Duo Ventures

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Craftsman & Dutch Door Inspired DIY Baby Gate

When Sami was around 9 months old he started crawling & would immediately make a beeline for the stairs...and so the baby gate scheming began.  Of course, we could have gone to the store & picked up a pre-made baby gate, but I wanted to take the opportunity to design & build a custom gate.

Here's what we ended up with:

We've had the gate up for about 7 months now & it's been working out perfectly.  While there are a couple of things I might have done differently, the gate turned out almost exactly how I had envisioned it (I'll go over the things I would have changed at the end of the post).  Better yet, it does the job & keeps Sami from climbing the stairs unless we are there to accompany him.

For now, this post will not be a full fledged "how-to" post with exact dimensions, but more of a general outline on how my dad & I built the baby gate.  I didn't take detailed photos of every step, but I think you'll get the idea if you are looking to create your own gate too.  Don't forget, it doesn't have to be a baby gate - you could use it for a pet gate too!

I began looking online & on Instagram for some inspiration, where I saw several rustic barn door inspired baby gates.  While they were really cute, the rustic look didn't really jive with the vibe of our house & decor.  Instead, I decided to take inspiration from our own front door & sketched a baby gate that incorporated some craftsman & dutch door elements. This is my original sketch I made using PicMonkey:

Here is the space we were working with:

We didn't feel the need to block off the landing, since we felt that single step would actually be a good practice step for Sami.  Instead, we wanted to create a barrier directly at the bottom of the stairs.  Once we had our gate measurements, we calculated how much wood we needed & headed to Lowe's to pick up the supplies.  FYI: the gate ended up being about 36 3/4" wide & 33" tall.  

We went with poplar boards for most of the frame & the top of the gate, and 1/4" oak lauan plywood for the insert panels (most of the poplar boards were 1x4's, but we did get a 1x6 also).  For the gate hardware, we picked up some heavy duty black gate hinges & a black self-latching latch.  We also had to buy a pack of shorter screws, because the screws that came with the hardware were too long & would have gone straight through the gate.  There was no need to buy any stain or paint, as I had some on hand already.

First we cut the frame pieces & the inserts to size.  Then we used a table saw with a dado blade to route out the boards about 1/2" deep where the plywood inserts would go (a dado blade is slightly wider than a regular saw blade, but you could always use a regular blade & just run it through until the track is wide enough).  I don't have photos of the cutting stage, but you can see what it looked like afterward we made our cuts & assembled the gate for a dry fit:

In order to affix the poplar boards together, we had to pre-drill holes through any board that ran perpendicular to another board.  The photo below shows the pilot hole/screw placement & the size boards we used:

To do this, we first used a larger drill bit to make the initial holes about halfway into the boards.  The holes had to be wide enough so that the screw heads would fit through (once the boards were all screwed together, I planned on filling the holes).  Using some electrical tape, we taped off part of the large drill bit, so we knew exactly how far to drill down to.  Next, we used a smaller drill bit to drill holes for the actual screws to go into - this pilot hole went through the entire board & an inch or so into the board that the screws would be going into:

I didn't take a photo of us drilling the pilot holes, but we basically held the boards together so the smaller drill bit could go through each board.  Hopefully you can get the idea from the photo below (just remember the 2 boards would actually be pushed together while drilling the 2nd pilot hole):

I hope that all makes sense.  Moving on...

Next, we created the top of the gate using another 1x4 poplar board.  We rounded the corners of the top board, using a top of a round tupperware container as a guide.  Afterwards, we sanded the corners & attached the top to the gate with 4 screws (remember to drill pilot holes into the boards below & countersink the screws also).  Here's the gate all screwed together (no glue yet):

To create the small square 'dentil' pieces, we took a scrap piece of poplar 1x4 boards & cut out 14 squares (7 for each side of the gate).  On the side of the gate that would be facing the stairwell, we attached them to the top board by countersinking a screw down into the top board & into each dentil:

We did not attach the other 7 dentil pieces that would go on the wall side of the gate until after the gate was stained, painted, & assembled (more on that later).  We also did a dry fit with the gate on the stairway before taking it apart to stain & paint it.

Using an old rag, I stained all the poplar boards Driftwood Gray by Rustoleum.  I painted all of the plywood inserts, the top, & the dentil pieces with a high gloss black paint.  Here's a photo I posted on Instagram showing the color combo & the latches I decided on:

After the boards were dry we could officially assemble the gate.  We applied a little wood glue in the tracks we routed out before screwing everything together one last time.

At that point, we also finished attaching the 7 smaller dentil pieces onto the wall side of the gate.
You can see from this photo of the finished gate, the top board on the left side of the gate doesn't stick out as far as the right side, so we had to make those 7 dentils a bit smaller so they would be more shallow than the top:

We ended up attaching the 7 smaller dentils on the left side with a little glue & a single nail through the middle.  There are many ways we could have attached the dentil pieces, but that's just the way it worked out best at the time.  We let the gate sit over night before attaching the hardware & securing the gate to the wall.

Since there was not a stud at the location that we needed to attach the gate, we decided to affix a board that was wide enough to hit the stud and the spot where we needed to attach the hinges.

Additionally, because my design included a dutch style top that would stick out an extra 1" or so, we also had to build the wall out more to give the gate enough clearance to be able to swing open fully without hitting the wall.  We did this by attaching a second board on top of the first board (using scrap pieces of wood):

Here's a close up of the boards after I had filled the holes & painted:

Using the extra shorter screws we bought, we attached the hinges to the gate.  Then we used the longer screws that came with the hinges to attach them to the boards on the wall:

Next, we had to affix the latch to the newel post on the right side.  Since our newel post is round we decided to screw a board right into the newel post & then attach the latch to the board.  I painted it the same high gloss black as the newel post:

Once the gate was hung, I began filling all the holes.  After the filler was dry, I lightly sanded & then touched up with black paint.  I also used a black Sharpie to cover the silver screws on all the hardware as well:

Looking back, there are a few things I would have done differently.  For example, I would have cut the boards that we used to attach the gate to the wall down to be level or below the top of the gate & continued them all the way to the floor instead of stopping at the baseboard.  This way, I could have attached the bottom hinges more towards the bottom of the gate - I really don't like the placement of the bottom hinge.  You can see the changes I'm referring to here:

I also would have attached the hinge onto the newel post differently as well.  Instead of just screwing a board into the newel, I would have liked to build over the existing newel post to create a more simple & square post - like THIS.  This would have created a flat surface to affix the latch to AND it would have just looked better overall.  It's always something we could do in the future though.

Lastly, I originally intended to fill the screw holes on the sides of the gates, but I honestly just never got around to it.  They don't bother me, but I could always fill them with a wood plug down the road.

So that's how we built our own baby gate!  I'm also working on figuring out exactly how much the gate cost us in the end.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!


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