Archive for April, 2014

Deckgate (Literally, How To Make A Deck Gate)

This isn’t “Deckgate” in the sense that there’s a scandal involving a deck (sorry Olivia Pope) but for anyone who might want to learn how to build a literal deck gate, well, this could help.

Our previous method of deck “gating” could be considered a little… lacking.

The nice weather has accentuated a shortcoming of our deck once again. Burger likes to sunbathe out there, but the temptation of a grassy yard full of bugs and fascinating smells often proves too great and he goes wandering. We don’t have a fence on our property, and he has gotten more brazen lately and may even wander into the neighbor’s yard. Hence the classy plywood barrier on one side and the leaned board on the other (yes, that was enough to keep him deck-bound).

Clearly some gates were in order, since we didn’t want to deny Burger his precious sun time but knew with a newborn that policing his whereabouts could fall through the cracks. I read a couple of tutorials online that were particularly helpful (this one and this one), then I took some measurements, sketched out a game plan (I modified both plans a little), and hit up Home Depot. Here’s what I came home with:

I was making two gates, so picture these supplies twice over.

To get everything I needed, I purchased two 10′ boards (cut into 3′ / 3′ /4′ sections) and one 8′ board (cut in half). The lengths above were just the rough cuts I got at Home Depot to make everything fit into the car more easily, but I knew I’d need to cut my own mitered corners at home. So I started by cutting 45° corners on one end of each board.

Making the second mitered cut was where I had to be precise on my measurement. I knew I wanted the gates to be an inch shorter than the length of the opening (to give them room to swing) and about the same height as the rest of the railings around the deck. So I marked my lengths and even drew the angle on the board so I was sure I was cutting each one in the right direction. This particular gate was 44″ wide and 29″ tall.

I cut the boards in pairs: the top & bottom boards together, and the two sides together. This ensured that the pairs were identical lengths, which was key to getting my gate all square in the end (so I carefully clamped them together before making the second 45° cut on the opposite end).

To join my frame together, I used my Kreg Jig to create two pocket holes on each end of the side boards. These are holes I’d later fill with wood putty.

So here’s my frame after everything was screwed together nice and tightly.

Next I had to attach the balusters to mimic the look of the rest of the deck’s railing. Before shopping I had measured the spacing between the existing balusters and determined I’d have space for five of them on my gate. So after cutting mine to length, I attached the first one at the center point of my gate on both the top and the bottom – using two 2″ decking screws (remarkably still left over from my deck project at our last house). Then I used some scrap wood to cut spacers to help me place the next balusters evenly. You can see those in this shot:

With the gate constructed, we just needed hardware to attach it. Home Depot sold this $15 kit that included two T-hinges and a latch, so I grabbed two of them. I had read in my research that a hinge should stretch about 1/5th the length of your gate. So these 8″ ones were just about perfect for our project.

To hang the gate, I used some scrap wood to prop it in place and (with Sherry’s help) determined the best spots to attach all of the hardware with of the provided screws. We couldn’t center the top hinge (it ran into the existing deck railing) so it rides a little low – but once the light wood is stained to match the rest of the deck we hope it won’t be too noticeable.

Then we just attached the latching mechanism to the other side, and we were in business.

We still have some leftover stain from last year’s deck “rejuvenation” that will make the gates a perfect match, but we have to wait about 2-3 weeks before we can stain them (pressure treated wood can bubble or peel if you don’t let it dry out for a little while before staining or painting it). But regardless of the mismatched look, we’re just happy to have ‘em up and functional. Especially since it only took about three hours to make both of them and my total cost was $53 for two gates ($23 for the wood and $30 for the hardware). File this project under “Why didn’t I do this last year???”

Here’s the gate on the other side. I used the same process, although the opening was a half-inch smaller than the other and – get this – an inch shorter! I guess the original railings get a little lower as they wrap around the deck.

The only extra challenge this gate presented was that I had to screw the hinge into the hand rail and foot rail, rather than the post. The hinge was too tall to fit entirely on it (we really wanted it to open in this direction, so hinging it on the other side didn’t make sense).

Thankfully it was a pretty easy remedy – I just screwed in a couple of scrap blocks (the initial mitered corners that I had sawed off) to give the hinge a place to attach. Obviously I’ll be staining those too, so they should blend in a lot more in a few weeks.

