How to build a strong gate

Updated February 21, 2017

Building a strong wooden gate is a simple project that can be completed in less than a day. Starting with a sketch that includes materials and dimensions, the gate can then be constructed on a flat surface. Once you have determined the overall size of your gate and where the gate will be installed on the gate post, you will cut framing planks with 45-degree angles. With mitred joints and corner braces, the foundation of your gate will resist warping. Using coated screws instead of nails to build your gate helps to ensure the durability of your project.

Sketch the gate, using a pencil and paper. The gate will include a rectangular wooden frame, braced on each corner with a diagonal mitred plank. Indicate dimensions of the framing members, including the height of the stiles (vertical framing members) and the width of the rails (horizontal framing members). Also include the length, width and spacing between the infill planks. Your sketch will help to organise the project and save time as you construct the gate.

Set the chop saw to make 45-degree cuts. Trim one end of a 2-by-4-inch plank by placing the plank on the saw table with its 4-inch surfaces horizontal. Hold the plank firmly against the guide fence while making all cuts on the chop saw.

Measure and mark the long end of the plank to the length of a stile. Orient the marked plank on the saw so the end cuts will be convergent, not parallel. Cut the first stile to length. Measure, mark and cut a second stile to the same length as the first. Measure and mark a trimmed 2-by-4-inch plank to cut the first rail. Cut two matching rails to length, again, with convergent end cuts.

Trim one end of a 1-by-4-inch plank to 45 degrees with the 4-inch surfaces of the plank horizontal. Divide the length of the shortest framing member by two to calculate the length of the wooden corner braces. Cut four corner braces to this length. The cut-ends of the braces, like the framing members, are convergent.

Assemble your gate frame on a flat surface. Arrange the rails and stiles to form a rectangular frame with mitred corners. Attach one L-shaped steel bracket to each of the outer corners of the frame, using a drill with a driving bit and wood screws. Lay one wooden corner brace diagonally across each corner of the frame so its cut ends are aligned with the outer edges of the frame.

Screw one end of each brace to the frame with two evenly spaced screws in each brace, leaving the opposite ends unattached. Square the first corner of the frame by placing a carpenter's square over the corner. Adjust the positions of the framing members, if necessary, to make the first corner perpendicular. Screw the unattached end of the brace to the adjacent framing member. Repeat to square and attach the other three wooden corner braces. Turn the frame over so the braced side is down.

Mark and trim the infill planks, if necessary. Arrange the planks on the frame so they are parallel and evenly-spaced. Screw the infill planks to the frame with two screws securing each end to the rails. The first and last infill planks should be attached to the stiles of the gate frame with screws placed approximately 6 inches apart.


While the use of four wooden corner braces, instead of one diagonal brace, is rarely seen in contemporary gates, they are very effective in stabilising the gate to prevent warping. Using screws instead of nails further strengthens the gate.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Measuring tape
  • Chop saw
  • 2-by-4-inch pressure-treated lumber
  • 1-by-4-inch pressure-treated lumber
  • 3-inch steel corner braces
  • Drill with driving bit
  • Coated or galvanised wood screws, 1-1/2 inches long
  • Infill pickets
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About the Author

Denise Nyland "Denisen" is a long term resident of Panama City, Fla. She studied radiologic sciences and education and has published articles in multiple professional journals and contributed to various educational texts.