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How to Build & Install a Deck Gate

Learning how to build a deck gate can be simple and rewarding. Properly gated areas provide a much safer and more secure area for both kids and pets. And as is the case with many home improvement projects, you don’t need to be an expert contractor to do nearly everything yourself. Gaining some experience with smaller projects like this will help you eventually work your way up to bigger projects like learning how to frame a deck.

With a little preparation and a step-by-step guide, just about anyone can build their own DIY deck gate. And, in case you don’t want to build it yourself, you can purchase premade gates like the Trex Signature Railing gate.

Deck Gate
Deck Gate

This self-closing gate can lock to keep unsupervised children from entering the pool area.

Materials Needed for Building a Deck Gate

You’ll need a handful of tools and building materials, but the very first thing you’ll want to grab is a measuring tape. That will allow you to begin measuring the area you want to be gated and to better assess how much lumber you’ll need. Following measurements, the list of things you’ll need includes:

  • Measuring tape
  • Table saw
  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Lumber – 2x4s for framing
  • 2x2 balusters
  • Wood screws
  • Two gate hinges
  • One gate latch
  • Four metal corner braces

And the number of balusters you’ll need for building a deck gate will partially depend on the width of the gate, partially on your style preferences, and partially on the requirements of deck gate code.

Deck Gate Codes & Safety Guides

Making sure your project is up-to-code can be one of the more intimidating parts of building something. Fortunately, a DIY deck gate only needs to follow a small handful of guidelines in order to be safe and accessible. For residential homes, the International Residential Code requires that:

  • The gate cannot open into stairs.
  • The distance between the bottom of the gate and the deck should be no more than 4 inches.
  • The space between each baluster must have a maximum distance of 4 inches.
  • Handrails and gates must be at least 42" in height, measured from the surface of the deck.
  • Self-latching devices can be located no less than 3 inches below the top of the gate.
  • Railing is necessary for at least one side of a staircase.
  • Handrails and gates should be easy to grip, with a minimum diameter of 1 1/4 inches and a maximum diameter of 2 1/4 inches. Because railing requirements may vary by circumstance, it’s worth learning more about safety codes for deck railing.

Additionally, you want to check your local codes as well to ensure you’re compliant.

Building a Deck Gate

Building a deck gate is a DIY project that can be achieved by even those new to home improvement. The following is an overview of the building process that outlines taking measurements for your gate, choosing and cutting materials, and making sure it properly opens and closes.

Measuring the Gap for Your Deck Gate

Making the measurements for your deck gate requires you to anticipate a few things. Start at the base of the stairs, and use a tape measure to determine the desired width of your gate. Subtract an inch to allow the gate to swing, as well as making room for the hinges and latch. Then measure how tall you’ll want the gate while keeping in mind that the bottom edge can’t be more than 4” above the floor of your deck.

Measuring the Space

Collect measurements for the length of your gate, taken from the opening at the top of the stairs, and then subtract an inch to allow for gate hardware to be installed later. Make a second measurement for the height of your gate, while keeping in mind the bottom edge can’t be more than 4” above the deck.

Selecting the Wood

The most appropriate wood for your gate depends on your budget, climate, and color preferences. However, most people often choose pressure treated 2x2 balusters and 2x4’s. Whatever your choice, avoid low-grade lumber for building a deck gate because it’s prone to shrinking or warping, which can impair the functionality of a gate.

Cutting the Wood

While keeping in mind the gate can’t be more than 4” above the deck, cut a pair of 2x4s to the desired height. Cut another pair of 2x4’s to the desired length for the frame. Without screwing it together, assemble the frame to measure its inside dimensions and determine the desired length of your balusters. Then cut your 2x2 balusters to length.

Building The Frame & Adding Balusters

Attach the cut 2x4s into an open rectangle with the 3.5” edges of each board facing outwards. The result should look similar to a photo frame. The quantity and precise placement of balusters is up to you, as long as the gaps between them do not exceed 4”. Connect the top and bottom halves of the frame, and then individually add balusters with wood screws.

Painting or Staining the Wood

Staining can be a time-consuming portion of learning how to make a wooden deck gate. With pressure-treated lumber, it may not be necessary to paint or stain the wood. But if you’re going to paint or stain, do it in a well-ventilated area and let it dry before adding hardware or attempting to install the gate.

Adding Corner Braces

Corner braces are one of the most commonly overlooked steps in how to make a deck gate. They’re important because they help evenly distribute force across the entire frame. After painting or staining, use a drill to screw metal braces into each corner of the frame to help ensure lasting stability.

Attaching the Latch and Hinges

Drill hinges on one side of the gate. To optimally balance the force being applied to the hinges, one hinge should be placed a couple of inches down from the top of the gate, while the other should be placed several inches above the bottom.

Once the hinges are on, you can install the latch barrel on the opposite side. Remember that latches should be positioned near the top of the gate, within the topmost three inches.

Attaching The Gate

Should a fence gate swing in or out? During installation, it’s important to keep in mind that residential code dictates that gates should never swing towards stairs, which means gates should nearly always swing in. Before placing the gate, you’ll also want to remember that it needs to be installed at least 4” above the surface of your deck.

Once you’ve figured out the right orientation, it helps to have someone hold the gate in position while you screw the gate into position. Before drilling, it’s a good idea to rest the weight of the gate on some type of level support. With the gate ready, drill the hinges into position. Now swing open your finished gate for the first time.