How To Build Long-Lasting Gates

Building a solid, smooth-swinging gate isn’t complicated. But if you understand the basics, your gates will last even longer without sagging. Take a quick quiz to help you learn a few tricks for building a great gate.


A well-built gate will last for years and can make a fence more attractive.

Photo by Istockphoto/

Content Tools

Whether you're building a gate for a wooden privacy fence or building a swinging gate for livestock fencing, there are some basic, but important, things to remember when you're designing and building a gate. Follow these tips to make your gate last longer and reduce maintenance.

Cross Brace Correctly

We all have a mental image of a gate (or a barn door) in our minds, and most often that image involves a brace that makes a Z-shaped pattern in the gate. Which direction should that brace go? (You didn't know there was going to be a quiz, did you?) The question is this: Should the brace

A. start toward the top of the side nearest the hinges and slope down toward the side with the latch, or

B. start at the bottom of the side nearest the hinges and slope up toward the top of the side with the latch?

If you answered 'B,' you're right! The reason is that the weight of the gate compresses the brace. If you use this method, your gate is much less likely to sag than if gravity is pulling the brace and the hardware holding it together. The brace material will only compress so much before it reaches its limit, but it will stretch out much further.

Stop Sagging: Cable and Turnbuckle

Quiz question #2: When adding steel cable (or wire) to support a gate, does it follow the cross brace line or does it cross it to make an 'X'?

Answer: The support cable starts toward the top of the side of the gate nearest the hinges and slopes down toward the side with the latch, forming an 'X' with the brace.

Although cable will stretch over time, you can add a turnbuckle in the middle so that you can tighten it as the cable stretches. If you're building a gate for livestock and aren't so concerned with aesthetics, loop wire back and forth so you have several strands and run a short stick between the wires so it's perpendicular to the wires. Then turn the stick several times so that the wires wrap around themselves, becoming tighter with each turn. Be careful when you let go of the stick or it will spin like a propeller — especially if the wire isn't stiff or if the stick isn't long enough to catch against the gate.

Align Hinges Carefully

Here's the tricky part. If the pivot point of the hinges isn't on a perfectly straight line, they'll bind and creak as you move the gate. If they're really out of alignment, the gate won't swing at all. If the edge of the gate or post is perfectly straight (check it with a level or square), you can usually simply align the hinges along the edge of the gate or post, turn them to 90 degrees of being opened and they provide a naturally straight edge to position against the piece you're attaching them to. Using this method generally leaves a small gap between the post and the gate, which reduces pinching.

Another option is to snap a chalk line (or draw a line with a straight edge) and align the hinges accordingly. The gate will swing if the hinges are aligned, but if the pivot points aren't plumb, the gate will likely swing open or closed when you let go of it.

If you want more details on building fences and gates, read the How to Build a Wood Gate and Design and Build a Wood Fence.

9/13/2013 3:01:10 PM

Every carpenter I have spoken to says the brace should go from the bottom of the gate door, on the hinge side up to the opposite corner of the door just the reverse of what is written in this article.

7/2/2013 3:18:56 PM


I think the best option is to built alumnium powder coated gate for long lasting and weather durability.

Even such a small gate can be automated. On the Gold Coast the best is to look for automatic gates at Electronic-mechanic service gates and garage doors. They supply quality gate motors made in Italy.

gale green
5/28/2010 10:14:40 PM

Hi, good info, all. I need help: I need to build a gate that is horizontal to the downslope of land. I can't figure out how to do it: dig down into the dirt on one end, or build up the other side with rocks. . .to make a level area for the bottom of the gate. It is a gate into a chicken pen, and no, it won't work to put it elsewhere. It doesn't need to be heavy, a wood frame with crossbar, covered with 1" chicken wire should do it. Any help appreciated!! Gale

tony whyte
2/7/2008 12:21:26 PM

Building a wide wooden gate that won't sag uing the techniques you have presented will work initally, however, gravity will soon take over. I recommend a steel truss frame to provide the strength. It will last forever without sagging. There are many on the market, some better than others. For an exceptionally good one take a look at GateBuilder truss frame kit by Southern Crossings Gates.

roben hamilton
11/21/2007 12:00:00 AM

Great articles..I have just bought my new home with 2 black labs so I am looking to build the best sturdy as well as economical fence. Thanks for the great tips!

stephen derr
9/16/2007 12:00:00 AM

great article did help me,thanks steve.

paul vancil
8/31/2007 12:00:00 AM

I had a problem with shifting soil which would throw my gate post out of alignment. My solution;I set new gate post deeper than usual holding them in place with supports.Instead of two post holes, I dug an oblong trench from just beyond each post. I floated two pieces of angle iron making an X that crossed in the middle, putting each post within the open ends of the X.Then I poured and finished the concrete, resulting in a strong one piece frame. I had no more problems. Paul D. Vancil

esther raichart
8/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

Great article, and S. Russert, good comment! I now know why my gate wore out soon!

steven russert
8/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

I had a gate that got a lot of traffic between the garage and the front door of the house. It had a spring to close it (and keep the sheltie in)but would gradually push the post on the latch side out of plumb from the many impacts. I finally made a latch that mounted at the bottom of the gate and linkage up to the handle so that the leverage of the latch on the post wasn't so bad, and it worked really well.