We just moved into an old farm house and I discovered that the gate leading to the garden was broken. What is the best way to make a new one?
The problem with the gate was that it was old and the wood was rotten, and the gate sagged to the point where it wouldn’t open and close. The wood was so soft and porous that it could not be braced, and even if I could it probably would only have lasted a few months. The obvious solution was to replace the gate. The first thing to do was to inspect the two gate posts to make sure that they were solid, stable, and sufficiently strong. In this case I was able to determine that the two posts were made from 4×4 pressure treated lumber which apparently had been set into the ground deep enough so that they couldn’t be moved. The other thing to examine is how plumb the posts are. Needless to say to make a good gate installation, having perfectly plumb gate posts is a necessary prerequisite. Not having access to a plumb bob, I took out my trusty 24” Stanley level to determine that the gate posts were in fact plumb along both axis. This was good news and created a good starting point. The next part of the process was to determine whether I should buy a gate or make my own. Needless to say, if I am going to purchase a premade gate (there are many available in both vinyl and wood) the opening between the posts must be such that it can accommodate the gate. Generally speaking, almost every premade gate is 36” wide. These can be purchased off the shelf from Home Depot, Lowes, or Menards. There were a few that were 48” wide, but there were none that were 41” wide, which is the size of my opening. The only solution to this dilemma was to make my own gate. Making a gate seems like a simple process and the type of thing that anybody with basic carpentry skills can perform.
Upon investigating exactly what was necessary to make a gate that would function correctly, retain its squareness and not sag, and also last for the foreseeable future, requires knowledge of carpentry, available materials, and reasonable skill. The first thing to do is determine the raw materials. Generally speaking you would think that a gate could be made from 2×4 yellow pine with pine boards. This of course is a good place to start and would make a gate that would function- for a while. The key to making a solid, durable, long lasting gate that will function flawlessly is in maintaining perfectly square corners. This is virtually impossible to do using wood alone because wood swells and shrinks, and the fasteners used to hold things together can lose their connecting power. You need to remember that the latch side of the gate is some distance away from the hinge side of the gate, and all the leverage is against the hinge. Gates, by definition, are all cantilevered to some degree. This means that it doesn’t take much humidity and weathering (not to mention children swinging on it) to cause the gate to sag. The work around for this is to purchase a gate making kit that has welded steel corner brackets that are made to a perfect 90° angle and have integral sockets so that the 2×4’s of the frame can be held at a perfect 90° angle to each other. Using this system to make the frame of the gate will make a gate that will look good, function well, and will last for a long time. To make this type of gate you will need basic carpentry tools, a screw gun,a saw, tape measure, square, and appropriate screws. If you are going to use a hand saw, you will need to wear appropriate ANSI and OSHA approved eye protection. If you are going to use a power saw then you are going to need both ANSI and OSHA approved eye and hearing protection. Keep in mind, whenever using power tools do not wear loose clothing that can get tangled in the working end of the tool. The first thing to do is measure the opening. In this case it is 41” and due to the thickness of both the post and the 2×4 of the gate frame, plus the thickness of the fascia, you would need to allow about 1”. In other words, make the gate to finish at 39 ½” to 40” in width. Kits can be purchased from Adjustagate, Homax, Pylex, True Latch, Barnwood Décor, National Hardware, and Tech Team.
I bought the Tech Team kit because of its superior strength and advanced design. Following the instructions in the gate kit, cut your lateral 2×4’s and fit one end into the socket of the hinge bracket. Now measure the other end and position the other hinge bracket to the point where the gate will finish at 40” in width. Mark that point on the 2×4, cut the wood to the appropriate length, and do the same thing to the rail along the bottom. Now you must determine the height of the gate which of course can be anything that you want. Insert 2×4’s into all the appropriate sockets, use the appropriate screws to properly secure everything together. Use the square to confirm that all the joints are made square. At this point turn the gate over and apply the fascia. The fascia can be plain pine boards, or better yet, treated boards. You can do whatever type of artistic treatment you want, points, rounds, etc. on the top to make the gate more attractive. Fasten these to the front of the gate and at that point you need only to apply the hinges. My suggestion is to apply the hinges to the gate first, and generally speaking, the gate bracket kit will have appropriate holes for the hinges and the hinges will be supplied. The barrel end of the hinge, that’s the side with the hinge pin, needs to go towards the side where the gate will swing open or the other side of the gate will bind. Once you have the hinges fastened to the gate, use some type of support underneath the gate to hold the gate at the correct elevation inside the opening so that it does not scrape the ground and bind, and does not allow too much room for pets to run underneath. Once you have done that use the level to level the gate and begin to attach the hinges to the gate post. Use the screw gun and screws to do this.At this point you have a gate that should swing free and look good. Now attach the latch mechanism on the other side and you are almost good to go. You now have two choices, paint the gate, which will probably be white. Or, if you thought ahead of time and purchased vinyl fascia material to use instead of pine lumber, you have a beautiful gate that will be maintenance free.