Building a garden gate (wooden accent gate) in your garden

Accent Gates for Your Garden

Many of you may or may not have fences, but many of you like to have accent gates.   Accent gates can give your garden the beauty that would otherwise be missing without them.   Furthermore, you may have a split-rail fence that specifically serve as a decorative additive to your front yard, yet you want an area for your small dog to run freely in.   Here, an accent gate can serve a functional purpose as well as an additional decorative accent to your front yard.

There are all kinds of different types of gates that you can build for your front yard.   Many of these gates often have a pergola or arch above them to give some extra beauty.   Pergolas are great, because you can hang potted plants on the side or train flowering vines to grow all over the pergola to give that extra floral beauty in the summer.   One other great idea for accent gates for your garden is building them with natural wood.

Natural wood gates can give that special rustic look to your yard and work great with split-rail fences.   There are all kinds of wood you can use for natural wood gates.   In the Midwest, sassafras wood is often used for natural wood gates.   Sassafras trees grow like weeds and they can get quite large in a short period of time.   Some specialty stores also sell pretreated sassafras or other natural woods which already have the bark shaved off of them.

To build a natural wood gate, it is highly necessary to shave the bark off the tree trunks that you harvest.   Sassafras works best, because it naturally grows in a gnarled fashion, giving you that unique natural or rustic cottage look.   Shaving the bark is imperative to keep the wood from rotting.  The one problem with sassafras wood is that it has the tendency to rot rather quickly if you don’t remove the bark.   Once the bark is removed, you should let the pieces of sassafras dry.  You can do this by either letting the pieces sit in the sun or a better method is to bake them in your oven for five to ten minutes if the pieces are small enough.  Otherwise, find an area with a wood kiln to dry the larger pieces.   If you can’t find a wood kiln, you can dry the wood in the sun, but it might take five to ten days depending on how humid it is.

Treatment of natural wood can be done in several ways.  There are all kinds of stains and varnishes available at your local home improvement store.   The best type of varnish for not just natural wood, but any wood, is a spar urethane.   This is the type of varnish used on boats and is highly resistant to the elements.   One economical way of treating natural wood gates and other features is to soak them in used motor or lawnmower oil.   This can also stain the wood, but the oil will prevent the wood from rotting and best of all, you will not even have to varnish the wood.   Linseed oil can also be a great preservative.  Oils are also great, because they can also prevent cracking that extreme exposure to sunlight can cause.

Constructing a natural wood gate is also rather easy to do.   One thing you need to remember, some of the natural woods tend to split when you drive a nail into them, so you should drill pilot holes where you plan to nail the pieces together.  This will minimize the risk of splitting.   Constructing the gate does require a few steps that you should follow.

  1. Mounting hinges and latch on a natural wood gate can be difficult, but can be simplified by simply adding a 2X6 of each side of the gate and in the middle of the gate, giving you the flat surface needed to mount the hinges. Mount the hinges on the back side of the 2X6 and on the front of the 2X6, add some split scraps of the natural wood to hide the milled look of the 2X6s. Remember, when working on an outside fence or gate project, it is best to use pressure-treated lumber, which is resistant to rot. The same rules apply to mounting the latch, though you may need to have a piece of milled wood on the front of the gate to mount the handle and latch. In this case, just use a piece big enough to hold and be masked by the latch and handle.
  2. To prevent sagging, you should only make walkthrough gates using natural wood. Avoid making a large opening. Natural wood is heavy and can sag relatively quickly if poorly constructed. The typicla natural wood gate should not be any wider than two to three feet, so you might think about having an alternative gate in the back of the yard large enough for your rider mower to go through if you mow the enclosed lawn with a rider.
  3. Lash smaller pieces of natural wood and branches to the inside of the gate to give that unique natural look and this can also act as an effective barrier to keep your children and pets inside the enclosed area.

Note that natural wood gates work great with both split-rail and natural wood fences, as well as with hedges.Pergola and arbor gates are another great idea for adding that special accent to your front yard.  Pergola and arbor gates work great with flower gardens and they can be designed in many different ways.  The difference between a pergola and an arbor is in the construction.

A pergola is an overhead structure that can be erected either over a gate that opens and closes or can be erected over a free opening where someone can walk through.  Pergolas can be used to have flowering vines trained to grow over the top and can also have areas where you can hang your potted plants in the summer.  Imagine a pergola where you can hang some of your best impatients, petunias, coleus, or other plants that you can then bring inside during the winter.   Pergola gates are best to be either natural wood, picket, or broad board gates.

An arbor is different from a pergola in that typically it has lattice board on the sides and if not accompanied by a gate, it has a closed back.  Arbors also serve as a sitting area, so you could design an arbor gate with the gate at the front and then you can have a couple of benches on either side of the gate.  Like with the pergola gate, the best types of gates for an arbor gate is either a gate made from a natural wood gate, picket gate, or broad board gate.   Unlike pergolas, arbors rarely are made to hold hanging plants.  Typically, arbors usually have some kind of vines trained to grow over the structure.  Great ideas for vines can range from flowering vines, such as honeysuckles to trumpet flowers, or you can also have grape vines grow on an arbor to give that added awe to your guests on those hot summer cookouts.

Construction of other gates besides the above mentioned natural wood gate is quite simple and you can find everything you need at your local hardware or home improvement store.

A picket gate is very easy to build.  All you need is some three to four foot high pickets, some 2X2s and a saw.   Assembling the gate can be done rather quickly by following these few steps.

  1. Lay down the two 2X2s, one for the top of the gate and one for the bottom of the gate. On top of these 2X2s screw on a 2X4 on the side where you want the hinges. Using a miter saw, cut a third 2X2 to fit in between the top and bottom 2X2 forming the typical “Z” pattern to prevent sagging. The Z-bar can either be nailed by toe nailing or by using truss plates.
  2. Flip over the structure and lay the pickets on top. Once the pickets are placed on top the way you like them, nail them to the structure. You can add that fancy touch to the gate by cutting the bottoms of your pickets and placing the bottom of the picket flatly along the bottom of the gate and the pointed top of the pickets on top, giving that quaint rounded look to your gate, looking just like the gate in the Peter the Rabbit stories if you are after that type of look.

A flat-board gate is build much the same way as a picket gate.   The only difference is that instead of using pickets, you use flat boards, but other than that, the structure is generally the same.   To create the rounded top of the gate, simply follow the steps below.

  • Place the flat boards on top of the gate structure and using a template and pencil to draw the curve on all the boards together.
  • Using a jigsaw, simply cut each individual board and then nail the cut boards to the gate structure.

That’s all there is to it.

Constructing a pergola or arbor is also relatively easy.   All you need to do is dig the holes with post-hole diggers and place the posts in the holes and anchor them with ready-mixed concrete.  Then construct the top of the arbor or pergola with pressure-treated wood in the fashion that best strikes your fancy.

Note that you can also get some ready-made pergolas with the gates already installed at some specialty garden stores.  This is the best for those of you who feel that you are not good with your hands.  All you need to do is open the kit and follow the instructions, and voila, you have your gate.

Gates can provide an interesting accent to your yard.   There are all kinds of different gates that you can construct and this article gives you the steps to build the most common types of gates out there.   However, use your imagination.  Following the steps this article provides and using your creative mind, you can create some gates that can be the envy of the neighborhood.