Gilles' Outlet

June 24, 2007

Repairing a damaged exterior wood gate

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 5:55 am

An exterior wood gate is disassembled, repaired and hung. New hinges and hardware is installed.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 3 Hours

In this article, we remove the door from its hinges and fix a moderate split in one of the post. The gate is then unassembled, damaged wood is replaced. The frame is hung, boards are attached and new hardware is installed.

The subject of this article, seen from the inside (the door swings toward the photographer).

It is not immediately obvious on this picture, but there are many problems with this door:

  1. The door does not operates smoothly. It needs to be held up to swing,
  2. It is clearly not square (there is more space between the door and the post at the top hinge than at the bottom hinge),
  3. The wood has split at various places, including the bottom of the left post,
  4. It can only be opened from outside,
  5. Hardware is badly rusted.


Left: I started the repair by a full inpsection of the door.

The top hinge is fastened to a piece of treated 2×4. The wood is clearly split. Hinge and fasteners are rusted. There seems to be various different kind of fasteners used.


Right: The bottom hinge is rusted. It is mounted with a surprisingly wide range of fasteners: there are two 3” screws jammed in the same hole (top) and one 1-5/8” machine screw in the bottom hole. The hinge barely holds in place: I could move it by hand.

Finally, the post seems to have split. I suspect the damage can be repaired without replacing the post but I will need to gain access to the area under the hinge to confirm this.

Left: I used an impact driver to remove the screws on the bottom hinge. They came out without a fight.


Right: A large socket ratchetting wrench allowed me to remove the lag screws holding the hinge to the post. I held the door in place as I was removing the lag screws.

When the hinge was loose, I removed the door from the opening and sat it aside.

Left: I probed the left pole for weaknesses. I could not move it by hand. It was set in a concrete base which appeared in good shape.

Right: I used a 24” level to check the post for plumb. It was almost perfectly plumb on all faces. That was a good sign.

Split put aside, the post appeared to be in good condition.

Left: Upon closer inspection of the split post, I found various nails, probably installed to contain the problem. Many of them were badly rusted.

I used a mecanic’s bent pry bar to pop the head of nails out of the wood and removed them with a regular pry bar.


Right: I slid the tip of the mecanic’s pry bar in the split to gauge the severity of the damage. It felt like the sliver was still holding very strongly to the post. The split looked very clean.

I decided that the split could be contained and there was no need to replace the post.

Left: I injected exterior, waterproof wood glue in the split as I maintained it open with the pry bar.


Right: I used a plumber’s flux brush to work the glue in the opening. I applied glue from the top first: gravity drew the excess down.


It is notoriouly difficult to sucessfully glue pressure treated wood. There are three major reasons:


  • Pressure treated wood usually contains a lot of moisture when purchased and water is a solvent for most popular "yellow" (known as "PVA") wood glues like the Titebond familly in their liquid form. However, there are poluyrethane based wood glues. For these type of glue, water actually accelerates the curing process. It is worth using these when the wood is wet (brand new treated lumber for instance).
  • When glued wet, the large shrinkage of pressure treated wood puts much more stress on the glued joints, causing them to fail much faster.
  • Usually, people want to glue pressure treated wood for exterior applications. In this case, it is mandatory to use a waterproof glue. Water resistant glue resists water for some time and then give way while waterproof glue, in theory, is not affected by water after curing.

In my experience, gluing wet pressure treated wood sucessfully is difficult, especially with brand new lumber. To maximize your chances of success, leave the wood in a dry area for up to 90 days (depending on the air humidity of your location) before using it and bind with polyurehtane based glue.

Now, I am in the best case scenario: the post has been installed for at least 3 years and I know it is pretty dry. Moreover, it has already shrunk and elements have already washed some of the preservative away. My experience told me that it was fine to use a waterproof PVA glue here.

Left: I installed a few clamps to maintain the lips of the split in contact. Clamps were set to be tight but I made sure not to overtighten: this would have squeezed much of the glue out of the joint and defeat the purpose.


Right: I decided to hold the split tight with a few exterior 3-1/2” deck screws. To prevent further wood splitting, I pre-drilled about four holes.

I chose a drill bit which was 25% smaller than the shank of the screw.

Left: I drove four 3-1/2” exterior deck screws using an impact driver. I made sure to drive them so their heads were flush with the surface of the post.


Right: The finished repair: I have removed all clamps and cleaned the excess glue with a wet sponge. It is easy to see the four screws on the right face of the pole. The last one was installed on the corner.

Left: I turned my attention to the door. Using the same large ratchetting wrench, I removed both hinges.

Right: I discovered two badly split pieces of 2×4. Fasteners started to rust and stained the wood, probably due to the combination of water and the corrosive effect of the preservative used to treat the lumber.

