Block off wooden porch steps for dog purposes, cheaply?
April 10, 2007 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Stairs (wood) lead from backyard up to outdoor deck (wood). Dog can run up. Want to install something to keep dog in yard, with stairs remaining usable, without hiring expensive contractor. Thoughts?

Picture a house with an outdoor porch with a wooden deck, about 4' off the ground. Centered at one end of the deck, which is 10' wide, there's a set of stairs, 7' wide, leading to a backyard that's otherwise fenced in. Neither the porch nor the stairs has a railing.

Now picture a happy Labradoodle. The goal is to let this dog romp in said yard unsupervised, without being able to run up the stairs. But people still have to be able to use the stairs. In other words, this will involve either a length of railing + gate mounted to the deck (no side supports available), or a fence + gate around the three sides of the stairway. Or something clever I haven't envisioned.

And ideally, we'll accomplish this in an inexpensive and somewhat DIY fashion: with prefabricated components we can purchase, even if we need a pro to help mount them, and no concrete-pouring.

Any ideas?

I found some porch railings that might be suitable, but I'm not 100% sure which components would be needed, and it appears to get a little pricey when you add up the gate, railing, post mounts, and post cladding. This doesn't have to be aesthetically wonderful or especially sturdy—just gotta keep that dog in the yard.
posted by staggernation to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Invisible fence?
posted by DU at 10:49 AM on April 10, 2007

Well, this might not look good but I can assure it works. Get a 2 3/8" aluminum fence post ($5), chain link gate ($25), and mounting bracket ($8). Pound in the fence post at the bottom of stairs, and mount gate so that it swings out. If stairs are too wide, do a double gate or install a short section of fencing.

I hate chain link but there's plenty of ways to pretty up a gate like this... the simplest is vines.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:51 AM on April 10, 2007

You might have a look around for baby gates. They'll have all the hardware and are pretty simple to install. Add a 4x4 post to each side of the stairs at the top and fasten the baby gate between that.

Here's one that's more money than you might want to spend, but it goes up to 12'. Maybe there's something cheaper and closer to the right size.
posted by poppo at 11:20 AM on April 10, 2007

I have one of those baby gates. My labs have jumped over them. Also, not sure if they're suitable for outside use. There probably are baby gates that are intended for outside that might work.

Otherwise I think you're just looking at building or installing something like a fence door, chain link door, etc.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2007

I have one of those baby gates. My labs have jumped over them.

Glad someone piped in with that! Clearly I have kids but not dogs.
posted by poppo at 11:43 AM on April 10, 2007

poppo's idea to put posts at the top of the stairs is pretty good. Here is a dog gate that your dog might not be able to jump over.
posted by necessitas at 11:48 AM on April 10, 2007

Baby gate at the top of the stairs ought to work. Is that where yours was, RustyBrooks? There are all-plastic gates that expand to lock across a doorway that should do fine outside. The wooden ones don't like it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:53 AM on April 10, 2007

You will probably need more than just an extended baby gate at the top of the stairs, because lots of dogs can easily jump 4'. If my mental picture of your backyard is correct, there is a 4' high deck, with no railing, right? So blocking the staircase alone won't help if you turn out to have a jumper. I think you need a railing around the deck (which at 4' high you should probably have anyway -- that's a high enough drop to hurt yourself pretty good) plus a gate on the top of the stairs. Any "how to build a deck" book will have simple instructions for making a railing; you can buy almost all the parts prefabbed at your local big box DIY store.
posted by Forktine at 11:57 AM on April 10, 2007

Our gate is between the kitchen and the living room, extending the whole 12 feet. It's great and keeping the youngun out of the kitchen. I have never *seen* the dogs do it, but one of them ends up on the other side all the time, and one of the horizontal supports is bent. I assume that he is resting his weight on it, giving a hind-leg boost, and (noisily and probably painfully) clearing the gate. All to get at the delicous scraps the baby dropped on the floor, probably. He won't do it in our presence so basically we just open the door whenever we and the baby are not in the room.

Also, that particular gate uses a mesh material as the gate material, attached to a metal frame. The mesh is enough to support the baby's weight but a dog might break or chew through it.

Electric fence would be *terrific* if it worked. I've never tried it. In my understanding the dogs understand very quickly where the boundary is. However... if you *sometimes* want to bring them in that way, they might balk if they usually get a shock.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:04 PM on April 10, 2007

How about disconnecting the stairs from the deck and reattaching them with some heavy duty hinges. Attach some ropes to the bottom of the stairs, and when the dog is out, you raise the stairs drawbridge style (this is assuming he can't make the four foot leap onto the deck without stairs).

