7 Principals of Problem Solving: Gate Edition


The boards are coming off this gate. My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to prevent that. It’s clear that someone in the past has replaced the screws that hold the wooden slats to the steel frame of the gate. Some are older, some are newer, some have a flange and others don’t. You might be tempted to call these bolts, but they’re actually screws. The threads are designed to bite into the wood, grabbing it and holding it in place. My initial request was to replace all these screws.


But over time, wood shrinks as it weathers. Also the force of the gate opening and closing, and some very strong winds in the area caused friction between the screw and the wood. These factors combined to slightly increase the size of the holes the screws were driven into, leaving less material for the threads to grab.


You could drive a larger screw into the hole, and that would hold it for a while, but the problem would recur sooner rather than later. And in this case, the steel fleur-de-lis tabs all have a hole that won’t take a larger screw.

So now what? Apply the 7 Principals of Cosplay Problem Solving, as we did when we fixed the stubborn sink faucet.

1 – Anticipate Problems

Actually, we’ve already taken some problem solving steps by analyzing the gate, the boards the screws and how they all work together. If we hadn’t done this we’d be standing in front of the gate with 60 new screws that aren’t going to work. (And in this case Home Depot is an hour away.)

2 – Roll with the Punches

The original plan is not going to work. Stick to your guns or accept it and move on?

3 – Use the Proper Tool for the Job


4 – Unless That Tool Doesn’t Work

2 old screws


5 – Read the Instructions and Follow Them

There are no instructions. You’re standing at a gate on a country road.

6 – Unless the Instructions Don’t Work

They don’t even exist.

7 – Identify the Actual Problem

Your job isn’t really to replace the screws.

Why am I repairing this gate in the first place?

The boards are falling off.

Should I replace the boards?

That’s a lot more work than anyone wants to do, plus the old boards are nicely aged.

Then what else will hold the boards on?

Carriage bolts.


These really are bolts. They’ll pass all the way through each board and be held in place by a nut. The wide head of the bolt is broad and flat on the bottom and its large surface area will cause less wear on the wood. And since the wood itself isn’t mechanically involved in fastening itself to the gate, it can weather for another decade without falling off.


All than needs to happen is remove every screw, drill out every hole and insert a nut and bolt through every board and tab. It’s a little bit of work, but you won’t have to do it again next year.


These 7 principals can guide you through whatever challenges you face.