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How to Build a Dog Gate

A solid-wood DIY gate is a practical upgrade for the well-trained dog—and your home's decor

Whether it keeps his muzzle away from the dinner table or stops him from getting underfoot during parties, a dog gate is a handy tool for setting proper boundaries for your pooch. And it certainly doesn't have to look like a dreary chain-link fence. This handsome piece, made from oak and finished with nontoxic tung oil, can stand proudly in any room in the house. (You can also paint, stain, or shellac yours, if you prefer.) Check out the full instructions to see how senior technical editor Mark Powers put it together.

Step 1

Plans for How to Build a Dog Gate

Illustration by Jennifer Stimpson

Before you hit the home store for supplies, take note of a few key design tips for your dog gate:

  • The gate should stand twice as high as the ridge between his shoulder blades (known as the withers).
  • Size the bottom panel so that your dog can just see over the top of it.
  • The spindles should be close enough together so your dog's head can't fit through and get stuck.
  • The taller the gate, the longer the gate's feet should be, to keep it from toppling over.
  • If you've got a chew-happy puppy, make the gate from a cheaper, paint-grade lumber like pine, instead of the furniture-grade oak we used, until he outgrows the gnawing phase - and make sure the finish you use is nontoxic.
  • If you have a strong or large dog that can knock over a gate, consider adding an eyelet screw to each side and hooks to the doorframe so you can secure the gate inconspicuously in the proper spot when needed.

Cut List

Note: The quantities listed are sufficient to build a two-section gate with each section measuring 24 by 26 inches. Adjust the quantities as needed for your design. Download plan here

1. 1x2 legs - 4 @ 26 inches

2. 1x2 Crosspieces - 6 @ 22½ inches

3. 1x2 Spindles - 8 @ 10¼ inches

4. 1x2 Stiles - 8 @ 12 inches

5. 1x2 Rails - 8 @ 19½ inches

6. 1x2 Feet - 4 @ 6 inches

7. ½ inch oak veneer plywood - 2 @ 12 by 22½ inches

8. Panel molding - 8 @ custom cut to size

Step 2

Cut the Parts

Photo by Laura Moss

Milled hardwood has sharp edges that can cut your hands while you work, so before making any cuts, dull the edges of the lumber by passing a piece of medium-grit sandpaper over the edges a few times.

Using a miter saw, cut 1x2s to length according to the cut list. Using a circular saw, cut ½-inch oak plywood to size, using a straightedge as a guide.

Step 3

Dry-Fit the Gate

Photo by Laura Moss

Lay the crosspieces, legs, and spindles on edge, so that the crosspieces are sandwiched horizontally between the legs, and the spindles are sandwiched vertically—and an equal distance apart—between the top and middle crosspieces. Lay the panel between the middle and bottom crosspieces. Lay the rails and stiles on the flat at the border of the panel, flush with its outside edge and abutting the legs and crosspieces.

Step 4

Mark the Spindle Locations

Photo by Laura Moss

Lay the top and middle crosspieces side by side on the flat. Measure off and mark even spacing for the spindles along the crosspieces. Flip the pieces a quarter-turn so they're on edge, and using a combination square transfer the marks to the sides of both crosspieces. Repeat until the marks are transferred to all four sides of both crosspieces.

Step 5

Glue the Spindles

Photo by Laura Moss

Using a small paintbrush, apply a thin coat of glue to the ends of each spindle. Set them in place one by one between the top and middle crosspieces, using a bar clamp to hold the assembly together while positioning them. When all spindles are in place, tighten clamps at both ends of the crosspieces and allow the glue to set.

Step 6

Fasten the Spindles and Legs

Photo by Laura Moss

Using a drill/driver fitted with a 3/32-inch bit, make pilot holes through the crosspieces and into the ends of the spindles. Sink 1½-inch finish screws into the pilot holes until the screw heads sit slightly below the surface.

