, pressure treated materials, common pine stained or painted but the possibilities are endless. No matter what the intended use of your gate may be, the assembly is basically the same.

Once the type of gate is chosen and the location is selected, you must decide the finished size of the opening you desire. A person gate at 36″ wide is fine for walking but you may want a 40″ gate perhaps to make passing a wheelbarrow less of a chore. The wider the gate, the more it will need to be reinforced against sagging or bending.

Start by working on a level surface wider than the finished gate dimensions. A picnic table or saw horses with a sheet of plywood both make an excellent temporary work bench. For this project you will need protective glasses, tape measure, pencil, circular saw or real good hand saw,

screws or nails and depending upon the size of the gate perhaps a couple of small turn buckles, screw eyes and some light cable. We will construct a 36″ gate but larger gates are basically the same procedure. Start by cutting the two horizontal 36″ long pieces that will hold all the vertical slats for the gate. Lay out these two pieces on your work bench with the lower cross bar about four inches up from the bottom of your gate and the other four inches down from the top of your gate. Tack these lightly to keep them from shifting around while you work. Measure from corner to corner of the bars to assure they measure exactly the same distance. If they do, they are square to each other. If not, they are not parallel and an adjustment must be made until the measurements match. Now cut your vertical pieces of lumber. Try to remember that as individual pieces they may seem lightweight but when you add them all together the gate can become quite heavy. I have made gates with a one by three horizontal bars and 1/4″ vertical slats that function just fine as a gate to a chicken pen for example. Gates to a garden that needs to keep out deer must be heavier materials.

The vertical slats of your gate may have the top ends cut square, half round, scroll, pointed or any design you wish to make. Starting on one side of the gate, temporarily nail a vertical slat into place keeping the edge of the slat flush with the ends of the horizontal back braces. Now do the same on the opposite side of the gate. With these two slats in place lay out all the remaining slats. Adjust all the slats to create even spacing between them unless you want a closed face gate. A closed face gate will usually require at least one slat to be rip cut for width. Leaving small spaces between the slats allows you a little more leeway. Once all the slats are in final position, double check your corner to corner measurement to assure the gate is square. If it is good, go ahead and nail or screw all your slats into place. Now turn the gate over to work on the backside being careful not to twist or “rack” your gate out of square. For smaller gates, cut a brace that will fit on a diagonal from the end of the top horizontal to the lower opposite end of the lower horizontal. When in place, pay4d it will look like a giant letter “Z”. Nail or screw the diagonal into place. On a larger wooden gate, you may need to install two screw eyes at opposite corners from high end to low end also on a diagonal and add a small turnbuckle with a cable to provide added support against sagging.

Install your support post for the gate making sure it is of sufficient size to support the gate without bending or leaning. Choose a heavy duty set of hinges and I strongly recommend you use galvanized wood screws to fasten the hinges to both the gate and the post. Keep the gate above the ground to allow it to swing freely. If you live in Northern climes make sure you leave room for snow if the gate is to be used in winter. Double check that the gate swings freely without binding or dragging. Install some type of device such as a barrel bolt to hold the gate in a closed position. Built out of wood scraps my last gate costs only a few dollars for new hinges and a lock bolt and a couple of hours of my time.


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