How to build a Fence Gate on the cheap

The other day I decided to take a crack at fixing the gate between my deck and the side fence in my yard.  Technically there isn’t much need for a gate here but as Previous Owner had one,  I figured maybe there is a reason.  Perhaps once every full moon it becomes a portal to Narnia or Middle Earth or a late night Bed, Bath and Beyond.  A Home Owner can dream, right?

I did what amounts to research i.e. I Googled the terms fence and gate and watched a couple of YouTube videos.  Surprisingly, I couldn’t find much in the way of comprehensive This is How You Do it and Why.  I suspect the Fence Gate Lobby has restricted such material from the general populace. It required piecing together information from different sources to learn, for instance, why you put a diagonal board inside the gate frame (to alleviate the weight of the gate from the supporting fence post).  And that you should angle the board so that it is next to one of the hinges you use to hang the gate (same reason).

I didn’t Research the Crap Out of It, so maybe there is a Bob Villa or Tim the Toolman resource out there that would have told me everything I ever wanted to know about gates but was afraid to ask.  My line of reasoning went as follows:

  1. The existing gate is one dirty look away from falling apart anyway, so i couldn’t make it worse even if I simply removed the gate.
  2. It’s a small enough space that I don’t have to follow all the rules of measuring and weight distribution to make it work.
  3. Previous Owner left me plenty of spare 2x4s and other pieces of scrap wood so I’m only out the hardware for the hinges and the dog-ear fence pickets…approximately $13.
  4. You can learn a lot from your mistakes if you are willing to own up to them and apply what you learned to future projects.

So with that the first thing to do was build the frame.  As I said Previous Owner had left behind some 2x4s in the garage.  One of the things I learned from watching all those Woodworking shows on PBS  and DIY shows — or perhaps I’m’ just making it up — is that you want to conserve wood and make as few cuts as possible.  Now I have to think of an example…okay.

Say you have two 10 ft 2X4s, so 20 total feet of wood (yep I went there) and you need four 3 foot pieces.  A novice might make two cuts on one board and one cut on the other.  A better practice is to take the two boards and make two 3′ cuts on each.  That gives you 4 pieces of wood 3 feet long and you have two 4 foot boards left.  Note: this is just an example made on the fly but hopefully you get the point:  Odds are stronger that you will need that combination more than you will need a 1 ft board and a 7 ft board and its easier to cut a larger board down to size than to try and put feet back on a board.

So with that rule of  thumb and my already having pieces that were close to the size I needed, I simply trimmed the horizontal board to fit the already cut vertical board.  Or maybe I trimmed the horizontal to fit my verticals i don’t remember now.  The point is that great Rule of Thumb didn’t really apply here.  However the gate turned out okay and will suffice until the entire fence finally falls apart and I replace the damn thing with PVC fencing.

Update: Apparently there was too much weight on those little pieces of wood connecting the fence to the gate.  If you liked this post, you should read How to Fix a broken fence gate on the Cheap.
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Filed under: Weekend DIY

Tags: DIY, Fence, Gate

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