Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

The Gate Project, part 2

Posted by joeabbott on February 9, 2011

This is the second in a series of posts about a project I jumped into last summer.

The Gate Project, Part 1 discusses the problem I was trying to solve. It was short but had a little picture of the “old gate” … yeah, that piece of plywood that was leaning against our fence gave us something to clip the plastic fencing onto. It wasn’t super cool but it did the trick.

The Gate Project, Part 2 mainly discusses the posts. This was the key as our soil and my skills conspired to keep this from being simple. Or that’s my contention.

The Gate Project, Part 3 deals with the arbor or overhead beams, their design, and how I ended up with the look.

The Gate Project, Part 4 covers the construction and the installation of the parts discussed before.

The Gate Project, Part 5, wraps up the series with the building and installation of the gate.

The Posts

imageAs I noted in the last post, the potential for the gate to exhibit “tippy-ness” had me concerned.

Before I start, I want to suggest a little nomenclature. I have written and re-written this post but continue to get hung up on terms like “tipping away” and “leaning back” or “over” … and, without us seeing the same picture, this starts to feel a bit vague. I guess I’m not a great “describer”.

But, I will suggest this: Imagine you’re walking up the path and see the gate … in my descriptions, that’s the mental image I’ll use. To further help ground things, I’ve created a small model that should help further.

The picture to the right shows the gate that Suzy was asking for.

I’ve colored the parts for further clarity:

  • the ground it green
  • the path has a gravel look
  • the posts are brown
  • the gates are pink

Why these colors? No idea … just tickled me (and they were right there on the palette). About the only interesting things you can see from the picture is that the gate is rather simple and that the posts are buried a foot below the surface of the ground.

Oh … and the black arrow? That’s the direction I’ll be walking on my way into Chickenville.

Solving Problems

imageWe have a fence that surrounds our back yard … the better to keep track of the cats … and it has a couple gates in it. Even though the fence and gates were installed by professionals, the posts have slumped a tiny bit. Not a lot but still enough that you need to lift up on one of the gates as you open it to avoid some binding against the far side.

imageSo, now that I was putting in my own gate, having the posts tipping toward each other was a real concern. This typically happens when the weight of the gate itself pulls on the post. This would be tipping in the direction of the arrows that I’ve drawn in the picture to the left.

And then I wondered if just going through the gate might cause a different sort of tipping: tipping toward and away from me from the constant going in and out. That was an altogether different tipping problem. It would be tipping in the direction of the arrows drawn on the pictures to the right.

I didn’t want to pour concrete as I’d need quite a lot … especially if I’d intended on completely locking the posts in place. To be honest, I’d never done it and doing something new and getting it spot-on right … well, not my usual MO. And with our sloping hill and sandy soil, it became a bigger concern than I was ready to tackle. So, I started to consider mechanical means of locking the posts in place.

imageMy initial thought was to connect the 4×4 post together with a 2×8 that was buried below ground. It would lock the two posts relative to each other and avoid the slumping problem I saw on our fence gate.

I’m showing this in the picture to the left here … I’ve removed the gravel path for clarity but, once constructed, the connecting board would be underneath the path.

Super! It would also help with the other sort of tipping that I was worried about. The buried connecting board would keep the posts from tipping toward and away from me somewhat, but without other posts in front or behind these to lock them down I thought that, sooner or later, I’d get some tipping.

And with that thought, I started mental preparations adding structure above ground that would help counteract the forces causing the slumping. And, I was heading down the road to constructing a rather grand trellis … or is it an arbor? Maybe a pergola? Whatever you call it, the gate was getting big. But I liked the idea.

By building a trellis\arbor\pergola structure that we’d walk under and through on the way into Chickenville, I’d have four posts that would be tied together giving the structure as a whole the strength to stand up to all sorts of abuse! I’d not only connect the legs together under the surface of the path, but also have structure above ground to use for additional rigidity.

imageAs I built up that idea in my mind and in SketchUp models, I really liked it. When I finally showed Suzy what I was thinking, I believe it caught her by surprise and the scale of it caused more than a little concern.

She was looking for a gate and I was giving her a tunnel!

Wounded that my idea missed the mark, we worked together on the plan, her coming to appreciate the problems I was solving, and she helping me avoid over-engineering yet another project. The final design landed closer to my vision than her minimal gate but is working out for both of us. Especially since I’ve delivered on the trellis I’d promised that will allow her to plant some growing vines in a small garden area in Chickenville.

The Post Design

The design we ended up with used four 8’ posts that were buried 1’ deep; the gate would hang off the front two posts and the second set of posts would be two feet further along.

Below ground we had pressure treated lumber connecting the posts. Above ground we had used a through mortise connection for the posts on either side of the path, and resting on them were decorative timbers.

And, while I hate to spoil the surprise, the overall gate ended up looking something like the picture to the right. Notice the lower boards connecting the posts … those are just to keep the posts in place relative to each other for years to come!

As you can imagine, if this is the scaled down version, the structure I came up with on my own was really over the top!

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2 Responses to “The Gate Project, part 2”

  1. […] The Gate Project, Part 2 mainly discussed the posts. This was the key as our soil and my skills conspired to keep this from being simple. Or that’s my contention. […]

  2. […] The Gate Project, Part 2 mainly discussed the posts. This was the key as our soil and my skills conspired to keep this from being simple. Or that’s my contention. […]

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