How To Build a Wooden Gate
Gates are often considered the most challenging part of building a
fence. They have more components than other fence panels, are prone to
coming out of square or racking because they are not supported as well
as other fence panels, and experience far more wear and tear than other
parts of the fence.
Many home stores and lumber yards sell pre-fabricated gates for this
reason, but choosing a pre-fabricated gate can limit your choices of
design and gate sizes. This can be particularly problematic if you need
a larger than normal gate or a gate of an odd size.
There are also a variety of gate kits available. These vary widely
in price and quality. If you choose to use a kit, follow the manufacturer's
Gate posts must be plumb and straight or the gate will not operate
correctly. It is highly recommended that you set gate posts in concrete
even if the rest of your posts are not. If it is not possible to use
concrete, metal fence spikes usually used in temporary fence repair can
be used at the bottom of the hole for extra strength.
To build a gate:
Measure the opening. You will want to make your gate 1 to 1-1/2 inches
smaller than the opening to allow for swing and hardware.
Cut four pieces of 2x4 so they have a 45 degree angle on each end with
the tip of the angle on the same side of the 2x4. Two of these will be
the vertical members of your frame and two will be the horizontal portions.
Arrange the pieces so they form a rectangle and screw or nail them together.
Check the gate frame for square, by measuring across the frame on an
angle first one way, then the other, to form an X. If the measurements
match the gate is square.
Install a cross member across the frame to keep the gate square. Cut
one piece of lumber so that it crosses the frame at an angle from one
corner to another across the gate. The ends of the cross-member should
be angled so they fit flush with the inner part of the frame. This angle
will vary with actual frame dimensions, so scribe the wood or use an
angle-finder to determine the angle. Screw the cross-member to the frame.
If you are building a large gate, add cross-members to form an X across
the gate to prevent racking. Cut two pieces so they fit between the first
cross-member and the frame, forming a X with the first cross-member,
and screw them to the frame and the first cross member. Nail or screw
each fence board to the cross-members as well as the frame.
Hinges and latches vary widely in design and strength. Choose the strongest
products that will fit on your gate because they will have to support
the entire weight of the gate. They should be attached to the gate frame
and posts, not to fence boards. Butt hinges attached with screws are
adequate for smaller gates. Large strap hinges attached with bolts should
be used with large gates.
Proper installation of hinges will ensure that your gate swings freely
and extend the useful life of your gate.
To install hinges:
Screw or bolt the hinges to the gate. Have a helper hold the gate in
the opening so that the top of the gate is level with the top of the
fence and the bottom does not contact the ground. If the gate does contact
the ground, it must be shortened. Attach the upper hinge to the post
with one screw or bolt. Place a level on the vertical frame of the gate
to ensure it is plumb. Attach the lower hinge to the post and install
the remainder of the screws in the upper hinge.
There are many versions of latches available. Some use a thumb latch
and have hardware on both sides of the gate while others are a simple
catch. Which you choose is a matter of personal choice.
When installing a latch, install the hardware on the gate first then
install the catch hardware on the post so that it matches the gate. It
should catch and release easily and without interference.
A gate should be supported by the hinges, not the latch.
A properly constructed gate with properly installed hardware will offer
years of trouble free service.