Build a Wooden Fence and Gate

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Introduction: Build a Wooden Fence and Gate

About: Make. Learn. Repeat! I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

This instructable covers how I built a simple wooden fence with locking gate.

Thanks for checking it out!

Step 1: Preparations

The first thing to do is decide where you want your fence.

As this fence was to be built across a narrow side-yard (rather than along a property line), I actually had several choices of where exactly to build it. The worst thing to do would be to not think through the location and weigh all possible considerations, and then build a fence in a place where you end up not liking it!

If you have buried utilities where you live, you need to call the buried utility authority and have them come out and mark any buried lines, and then follow any guidelines they provide regarding excavation.

Step 2: Dig Holes, Plumb Posts

After utilities were marked, I carefully laid out where I wanted my fence posts, and spray painted their locations on the ground.

In general, posts for wooden fences should not be more than 8 feet apart, both to prevent sagging and to take advantage of common-length lumber. For mine, the distances between posts were dependent on how wide I wanted my gate, which was 36 inches.

I dug the holes for my end posts first, and then used scrap 2x4 boards to temporarily anchor them in perfectly plumb position. This was done with stakes and screws, as shown in the photos.

The posts are 4x4 pressure treated beams, and the slats added later are cedar fence slats.

Step 3: Concrete

I mixed and added concrete to the post holes. After a few days I removed the 2x4 supports.

Step 4: A Little Trick

I took advantage of the short length of this fence to aid in getting all of the posts perfectly inline.

With the two end posts in place, I screwed a 10-foot board across the span and used this to position the interior posts and mark their precise locations.

Holes for the interior posts were dug, and then the posts were plumbed and anchored in position with supports. Concrete was then added to these holes.

Step 5: Cross Pieces

With the posts cemented in position, I removed the supports and trimmed the post tops so they were all level with each other.

Cross pieces were added with exterior grade screws.

Step 6: The Gate

The following steps show how I built and installed the sturdy little gate.

Step 7: Build the Gate

The gate was made by first creating an external frame of 2x4s that were screwed together with exterior screws installed through drilled and countersunk holes.

A diagonal cross brace was then added. This will keep the gate square and prevent sagging. Diagonal cross-braces like this should always angle downward to the lower hinge. See notes in photos for more details.

My gate ended up with a slight warp, so a second brace was added to counteract the warp. This 2nd brace was installed with a little pressure in the opposite direction as the warp, which pulled everything nice and flat (see photo notes).

Step 8: Mount the Gate

Some additional boards were added to the gate and fence posts as needed to hold the hinges I was using.

The gate was propped into position and clamped in place with a few paint stirrers acting as temporary shims to provide a little stand-off on the hinge side.

Due to the natural movement of wood and to help the gate always close all the way without binding, it's good to leave a little gap on the hinge side rather than install the hinges with the gate and post mashed up against each other.

With the gate in position I was ready to start adding fence slats over which I'll install the hinges and other hardware later on.

Step 9: Add Fence Slats

This is where building a fence gets exciting. All the hard work is mostly done!

I tied a string across the top of the fence to indicate where I wanted the tops of the slats to be. Some fences follow the terrain while others are created with level tops - it's just up to what you need and want.

The slats were cut individually as needed and installed with exterior grade deck screws.

Step 10: Add Hinges

The hinges were added at this point. These are just basic Home Depot gate hinges which come with lag screws for installation.

The hinges were carefully positioned as desired and the locations for the screws were marked and pilot holes drilled. The screws were installed with a socket wrench.

Step 11: Check and Adjust Clearance

Now's a good time to check the gate's swing clearance. Mine opened, but it was a tight fit and bound up just a little.

I used a belt sander to remove just enough material from the gate frame to allow for proper clearance. This can reasonably be checked and adjusted before you actually install the gate, but I knew it was going to be really close so I just waited till after it was fastened in place.

Step 12: Install Latch Hardware

This step depends a lot on what type of latch system you're using. Again, this is just a common style I picked up from Home Depot.

Some additional support boards had to be added and a lot of boring out holes with spade bits and careful routing were required. After a bit of fine tuning I had a handle and latch in place and working properly.

