I'm looking to add a gate at the top of deck stairs, where the gate swings inward and the hinges are towards the yard side of deck. There are two issues.

  1. The 4x4 posts are offset

    • What would be the best way to make the gate line up on both sides without a lot of added work?
    • I was thinking adding a 4x4 to the inner post to bring it out more, and just cut a new topper?
    • I'm not sure of water will collect under the post and rot it out. 
  2. The hand rail goes up and anchors to the outward side 4x4 post.

    • What should I do with this?
    • Should I cut the hand rail lower? If so, how would I anchor it.
    • Given the current set up, is it better to leave the hand rail, and design the gate to fit around it?


  • What's the offset? Your photo cuts off the base of the near post, so it's impossible to determine. – isherwood Jun 15 '20 at 14:22
  • You could put the gate across the opening from the railing on the left to the railing on the right. No offset there. – Alaska Man Jun 15 '20 at 18:08
  • Is this need for a gate in any way connected with the presence of the swimming pool? – Jasen Jun 15 '20 at 20:47
  • @AlaskaMan That's offset as well, and the deck isn't very big behind it, enough for two chairs. It's an area to walk out onto from the kitchen, so every little bit of extra room helps! I attempted building the gate yesterday, and with the latch hardware, it looks like it will come pretty close if I put the hinges as far to edge of the far post as possible. – eaglei22 Jun 16 '20 at 11:26
  • @Jasen, no just more for my 10 month old, and to keep the dog restrained once in a while, while the neighboring dogs are out. She runs back and forth against the fence and already chipped her tooth. The backyard fence with locking gate is enough to satisfy the city for the pool. – eaglei22 Jun 16 '20 at 11:29

It looks to me like the offset is minor. I would hinge a gate underneath the existing grippable rail, mounting the hinges toward the stairs, and swing it to the post in the foreground. A standard gate latch should mount up and work just fine. If necessary, block out the latch as needed.

     []  []  []  |    |  []  []
                  | |   <-- hinge location
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
                  | |
             ____ | |
[]  []  []  |    ||_|
            |____|***  <-- latch location
  • This is a good idea as well. When I was looking at this I didn't realize I would be able to cut the height just short of the hand rail. I thought it would have to match the surrounding railing height. I believe the gap is roughly a 4 inch difference, but with proper hinge placement and bringing the anchoring latch out a bit, the gap might look minor. Thanks! – eaglei22 Jun 15 '20 at 14:45
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    Since the gate isn't required I don't think you need to meet any height requirement. If it suits your needs it should be fine. – isherwood Jun 15 '20 at 14:48
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    Not a bad idea at all. @eaglei22 be aware that if you have to put a block on that latch side to hold the hardware, that this is something you may run into as you come around the top post. Of course, you will get used to it after a couple of bruises and scrapes, but your guests won't be quite so used to it. Just something to consider. – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 14:50
  • @FreeMan great point. Especially with a 10 month old soon to be walking. – eaglei22 Jun 15 '20 at 14:52
  • I'd be willing to bet that no blocking will be needed. If anything, a person could block out for the hinges to get the gate closer to the latch post. – isherwood Jun 15 '20 at 14:57

Just eyeballing it, it looks like you could use a 4x6 (with the 6" dimension running left-to-right in this picture) as a secondary newel post for the top of the stairs as you originally propose. By using a 4x6, the new post would butt up against the existing one, making one solid post. This would narrow the entrance to the top of the stairs, though, so you'd have to measure and ensure that the remaining opening still meets code for safe ingress/egress, especially in emergency situations.

To attach this, you should remove the deck board there and see what's underneath. You'll want to attach this new post to the deck framing if at all possible to ensure it's sturdy, as people will lean on it, some will use it to pull themselves up the last step, children will play on it, etc. If you attempt to attach the post to the top of the deck board it will wobble from day one and only get worse over time, no matter what type of fastener system you use. You want the new post to be just as strong as the rest of your railing system. Cut that deck board to a shorter length (as necessary) and refit it when you're done installing the new post.

Once the post is in place, you should be able to replace the top rail with a longer piece to cover this one. You may want to put in a new bottom rail, just to complete the look, though it would be essentially non-functional and technically unnecessary. (I believe code calls for a maximum 4" gap in railings to prevent children from getting their heads stuck - yours looks like it's no more than about 2", but I'm eyeballing from the other side of the internet, you should measure to be sure.)

On the post at the top of the stairs, I'd suggest installing the gate to hit below the current hand railing. There are also code requirements about railing heights on stairs, and your current railing probably meets that. Moving the railing may move it out of the code-acceptable range. You could build a taller gate with a notch out of this corner to clear the railing (more complex to engineer, measure, cut, & ensure it's all square and looks nice), or just build a shorter gate that clears the hand rail and its mount in the first place. NOTE: You should check code for suitability of a shorter gate - the height of the gate may have to match the height of the railing, or at least be taller than the hand rail on the stairs, necessitating a notched gate to work around that railing.

  • Great ideas! I was afraid it might be more work than just building out the post a little. It's interesting the design of this deck, as it isn't very accommodating for adding a gate. I will take a look and see what's under the deck board there, and hopefully have something to mount too. Would it be fine just using a 4x4 and leaving the opening the same width? – eaglei22 Jun 15 '20 at 14:18
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    Yes, a 4x4 would work just fine. Actually, the 3rd paragraph was written from the perspective of that being a 4x4 post with a gap between the two posts. I'd kinda forgotten about the 4x6 suggestion by the time I'd gotten there... :) – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 14:23
  • Ah okay, lol. Yea I was wondering about that. I think the 4x4 post idea would give it a clean look. Someone else suggested creating the gate as an L shaped, to fill in the space, but I feel, because the gate will be left open majority of the time (to let the dog in and out, and will be closed mostly when we are out there with our 10 month old), it might look odd looking at it from the kitchen. Worth considering as well though. – eaglei22 Jun 15 '20 at 14:28

Put the gate parallel to the decking planks. Have the latch on the long fence and the hinge on the short fence.

enter image description here

  • Great idea! Hard to say for sure, but it doesn't look like the post on the right lines up with the railing above the stairs, so he'd still be in the same ballpark of adding a post. If they do line up, this is much easier. – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 14:03
  • yeah it may need a post for the hinges. it depends how heavy the gate is. – Jasen Jun 15 '20 at 14:05
  • Thanks, Jasen. I know it's hard to tell from the picture, and this is the best one I have unfortunately until I get home and can take a few more. But I don't believe the right hand post is inline with the post by the stairs. The other thing is this is a small deck that was built with the house to get to come out of the kitchen (garden basement). So it's already a little tight with room for about two chairs to sit out which already need to be moved, when coming out of the kitchen. So having the gate there, swinging inward, will take away even more real estate from the small area. – eaglei22 Jun 15 '20 at 14:21
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    Good idea, @isherwood, however, if there's no post at the hinge side, the railing is unlikely to support the weight of a swinging gate for long, so a post mush be added there. Based on OPs comments, he cannot accept a gate that swings at the other end (from where drawn) due to space constraints on the deck. – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 14:26
  • I was thinking that the hinged side would be on the post, and that was a bad idea. – isherwood Jun 15 '20 at 14:31

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