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Build a small gate for a fence.

Backyard Projects:

Building A Small Gate
For A Backyard Fence

Add Privacy, Keep Children And Pets
In The Yard With A Picket Fence

In This Article:
Two support rails and two dog-eared pickets are joined and squared up. Remaining pickets and diagonal brace are added. Hinges are installed and the gate is hung on a 4x4 treated post.
Related Articles:
Skill Level:
3 (Intermediate)
Time Taken:
4 to 6 Hours
, Editor
Project Date:
July 2011
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When I built a fence in my backyard, I needed four gates so I still had access around both side of the house, and both sides of the detached garage. I also built a fifth gate along the side of the yard so the power company could reach the electric meter, which is mounted to a utility pole near the property line.

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Pair of 2x4 boards used for horizontal rails for fence gate.
Starting Point:

For this 3-foot gate, I cut a 2x4 into two 36 inch long pieces, and laid them on the floor of my garage.

I drew two lines across a fence picket: One at 6 inches from the bottom, and the other 42 inches from the bottom. I did this for two pickets.



I placed a 4-foot fence picket on the horizontal rails and aligned the 6" mark with the bottom of the bottom rail.

Using a speed-square, I made sure the picket was perpendicular to the rail, and aligned with the end of the rail.

Then I drove one 1-5/8" screw through the picket to secure it to the rail.


Fastening a fence picket to horizontal support rails, for fence gate.


Basic structure for small wood gate for fence.

I fastened the other end of the first picket, and then screwed another picket at the opposite end of the rails.

Note that there is only one screw at each connection, so the assembly can be adjusted until it is square.




Perfectly Square:

I measured both diagonals, being careful that I was measuring to corresponding points on each picket.

I adjusted the assembly (by tapping on a corner with my hand) until both diagonals were as close as possible.

Measuring diagonals across wooden fence gate to ensure squareness of assembly.


Fastening gate frame with additional screws through pickets.

Then I drove an additional screw at each corner to lock the position of the pickets and rails.

After that, I drove another 2 screws into each connection.



This small gate will require 2 more pickets (on this side) to fill in the space.

I set two pickets against one side and measured the length of the open gap (13-3/4" in this case).

I divided that dimension by 3 (2 middle pickets, 3 spaces) to obtain the spacing between pickets (about 4-9/16" in this case).

Measuring open area in run of fence pickets.


Short section of fence that could also be a gate.

After fastening the other 2 pickets, I had this short section of fence.

To turn this into a gate, I simply need to add a diagonal brace and hinges.



I flipped the gate over, then I laid a 2x4 on a diagonal across the horizontal rails, and measured the angle it made with the rails.

In my case, the angle was 43.5 degrees, which meant that I needed to set my miter saw at 46.5 degrees (90 minus 43.5 degrees).

Laying out a diagonal brace for a garden gate.


Laying out brace for fence gate.

After cutting one end, I placed the 2x4 against the horizontal rail.

I used some thin blocks of wood to hold the board up, but not as high as the 2x4 rail. This way I could butt the brace against the rail and get a reasonably accurate measurement at the other end.



At the lower rail, I marked a line on the diagonal brace.

Actually, I drew the line so the board was a bit too long, so I had material to spare in case my angles were not very accurate.

Marking diagonal brace cut line when building gate for fence.


Wood fence gate after diagonal brace cut to length.

After making several cuts to "sneak up on" the required length, the brace fit fairly well.




I drove a 2-1/2 inch deck screw into each end of the brace to secure it to the rails.

I pre-drilled the holes first to prevent the wood from splitting.

Fastening diagonal fence gate brace to horizontal fence rails.


Fastening fence pickets to diagonal brace on gate.

Then I flipped the gate over and drove 1-5/8 inch deck screws through each picket into the diagonal brace.



The gate after the brace had been fastened from the front.

Garden gate with frame and pickets.


Fence gate with double rows of pickets for privacy.

I flipped the gate over again and installed three pickets on the back side.

I spaced these pickets so they uniformly overlapped the front pickets (by about 1/2 inch on each edge).




This set of gate hinges and latch cost about $13.50 at Home Depot.

Gate hinges and latch hardware


Fastening wood filler block so gate hinges have soild mounting surface.

Before I could install the hinges, I needed to fill in the gap between two pickets.

I cut a small piece from a fence picket to use as a filler block, and nailed it in place with galvanized box nails.



Gate Hinges
Installing hinges on a gate.

I drew a guideline across the fence (along the center of the horizontal rail) to ensure the hinge was perpendicular to the left edge.

I attached each hinge with 3 screws. After I drove the first screw, I used a Vix bit to pre-drill the other holes.

(A Vix bit centers the drill bit to the hole in the hinge.)



The completed gate with hinges attached. Now I need to dig a hole and set the fence post.

Small gate with 2 hinges mounted.


 Installing The Gate: 

I set the gate in place adjacent to the fence section I had installed earlier.

I used a couple of bungee cords to hold the gate tightly against the fence.

The bottom of the gate was just resting on the ground in this picture. My goal was to establish the location of the 4x4 gate post, then set the height of the gate.



Setting The Gate Post:

First I held the gate tight against the fence using bungee cords, without the 4x4 post.

Then I marked the ground with spray paint (using a can of spray paint that sprays when held upside-down). I made "crosshair lines" indicating the center of the post.

Next, I removed the gate and dug a hole about 4 feet deep, using post-hole diggers. 


With the gate once again strapped to the end of the fence, I adjusted the gate until it was plumb.

Then I back-filled the post hole and tamped the soil, while adjusting the 4x4 post so it was plumb and parallel to the face of the gate.



Note that I fastened a 5/4 x 6 deck board to the end of the fence in the picture above. This board acted as a 1-inch spacer. I set the new 4x4 post so it was snug against the left-hand edge of the gate. 

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When the 5/4 deck board spacer was removed, I was able to get a good 1/2 inch gap on both sides of the gate.

In this picture, I used some 1/2 thick boards as spacers (scraps of fence pickets) between  the gate and the previous fence.

I placed some blocks of wood under the gate to lift it higher, and I used the bungee cords again to hold the gate against the fence.

Then I screwed the gate hinges to the new 4x4 post. 



Gate Latch:

First I installed the gate latch on the fence. I placed the rectangular base about 1/4 inch from the left edge of the fence and drove in 4 screws.

Then I placed the "pin" against the right-hand face of the gate. I drove in 2 screws to fasten the pin to the picket.

It helps to wedge some blocks of wood under the gate to hold it steady while installing the pin. 



Small gate in fence.

Once the latch pin was installed, I removed the supporting blocks from beneath the gate, and made sure the gate swung and latched properly.



 What If The Gate Sags?

Eventually, a gate will sag at least a little. It may be necessary to re-position the latch or the pin. If the 4x4 post starts to lean, it may need bracing or concrete poured around the base.

More Info:
Tools Used:
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Speed Square
  • Miter Saw
  • Cordless Drill
  • Post Hole Diggers
  • Shovel
  • Soil Tamper
  • Level
  • Bungee Cords
Materials Used:
  • 2x4, Treated
  • Pre-cut Fence Pickets
  • Deck Screws, 1-5/8"
  • Gate Hinge And Latch Set
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