Five weeks into our fence build, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Slav finished installing fence pickets last week, which brought us to the homestretch: building gates.
Being on flat ground, this 15 feet stretch is the only portion we could incorporate gates. We decided on a 4′ walk gate + a 10′ drive gate combo, a big upgrade from the little 3′ walk gate we had before.
We are excited to have a real drive gate. There has been a handful of times that we had to let in big vehicles (hi, concrete truck), which required taking down the chain link.
An average truck is 8′ wide, so we decided to build our drive gate 10′ wide. It is more than enough for Slav’s trailer to go in and out easily. In fact, we found that the newly enclosed side yard is the perfect spot for parking the trailer.
I am particularly excited about the new 4′ walk gate – the old 3′ gate was a hair wider than our wheelbarrow, which I push around a lot while gardening. I love to use my garden caddy on top of the wheelbarrow, which is 6″ wider. It is going to be so convenient to not have to unload the caddy every time when I pass the gate!
We have erected the posts with the gate dimensions in mind. But we had no experience building gates. Heck, we had no experience building anything before buying this house. With any project, we started with extensive research – getting information online and from people we know, evaluating all the information and creating a strategy/protocol, then off we go. It has worked out pretty well – we never made a mistake so big that we had to backtrack. But this gate build was particular challenging.
Let me be clear, building fence gate is not hard, not technically. What’s difficult were all the small decisions we had to make, which are often arbitrary and require a certain level of experience. We also insisted on a certain look, which added another layer of complexity onto the build.
Step 1: the Gate Assembly
We made a good decision to use these EasyGate kits. Each kit contains four corner brackets, which make constructing the 2″ x 4″ assembly a breeze. The hinges are welded directly on two of the brackets, which adds stability.
To use the kit, we needed to decide the dimension of the 2″ x 4″ assembly. Deciding the width of the assembly was easy – it is the width of the gate opening minus 1″. In our case the distance between the post and the side of the house is 48″, and we had to mount a 2″ x 4″ onto the house to receive the latch, so the width of the assembly/gate was set to be 45 1/2″.
The nightmare came when we had to decide on the height of assembly. For vertical fencing, the top and bottom rails can be at any height, as long as they make sense for the weight distribution. But for horizontal pickets, the rails are better hidden behind the pickets, an issue we overlooked during the initial build. Slav had to rebuilt all three gates so the top rails would not block any gap.
The second challenge is the location of the hinges. Without any prior experience, it was hard for us to decide how far to space hinges for the best weight distribution. We initially made the top rail on the drive gate higher considering they are heavier, but immediately regretted it. Misaligned top rails made the gates look choppy next to each other.
Slav ended up adjust the top rails once again. Ugh. Fortunately we accidentally over-purchased cedar 2″ x 4″s. #mistakenotmistake
The actual construction was not too bad. With the kits, all we needed to do was cutting 2″ x 4″s to length. Slav also polished the ends so the two matching 2″ x 4″s were at exactly the same length, which helped to square the gate.
He also chipped the corner of the 2″ x 4″s down to accommodate the welding spots. Nice! I knew I praise Slav frequently on the blog for his attention to details, but things like this are the exact reason why I trust his DIY over contractors.
Everything was dry-fit before screwed together:
Then onto the post!
Step 2: the Hidden Hinges
For 15 ft of space, it is pretty crowded to have three gates. We wanted them to look more like a fence from the street, which means running horizontal pickets all the way continuously, including the front of the posts. To get a seamless look, we decided to hide the hinges, by mounting them on the side of the posts.
To accommodate the thickness of the bearing, Slav carved out shallow tunnels on the side of the posts:
We really like the hidden hinge look. It enabled us to attach pickets in front of the posts.
Step 3: Creating Support for the Top Pickets
Once the gate assemblies were mounted, it was time to attach pickets. Unfortunately, it was not as straightforward as it seemed. A work of advice – for your first fence DIY, do not go horizontal. The second word of advice: with a sloped land, do not go horizontal. Yes, we are building a horizontal fence on a steep slope as our first fence, and we lived to tell the tale (almost), but boy did problems rise daily! In case of the gate pickets, there had to be continuous vertical support along the entire height for the pickets to screw onto. With the top rails being at the eye level, we needed to mount additional 2″ x 4″s over the top rails.
We could have brought the top rails all the way to the top, in which case the pickets would be screwed onto the side rails. But we have decided to run a different pattern with narrower pickets on the top for the front portion of the fence, which forces the bulky top rail to sit at the eye height, behind the first 1″ x 6″ picket:
I know, I know. First fence, no prior experience, horizontal pickets, sloped land, and now, decorative patterns…we are asking for troubles. And surely, we’ve gotten them. But we have already gone this far and embraced all the problems along the way, there would be no concession now.
Slav added 2″ x 4″s on top of all the top rails with pocket holes:
Patched the holes with saw dust and glue:
And attached the pickets:
With short panels covering the post from the front, the gates look more seamless from the front.
Step 4: the Latch Work
The last step was to install latches on all the gates. Slav picked a push latch for its sleek look and easy-to-open mechanisms from both sides.
In order to have something to latch onto, a piece of cedar 2″ x 4″ was mounted to the house:
Slav attached the 2″ x 4″ using masonry sleeve anchors, drilling through the mortar. He also filled the holes with sawdust and glue:
A bit had to be cut off near the ground to accommodate the foundation. Little details matter.
The finished product:
Gates, 95% Done!
We are 95% done with the gates, with only one task left: setting the drive gate cane bolts into the ground with concrete. With all the snow, concrete work has to wait. To hold the drive gates together and in place, we mounted the pair of cane bolts horizontally, and put the sawhorses I built last year on both sides.
We’ve taken down majority of the chain link during the mid-project clean-up. With the gates installed and operational, the very last bit of chain link behind the gates has come down. Finally, we are chain link- free! I will not miss this pit bull-behind-chain link look.
We are waiting for the next warm day to finish the cane bolts. In Colorado, it could be a day or a month away. Weirdly, I feel no rush. I am enjoying the wait, as if I am savoring the moment. The big reveal is coming, and I am looking forward to it as much as you are. Happy Winter, everyone!