That'd be hella cheap to do (probably under 50 bucks) and pretty unique as well.

(hey, I know it's a pretty crazy idea, just throwing it out there)
posted by davey_darling at 12:43 PM on April 10, 2007

Why don’t you want the dog on the deck?
posted by kika at 1:28 PM on April 10, 2007

I'm going to bet that the dog can probably jump up the 4' to the deck. You are likely going to have to fence the whole thing. Anyway, a 4' high porch and stair without a railing is a building code violation where I live.

A railing that's to code is at least $300 in materials. A simple rail of 2x4's, 2x6s and strapping of lattice can be in an easy weekend for a deck that size. For th gate at the bottom, a pair of 42" gates is the easiest answer. It's possible to use hand tools, but a power dril and circular saw will make it easy. Kits can get very expensive, very quickly. I'd avoid them.

Gates are easy to make cheaply. Use vertical 1x6 boards for the face of the gate. In your case, each gate would be 7 6" (nominal) boards wide with 1" gaps. At 1/4 and 3/4 of the total board length fasten two horizontal 2x4s. Cut a third 2x4 to fit between the crossbars with the high end at the hinge side and the low end to the bottom corner that opens. Fasten to each vertical 1x6 also. You should have a reversed "z" on the left gate and a right-way-round z on the right one. Fasten hinges and the latch hardware to the horizontal crossbars. Use 10" strap hinges with 2" lag bolts to anchor the hinges. Use good woodscrews and this gate will never sag. No fancy gate kits needed. Total gate cost, sans posts, in the $70 range, most of that hardware ($10/hinge, 10$ latch).

If you want a cleaner look, you can put a second layer of fence boards on the inside. You may also want to cut the tops of the boards so that the two gates together make a semi-circle (or what ever else takes your fancy).

A railing tht is not to code, like a chain-link fence, might be cheaper if all you want is an enclosure, but won't look great. For chain link, probably the cheapest option that will work, you need a post hammer and a pair of heavy wire cutters.

I'd encourage you to make the to-code choice. It increases your resale cheaply, limits your liability and does the job you want. A cheapie solution will probably need to be replaced more quickly and will look horrible. But if needs must, you sometimes have few choices.
posted by bonehead at 1:32 PM on April 10, 2007

Our male dogs are escape artists, and the only thing that usually works is a leash. We also have back stairs, and on cold mornings did not want to have to go all the way down them to hook the dog up.

We attached a couple of 2x4's to the house, put in eye bolts, and ran some wire between them (we used electric fence wire). We put a dog on the leash inside, stick our head out the door and hook it to the wire, and let the dog go. We put it high enough to keep the leash from dragging through any muck.
posted by dragonsi55 at 3:41 PM on April 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I did look at child/pet gates, but they all seem to want to attach to something on the sides--but the combination of an extra-wide one and some posts might be a good solution.

kika, it's not that the dog can't be on the deck, per se; it's that the deck has two other sets of stairs, one of which leads to the front walkway of the house, the other to the driveway--in other words, to FREEDOM!

As for the dog leaping directly onto the deck: there's actually a fence starting at one side of it, so that it looks like this (top view)
               D                       h
               E                       o
               C                       u
               K                       s
               D                       e
               E                       h
               C                       o
               K                       u
               D                       s
               E                       e
               C                       h
e                      S T A I R S
n                      S T A I R S
c                      S T A I R S
e                      S T A I R S
.                               more fence over here
So your point is well taken, but the only issue would be railing off the full 10' side of the deck vs. just the 7' above the stairs.
posted by staggernation at 3:51 PM on April 10, 2007

Response by poster: Hmm, that looked a lot better in the preview.
posted by staggernation at 3:51 PM on April 10, 2007

Based on your description it sounds like the best solution is to just finish the deck properly, with railing on the stairs and around the deck itself. Photos might help since your asci drawing wasn't very illuminating and I'm not getting a good sense of how what seems to be a smallish deck can have three sets of stairs, one of which is 7' wide. Doing the railing is certainly a DIY job; I'd recommend either getting some library books or looking online. It's not going to be cheap but you'll still save tons of money over paying someone else.

If low cost is the only goal then then, as mentioned above, a leash/leash run is the solution. Any dog I ever had would quickly get tangled up in something but maybe a better layout and training can alleviate that concern.
posted by 6550 at 4:20 PM on April 10, 2007

« Older How do I make fake icicle wings for a costume?   |   What percent Muslim women wear hijab? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.