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Backyard Struggles: A Tale of Two Gates

One thing that I love about my house is the front of it. It is landscaped, complete with rock garden and a lawn installed with automatic sprinklers, and a giant tree that makes it look like I don’t live in a desert. What I don’t like about my house is the backyard that is filled with weeds and two giant pecan trees that drop pecans and branches everywhere.

I have only been in this house a year, so my struggles are newly-documented. Last winter, I did not rake the backyard or do any sort of maintenance except to attempt to keep the weeds to a minimal level. As a result, getting it back to “normal” took many weeks this fall. Why I did that when it was simply going to happen all over again, I don’t know. Oh, that’s right, because I thought I was getting a dog. That certainly did not work out how I planned.

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This was taken while I was buying the house. The yard is not nearly so lush now. Another thing to work on.

This year, however, I have tried to stay on top of things. All the leaves fell off the trees in November, and while I managed to rake the front yard in a timely manner (only for the wind to come along and blow everything away for me – after 4 hours raking. Thanks, New Mexico wind), I did not quite get to the back yard.

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The back yard is about four times as big as the front yard.

But raking is not what we’re here for. We’re here to talk about how to install a gate! Or rather, how I messed up several times before I finally figured out the right way to do it.

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The backyard, or well, a third of it.

The back yard is fenced in with a cinderblock fence. Yes, 5 feet of pure cement so you can imagine replacing a gate is not as simple as it sounds. The gates, however, had seen better days. I couldn’t open either of them fully. The front gate was practically falling off its hinges. So I decided it was time.

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I built the gate first. I measured the old gate, though maybe I should have measured the opening, went to Home Depot and bought the appropriate wood slats. Putting together the gate was somewhat simple, you know, aside from doing things upside down and trying to make sure it’s mostly level.

The hard part is when it comes to attaching the gate. It turned out that the board that was attached to the cinderblock was attached using bolts. The bolts were in the mortar, so they were NOT coming out. It took many different wrenches to finally find the right size to get the bolts off, and luckily, they did. They’d been painted over and were rusty, but they came off with some effort.

The second hardest part was drilling the holes to attach the new board to the cinderblock. After two times doing it wrong, I figured it out. First, you drill the bottom hole and put it “up”. Then you figure out where the second hole is. Do the same thing. Then do the third. Don’t try to do all three at once or they will not line up and you will have a hell of a time trying to fix it. Yes, it took 3 boards for me to figure that out.

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I called my dad during the process and he walked me through putting up the new gate. It’s important to make sure that the hinges are level on the post. After that, it’s a matter of realizing the gate or the opening is not square and doing what you can to make it work. But in the end, you’ll have two new, functioning gates that open all the way and don’t drag on the ground.


My tip is to paint before you put anything up, at least the posts. I think the reason the old posts rotted away was partially because they were only painted on one side. I painted both sides before I put them up. I also, partially, painted the gate before I put them up. It makes life easier.

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