How to install gate posts on a wooden fence

Written by henri bauholz
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How to install gate posts on a wooden fence
Make sure your fence is sturdy before you go to the bother of anchoring gate posts. (trgowanlock/iStock/Getty Images)

A gate in a fence can be built either as a freestanding structure attached to a fence post or as a swinging extension to a large building. Placing a fence gate between two posts is not a difficult task, but it does require some planning and the ability to set a pair of posts that are square and plumb.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Post hole digger
  • Two fence posts (kiln-dried and square-cut timber works best for hanging a gate)
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Loose gravel
  • Concrete mix
  • Pointed shovel
  • Four foot level
  • 1 pine or fir 5 cm by 10 cm (1 by 4 inch) "one-by-four," 1.8 m (six feet) in length
  • 454 g (16 oz) claw hammer
  • 8.3 cm (12 d) nails

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    Placing the posts

  1. 1

    Select or build the gate for your fence. As an alternative you can preset the size of the gate and then put together the piece after the fence is complete and the two gate posts are in place.

  2. 2

    Calculate the height for the two gate posts. A good rule of thumb is that for every 60 cm (2 feet) of fence height above ground, you will need at least 30 cm (1 foot) of post to go beneath the ground. So for a 1.2 m (4 foot) fence post you will want a piece of timber that is at least 1.8 m (6 feet) long.

  3. 3

    Choose your size and type of wood. Most gates will swing with ease on a 10 cm by 10 cm (4 inch by 4 inch) piece of timber, except perhaps if the gate is very wide. In this case you might consider using a 15 cm by 15 cm (6 inch by 6 inch) piece and digging the hole deeper. Pressure-treated pine is the most cost-effective wood, but a rot-resistant wood such as cedar or cypress can be used, especially in a dry climate.

  4. 4

    Calculate the size of the gate opening. For a narrow gate -- 1.2 m (4 feet) wide or less -- a 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) gap on each side of the gate should work out just fine. So, for example, a 90 cm (3 foot) wide gate would require a 92.4 cm (37 inch) opening.

  5. 5

    Mark the location of each hole on the ground with some chalk or lime. Note that a 10 cm (four inch) square post will require a 50 cm (20 inch) wide hole; that's 20 cm (8 inches) on each side plus the 10 cm (4 inches) of the post itself. So to create a 92.4 cm (37 inch) opening you will need two holes that are 52.5 cm (21 inches) apart and 50 cm (20 inches) across.

    Installing the posts

  1. 1

    Dig the holes for the posts in the locations established in Section 1. Use a post hole digger and add an extra 15 cm (6 inches) to the depth of the hole for a gravel pad.

  2. 2

    Place loose gravel in the hole until the depth of the hole is the necessary depth -- 60 cm (2 feet) in this case. Wet the gravel and compact it using the 1.8 m (6 foot) timber as a tamping rod.

  3. 3

    Place each post in its hole.

  4. 4

    Place the concrete mix in the wheelbarrow and add water according to the package instructions.

  5. 5

    Fill each hole with wet concrete. Use a piece of metal rebar or just a thick stick to poke into the wet concrete as it fills around the post. This gets rid of any air pockets. Try to keep the post in the middle of the hole as you fill it with concrete, keeping in mind that when all is said and done the two posts will need to be 92.4 cm (37 inches) apart and plumb.

  6. 6

    Measure the distance between the base of each post to make sure that the distance is 92.4 cm (37 inches). Then go ahead and, with the help of the 1.2 m (4 foot) level, adjust each post until it is level or plumb in both directions (forward and back as well as left and right). Finally, double-check your base measurement again.

  7. 7

    Check the height of both posts with the 1.2 m (4 foot) level. Just stretch the level across the tops of the two posts: if the tops are not level you will have to adjust one post up or down while the concrete is still wet and pliable.

  8. 8

    Carefully attach the 2.5 by 10 cm (1 by 4 inch) post from the bottom of one post to the top of the other with the hammer and nails. This is a temporary brace that can be removed once the concrete is dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Pieces of metal rebar can be placed in the concrete for more strength.
  • You can build the gate to fit the opening after you set the posts. Therefore the distance between the two posts can vary, but the posts still need to be plumb.
  • Remember that concrete takes five to seven days to dry.
  • Do not use "two-by-fours" (or built-up posts made from several "two-by-fours" nailed together) for fence posts. These will not withstand the elements.

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