Step 13: Continue Adding Slats; Call It Good

The remaining slats were added to complete the side sections, and the fence was done.

I used cedar fence slats and do not plan to finish them in any way. I live in a fairly dry climate so wood fences like this turn gray in a few years, and then just last until they're deemed too ugly and someone tears them down.

At that point, they call the wood "barn wood" and sell it for 3x what it initially cost.

Thanks for looking!

1 Person Made This Project!

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48 Comments

0
neelypeterson
neelypeterson

Question 3 months ago on Introduction

I have 11 feet in which to install a double gate so that l can get a truck through to the back yard. Every inch counts. I am ok re building the actual gates which will be 5 feet high by whatever width I can manage. I am concerned about the posts the gates will be attached to. I don’t want metal posts. Are 4 x 4s robust enough or should I use 6 x 6 instead? Also concrete or dirt to set them in?

0
seamster
seamster

Reply 3 months ago

Hi, I'm not an engineer so I can't say for sure. But knowing that wood moves with changes in the weather and can bend under constant weight . . for a larger, heavier gate like you're describing I don't know if 4x4s would be sufficient.

You'll definitely want whatever you choose for posts to be fixed into concrete. You will need to check your local requirements for how deep these need to be anchored in however, because this varies by region and local climate needs. For a large gate you might need a permit too, and they may even be able to advise you on what the best approach will be for what you want to accomplish.

0
RandyPerson
RandyPerson

5 months ago

Seamster, it's your usual clear job with great photos. Thanks. I picked up the comment on your deeply countersunk screw holes for end grain in the main gate frame. However, I noticed that you also really recessed some screws where 2x material was fastened into the uprights, where the cross grain typically provides a good "bite." I usually feel that a 3" screw through a 2x into a 4x provides plenty of holding power. Could you comment on why you used that technique? Also, have your deeply countersunk holes at the top of the gate caused any issues catching your occasional rain and keeping the wood wet internally?

0
seamster
seamster

Reply 5 months ago

Hi, thanks! Any exceptionally recessed screws were likely due simply to overzealous drilling, and not done with any intentional purpose.. ;D I really don't recall any purpose for that, so that's the best I can guess.

At about 5 years in with this fence and gate everything is working as it did at first. The wood has greyed some, but no signs of rot. Where I'm at the wood just dries and turns grey until someone takes it down in 80 years and sells it as "barnwood."

0
RandyPerson
RandyPerson

Reply 5 months ago

Thanks, Seamster. Out here in western Washington, we have a place at the beach, where I'm about to cut into the screening around a raised a porch and make a gate. Rain is an issue here! Look up Hoh rain forest, just north of our place, to see our environment. I think I'll use my framing flat, with lap joints, so there are no holes or dents to catch water. And of course, it will be pressure treated. I always appreciate your well-presented projects.

0
davidadarnell
davidadarnell

Question 1 year ago on Step 13

I am a bit confused as to which diagonal is the main one that is flush with the front of the fence vs the other one which helps with the warping? Which one goes in first? I am guessing that the diagonal that controls warping goes in first and is not flush with front or back and then the other one goes in flush with the front of the gate. Also you mentioned Diagonal cross-braces like this should always angle downward to the lower hinge. ???? Not sure about that either? I understand the posts are typical pressure treated pine(??) and the slats are cedar, however what is the frame of the gate made of?

0
seamster
seamster

Answer 1 year ago

Sorry for the confusion. Let me see if I can clarify.

Under normal circumstances you will only need one angled brace for a gate like this, the bottom of which should sit next to the bottom hinge, and this brace should ideally keep the gate from sagging over time.

In my case I added an extra board to deal with a specific issue with the gate I had built. In the 2nd photo in step 14, this board is the one that appears closest to the camera. But in a normal situation, this board would not be needed - you'd only need the one showing behind, that angles down toward the lower hinge (hinge is hidden in that photo as it is on the other side of the fence).

The gate was made from common framing lumber (2x4s), and it's holding up great to this day.

