How to make a garden gate.

On this page, it's all about garden gates. How to fit them and how to make them.

Garden gates come in all shapes, styles and sizes, sometimes to match the garden fencing or sometimes they are factory manufactured and come in a particular style.  Generally, a gate made by you or your fencing contractor will be considerably less expensive than a store bought gate or one you order online.  The added benefit of making one yourself or asking your contractor to do it is that the gate can be made from the same material as the fence and to the same design, or very close, so that the effect is that the gate blends in with the fence, and compliments it, maintaining the look and the continuity of the fencing.  

My first two examples (above) are gates which were made by me, from the same materials as the new fencing to do just that, and blend in with the fencing.  Some of our clients liked that better, because the gate blends in so well, it's not immediately obvious that there is even a gate there, and sometimes, that's an added security bonus, but mainly it's because it looks great.

The third example is a store bought gate, made in a factory and sold in the builder's merchants and the big DIY stores. I'll put a link here to the Travis Perkins website and you can take a look at their gates. Travis are the biggest building supply merchants in the country as far as I know and there's usually a branch nearby wherever you are or happen to be working.

These factory made gates tend to be well built, using tongue and groove panelling, with mortise and tenon joints on all the framing, glued and pinned.  They are very good gates, but like I say, a little more expensive.  I have one of those to the side at the front of the house, just because they look great, and take a nice coat of paint, and I always prefer to spend a bit more on the front garden to make it look as good as it can.  The back garden is bigger usually, so I tend to go for the cheaper option there, especially because there's more ground to cover and also because, hardly anyone is going to see it except for myself and the family.  It's up to you, that's my personal preference, but I do find most people tend to raise the per metre budget for the frontage, and lower it slightly around the back.

Making a gate or buying a gate; what to consider.

First consideration is, are the posts in place already, or are you setting new gate posts?  If the gate posts are already set in the ground, then your choices may be limited.  If you're very lucky, it may be that the gate post spacing is adequate for a ready-made gate from the DIY store or online retailer.  If not though, you will need to make the gate, or have someone make it, or even put in a bespoke order for your particular size.  Alternatively, if you are at the post setting stage, then you have two options.  You can set the posts apart to the space you need to accommodate the new factory gate, or you can just make the space the particular size you want, to get a lawn tractor through or whatever, and then make the gate to fit.

I don't mind either way, but then I've done it all 1000 times both way lol.  If I had to say which is easier, definitely make your own gate.  Setting posts to the exact spacing you need for a factory made gate is a little tricky, and you have to get it just right.  I would say, you can get away with being slightly too narrow, because if you do that, it's simple enough to trim an edge off your gate to make it the perfect fit.  On the other hand, if you get it wrong and the space is too wide, then your only option is to add a packing strip to one of the gate posts in order to fill out the gap, and that can look a bit....naff lol.

If you are building your own gate though, you set the posts and then you make the gate to fit and you can't really get that wrong. (Yes you can obviously lol)

Here's how I make gates.  For 3 and 4ft high gates, I would usually just have a top and bottom rail and a cross brace.  For 5 and 6ft high gates, I would normally choose to have top, middle and bottom rails with two cross braces.  Then depending on the hardware being used, I might need an additional half-rail to take a lock for example.

The process I follow to make a gate is quite simple.  

First, measure the width of the gate opening and subtract 16mm.  This will be the width of your gate and the length of your gate rails, top, middle, if you have one, and the bottom rails.  This allows for an 8mm gap on either side of the gate for clearance of the gate posts.  Some prefer 10 or 15mm even, but I always prefer to keep it a little tighter.

Once you have cut your gate rails to length, lay them out in rough position and place a gate slat on either side, level with the edge.  You should now have a square or rectangle.  I like my bottom rail 3 inches or 75mm up from the bottom of the gate slats, so adjust the slats to leave 75mm over and set a nail in one corner of the joint where both slats cross the bottom rail.  Now position your top rail.  It's flush if you want to add a nice profiled cap rail to finish, or just set the top rail down from the top by whatever amount you want. Nail those two corners now.

With your frame now roughly set, you need to square it up before any more slats or nails are added.  With only one nail in each corner, the frame will pivot nicely until you have it perfectly square.  To check it's square, measure each diagonal, from corner to corner.  Once you have two equal measurements, your gate frame is square and you can proceed to add the middle slats.  Lay them inside the frame and level them up at the top and bottom, then space them evenly.  This bit takes a little time, measuring the rough spacing and narrowing in until you discover the actual spacing to get all of the slats evenly spaced.  If you're a bit of a maths whiz, you can do the working out in your head and arrive at the spacing measurement, but I was never that clever, or trusting in my maths skills, so I would trial and error until I got it just right lol.

Once I have my middle slats all set and evenly spaced, I place a spare slat across the gate and put my foot on it to hold all the slats still whilst a set the nails. I set only one nail at each intersection to begin with. Then I double check the gate is still square by steeping off and measuring from corner to corner, both ways, and if the gate is still good and square, then I add another nail to each joint intersection.

With two nails now set at each joint, the gate will withstand a bit of handling until you get the cross-brace made and set in place.