Apply a thin coat of glue to the ends of the crosspieces, and position the legs so they're flush with the top edge of the top crosspiece, then clamp them in place. Drill 3/32-inch pilot holes through the legs and into the ends of the crosspieces, then use 1½-inch screws to attach the legs to the assembly through the pilot holes.

Step 7

Secure the Panel

Photo by Laura Moss

Set the panel in place between the legs so it's flush with the back edges of the legs and crosspiece; it should touch the underside of the middle crosspiece. Set the bottom crosspiece in place below the panel. Drill pilot holes and screw the legs to the bottom crosspiece using the same process described in Step 5. Using a pneumatic pin nailer and 1½-inch pin nails, secure the panel to the frame by nailing through the legs and crosspieces and into the edges of the panel on all four sides.

Step 8

Install the Stiles and Rails

Photo by Laura Moss

Lay the stiles and rails in place on top of the panel, on the flat. One by one, lift each piece and apply glue to the ends, the outside edge, and to the panel where the piece will lay. Set each piece in place. Secure the stiles and rails with 1½-inch pin nails by nailing through the legs and crosspieces and into their outer edges. (Nailing through the legs and crosspieces, instead of through the panel itself, will decrease the need for filling holes on the panel's backside.)

Step 9

Cut and Install the Trim

Photo by Laura Moss

Miter the ends of the first piece of trim at a 45-degree angle so that the longer back edge is equal to the length of a rail. Miter one end of the second piece, which will lie against the inside edge of a stile. Holding the mitered corners together, mark the cut on the opposite end of the second piece of trim to fit.

Continue cutting the trim to size, working your way around the frame, until all the mitered pieces fit inside the rails and stiles. Install the trim using 1-inch pin nails by nailing through the trim and into the rails and stiles.

Tip: To conceal the nail heads, place the nailer's tip in the deepest spot in the trim's profile.

Step 10

Mark and Drill the Feet

Photo by Laura Moss

A foot will be attached to each leg using a 40 mm hex-head connector bolt recessed into the foot. To mark where the bolt should go, mark the outline of each leg onto the underside of each foot, and find its center by drawing two intersecting lines from corner to corner using a straightedge. Clamp the foot facedown to your work surface. Using a ¾-inch paddle bit, drill a shallow recess no deeper than the bolt head's thickness in the spot you marked, then use a ¼-inch bit to drill a hole in the center of the recess you made.

Tip: For a more finished look, cut a 45-degree taper at the end of each foot.

Step 11

Install the Insert Nuts Into the Legs

Photo by Laura Moss

On the underside of each leg, find the center by drawing two intersecting lines from corner to corner, as you did in step 10. Using a drill/driver fitted with an 11/32-inch bit, drill a 2-inch-deep hole in the bottom of each leg in this spot. Screw a ¼-20 insert nut into the hole using an Allen key. Repeat for remaining legs.

Step 12

Attach the Feet

Photo by Laura Moss

Push the connector bolt through the underside of the foot and screw it into the insert nut in the leg. Use an Allen key to tighten it. Repeat for remaining feet. Note that for legs that will be next to each other when sections of the gate are joined together, you may prefer adding a foot to just one leg so that the gate can fold up completely when it's not in use.

Step 13

Connect the Sections

Photo by Laura Moss

Repeat steps 2 through 12 to create additional sections of your gate as needed.

Attach the sections to each other by screwing three 1½-by-¾-inch butt hinges to their back sides, at the top, center, and bottom. (You could mortise in the hinges, but it's not required.)

Once all sections are complete, fill nail holes with wood filler and sand the assembly with a fine-grit paper. You have several finish options: If you want to let the wood grain show through, simply apply a coat of tung oil with a rag. If you prefer a stained finish, give the gate a coat of sanding sealer to even out the wood's tone, then apply a water-based stain and seal it with shellac or an acrylic clear-coat. Or prime and paint the gate with a latex-based product.