0
davidadarnell
davidadarnell

Reply 1 year ago

Got it!! Thanks for the clarification, makes perfect sense now!! Did you stain or paint the common framing lumber? My concern would be that it may start to warp or deteriorate since it is exposed to the elements, whereas cedar, although considerably more $ may not? Obviously I am a novice, so Thank you for the information. I will send pictures when finished!!

0
seamster
seamster

Reply 1 year ago

I don't recall putting any kind of finish on any of the wood. Although it's possible I had some extra deck sealant and sprayed it all down with that (like "Thompsons WaterSeal" brand but honestly I can't recall).

However, where I live is pretty dry so fences ultimately turn just turn gray and keep standing until someone takes them down.

Good luck on yours!

0
pentlandite
pentlandite

5 years ago

Looks solid enough, but setting wooden posts in concrete is a bad idea. First major wet period will cause the posts to swell, and your concrete will crack. After more alternating wet and dry periods, the posts will rot at the ground line. Galvanized posts like you show in the photo would have been much better, and equal work. Checking for buried utilities like you point out is a MUST, given the proximity to your electric meter, but I would add that you should also mark your lawn any sprinkler lines you might have - I speak from personal experience! Depending on where you live, you may also need a building permit.

0
wideopendds
wideopendds

Reply 2 years ago

Home supply stores now sell a quickcrete brand set foam, for ~$12.50. it is near the quickcrete, but on a shelf in a gallon size square pouch. You simply break the inner catalyst, squish it around for a few minutes then pour it around the post base in your post hole. It foams up sturdy and becomes a firm solid, turning a dark brown color in about 15 mins. It is what our PA utility poles are now installed with. It allows for wood changes, and makes post removal a heck of a lot easier (lighter) should that become a necessity.
Better living thru technology!

0
seamster
seamster

Reply 5 years ago

Lots of great points and things people need to consider; thank you for adding to the conversation.

In my case, I knew where the sprinkler lines were and avoided them. And I filled out forms for a permit, but had the fee waived which was great.

I live in a desert region, and 4x4 PT posts in concrete seem to be pretty common without any trouble. But metal posts are definitely a good long-term choice, especially in a climate as you describe.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

0
danzo321
danzo321

5 years ago

I build ramps for homes with wheelchair users (as a volunteer) and we found, to our surprise, we're better off dumping and tamping dry concrete mix in the holes around the 4x4s than mixing it with water. Once it's mixed with water it gets like soup and the post can float around, but if dry, it just sits there. We don't have the luxury of time: we finish the same day we start. Anyway, the needed moisture comes from the surrounding soil and gets superstrong. Your use of the supports is needed mainly on the uprights that surround the gate. Nice job.

0
davidklausa
davidklausa

Reply 2 years ago

How do you know how strong it gets? I would think that the dry mix would get wet and harden unevenly, creating pockets of dry mix that never harden, thus a weaker structure.

0
danzo321
danzo321

Reply 2 years ago

I know it doesn't harden unevenly, capillary action /osmosis distributes the water. Cement powder is hydrophilic. I know we use it reliably building wheelchair ramps etc. It may have small air pockets, but they don't hurt anything. Go dig out some old fenceposts.

0
TerrieS9
TerrieS9

Question 2 years ago on Step 13

You didn’t specify what wood you used... I’m guessing 4x4 for uprights and what for the horizontal slats

0
seamster
seamster

Answer 2 years ago

The posts are 4x4 pressure treated beams, and the slats are cedar fence slats. Good question, sorry I didn't mention it in the project itself. I'll update it! : )

0
UncleEd
UncleEd

5 years ago

I'm not going to build a new fence, but wanted to see if I could learn something. I did.

"Diagonal cross-braces like this should always angle downward to the lower hinge."

You got me wondering why, so I went to other websites and saw the same thing. I finally saw that this puts the compression load from the brace into the gate hinge, rather than into thin air--like on the sagging gate into my back yard.

Thanks!

0
seamster
seamster

Reply 5 years ago

You got it! :)

0
UncleEd
UncleEd

Reply 5 years ago

The word is the gate (and other parts of the fence) I'm going to repair were built by a "professional." I'm forced to conclude that "professional" means he was from [nearby large town], and (2) he has a nailgun.