A sliding gate can be manual or automatic, wood or metal, large or small. This article describes how to make a simple, manually operated wooden sliding gate measuring 4 feet high and 6 feet long. The gate hardware consists of two V-wheels with mounting bolts, a roller track, two guide rollers and a gate stopper. A fully automatic gate would require an electrical supply (either hard wired or solar powered) and a more complex hardware setup and installation.
How to Make a Sliding Gate
Use a tape measure, pencil and circular saw to mark and cut a piece of plywood 45 inches tall and 69 inches long. That will allow the plywood to fit into the 4-by-6 foot wooden frame.
Use a circular saw set to a shallow cutting depth (1-3/4 inches) to cut a groove into the edges of the 2-by-4 inch boards. Make the grooves the same width as the plywood's thickness (if you use 1/2-inch plywood, make a 1/2-inch wide groove). Center the groove on the edges. Make several passes with the saw to remove all of the wood from the grooves. These grooves will hold the plywood in the frame.
Use the tape measure, carpenter square and pencil to mark and cut the four pieces of the grooved boards with 45 degree angles on each end of the frame. The top and bottom pieces will be 6 feet long at the longest point of the angles; the side pieces will be 4 feet long at the longest point. Mark the angles so that the shorter length is on the side with the groove you cut earlier. Use the miter saw to cut the 45-degree angles to ensure precise cuts.
Slide the grooved boards onto each side of the plywood, so that the 45-degree cuts fit together at the corners. When you are satisfied with the fit, remove the boards, put wood glue on the plywood edges and slip the boards back into place.
Drill 3/8-inch holes about 1 foot apart around the inside of the frame, so that the bolts pass through the frame and the plywood in the grooves. The heads of the carriage bolts will draw into the wood; place washers under the nuts to prevent the nuts from sinking into the wood when tightened.
Cover the gate thoroughly with exterior-grade paint or stain and allow it to dry. Apply at least two coats. A long-lasting moisture barrier is needed protect the wood from decay. It is easier to paint the gate before mounting the sliding hardware.
Attach the 4-inch diameter V-wheels to the bottom of the gate frame. Drill one hole for each V-wheel 1 foot from each end of the gate and 1 inch from the bottom; that will leave 1-inch clearance at the bottom of the gate. Adjust the location of the hole up or down to adjust the amount of clearance, but leave at least 1-inch of space above or below the holes to prevent the wood from splitting.
Position the gate in the gate opening to determine the final position of the wheels. Mount 12 feet of V-shaped roller track to the floor or ground directly under the V-wheels, six feet in front of the gate opening and the other six along the fence or wall where the opened gate will slide. Use concrete screws to install the track to masonry floors (you may need to pour concrete footers for outdoor installations to attach the track to the ground).
Install the two guide rollers along the fence opening of the gate to guide the top of the gate as it slides open or closed. Place one near the opening and another one about halfway along the track where the open gate will rest. The rollers will help keep the gate upright and will help it move in a straight line while it's being opened or closed. Install additional rollers as needed (such as in windy areas).
Attach the gate stopper on the wall or fence approximately 6 feet from the end of the closed gate. The stopper is designed to catch and stop the gate when it is opened. You can make a simple stopper from the scraps of 2-by-4 left over from the frame, but spring-loaded stoppers will operate better.