We’ll probably leave this side open most of the time, since this is where Burger exits to do his business, and just close it when he wants to linger on the deck. So we’re planning to add some sort of hook-and-eye latch to keep it propped open so it doesn’t swing in the wind or anything.

Sherry and I have been talking about eventually fencing some of the backyard so Burger can roam a bit more freely, but in the meantime he seems to love that he can warm his bare belly more often without us chasing him into the house.

Update: Thankfully, just like Burger can’t slip through the rest of the deck’s perimeter, he can’t get through the new gates. He’d have to leap into the air, clear the bottom frame and the balusters perfectly, and then land on the stairs below, and he’s just not that daring (he’s much happier to be lazy and bake in the sun). But a more brazen pup might be able to squeeze through if they’re small – and determined – enough, in which case I’d recommend closer spacing or adding some sort of a cross board.

And we figure we’ll probably be very grateful (gateful?) to have these once Teddy’s more mobile so we can keep him contained without having to worry about tumbles down the stairs. Parenting win!



Less Is More (Unless You’re Talking About Oreos)

Life has been busier than ever for us – and there’s nothing like having a baby to confirm your true priorities. We’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately: what exactly are our goals? What are we working towards? Hoping to gain? The answer, we realized, was definitely not more blog hits or traffic or approval. Honestly we both feel unsettled by the idea of our blog growing any larger, and we look fondly back on the earlier days when we worked less, slept more, and spent more quality time with our family and friends. This little website of ours has already surpassed every expectation we ever could have had for it. So what are we chasing?

When Clara was born we were both blogging full time, but we had about a third of the traffic that we have now and we usually shared around one project a week amidst other home-related chitchat, family happenings, polls, reader makeovers, etc. It was one of the best times of our lives. We did less and had less, and we were completely comfortable. So in light of everything on our plates, this new baby boy, and a girl who’s growing up entirely too fast (cue the Armageddon music), we’ve decided to paddle back towards that.

We know this choice may directly correlate to fewer hits and therefore less income – and we’re ok with that. Sure, it’s a little scary not knowing where we’ll be in a few months or years (but we’ve never known that as professional bloggers anyway). We’ve made “risky” career choices before in the name of life quality – like leaving the NYC rat race and giving up steady salaries for blogging – but they’ve also been some of our best decisions.

Just like we did when we made those leaps, we’ve saved enough to help us sleep at night. We’ve also both left the door open in our previous professions, so even if this choice means we’ll eventually be taking on freelance advertising work again (which I did to make a living before we started this blog, and which John has dabbled with over the last few years) it’s a risk we’re willing to take in the name of bringing some balance back into our lives.

The good news is that our love of home improvement and blogging is burned deep into our hearts, and our to-do list is still a mile long. We have no plans to stop blogging anytime soon. We’ll still be posting our projects, planning, shopping, and other usual fare here regularly. But things will be noticeably different as we recalibrate our priorities (we think we’ll end up in the 3-5 posts per week range).

We’ll also be going back to sharing all of our family posts on Young House Love (sorry Young House Life). We’ve always had family stuff here – in fact some of our favorite (and most popular) posts are the personal ones about things like breastfeeding, Clara’s birth story, her photo project, this ridiculousness, and random facts about me and John. Between those types of posts always existing on our main site, and Instagram taking the place of the smaller family updates, Young House Life has felt less necessary lately, so we won’t be posting over there anymore.

We know some people will be relieved by this change of pace (many of you have encouraged us to slow down) or excited about the new looser style of posting, while others might decide to tune out – and we’re ok with that too.

We feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to make this choice. It’s not a decision that we’ve made lightly, and we realized that if we don’t seize it now, we may never have the chance to again. Teddy is our last baby and Clara is just a year away from kindergarten (how did that happen?!), so we want to enjoy this time with them instead of working our nights, weekends, and vacations away chasing some business goal we don’t even want.

We have no idea what the future holds, but even if the internet exploded tomorrow, we’re already so grateful for this amazing and completely unexpected journey of ours. This blog has surprised us in the most major of ways, and has led to some unbelievable experiences and opportunities, many of which we can’t quite wrap our minds around.

We still have big dreams for this house of ours and can’t wait to share how it evolves with you guys. But if you’ll excuse us, I have an almost impossibly tiny diaper to change and John’s off to buy some lumber again…