Lawn + Garden Projects
How to Build a Fence Gate
Tim Layton Expert Blogger 2 Projects
“Oh Wow! I love it!”
Any home improvement project that ends with those words from my wife is a good one. Any additional benefits in the plus column are just icing on the cake and this project has plenty!
Here’s a short list:
● Accomplish the functional goal of keeping the dog in the yard!
● Improved home security
● Improved back-yard privacy
● Low cost
● One day project!
● Looks great and improves curb appeal!
If all that sounds like a winner to you, read on… we’re going to build an awesome gate.
You don’t want a plain ole simple gate do you? Of course not. A gate is like the entry door to your backyard. It’s a passageway into the oasis fantasy land of grills, swimming pools, and tool sheds. It wouldn’t be right for it to just be a plain rectangle barely distinguishable from the rest of the fence. No, your gate should make a statement. A “gatement”?
At least that’s the excuse I used to put off building a new gate to my backyard for a very long time. “I’m going to build a gate dear, I promise… I’m just still working out the design concept… you don’t want a plain gate do you?” This bought me years of procrastination.
Then we got a puppy. A fast puppy. When he’s gone… he’s way gone and you better be prepared for a little run. Not good.
Now the gate was urgent and I had pretty much ruled out the possibility of a simple gate with my years of build-up. So we needed a fancy gate and we needed it yesterday.
No problem, I said to my son and right-hand-man Jacob… we got this.
Every project needs design criteria. Even a gate. So before we decided on a design, we needed to know what the finished project must do. Here’s the list:
- It needs to be tall enough to be visible from the front, so to create an interesting design focal point, leading the eye and causing the observer to think “that must be a really cool back yard if it has a gate like that!”.
- It needs to be awesome. No plain gate makes a statement.
- It needs to be cheap (ish).
- It needs to be able to handle extreme tropical weather.
- It has to be simple enough to build in one day. It is just a gate after all.
So with these criteria in mind, I reviewed a few pictures online of other peoples gates and started to develop a mental picture of the design.
You don’t have to have any kind of special drawing skills to be able to draw out a rough sketch of a woodworking project! Just grab a sheet of graph paper and a pencil and start!
As your design develops you’ll get a much better idea of the materials you’re going to need when you hit the supplies store. Here’s my quick sketch:
As you can see, I noted the overall width and height, and was also able to jot down a quick “cut list” of some of the wood I would need. This made my shopping trip easy.
We went with standard pressure treated lumber for the whole gate. It’s inexpensive and stands up to the weather here on the coast of Southwest Florida.
My gate design kind of flows around the look of the “frame boards” for lack of a better term. These kind of resemble the stiles and rails of a traditional door and give the gate a little bit of a paneled door look.
The frame boards are also what defined the key design element of the whole thing, the arched top.
I created the frame from simple 1x4 PT lumber and cut the arch out of a piece of 1x8, more of which is shown below.
The main structure of the gate is constructed with 5/4x6 PT Deckboards which I like to use for things like this because they are thick enough to be strong but come already smoothed with rounded edges, saving time.
The joinery is all glued and screwed. Every joint is glued with a strong all-weather adhesive and then screwed with Deck Mate screws right through the face. I like Deck Mate because they don’t (usually) require predrilling, hold fast, and have a coating that resists the harsh chemicals in pressure treated lumber. I’ve found the combination of these screws and glue to be a durable joint for any exterior project.
The downside is the fact that the screws are exposed. For this project, I didn’t care because it will weather and just kind of blend with the gate. On projects requiring a more finished look, I countersink, fill, and paint. But I still use the same joinery on all outdoor projects. It’s strong.
The most important connections...
In this gate design, the frame holds all the pieces together, so the connections of the frame boards to the slats (the 5/4” x 6”) is crucial.
Especially the connection between the first slat on the hinged side to the horizontal frames and the arch. These connections carry the weight of the whole gate.