I’m starting to develop a backlog of projects that I need to write about, and I’m in the middle of a couple other projects at the moment as well. So in an attempt to play catch-up, right now I want to talk about the long-overdue acrylic baby gate I finally built for the bottom of our stairs. I finished it about a month ago, but haven’t gotten around to writing about it (or anything else, for that matter) lately.
A while back I built a pretty generic gate with vertical slats for the top of our stairs. But now that my daughter has become quite the little climber, we need something at the bottom as well. I decided to change things up a bit and make a see-through gate, both to help with visibility on either side and to keep it from drawing too much attention. Our staircase is one of the first things you see when you walk through the front door, and I didn’t want the baby gate to be glaringly obvious and distracting. Here’s what I came up with:
This baby gate was really simple. I used 1×3 pine for the frame, and acrylic sheet for the center panel. I cut two pieces of wood the exact width that I wanted the gate. I cut the two vertical pieces 5 inches shorter than the height I wanted, since these butt up against the top and bottom. Using my router table and a 1/8-inch straight bit, I cut a 1/4-inch-deep groove lengthwise down the middle of the inside edge of each of the 4 pieces. This is what holds the acrylic panel in place. I drilled two pocket holes at each end of the two short vertical pieces.
I painted all the pieces before assembling them. It’s best to paint inside the grooves that hold the acrylic too, otherwise you can see some of the raw wood inside the groove through the acrylic.
Then I attached the two vertical pieces to one of the horizontal pieces.
Next I cut the acrylic down to the right size. I used my circular saw with a 140-tooth blade that specifically stated it would work on plastics. The acrylic piece is the size of the opening in the frame plus 1/2-inch in each dimension.
I slid the acrylic into the slots in the three-sided assembly, then attached the other horizontal piece with pocket holes. Then I filled holes and cracks, taped off the acrylic, and sanded and painted all the patches. I spray painted mine in semi-gloss white.
Now I have to admit, I actually just lied a little bit. I had to add a few extra steps between “attach the other horizontal piece” and “touch-up”. You may notice that my gate has a raised border detail on the inside of the frame. I’d like to say that this is purely decorative, but it’s not. It’s actually helping hold my acrylic in place. Through a series of very silly errors, I cut the acrylic a bit too small. But I had already attached the vertical pieces to the first horizontal piece AND filled the holes before I realized my error, so I couldn’t just lop a quarter-inch off of each piece and roll with it. And I didn’t want to buy new wood and start over (in hindsight, that’s exactly what I should have done.) But instead, I made 8 little trim pieces that overlapped the inside edge of the frame to sandwich the acrylic and hold it in place. This was tedious and time-consuming, and just flat out annoying. So don’t be like me—double-check your measurements before you cut!
To attach the gate to the wall, I used a strip of 1×2, painted it to match the gate, and screwed it to the wall (preferably into a stud if possible, otherwise with several drywall anchors). Then I hinged the gate off this piece of wood. Remember to take this into consideration when determining the width of your gate.
My gate latches with a simple hook and eye closure on the back side. I tried latching it with a normal gate latch, but because of the way the gate overlaps that little wall extension, it didn’t work right.
I have so much more peace of mind now that I’ve installed this baby gate, and it looks so great and unobtrusive in our entryway!
Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to leave questions and comments!