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Side access gate with pergola

Having an Impact
Having an Impact

Turning a side entrance into an attractive and usable space, this project includes paving, screening, landscaping and building a pergola.





The project


Finally finished the side access to my house and stoked it’s now done. A big job that tested a range of skills – plumbing (basic stormwater drainage), concreting, paving, retaining walls, pergola, screened fence and gate, screened gas meter and some plants for good measure. The pergola is about 6.5 metres in length and serves as a shed, and the gate can be secured.


The gate and fence are 42 x 17mm Merbau screening. There are two different types of timber on top of the concrete sleepers – Ironwood nearest the gate, and the remainder is Cypress Pine. A bit more expensive but looks great when oiled and goes the distance. 


I secured the timber sleepers to the concrete sleepers using galvanised masonry anchors (2 per sleeper). I drilled through the timber sleeper and then drilled corresponding holes into the sleeper. I was careful not to make the hole too much of a tight fit for the anchor as I didn’t want to risk cracking the sleeper as I fastened it in with a socket wrench. It worked well – no cracking, even after a couple of years. They are stable and can be walked on, which I often do to cut the hedge above the fence. I also applied a small bead of silicone around the top of the hole as the anchors were fastened in, just to provide some protection against moisture getting to the sleeper’s internal reinforcement bars. The other option is to glue them down. I went with the anchor screw as I thought it might make it easier to remove and replace the wooden sleeper if and when I needed to.


I’d recommend investing in two hand drills, especially for decking work and in this case a screened gate and cabinet for the gas meter. It’s worth the investment in time when you get a good run going pre-drilling hard woods and then fixing with a Phillips bit.


Safety was probably the first and most important lesson. I used a 6 foot ladder to build the pergola and was often up and down it. At one point, my safety bail dislodged from the constant moving the ladder around, and the ladder collapsed under my weight when I was up it. The fall hurt a lot, but I was ok. The lesson – don’t get complacent, check your gear and check again. It was a close call. 


I’ve certainly got wiser with safety as I’ve gotten older. You realise that ‘bits’ once broken never come back the same. I still sometimes forget the little things, especially when getting into a job. My wife will often come and check on me and my safety. There I am cutting pavers with my angle grinder – in clouds of dust – with my P3 mask and safety glasses sitting on top of my head. Kind of missed the point, and she points it out.


When laying concrete, get your fall right (no pun intended). I originally put too much slope in my concrete under the pergola area. I laid these slabs first before the courtyard. In retrospect I should have started with the courtyard first and worked back from there. I ended up removing these slabs (it was hard work) and then recasting with new concrete work and a drainage design. I’m glad I did. The finished product is so much better.




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An outdoor screen is the ultimate concealer. You may want to hide something in your garden, add some privacy to an area or create an eye-catching feature. Find ideas for your own outdoor space in our Top 10 most popular fence projects and Top 10 most popular screening projects.


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