Introduction: Gate Upgrade With Hardwood Slats and Cut-out House Numbers

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

Hi Instructables! Here's my entry into the Woodworking contest - a gate upgrade with a hardwood privacy screen and modern cut-out house numbers.

This was my largest project to date, but it was still all done with simple portable tools and no workshop space, and no fancy joinery, so basically anyone could do it too! All in I got this done for about a quarter the cost of what some contractors quoted me, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out despite my lack of tools and lack of experience working at this scale.

Step 1: What Came BEFORE...

The dot-matrix house number that I spray painted on 4 years ago needed repainting.(

The existing sliding steel gate was also looking rather shabby.

Worst of all, the perforated steel gate panels were in effect so see-through that it afforded us no visual privacy whatsoever. So the pallet wood table that I made for the front patio was getting no love, what with all the people and cars right outside the transparent gate.

I mean, I love my neighbours and all, but when your front yard is all of 5 metres deep, privacy matters.

Step 2: Concept Design

So as always I turned to Sketchup to mock-up a few designs, and settled on something like this. Horizontal wooden planks as a privacy screen.

The original design was to fit in between all the various steel frames of the existing gate, but it looked way too 'piece-y'. I much prefer the final design of continuous timber planks running across the whole length of the gate, with a much more seamless effect. Minimalism for the win!

Step 3: What You Will Need:

Here's all the items I used for the main hardwood privacy screen.

1. Regional Hardwood (I used Chengai/Chengal from Indonesia, as it is weather resistant)

1"x2" strips for the vertical battens

3"x1/2" strips for the horizontal planks

You could basically use any locally available decking planks as vertical cladding.

2. Mitre Saw for cutting everything to length

3. 2 Drills (1 for pre-drilling, 1 for driving screws)

4. Stainless Steel pan-headed screws (for outdoor use)

5. Sanding block (Sandpaper over a scrap block of wood is fine)

Step 4: Selecting and Pre-finishing the Wood

I picked Chengai wood as it is the only local wood that is outdoor rated. No other woods can withstand our tropical monsoons.

The timber came in 8 foot lengths, which amazingly fits in my hatchback car at the passenger side. The front ends of the timbers reach over the dashboard on the passenger side, almost to the windscreen, and the back ends are all the way to the trunk of the car. No truck needed!

I laid out the wood in the driveway (1st photo) and found that the colour variation between strips is really quite contrasty. So I did my best to arrange them in some sort of gradient order (2nd photo), and bought a teak coloured stain and varnish to help to even out the tone. I gave all the strips a 1st coat of finish and let it dry for a day.

Step 5: Paint the Gate and Timber Battens

The gate needed some TLC. So I bought outdoor paint for metal and wood surfaces, and gave the steel frame of the gate a new coat of paint. Then the 2"x1" timber strips were cut down to length and painted to match.

The vertical battens were just screwed in at even intervals to the existing perforated stainless steel mesh from the back, with stainless steel screws. I had to buy special drill-bits to drill through stainless steel. It is important that the screws are pan-headed, so that they sit flat on the surface of the perforated mesh.

Step 6: Installing the Timber Planks

The 3"x1/2" planks were installed onto the front of the gate with stainless steel pan-headed screws, into the vertical battens.

It helps to have someone assist, as this is not a 1-man job. The boards need to be pre-drilled and then screwed in place, to prevent splitting.

The boards were honestly quite irregular. Some were slightly warped over the length of the board. So I used a system of shims (spacers) made out of 2-4mm scrap wood to adjust the gap between boards and keep them level. I kept measuring the remaining space every couple of planks to make sure I would have enough boards to cover the whole gate evenly.

Step 7: Chengai Screen Done!

The planks were installed across the gate, paying attention to the small walk-through gate that had to remain accessible as a small swing door. I also had to fit planks around the square opening that we use to padlock the swing door.

Then it just needed a second coat of varnish on the front face of the planks.

Step 8: House Numbers Inverted

As I was thinking how to incorporate my house numbers into the gate, I really tried to avoid the cut-out numbers look as it would look like I just picked out two numerals from a hardware store.

Eventually a brainwave hit me - invert the cut-outs instead! Install a full solid panel in the gate with cut-out numbers that are void.

So I turned to the trusty laser cutter to cut out acrylic panels with the required numerals and spray painted them.

For the '85' numerals, I spray painted over paper stencils to leave the '8-5' numbers as clear transparent acrylic. (This is because the floating ovals in the number 8 need to be supported by something!)

I doubled this up with another sheet of acrylic to have a tougher 6mm sheet of acrylic as a panel for the small side gate.

Step 9: House Numbers Spelled Out

For the larger main panel I spelled out the house number in letters and cut those out of 2 sheets of acrylic. These had no 'islands' in the middle of the letters, so these are true voids through and through.

These were spray painted to match the gate, and attached to the main steel gate frame with grey silicone caulking. (The pictures show an earlier attempt to glue them on with liquid nails construction adhesive, but that didn't last long. The variable contraction and expansion of steel and acrylic caused the brittle adhesive to fail. Silicone, however, has enough flexibility to allow for such movement.)

Step 10: New House Numbers Done!

I love how these cut-out letters are at eye-level, so that they help to screen out prying eyes, while giving us just enough of a glimpse of whoever might be outside. This way we can see who it is before opening the gate.

The numbers '85' in particular, are always clearly highlighted due to the white wall just beyond it, so it is easy to find our house.

Step 11: Gate Upgrade Complete

That's all there is to it! A simple but elegant wood screen upgrade for our sliding gate.

I love how the horizontal slats run uninterrupted across the whole gate, for a much cleaner look than before. And our front yard now feels much more private and conducive for family time, without random prying eyes looking in from the street.

All this for just the cost of wood and some acrylic.

If you liked this, please vote for me in the Woodworking contest!

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