How to Build a Shadowbox Fence Gate

Written by shane grey | 13/05/2017
How to Build a Shadowbox Fence Gate
Dog-eared fence boards doing their job. (Flowers by the fence, Romania image by Oren Sarid from

The alternating boards of a shadowbox fence gate offer a touch of visual interest and a feeling of depth to an otherwise bland fence gate. The shadowbox style showcases its look to both sides of the fence, allowing you to share it with neighbours and passersby. Building a shadowbox fence gate may take more time than building a typical dog-eared fence panel, but it's not much more difficult.

Create your fence-gate rails. Measure the distance between your fence-gate posts and subtract adequate space to allow clearance for your fence gate hardware on both sides. Mark the location of cuts on your two-by-fours and use the framing square to lay out the exact path of your cut. Cut the rails with a circular saw.

Lay out the position of the gate rails on the gate fence boards. Match the position of your gate's rails with the position of the rails on the rest of the fence. Find the position of the upper and lower edges of your fence rails and transfer it to all of the fence boards for your gate. Use the framing square to draw a straight line.

Create a starting point for assembling your shadowbox fence gate by fastening one of the fence boards at the end of the rails. What you should have now is a gate with one board at its end and the rails hanging loose. Use this to lay out the remaining boards' positions.

Butt the framing square against the inside edge of the attached fence board at the top rail. Draw a line across the edge of the rail and continue to transfer it to the opposite face of the rail. Repeat for the bottom rail.

Attach the next fence board. Use the lines to align the current board with the outside edge of the previous board that is on the opposite side; fasten to the rails.

Repeat steps three and four until you encounter the final fence board. Odds are that this board will not fit. Measure the final board's width to the end and cut it to size. Achieve a straight rip-cut using the rip-guide on your circular saw. Fasten the final board.

Finish the shadowbox fence gate installation by installing gate hardware on the gate posts and gate. Hang the gate.


A table saw is more accurate and easier to use than a rip-guide mounted to a circular saw.

Tips and warnings

  • A table saw is more accurate and easier to use than a rip-guide mounted to a circular saw.

Things you need

  • Two-by-four lumber for rails
  • Fence boards
  • Fasteners (nails or screws)
  • Gate hardware
  • Hammer (for nails) or drill (for screws)
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Framing square
  • Circular saw
  • Rip guide for circular saw

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