Left: Using a reciprocating saw with a short metal cutting blade, I cut all nails attaching the top and bottom 2×4 to the sides.


Right: I pryed the frame from the board. This left a bunch of nails protruding from the door’s boards. I used a hammer to push them down out of the board gently.

 They are in good condition and I plan to re-use them because the door must keep its "old" look as much as possible while function well at the same time.

Left: I cut a piece of new pressure treated 2×4 using a circular saw. I held my framing speed square as a guide for the saw to ensure a straight cut. Using this trick you can cut dimensional lumber quickly, accurately and safely.


Right: I pre-drilled holes for 16d galvanized common nails. I used a drill bit which was 20% smaller than the shank of the nail. This prevents the wood from splitting. This is especially required here since I am going to nail very close to the end of the board.

Left: I used a pneumatic palm nailer to drive two 16d galvanized common nails.

This is called "face nailing" (nailing on the face of one 2×4 through it, into another piece of wood). Face nailing provides a great holding power.


Right: Ater nailing the frame back together, I cut two pieces of treated 2×4 and attached them to the frame and with 3-1/2” deck screws. I then attached them to the cross bracing with two 2-1/2 deck screws. This will give the cross bracing and the frame extra strength.

Left: The finished frame, ready to be hung. 


Right: The glued post after 24 hours. The repair can barely be seen. However, there is a slight edge (about 1/16”).

As small as it seems, 1/16” will cause the hinge to not sit flat on the surface and increasing the stress. This will cause the hinge and / or the wood to fail sooner than expected.

Left: I used a finish sander with 60 grit sand paper to sand the bump flat. It took only a few minutes.

Sanding pressure treated wood creates dust with dangerous chemicals: avoid sanding pressure treated lumber if at all possible. If you must sand treated lumber, wear lungs, eyes protection and perform sanding in a well ventillated area. Clean all tools well and wash work clothes separately from other clothes to help prevent cross contamination.

I clean my sander with blasts of compressed air.


Right: The new hardware for the door. On the left: lock (can be opened from both sides), the new door handle. Right: new hinges.

Left: The frame sitting in the door opening. It is held by two temporary cleats of wood clamped on posts. The door frame was made perfectly plumb and level by adjusting the cleats under it. 

Right: Detail of the temporary cleat on the left. It is essentially a piece of scrap 2×2 held in place by a vise like clamp. The door frame rests on it.

This allowed me to see exactly where hinges need to be attached. Before proceeding to the next step, I made sure everything was setup plumb, level and square one last time.

This is critical: doors don’t function well if they are installed out of plumb or level.

Left: I pre-drilled holes on the post for lag screws holding the top hinge in place. Holes were 20% smaller than the shank of said lag screws.

I use an impact driver equipped with a socket to drive the lag screw. I made sure the hinge was perfectly plumb before tightening.

The hinge is clearly not straight on the picture. I had to drop it as I was taking the picture. 

Right: I pre-drilled the holes on the frame for lags screws holding the other part of the top hinge. Holes were 20% smaller than the shank of the lag screws.

Left: I removed the left temporary cleat to gain acess to the area where the bottom hinge will sit. The frame is held by its top hinge and the temporary cleat on the right. 


Right: I verified the level and plumb one last time and installed the bottom hinge following the same procedure.

I removed the temporary cleat and verified that the door swung freely and nicely.

Left: I re-installed boards on the frame. I inserted a  spacer (a piece of wood with the right width) between the previous board and the board to install to ensure an even spacing. I positioned two old fasteners in their holes.

Right: Using a pneumatic palm nailer, I drove two nails in the top section of the frame and then, two nails at the bottom and two nails in the cross brace.

Left: After installing all boards back, I turned my attention to the lock. Again, I pre-drilled holes for lags screws. 


Right: The door, with the new hardware installed. I had to fabricate a little support block to hold the hardware. It is made out of two pieces of 2×4 screwed together with 2-1/2 deck screws.

This block was secured to the frame with four 3-1/2” deck screws.

The door, seen from the outside. The only trace of the repair is the holes left by the old hardware (top left) and the black handle allowing the door to be opened from outside.


Notice that there is no hardware on the outside of the door, which might make it a little difficult to close it from the outside. This is done on purpose: homeowners wanted the door to look almost like if it was a regular part of the fence, not a door.

Tools Used:

  • Pneumatic Palm Nailer
  • Ractchetting Socket Wrench 
  • Cordless Drill 
  • Cordless Impact Driver 
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Clamps 
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Treated Lumber (2×4)
  • Door hinge & Lock kit
  • Galvanized, Hot Dipped 16d common framing nails
  • 3-1/2” Deck Screws
  • 2-1/2” Deck Screws


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