The entry door from our garage dumps into in a little landing, flanked by doors on three sides. Like any good Midwestern family, we (and most everyone who visits) enter through the garage, which means they are greeted by the long staircase into our basement. I worry about our family and friends tumbling down the stairs, so we’ve always had a baby gate at the top of the steps. The accordion-style gate we had was wobbly and perpetually open because it was annoying to latch. We were due for an upgrade and after ordering a gate from Amazon (that I ultimately hated and returned), I decided I would build my own!
If you’re new to building, this is a super straight forward project to start with! There are a lot of opportunities to learn basic building techniques (like using a miter saw, making pocket holes, sanding, and finishing) without a lot of pressure!
Tools and Materials
- 2- 6 foot length 1x4s
- 1- 10 foot length 1×3 (or 2- 6 foot length, depending on your hauling capacity)
- Pocket hole jig (this Kreg jig is a great one for beginners!)
- 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws (these the Kreg screws I used)
- Pocket hole plugs (I used paint grade Kreg plugs)
- Wood glue
- Wood filler (this is my go-to)
- Orbital sander (I used 80 grit on the plugs until they were flush and then 220 grit to finish the whole surface)
- Primer and paint
- Gate hinges and latch (I used spring hinges and an automatic latch)
Step 1 – Measuring
Determine the width and height of your gate. This will vary depending on the opening. I removed the door frame and installed a new one (though, I still haven’t installed the trim…some day haha). The narrowest part of the new opening was 33 3/4 inches. Be sure to measure in multiple spots from middle to the bottom- doorways aren’t always perfectly square. Take the smallest opening width and subtract 3/4 inch.
As for height, per code, railings must be at least 34 inches high. This build plan is for a 36 inch high gate (not including the gap underneath- more on that later.)
Step 2 – Lumber
Pick up the lumber! You will need two 6 foot 1x4s and one 10 foot 1×3 (or two 6 foot 1×3 if you can’t haul a 10 foot board). Do yourself a favor and get high quality lumber that is smooth. It’s a little more expensive but it will save you a headache when it’s time to paint!
Step 3 – Cuts
Now it’s time to cut! Don’t forget your safety glasses and hearing protection! I will include my cut list below but adjust the lengths of the top and bottom 1×4 boards (the longest boards) to match your opening width. (Don’t forget to subtract that 3/4 inch to leave a gap).
Step 4 – Pocket holes
Mark the locations of all of the slats, being sure the gaps are all even (by the way, gaps on railings and gates should always be under 4 inches wide for safety). Move on to drilling out your pocket holes with the bit and guide set to material thickness of 3/4 inch. All of the pocket holes will be on the top and bottom 1x4s. The graphic below details the location of all of the pocket holes (black ovals).
Step 5 – Building!
Lay the gate down on a flat surface and attach the framing and slats through the pocket holes with 1 1/4 inch pocket hole screws. Be sure to hold the boards securely so they stay flush while fastening. My best tip for pocket holes is to let the pre drilled hole guide you and don’t force it. If it feels funky, back off and try again.
Once your build is looking like a real gate (YAY!), fill the pocket holes with a dab of wood glue and pocket hole plugs. Allow to dry for 24 hours.
Step 6 – Hanging and finishing
Hang the gate before sanding and finishing so you can determine where and how it’s going to hang. This might take a couple tries to get it to swing right. You don’t want to make a bunch of holes in your freshly painted gate. Be sure the gap underneath the gate is no more the 4 inches for safety! For gates at the top of stairs, hang the gate so that it swings into the top floor, not out over the stairs.
Once the gate is hanging, take it back down and mark the good holes with a pencil.
Sand down the plugs until they are flush with the gate (I used 80 grit for this step because I’m impatient). Fill all of the holes with wood filler (except for those hinge and latch holes you marked!) and fill over the pocket hole plugs.
Sand the entire gate with 220 grit until smooth. Prime and paint to your heart’s content. Thank yourself for pre-hanging the gate because the final install is a piece of cake!
Viola! You did it!!! I knew you could 🙂