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How to build a wooden gate

A step-by-step tutorial on how to build a wooden gate

There is nothing wrong with a chain link fence. 

It’s a cheap option, needs almost no maintenance, and you can add slats or screens to improve privacy.

But it’s just not our aesthetic. 

We love the beauty of wood grain and simple stains, especially outdoors. 

So when we first moved in, we knew our chain link gate had to go.

How to Build a Gate for your fence

We delayed the project because there was more involved – the post holding up the gate was in poor shape and would need to be completely replaced. 

We finally decided on a whim to redo the fence. Along with that, we chose to install new post for the gate, install new cedar pickets, and we are adding a pergola to spruce things up.

For this post, I will guide you through building and installing a wooden fence gate.

wooden gate for fence

What do you think? I am so excited with how it looks! Now all we need to do is waterproof it. 

Do you want to know how we built the gate? Let me walk you through it (pun intended!).

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BUILD A WOODEN GATE


MATERIALS:

(all depends on fence size)

TOOLS:

  • miter saw
  • router w/0.75″ straight bit (or table saw)
  • drill
  • clamp
  • square
  • air compressor w/gun
  • Kreg Jig
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • circular saw
  • safety glasses
  • face mask (for dust)
  • ear protection

You can print the material list and instructions below.

STEP 1: TAKE MEASUREMENTS

The first thing we did (after sketching out our design) was measure the space we had for our gate. We wanted the gate to be as tall as our pickets because we didn’t want people to see in. 

We measured the distance from the ground to the top of the pickets (73.5“). Then, we measured the width between the post top, middle, and bottom; writing down the smallest number (47“).

Don’t look too closely or you will notice that the post with the hinges is not straight, making the gate not complete level (we tweaked it a little to fix it). The problem was caused by one of our posts, which bows at the top.

Now, the tricky part: deciding the space between the posts and gate. 

To do this, we looked at our gate hinges (they are spring ones, self-closing) and decided how they needed to be placed on the post. 

SIDE NOTE: The way we did it originally made our gaps larger on one side than we planned. 

We ended up having our gate swing toward the backyard and the hinges were placed like this.

hinge for a gate

The gap on this side (hinge side) of our gate is about 0.25” to the post at the bottom & 0.50” on top (remember, we had to tweak ours!). 

Our gap on the other side (latch side) is about 1.75 inches to the post. We would suggest this gap be closer to 1 inch. 

Now, with our original width measurement of 47 inches, we subtracted the hinge gap (0.25) and the latch side (1.75″). This means our finished gate needs to be 45″ wide.

SIDE NOTE: Remember, I recommended a 1” gap, so the total width of the door and gaps is  46.25”.

For the height of the gate, we measured from the ground to the top of the pickets and subtracted 2″; so ours would be 71.5 inches. 

So, our finish gate needed to be 45″ wide and 71.5″ tall.

STEP 2: CUT THE BOARDS

Now we could cut our 2×4’s. 

We would need two pieces cut to the height of the gate, 71.5 inches (these are the sides). And we would need three pieces cut to the width of the gate minus 3″ (these will be between the side pieces), a total of 42 inches.

STEP 3: ADD THE DADO’S

Next, we took two of the 2×4 boards that will be used for the width of the gate, 42″, and we placed two Kreg Jig pockets on each end of the 4″ side of the board (one side of the board but on both ends).

After, we needed to add a .75″ x 0.25″ dado to the other side of the 2×4’s we just added pockets too. 

We finally purchased a compact router to do this job and we also got an edge guard to make it even easier. We cut the groove 1.75 inches away from the edge (this is on the 4″ side of the 2×4). 

We also added a dado to both sides of the other width board (making sure the distance from the edge is the same on both sides). These grooves will be used to slide wood between the frame.

router wood for gate

We also needed to create a dado on part of the side boards (there are 2). We marked both boards 51.5 inches away from the bottom (this will depend on the top part of the gate, our finished top panel measurement was 18 inches). 

Then, starting at the bottom to the marked spot, we created a dado the same way as before. 

TIP: Make sure you consider the distance from the side, 1.75 inches. The dado should be on opposite sides of these two boards.

STEP 4: ASSEMBLE THE GATE

BOTTOM OF GATE

At this point, we started to assemble the gate. 

First, we attached the middle 2×4 (the board that has a dado on both sides), to the side boards. This board was placed 50.5 inches from the bottom of the sides, (the dado will be about 3/4″ into the middle board). 

TIP: Make sure your dado’s are all lining up (same distance from sides). 

We attached the middle board to make an “H”. We inserted the screws on the 2×4 sides into the middle board. We pre-drilled our holes first; then, used 3.5″ deck screws to attach the boards.

After, we added the 5.5″ cedar pickets into the bottom section of the gate. 

Your gate width will determine the number of pickets used. We even had to cut some down in size and we used a circular saw to do so. 

All the picket boards will need to be cut to the right height – ours are 49-7/8″. For the length of the pickets, measure what the distance would be from groove to groove inside the frame and minus 1/8″ (this will give you some wiggle room). 

After cutting our pickets, we started to add them into the dado groove. Once we added them all, we took one of the width 2×4 (that has the pocket) and put all the pickets into that groove also (right next to each other). 

Then, we attached the bottom 2×4 to the side by using the pockets (we used 2.5″ deck screws). 

TIP: Make sure the side and bottom 2×4 are flush.

attaching wood for gate

Now the bottom of the gate was complete.

building wooden gate

TOP OF GATE

For the top of the gate, you need to decide the gap you want. 

