Ah, the wonderful joy of baby proofing your house. The sheer number of baby products available is mind boggling. You ask your friends who are new parents, search the online baby forums, and peruse the aisles of your local big box baby gear store. What do you really need and what would be cool to have? After having twins, the first thing I would suggest is baby gates. What better way to get exactly what you want than build your own DIY Wood Baby Gates.
With our first two children, we did a minimal amount of baby proofing. Why you may ask. Well, I’ll say that one or two children are manageable for two parents, it’s when you get out numbered that things start to get a little hairy. Better yet, when you get outnumbered by twins. Then the panic begins to set in and you think how can you protect them from every hidden danger and not turn your entire home into Romper Room.
I gathered a 1″ x4″ x 8′ and a 6′ foot piece of oak. The balusters were still available at our local big box store. Which was a huge win, is that our home was built ten years ago. I purchased about twenty. I am certain I didn’t need as much, however, I always leave room for error. This project is simple enough to complete in a weekend. Here’s what I did:
- Cut the bottom and sides for the gates. The side pieces should be cut the same size and the bottom will receive the holes for the peg of the balusters. I also cut a shorter piece, where the bottom is cut at a 45-degree angle. This piece will be affixed to the wall and serve as support for the gate. Lastly, cut the piece handrail, this will go top of the gate.
2. Our existing rail has a natural finish. I took a wild guess on color matching and went with MiniWax “Natural” Penetrating Stain. Before applying the stain, I used a wood conditioner to ensure the stain penetrated the wood. The great thing about wood conditioner is it only takes about 15 minutes to dry, whereas water-based stain can take an hour or more to dry. To achieve a matching finish, three coats of stain were applied. Using an old t-shirt to apply finishes creates a nice smooth coat. Although the stain was used outdoors, I used a respirator and latex gloves. As a woodworker I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and feeling the wood I am working with. However, removing stain off your hands is a real chore. The best and safest way to remove a solvent, like stain from the skin is to make a paste from baking soda and distilled white vinegar.
3. Once each coat of stained dried according to the manufacturers’ instructions. I used a speed square to mark where the holes where to be drilled to receive the balusters. In total there were eleven marks made about two inches apart on center. Using a 1″ hole saw bit, I drilled a hole a through the thickness of the wood. Next, moving on to the oak handrail, to ensure the balusters would line up perfectly in the bottom as well as the top of the gate; I placed the bottom piece of wood which I drilled holes into the top of the chair rail. Each hole location was transferred and then drilled into with a 1′ spade bit. I then glued the balusters to the bottom of the gate with wood glue. Wood glue works best on raw wood. The top of the balusters is painted and more difficult to adhere.
4. To attach the sides of gates to the bottom and the top chair rail, I drilled a hole with a countersink bit. Countersink bits allow the top of your screw to be recessed. It is the perfect finish to making your work look a bit more polished.
5. In order to attach the sides of the gate to the hand rail; center dowel points were inserted into the holes I bore in the previous step. Center dowel points allow you to make a small indentation on your wood to perfectly align holes on two separate pieces of wood. The points I have were included in a dowel kit. I am using them for two reasons: Oak is a bit tougher to drill through than a soft wood such as pine and I simply did not have enough clamps to secure each piece simatenuously to drill into two pieces of oak.
6. Once the holes were established on the gates’ side board, I used 2″ wood screws to attach the two pieces. To hide the unsightly screws, wood plugs were used. Wood plugs are tiny dome shaped pieces of wood that cover screw heads. Most the time the top of the wood plug will need to be cut off for it to the be flush with the larger piece of wood. There are many tools that can accomplish this, I used a Japanese Hand Saw.
Japenese Hand Saws have several teeth and are fairly flexible. The major difference between Japanese and American made hand saws are those made in Japan cut wood on the pull. Meaning when you pull the saw towards you, that motion cuts the wood, rather than cutting when the saw is pushed away from you.
7. And lastly, I added galvanized metal angle plates to the bottom of the gate for added support.
8. One of the oak boards I stained for the baby gates was cut at 45-degree angle and affixed to the wall. Once the studs were located I affixed it the wall with 2′ wood screws (they were the only screws I had on hand that were long enough). Then black gate hinges were installed with the included screws to the angled board and to the side of the gate.
The best part about this project and the sole reason why I decided to make these custom baby gates was that I did not have to drill into the newel post. Newel posts can be pricey to replace and time-consuming to restore after drilling. My workaround to drilling is a 1/2″ oak board attached to the newel post with zip ties. To close the gate I installed a metal hook and eye on the rear of the gate.
Although these gates were made to keep little ones safe, they can also be used as pet gates. I would recommend affixing a thicker piece of wood to the newel post, as pets tend to be a little stronger than a baby. This is an easy project that anyone can complete without purchasing any expensive tools. Let me know if you decide to take it on.
Be Great. Live Passionately.