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                               Neal Franson Los Angeles Builder, Specializing in Custom Decks, Wood Patio Covers,  Hill-side decks, Trellises, Gazeboes, Pavilions, Solar Patio Covers, wooden gates and fences...

How to Build a Wooden Paneled Gate and Fence:

1)      LOGISTICS: Find the location of the project and determine the logistics of the area. Is there sufficient work space and access? Where are you going to store the lumber and your tools? Where are you going to cut and prepare the lumber? When is trash day? When do the gardeners come? Etc. Move any furniture or potted plants out of the working area so that it can be easily cleaned as needed. If it is on the property line, do the neighbors have dogs or children? Is a Temporary fence needed?


a.       Determine the line of the fence, if it is going to be straight, level, stepped down or follow the grade. If there are any questions or options, get this sorted out right away.

b.      Check the elevation of any significant features, , etc.

c.       Determine the physical area of the fence and ensure there are no problems with trees, steps, retaining walls or other features that may interfere with the construction. First figure out what is there - then determine how you are going to handle it. Take up any problems with the owner or designer once you have figured the best solution and determined any additional cost. Prepare a Change Work Order if needed.

3)      SKETCH:

a.  Measure out the project and make a working sketch with a plan view, preferably to scale showing the fence, gates and posts. Determine the spacing of the posts, usually 8 feet, unless otherwise stated. Do the math, and give and make the spacing of the posts even, if possible.

b.   Also draw a cross section of the gates and fence to ensure you have the right materials.

4)      OWNER INTERVIEW: Go over with the owner exactly what you are going to do, the height of the fence, all the little extra details on how it is going to be built to last, and how you are going to do it and that all is all okay with him. Make sure any additional loose ends are cleared with the owner which you need to know, like the exact color is going to be used, if they have any old paint in the garage. Ensure they know your schedule and you know when they are available and any contact information.

7)      DEMOLITION: Do any demolition needed of any old structures or any plants that need to be cut back, taken out or relocated.

8)      LUMBER DELIVERY: When the lumber is delivered, ensure everything is there, or work out any problems. Move the lumber from the street sorting it as you go so that the pieces are available in the order that they are available. The lumber should be moved back as soon as possible for safety and so as to minimize the inconvenience. The Lumber should be laid out so that it can dry as much as possible in the sun, especially if it is to be stained, and it should also be easily covered with a tarp in case of rain. Once the rain has stopped the tarp should be removed as soon as possible to let dry out.

9)      POSTS:   Posts are the primary vertical structural component holding the fence at the desired elevation, usually spaced no more than 8 feet apart, unless otherwise stated.

10)  POST HOLES: Set up a string line, figure out the spacing and dig the post holes at least 18” deep x 10” wide and 24” deep and 12” wide for a gate post. Put the extra soil somewhere on site where it is needed.

11)  PREP THE POSTS: If the post is to be set in concrete, treat the whole bottom 18-24” of the post that will be in the concrete with JASCO TERMIN-8.  (NOTE: all cuts in pressure treated lumber and all butted ends of any large lumber are treated with Jasco Termin-8, which is a highly toxic wood preservative, and we referred to it as “the nasty stuff” and/or asphalt emulsion “the black stuff”.) Treat the bottom of posts set in bracket as well. They can also be stained or primed and painted before installation.

12)  SET THE POSTS in concrete with the string line towards the bottom, putting in a few scoops of concrete first, then set the post in keeping it in line with the string and fairly level. When there is enough concrete so that the post is stable, ensure it is lined up and level. Then fill up the post hole with concrete beyond where any finish soil grade may be and slope or bevel the top so water runs off and stays above any soil, do a final check for level and let the concrete set up. If you are going to set a post in metal brackets first set the metal brackets at least 1” above the finish grade and with the concrete set, place the post in place and with it fairly well leveled up, draw where the holes are to be drilled. Take the post out and drill all the holes half way from both sides, and then install the post with the bolts and level it up.

13)  CUT THE POSTS: Using a tight string line or laser level, mark where they are to be cut at the desired height and cut each post. Stain or prime the post if it is required, before or after installation. Do this with all the posts and then look across the tops of them to ensure there is a straight line for the beams. Make any corrections needed.

