Battered by wind and weather for nearly 10 years, our old picket-style front gate was drooping, about to fall apart and definitely unsightly. It was time for a fresh new look.

Old gate, new gate

Our old double-wide gates just didn’t cut it any longer – it was time for something better to guide us into the garden.

Photo Credit: © Pennystone Gardens

New posts

The trickiest part of the project was setting a new pair of 4x4 posts just inches from a paver sidewalk and the existing fence posts.

Photo Credit: © Pennystone Gardens

Strip of lattice

A strip of vinyl lattice, front and back, ties old and new posts together and gives the gate some visual heft.

Photo Credit: © Pennystone Gardens

Gate hinge

The new hinge was key – it allows the gate to swing open in both directions.

Photo Credit: © Pennystone Gardens

New lattice gate

Our new attractive gate helps welcome our guests in, but keeps the deer out!

Photo Credit: © Pennystone Gardens

The circumstances of this entry gate have evolved over the years. It’s part of a deer fence to keep a marauding herd out of the garden, and it originally had two halves that straddled a wide concrete sidewalk. Between them, it was wide enough to accommodate a garden tractor with a 48-inch mower deck.

Both halves opened in. Because keeping a gate closed in deer country is important, our gate was set up to auto-close via substantial screen door springs. That banging, combined with wind that would blow it open and smack it closed, regularly popped the screws right out of the three big T-hinges on each gate. Opening only inward was also annoying if you were on the way out the gate with an armload of something – not to mention the fact it confused visitors. Finally, when the concrete sidewalk was replaced with a narrower line of pavers, the old gate had to go.

Our first goals were to narrow the opening to a single gate, as well as make it much lighter – and definitely stronger. There’s a lot of leverage on a 4-foot-wide gate, straining every joint that forms a square.

The local home center had a new-technology answer for us: vinyl lattice. Lattice has a nice cottage-garden flair to it, but it’s also a pain to keep painted. Vinyl, which comes in both pure white and a light brown, was the perfect maintenance solution. We bought two 4x8 sheets (and were impressed with how lightweight they were).

The solution to our old swinging gate problem came from a company specializing in every imaginable kind of hinge. They offered reasonably priced exterior double-swing hinges. We chose primed steel for our project. These are actually two hinges in one: The side nearest the gate opens out, and the side nearest the post opens in. They’ve got hefty springs, which means the gate will always close to its center point. Best of all, they take a 35-pound load in stride.

When we assembled all the pieces for our new gate, we discovered that even though it’s 46 inches wide and 40 inches high, it weighed only 10 pounds. (Now you might wonder, “What’s the idea behind a 40-inch-tall gate as a deer fence?” Well, once deer are used to the idea that there’s an 8-foot fence blocking their path, they’ll assume a 40-inch tall gate under a bar that’s 8 feet off the ground is just another part of the barrier and won’t challenge it.)

The most nerve-racking part of the project was narrowing the opening. We preferred to keep the existing posts because our picket fence runs directly to them – and one post is hollow and carries power to a light at the top. That meant we’d have to drill a new hole just a few inches from the pavers on one side and the existing post on the other. To pull it off, we rented a power auger from the local hardware store and carefully punched a 24-inch hole into the earth. Using the existing posts to attach temporary supports, we packed in concrete and used the top of it to replace the plastic edging for the pavers.

After trimming the tops of the posts to align with the existing ones, we built a new bar across the top from 1x4 sides and a 1x6 top. This gave the project mass and would also deter deer from jumping over the gate.

To make the gate itself, we used 5/4- by 4-inch pine. Along the narrow edge of the sides and bottom, we cut out a 1-inch-deep channel to receive the lattice, which gratefully is just a quarter-inch thick and is molded in such a way that cross pieces are always flush with each other. For the top of the gate, we cut a half-inch channel on the thick side, then rounded down the opening end to allow it to swing free. We reasoned that if the lattice was actually screwed in place, we would avoid long-term drooping as a consequence of the strain of its own width.

Before assembly, we gave all the pieces a coat of primer and two coats of exterior white enamel. To assemble the gate, we cut away the outside ends of the bottom rail and secured the sides to the bottom with 3-inch-long, quarter-inch lag screws. After slipping the lattice into place, we dropped the top on and secured that to the side pieces with 2½-inch countersunk screws. Finally, along the sides, 1-inch No. 6 flathead wood screws penetrated the gate frame and the lattice. It made a very rigid frame.

We cut the lattice and hung it on both sides of the pairs of posts using white threaded paneling nails. We set the gate itself on its hinges with just a quarter-inch of clearance on the opening side. Finally, we did a little touch-up painting to cover the ends of countersunk vinyl screws.

Most of the time for this project involved waiting for concrete to set and paint to dry. But it only took about 30 seconds to get used to a much more attractive gate opening in both directions with just a comfortable push. Sure, the garden tractor had to get used to going through a utility gate on the other side of the garage, but the end result was a beautiful gate that happily keeps the deer on the other side of the fence – where they belong.