We decided we wanted a 1″ gap. Calculate how many pickets (3.5″) you need (we ended up having a 1.25″ on the ends to make things work). 

We would need 9 picket pieces to fill in our space. 

For the length of the pickets, measure what the distance would be from groove to groove inside the frame and minus 1/8″ (this will give you some wiggle room). We needed 18 7/8″ for ours. 

Next, you need to cut small gap pieces – these will be 3/4″ x the gap. Take extra precautions when doing this to avoid cutting a finger! (A circular saw with a 3/4″ cedar strip, or gap size, clamped down to something is a good start). You will need enough to go between each picket (inside the dado) on both sides (we used a total of 20).

After cutting everything, we added all the pickets into the middle dado. Then, we added the top 2×4 and inserted the pickets into that groove also. We then attached the top 2×4 the same way as we did the bottom. 

Now, to space the boards, we took a small gap piece and added outdoor wood glue to one side. Then, we placed it into one of the dados, making it flush with the side of the frame.

exterior wood glue

We placed another piece directly across for this piece. Then, we moved one picket right next to the pieces. And again, we placed another small gap piece right next to the picket. We continued this for the whole length. 

Finally, we let the gate sit overnight to let the glue fully dry.

wood slats for gate

BACK BRACE

After the glue dried, we then added the back “X” brace to the gate (this is to make it sturdier). 

We added this to the 1.75 inch side of the gate. We started by laying a 2×4 board on top of the bottom panel of the gate, with one side of the board hitting the bottom corner and the other side hitting the top. 

Then, taking a pencil, we marked the board at the angle to have it fit inside the frame. 

Next, we took the board to the miter saw and adjusted the angle of the blade until it matched the marked board angle.

We then cut the board on both marked lines (you should not have to adjust the saw). 

After, we checked the cut to make sure it fits inside the frame. While leaving that board there, we then took another 2×4 and placed it on the other side. 

We marked the angle of the corner plus where the board meets the other brace, we did this for both sides. We cut the corner angles first (because the saw was already at that angle). 

Then, we adjusted the saw angle and cut the other angles. After we checked the fit of the 2×4 to the frame, adjusting if needed.

Next, we added two Kreg Jig pockets to each of the angles that attach to the other brace (form the “X”). 

After, we attached the braces together using 2.5-inch deck screws. 

TIP: After creating the pocket, place the 2×4’s back onto the frame to attach them together.

build gate "x" for back support

Once the “X” was created, we then turned the brace over and added 2 Kreg Jigs pockets to each angle.

create support for gate

After we placed the brace into the gate frame (the pockets used to create the “X” we are not showing) and attached to the frame using 2.5-inch deck screws.

bracing for gate

FINAL TOUCHES

We also decided to fill in all the Kreg Jig pockets with the pocket hole plugs. We did this by adding exterior wood glue into the pocket then pushing the plug into the hole. 

TIP: If you plan on staining the gate, stain the pocket hole plug first before installing them. We did not and because of the glue, they did not stain in all places, giving us an uneven stain on them.

ADDING A TRIM

At this point, your gate could be done but to give it a little extra, we decided to add a trim around the front panel. 

We did this by using 3.5-inch cedar pickets cut to the length of the bottom panel (4 sides). We attached them with glue and then nailed them into place using 1.25-inch finishing nails (it’s better to use stainless steel nails but if not, use galvanized). 

Once this was complete, the front of our gate looked like this.

wooden gate for fence

What do you think? 

Notice how the gap at the bottom of the gate gives it plenty of room to swing open, unobstructed. And the gaps between the trim on top still give a bit of visibility to see who’s approaching and privacy from the street.

how to build a new gate from old chain

STEP 5: INSTALL THE GATE

To install the gate, we placed our spring hinges onto the gate. Then, we placed a 2×4 scrap board on the ground, resting the gate on top of the board. 

Next, we attached the hinges to the fence post. 

TIP: Take a level and move the gate to make it level before drilling into the wood. 

We adjusted the springs after attaching the hinges. We also decided to use this latch and this one is pretty heavy-duty!

wooden gate latch

And here is our gate after all the measuring, cutting & assembling. 

What an amazing difference from what was there before!

build wooden gate for fence

And if you are wondering how to stain a wooden fence or gate, be sure to checkout the post all about staining/waterproofing the new fence. 

staining a fence
stain a wooden gate natural cedar

Are you ready to build a new gate? I hope this tutorial will help you! 

Yield: wooden gate

Build a Wooden Gate

wooden gate for fence

Are you tired of staring at your old gate? This is a tutorial on building a wooden cedar gate for any fence to update your home's curb appeal.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 4 hours
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 40 minutes
Difficulty Moderate
Estimated Cost $$

Materials

  • 2″x4″ cedar boards
  • 5.5″ cedar picket
  • 3.5″ cedar picket
  • 2.5″ deck screws
  • 3.5″ deck screws
  • 1″ finishing nails (stainless is best)
  • wood glue
  • gate hinges
  • gate latch

Tools

  • miter saw
  • router with 0.75″ straight bit (or table saw)
  • drill
  • clamp
  • square
  • air compressor w/gun
  • Kreg Jig
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • circular saw
  • safety glasses
  • face mask (for dust)
  • ear protection

Instructions

  1. Take the measurements of the fence opening.
  2. Cut the cedar boards to fit.
  3. Add the dado to the 2x4 boards to allow the pickets to sit inside the groove.
  4. Assemble the gate.
  5. Add the trim pieces to the gate.
  6. Install the gate to the fence with the hardware.
  7. Stain the wood, if desired.