14)  STRINGERS: Stringers are the main horizontal structural component carrying the weight of the fence. There are usually three 2x4 stringers between each post set on edge and sometimes a top rail of 2x4. If the posts are level and straight, cut the three stringers for one section the same size measured at the bottom of the post so they fit on the inside of the posts. Also pre-drill some 45 degree holes for the screws on the top and bottom of each end. Seal the ends with stain, primer or sealer. Install them at the desired height with two or three 3 ½” deck screws, usually flush with the edge of the post that will be showing. Sometimes it is easier to finish nail them in place with a nail or two and then come back and put in the screws. The post cap goes on top of the posts and the top stringer, which is flush with the top of the post.

15)  FENCING BOARDS are first cut to size, if all the same, or cut to fit individually. They are stained or primed on all sides first an then installed with two 1 5/8” or 2” screws into each stringer with a screw gun or impact driver, pushing it flush to the top cap. Sometimes six finish nails are used at different angles into each stringer instead of screws. Sometimes it is easier to finish nail them in place with a nail or two and then come back and put in the screws. The last piece in each section will have to be ripped to fit.

16)   THE STANDARD PANELLED GATE: This style has one clean side and the back side has some structure and a cross piece.

a.  Measure the size of the opening between the posts top and bottom and the height of the gate itself leaving a couple inched opening on the bottom. Check the elevation to ensure it will swing open freely. Subtract 3/8 of an inch from the horizontal measurement

b.  Cut 2x4s at a 45 degree angles the long way, so as to make a mitered picture frame with the 2x4s all on edge. Pre-drill two holes in the ends for a three and a 4” screw, treat the ends and screw the frame together. Fit another 2x4 from the bottom inside corner to the top outside corner and finish nail into place. Fit it between the posts to ensure it fits well. Screw on the fence boards and 2x4 top rail, which may have to be ripped narrower or the corners cut, so that it doesn’t bind when opened. Fill the holes and paint. Hang with three door hinges and gate latch.

17)  THE PANELLED GATE – SANDWICH STYLE (As in the picture above): This style is most elegant and looks great from both sides. It gets its stability from the wide lumber on the bottom and top and the triangles formed between the connections of the screws. It is most elegant using clear "Hill and Dale" or "Hip and Ridge" redwood fencing, which is similar to tongue and groove, but is reasonably priced.

a.       Measure the size of the opening, as above.

b.      Cut two 1x12 the size of the top opening and bottom opening, both minus 3/8”

c.       Cut four 1x6 the size of the desired gate height minus the width of two 1x12s, or approximately 23”.

d.      Cut the fence boards the size of the desired gate, minus the top rail.

e.       Stain or prime and paint all the pieces.

f.        Set the fence boards together on a horse with the best side down. The fence boards make up the meat.

g.       Without nailing, fit together the on the back side of the gate, the front side pieces with 1x12 top and bottom and the 1x6 sides, one side of the bread. Mark the top piece to cut out the arc from the bottom of it. Cut out the same arch on the top piece of the other side. Center the fence boards in the space between the arch and rip the inside fence board flush with the bread.

h.       Situate the horses so one is about 4-6 inches from the top, end the other is 4-6 inches from the bottom, then slide the top and bottom 1x12 underneath the fence boards and on each horse. This is the front side facing down and we are doing it this way so there will be no nail or screw marks in the front, as we are screwing those boards in from the back.  Align the top inside corner of the top piece and the inside fence board that was just ripped, first putting in a lot of beads of liquid nails in this (and all) corner connections and put one 1 ¼” screw  in this connection. Check the square with a framing square and put screws on each corner of this connection (4 minimum).

i.         Take the rest of the fence boards off and put in the inside 1x6 with some liquid nails on the ends and screws and then put on the bottom 1x12 with liquid nails a square and four screws. Ensure the last outside 1x6 will fit.

j.        Apply liquid nails to the back of the 1x12s and set the fence boards back on one at a time getting each as tight as possible with eight screws and fit in the last 1x6.

k.      For the back side of the bread, piece the 1xs together, make some marks on the inside of the panel, take the 1x off, apply liquid nails, especially in the corners, place the inside pieces flush with the inside edge and nail them on with 2” finish nails. Cut off excess on edges.

l.         Put on top rail, fill holes, caulk, paint and hang.

NOTE: A sandwiched fence can be made in the same style as the gate with 1x12 stringers and a top rail for the elegant look.

18)  CLEAN-UP: The area should be totally cleaned up, hosed down, all refuse removed and any messes or mistakes corrected.

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