In This Article:
Pre-cut fence pickets are screwed to a pair of 2x4 horizontal rails. A diagonal brace is cut and fastened, and pickets are installed on the opposite side. Hinges are bolted on.
2-3 (Basic to Intermediate)
About 6 Hours
Bruce W. Maki, Editor
The procedure for building this 8-foot long gate is mostly the same as the 3-foot gate shown in my other article. The main differences are the hinges and some structural enhancements.
Before starting this gate, I laid out the approximate locations of the gate and fence on the ground. I used lawn marking paint (which sprays with the can held upside-down) to mark the expected end points of the gate.
I picked out two straight 8-foot 2x4's and set them on the floor of my garage. I placed these boards so the outer edges were about 36 inches apart.
I used all pressure-treated lumber for this project.
I placed a pre-cut fence picket on the ends of the parallel 2x4's, and drove one screw at each junction. I used 1-5/8" deck screws.
However... these 4-foot pickets are not cut with great precision. Rather than measure 6 inches from the top, I made the upper line 42 inches from the bottom.
Here I've fastened two pickets to the horizontal rails. The ends of the rails were flush with the edges of the pickets.
Since each junction was held with only one screw, the entire assembly could easily be manipulated so it was "square".
I measured the diagonals, making sure I was measuring to the same point on each dog-eared pickets.
I adjusted the shape of the frame until both diagonals were very close (within 1/16").
Then I drove additional deck screws into each picket-to-rail junction.
Once all four corners were fastened, the frame became surprisingly rigid.
Before I could fasten the remaining pickets to the gate, I needed to figure out my picket spacing.
Before starting this fence project, I had decided to build the fence with pickets on opposite sides of the 2x4 horizontal rails. Originally I planned on placing one picket every 6 inches. Since these 1x6 pickets were about 5-1/2" wide, that design would leave a small gap between pickets when viewed straight on.
Later, I decided to have some overlap between the two rows of pickets. This meant that the gap between adjacent pickets on the same side of the fence would be less than the 5-1/2" picket width. I started by trying a 4-1/2" space between pickets.
But it's not always that simple. If I just started fastening pickets using 4-1/2" spacers, the last picket might have a totally different gap.
Here's what I did:
I took the overall length of the horizontal rails and subtracted 5-1/2 inches (the width of one picket) Then I divided this length by 9 inches (5.5" picket + 4.5" space = 9") to give me the number of picket-and-space intervals I would need in addition to that first picket.
Example: Suppose I chopped a measly 1/2 inch from the ends of those 8-foot rails, leaving them 95.5" long. After subtracting the first picket (5.5"), I would have 90 inches that needs to be covered with several picket-and-gap patterns that are 9 inches each. Since 90" divided by 9" is exactly 10, I could build this section of fence with 11 pickets on the first side (each 5.5" wide) and 10 spaces of 4.5" each.
Since my horizontal rails were 96 inches long, I could've used slightly longer spacers than 4.5". But I also know that these pickets are not very precise, so I chose to use 4.5" spacers and adjust the picket spacing as I went along.
I cut two spacer blocks that were both 4-1/2 inches long.
I placed the spacers against the first picket and set another picket against the spacers.
I adjusted the new picket so the pencil mark lined up with the edge of the rail, then I drove in some 1-5/8" deck screws to secure the picket.
I used 4 screws at the top connection, and 4 at the bottom.
It took me about 15 minutes to install the pickets for the first side of the gate.
If this was going to be just a section of fence, I would continue installing pickets on the back side.
Since this will be a gate, I needed a diagonal brace.
I used a 10-foot 2x4 for this diagonal brace. In this case, the angle between the brace and each rail was just under 17 degrees.
I drove a couple of long deck screws sideways through the brace into the rails.
Then I flipped the gate over and drove 3 or 4 screws through each picket into the diagonal brace.
I also added this extra piece of 2x4 at each end to provide additional strength.
I started fastening pickets to the back side of the gate.
The layout for these pickets was different than the first side.
I made sure the upper pickets overlapped the bottom pickets by 1/4 inch on each side.
The overlap may appear to be more than 1/4", but that's caused by camera lens distortion.
All the pickets have been fastened to the gate.
On the back side, the ends looked a little odd.
So I ripped a picket in half on my table saw, and used each half to conceal the ends on the back side of the gate (red arrow).
This strap hinge is part of a 2-piece hinge design.
I marked the location of the holes for the strap hinge. Then I drilled 7/16" holes through the fence in 3 places per hinge.
Note the small filler block between the pickets. I used a scrap of fence picket to make these filler blocks.
I fastened the strap hinge with 3/8" carriage bolts. On the other side, I used a 1/2" washer, a 3/8" washer, and a nut on each carriage bolt. I tightened the nuts until the wood fibers started to crush.
As the wood dries out, the nuts will become loose, so they will need to be tightened again later.
These strap hinges slip over a peg on the end of special bolt which is mounted to a post.
After I set the big post in the ground, I set the gate on the peg-bolts.
After I built the long gate, I built a smaller gate (which latches into the big gate) and a short section of fence to reach the garage (the white building on the left).
While building this gate, I kept wondering "what part, or what connection, would be the weak point". I'm a mechanical engineer by training, and I know that building a big wide structure that is supported at one end puts a lot of stress on certain components.
I also wondered what would happen if somebody tried standing on the bottom rail of the gate? Kids like to do that kind of stuff. After one summer, nobody has tried to stand on the gate, to my knowledge. But there has been a "failure" of sorts: the gate has sagged enough that the latch didn't work.
Sure, I can adjust the peg-bolt hinges to raise up the far end of the gate. But I still want to know the weak point in this design.
The weak point is: The carriage bolts. The bolts didn't bend or break, they just developed a sideways "lean" over time. I drew the arrows in the photo to align with the bolt, so you can see how much the bolts have shifted.
The best simple solution I can find is to removed each nut and install a big washer (such as 3/4" ) under all the other washers. With larger washers, the clamping force is spread over a larger area, and the nuts can be tightened more.
Since my small gate was on a 45 degree angle, I needed a solution for the latching problem.
On the small gate I mounted the latch pin on a 2x4 block that I screwed to the face of the gate.
For the large gate, I cut a small block of wood into a strip with a 45 degree bevel. This angled block of wood created a flat surface for mounting the gate latch.
To hold the big gate in place, I installed this cane bolt on the gate.
The end of the rod goes into a piece of 3/4" galvanized iron pipe, which I drove into the ground with a small sledge hammer.