DIY Wood Farmhouse Baby Gates
Level: Easy to make the gate, Intermediate to hang it
Time: 60 minutes (longer with paint drying and installation time!)
Materials: Wood, paint or stain, Liquid Nails or a nail gun, hinges, locking mechanism, stud finder
When Leo first started to crawl I knew we had to do something to gate off the stairs. We had just moved into our new house a few months before and I'd spent months making it look the way I wanted, so I didn't want to ruin the entire aesthetic with hideous plastic baby gates. I searched online for HOURS and couldn't find anything I liked (that cost less than $300).
So after some DIY research, I thought I'd try to make my own. And I'm super glad I did! These gates look amazing, they're ridiculously easy, and way cheaper than anything I found online.
You'll need to measure the width and height you want your gate to be. The gate should be about an inch smaller than the stair opening (you need to leave room for the hinges, lock, and possibly an anchor board). For example, our opening was about 41.5 inches wide, so I made the gate 40.5 inches wide.
The height is completely up to you. If you think your kids will try to hang or climb on it, I'd say make it taller/harder to reach. Remember you'll want the gate off the ground an inch or two, so take that into account as well. I wanted the gate to hang about 38 inches high, so we made the gate 36 inches tall.
Just be sure to account for things like base boards, banisters, etc. when measuring! As you can see in the picture above, our gate could only be as tall as the bannister allowed.
** Quick note, at the end I'm going to talk about adding a wheel at the bottom if you'd like. If you do want to do that, be sure to take into account the height of the wheel when measuring/installing your gate!
Get your wood!
I got mine from Lowe's or Home Depot (I honestly can't remember- whoops!). I opted for pre-primed wood because I wanted to paint my gates white, and the pre-primed boards make it a LOT easier. But if you want to stain them just get regular wood.
Another thing to keep in mind is how many slats you want in your gate. It will depend on how wide your gate is. You don't want more than 2-3 inches between slats. We opted for 7 slats.
These are all 1x4 boards. We wanted it our gate to be 40.5 inches wide and 36 inches tall, so I cut two 40.5 inch boards for the top and bottom and nine 36 inch boards for the slats. (I only needed 7 slats, but I wanted some extras in case I messed up!)
These 1x4 boards come in 6, 8, and 12 foot lengths. If you don't want to cut them at home, just have Lowe's or Home Depot cut them for you at the store! Sometimes they make you pay 25 cents per cut, but it's cheaper than buying a saw.
* A small note about having them cut for you. Most of the time they are very nice about it. Occasionally they're jerks. DO NOT LET THEM MAKE YOU FEEL BAD for having them cut a bunch of pieces of wood. Most of us don't have whole workshops and all the tools we need at home, that doesn't mean you shouldn't still get to do fun projects! Be super nice, tell them you appreciate it, make sure they know you're willing to pay the 25 cents per cut, and if they're still being whiny, ignore them. They're just jerks. Don't let them intimidate you into not doing projects you want to do!
Paint! Or stain. Or color with a sharpie. Whatever floats your boat.
Be sure you do this before you start putting the gate together. It is way easier to paint them all individually and will look SO much nicer in the end. Sand down the edges if they're rough and do 1-2 coats of paint. This is when the pre-primed boards come in super handy. I only had to do 1 coat of paint on each board!
I used leftover cabinet paint (which was super durable) but if you use regular paint, you may want to do a top coat (even just a clear spray paint top coat) if the gate is going to be used a lot. It will help prevent chipping and scratches!
Put it all together!
Lay out your two long pieces and space out your slats along the top and bottom. Make sure you measure so they're all laid out evenly!
Then starting with one side, attach the slats to the top and bottom boards.
If you're using liquid nails, apply the glue to the boards and place something heavy (like a book or some other boards) on top or use clamps to hold the boards in place while they dry.
I opted to use my brad nailer (because I love it SO much and it's so fun to use). This Ryobi Airstrike nail gun is the absolute best. You don't need an air compressor or anything, just a battery and charger!
I worked my way from the outside in, nailing one side first, then the other side, then filling in the middle. This helped me make sure they were spaced correctly.
Nail/glue them all in place and voila! You have a gate!!
I used black 4 inch gate hinges and attached them to the top and bottom slats. The hinges I bought came with screws, so I just drilled them into place. Easy peasy!
Now for the tricky part...hanging the gate.
I would definitely suggest having a buddy for this part. Someone will need to hold the gate in place while you drill it into the wall.
The most important step is finding the studs in your wall. I know because the first time I hung this gate I did not find the studs and it ripped a huge chunk of drywall off as it fell to the ground. Whoops. But a stud finder is pretty cheap and easy to use once you figure it out (I suggest finding YouTube tutorials for your stud finder if you're not sure!)
If your studs are exactly where you need to hang the gate, great! Screw it into place and call it a day.
But if your studs are NOT right where you need the gate to be, you'll need to install an anchor board. Is anchor board a technical term, you ask? I don't think so. But I have no idea what else to call it, so we're going with anchor board.
An anchor board is basically a piece of wood that you screw into the studs, and then you screw your gate into that piece of wood. This keeps everything firmly screwed into wood (and not drywall. Never screw things directly into drywall. Learn from my mistakes).
So you mark your studs, then screw a leftover piece of 1x4 into the studs. Paint it the color of your walls and you'll forget it's there! Super easy solution and way better than losing a huge chunk of drywall that you have to poorly patch and paint (as you can see in the bottom of this picture. Yeesh).
Have someone hold the gate in place while you screw it into the studs or anchor board.
The type of lock you use will depend on the way your gate is set up. I've used different types on different gates.
If your gate is flush against a wall or bannister, you can use a barrel bolt like this one.
If that isn't the case, another option is a hook and eye latch, like this.
Whichever one works best, screw it in and you're all set!
TA DA! You made a gate!
A FEW NOTES
I built these gates a number of months ago and have learned a few things since then that I wanted to be sure to share!
1) These gates tend to settle a bit. We ended up having to move the lock because the gate settled and it didn't latch anymore. I'd suggest maybe screwing it into the wall and letting it sit for a week before you attach the lock, just to make sure!
2) One way to keep the gate from settling too much is to add a wheel/caster at the bottom. We recently did this to ours and it helped a ton!
3) If you're going to use a nail gun, use some wood glue, too, just to help the boards stay in place! Ours have started to come apart a bit because of how often we use the gate!
4) I've seen other people put their hinges on the last slat, rather than the top and bottom boards. I don't know if this helps keep it from sagging or if it matters, but that's just another option!
This project's imperfections: Oh boy, so many. This was definitely a learning experience for me! I already mentioned a number of our mistakes- not screwing it into the studs, not using wood glue, the gate sagging, the lock being off once it settled.
We definitely learned a lot from this, but I'm SO glad we did it! I absolutely love these gates. They're sturdy (now haha) they match the rest of our house, they're easy to use. And they just look so nice! Definitely worth the trial and error.