Pick the gate up, flip it over and lay it down again.  Now lay your cross-brace timber on top of the top and bottom rails, diagonally from the hinge side bottom rail, to the open side top rail.  Doing it this way ensures that the weight of the gate is held up by the cross-brace.  Now mark the lines on the cross-brace by laying a ruler over the top and mirroring the inside edges of the top and bottom rails.  Now trim the cross-brace to fit inside.  Once you have it centred and you're happy with how it looks, nail the tips of the cross brace ends into the underside of the top rail and the top side of the bottom rail.  Now flip the gate over again and set two nail through the slats at each intersection with the cross-brace.

Your gate is made. If you want a top edge cap rail, you can add that now.

To fix hinges, lay the gate on trestles and line your hinges up on the rails and fit screws.

Then lay a couple of slats or a piece of rail offcut on the ground under where the gate is going, just to keep it up off the ground.  This makes sure the gate doesn't scuff the ground when it's being opened and closed.  You can balance the gate in place whilst you make sure it's even and centred. Once you're happy with the position, set a screw in each hinge and do a quick test to make sure it's all good, then set the remaining screws into the hinge plates.

You might have a latch or a bolt to fit now, to hold the gate, so position the latch or bolt and screw it into place, along with the latch pin or bolt keep.

Test again to make sure everything works as it should, and you're done.

Popular additions to that are a gate hook, to hold the gate open.  Great for when you're going to be in and out with wheelie bins or carrying in 20 bags of groceries from the car lol.

You may also want to add some extra security by way of a key operated lock, which means that even if an intruder climbs over, they still can't unlock your gate and make off with your TV.

I'll put some links up for all the gate hardware I would use. I should probably start putting links up for all the tools I use too, and my favourite screws and nails.  These are sort of relationships you build up over years of working and finding tools and materials you know and build up trust with.  I think we all know that not all tools are equal, and the same goes for the simple things like tape measures, screw, nails, locks, latches and even pencils.  

I'll start with hinges.  These are all my stock hinges I would keep in the van to cover most scenarios.  The 300mm or 12 inch Galvanised T-Hinge is the most used, then moving up to the 18 inch or 450mm T-hinge, and then there's the adjustable band hinge for the really big and heavy gates, wide driveway gates and farm gates, that sort of thing where a little bit of adjustment helps in the setting up and also for fine-tuning over time as things settle and move, which it all does in my experience. Maybe not the smaller gates so much but the bigger and heavier stuff all tends to move around a bit over time as it weathers and the timber matures.

These are my top picks for hinges. I buy from Amazon mainly but you'll find these in most stores too.

For latches on small gates, I tend to just fit a galvanised thumb latch or some know it as an auto-latch, and for the bigger gates it's usually a galvanised ring latch or some prefer a Suffolk latch.

You'll notice I prefer the heavy galvanised versions of everything over the black painted versions. That's my personal choice and I just think the galvanised metal looks better and the zinc plating makes it all last longer, but it's entirely up to you.

The added extras you might want to consider are the gate holding hook, the gate closer spring and the gate bolt. Then there's an actual key operated long throw gate lock which is very popular for added security.  You have the option to throw a padlock through the loop on a Brenton bolt but that involves a padlock obviously, and then there's the inconvenience of having to put the padlock somewhere when you don't need it, and then finding it again when you do need it, which if you're like me, isn't always easy lol.  Padlocks are only accessible from one side too, but with the key operated gate lock, you can lock and unlock the gate from either side which is much more convenient I find.

I've put two different Perry long throw key operated locks up there. They come in 50mm and 70mm which is the length of the key barrel which you take from the thickness of your gate, and those are the two standard sizes to cover almost all eventualities. My advice is always get the one which is slightly longer than your gate thickness. If you're short, then you might struggle to get the key in and out, whereas if you're long, it's not a problem.  I like the fact that Perry supply a nice handle too, so you can pull the gate closed whilst you turn the lock. Some of them don't come with a handle.  On the end there is the crème-de-la-crème of gate locks, a weather-proof digital push-button lock with fingerprint recognition, Bluetooth and smartphone functionality. 

So there we go, that's garden gates just about covered I think.  I should probably have a look on Amazon for gates, though I've never checked before. I usually use it for the smaller stuff but there's all sorts on there now.  I'll have a look and see what's there, just out of curiosity.

And there you go, garden gates for sale on Amazon now. The merchants and DIY stores are going to have to up their game to keep up. 

I had better say something about the screws I use before I end this section.  As a rule, I usually find the screws which come taped to hinges and latches are not good quality so I use my own screws with very few exceptions.  I will say, the screws which come with the Perry locks are good and I do use them, but for everything else, I go to my box, and I only ever use one brand.  I'll put the link below.  These are very high quality, self tapping, twin threads with locking grooves on the underside of the heads.  They are guaranteed not to split timber as you screw them in, saving you the trouble of drilling pilot holes, especially when you are working close to an edge.  That's why I choose them.  I'm maybe less tolerant of crappy cheap screws or I've grown impatient, or I just appreciate the higher quality more as I got older.  There was a time when I just picked whichever was the cheapest, expecting them all to be similar I suppose, but you soon realise that there are a lot of nasty, inferior products out there which will let you down, and if you're on a contract, that means you are letting your client down, so I don't even look at the cheap crap anymore.  It's not worth it.  These are worth every penny.

I bought my first case of these a while back now, but even the case is very good, and once a particular size of screw is running low, you just order what you need and top up. In my opinion, these are the best screws on the market and I don't go past them.

On the next page, it's time to talk trellis panels and what you can do with them.  See you there.

How to fit trellis to a garden fence.