Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stair Gate Tutorial

This is for my lovely readers who read my stair gate post and asked for a tutorial.  Before I start let me just remind you we tweaked the plans we followed to work for us, so you may need to do the same to make it work for you.  

The first thing we did was measure the opening of our stairs.  Our walls were pretty square, so the measurement was the same up and down, but you will want to measure at the top, middle and bottom(ignoring the baseboard).  If its different, you will want to use the smallest measurement as your guide.  You will also want to measure how high above the floor you want your gate to hang and how tall you want your gate.

The next thing you need to decide is how many slats you want and how far apart you want them.  The standard if you have pets or kids is 2-3 inches apart.  This took us FOREVER to figure out with our first gate!  We were constantly playing with numbers to figure out how to evenly space our slats.  For you, I have an awesome formula to help you out. 

Gate door width, minus the width of your two side rails, minus (the number of slats times the slat width) divided by (the number of slats plus)


Okay, so for us, we have 7 slats, and in case you have no idea what the side rails are, in the picture they are the very side pieces of the gate next to the planks in the wall.  Okay, so our formula would go a little like this:

35.5-1.5(side rail width, they are each 3/4 inches)-(7*1.5(width of a 1*2 slat))/7+1
or simplified
(Remember order of operation?  Aw, that takes me back to 6th grade:)

Rounded to the nearest 16th it would be 2 and 15/16, but I think we just rounded up to 3 to make it easier.

Okay, so now you have all your measurements and can start cutting.  Here's a picture of the inside of the gate and I will break down all the pieces.

This gate is missing the side rails, and the top 1*3 to sandwich the slats and fillets in.  The top of the gate is basically a 1*3 on bottom, with the slats and fillets in the middle, then another 1*3 on top of all that and another 1*3 to go above it all.  The bottom is exactly the same only we used 1*2's. That way the top looked a little fancier.  So the 1*3's(and the two 1*2's on bottom if you do it like ours) will all be cut @ 34 inches(remember the side rails will add an inch and a half to bring it to 35.5).  We determined the slats to be 3 inches, so you can cut however many you need(we needed 16, 8 on top and 8 on bottom).  The slats will be 37.5(remember there is a top and bottom 1*3 that will bring the total height to 39).

You can have all your wood cut at home depot, but if you can do it all at home that may be better.  That way if you mess up you can fix it yourself.  Or better yet, measure twice, cut once.  Then we used a finish, or brad nailer(you can buy one at harbor freight for around $20) and wood glue to put it all together.

Glue the pieces down first, then nail them from the inside so you don't have to fill too many holes.  Do the fillets and slats first, then glue the front and back pieces.  Finish off with the top and side pieces and repeat for the bottom.  It should look something like this.

To complicate it a little more, we didn't care what the back looked like, so to make the front look nicer we flushed everything in the front up.  Meaning the 1*3's on top and bottom would have hung over a little in the front and back, but we decided to have no hang over in the front and about a half inch in back.  That's your call.  Also, if I could do it again,  I would make the top and bottom pieces go all 35.5 inches and cut the side rails an inch and a half shorter.  I just think it would have looked nicer.  

After all of that we added a few decorative molding pieces to cover some of the seams, and here is the finished product.

We added a hidden lock in the top so that our kids wouldn't be able to open it.  For that we just used a circular saw to cut a small chunk out and smoothed it with a chisel.  Here's a close up.

Don't forget, all the measurements I posted were for OUR house, and yours will most likely be different.  This is just a guide.  Also, for those of you who have never built anything and are confused with my measurements about 1*3's and 1*2's, they are actually more like .5*1.5 and .5*2.5.  I think its just easier to say 1*2 and 1*3, so that's what they are called. :)

I hope that helps!  This is the first tutorial I've ever written, so sorry if it was confusing.  If you have any other questions feel free to email me.

Happy gate building!

1 comment:

  1. We are thrilled you liked our gate plans that you mentioned on the other part of your blog (and thank you)! We love to see improvisation on the plans. If anyone else wants to buy the plans with pictures, it's still available at:
    The plans are for our Mission style pet and baby gates shown on that same website (for those with less DIY skills!) Cheryl