Fixing Winter Damage: The Gate

In between weeding, putting on the chicken run door, pricking on tomatoes (which are now so big on our windowsill that someone passing the house asked what where we growing them in -- Dalefoot Compost -- and whether they moved on their own), and upcycling an old larder door, we have been taking stock of winter gale damage. One of the things that got hit was one of our first upcycling projects from the Wartime Garden, a gate that we built five years ago when our carpentry skills were new. Half a decade on and that discarded decking is still going strong, if only a little battered by the wind.


The gate was built from decking a neighbour chucked out. For those of you old enough to remember the decking craze, born in the nineties and dead by the noughties, after a spate of people going arse over tit on it. You will remember all the crazy remedies to stop that inevitable slip, tumble and tearing of trousers. There was the chicken wire trick, staple on and still slip at some point but with the added bonus of grating your backside. Then there was, mix in some sharp sand with the stain, which worked well for a tiny while until you realised those heavy traffic areas smoothed out quickly as your legs went in two different directions and your nether regions where sanded. No surprise that by the end of the noughties many where ripping it out, chucked in skips, danced around by naked gardeners with grazed buttocks as they burnt on bonfires. In came us, skip diving, knocking on doors and taking it away. A lot of decking put down was never treated, and any untreated gently rotting decking headed into our wood pile. The stained stuff ended up in our carpentry pile for such projects as the gate and the shutters to the shed, and raised beds. The wood here is twenty years old, we know because the person we got it from had it fitted on their fiftieth to make a low maintenance garden and have just celebrated their seventieth, and are waiting on a new hip which has never been the same since they slipped on the decking. Bringing old wooden structures back to life in the garden is relatively easy. If the structure is not rotten, then do not discard; reuse, repurpose, recycle (you can find the plans to how we built this gate here). Today we are just bringing it back to life which anyone can do with some basic DIY skills.

recycle gates

Make sure that you have decent power drill/screwdriver and the right size screws. Any loose wood or broken screws can be easily replaced. You are looking for screws that will fix any piece of wood to another piece of wood by going straight through and burying itself halfway through the piece of wood you're screwing to. Heh?! Basically, if you lie two pieces of wood on top of each other (please, no smutty jokes about, 'I've got wood') and the depth of those two pieces of wood measure 2" (5cm), then your screws should be 1 1/2" (3.8cm). It gives a firm bond. Using a power screwdriver is easier but remember that such screwdrivers have torque settings -- those numbers you find around the side, too high a number and the screwdriver will slip on the screw, too low and it will slip on the screw, and that chews screws up. So, if your screwdriver starts to whir as you're driving a screw in, go up a number. If your screwdriver simply flies around the screw head, go down a number or two. A bit of practice pays dividends, and always buy good tools that will last the course. We have a drill that it as old as our relationship, it cost a fortune and it is still going. We were brought a cheap drill by friends as a gift, it broke after two weeks, this is the first time we've admitted it -- it happened eight years ago, they still ask after it.


We fixed any loose wood on the gate back together, took out any old screws that were snapped in the gales and then we did the best thing you can do for wood. We treated it. We used a Cuprinol stain, black ash, we have decided to go all Goth with our woodwork from now on because it creates a wonderful background to foliage, in comparison to brown which kind of sits there being brown. The gate will receive three coats and won't need repainting for another 5-10 years. By then the gate could be coming to the end of it's life but it will have given 30 years of service, and it will always be that gate we built for free.


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