Swing or Sliding Wooden Driveway Gates?
Wooden driveway gates can be beautiful, and many homeowners chose the natural look of wood rather than the alternatives. These gates can also be automated, but regular maintenance is required to keep them looking great and working well.
There’s no doubt that wooden gates start off looking beautiful. They can be a wonderful first impression for visitors and passers by. But, over time, their exposure to our weather causes problems. Even with regular care and attention, wood can warp, split and twist. Once-tight joints can open up to create unsightly gaps, and surface coverings can flake off.
This article covers the types of wood available for driveway gates and their respective costs, strengths and weaknesses. We go on to describe how these gates can be made into automated electric gates. Finally, we investigating the alternatives to wood for your driveway gates.
How Much Do Wooden Gates Cost?
A simple softwood driveway gate can cost just a few hundred pounds. Extra cost comes with larger gates or gates with more intricate designs. Also, driveway gates made from hardwood will last much longer softwood gates but can cost thousands of pounds.
A pair of swing gates will usually cost more than a single sliding gate for the same driveway. This is because two gates cost more to produce than one and installing two gates need more hardware and double the number of gate motors.
What Types of Wooden Driveway Gates are Available?
Sliding Wooden Gates
Sliding wooden gates are usually close boarded, so there are no gaps between the individual wooden sections. While this is a design feature it also means that there are no spaces for anything to get stuck in as a sliding gate opens.
Groundworks required in the installation of sliding gates include concrete foundations for the track across the driveway. Supporting posts are also required on both sides of the driveway.
Swing Gates Made of Wood
Swing gates made from wood include the traditional 5 bar gate and many close boarded designs. These are made up of wooden slats that butt up against each other leaving no gaps. Open boarded versions have gaps that can be horizontal, vertical or sloping depending on the orientation of the gate sections.
How Are Wooden Gates Made?
A competent DIY woodworker with the right tools could build their own gates, but we don’t recommend it. Gate automation motors must be safely mounted to electric driveway gates so they need to be strong. They must resist the weather as much as possible and they should look right at the front of your property.
There are so many ways that gate design and assembly affects the weatherproofing of a gate. It is even possible to design gates that don’t allow water to drain off them well. Some even trap water which will accelerate their decay.
As an example, well-designed wooden gates have a top rail installed over the exposed cut surface of vertical gate uprights. Without this protective element, water will fall onto the exposed cut grain of the wood and penetrate it much faster. But the design of a top rail must allow water to run off it. This means that the centre of the capping needs to be higher than the edges.
For these reasons and many more, buying wooden gates from a gate manufacturer is nearly always the best choice. However, buying from the right gate manufacturer is also essential as many gates are mass-produced and stored badly.
A good gate installer will be experienced in dealing with gate manufacturers. This means that they should know who is best to design and build the wooden gates you want.
What wooden gate designs are available?
5 Bar Gates
5 bar gates or farm gates are usually single, but their design means that they’re light. They are most commonly assembled from four or more horizontal wooden sections with a fifth one running between a top corner and the opposite bottom corner. Sometimes, there’s a second piece running between the opposite corners to the first one. This makes a squashed X shape from corner to corner. The bracing is to add strength but adding wood also adds weight.
Metal-framed wooden gates
A metal frame encloses horizontal, vertical or diagonal wooden sections. The frame is often black and adds significant strength to wooden gates. This allows gate motor arms to be firmly mounted to the metal frame. The wooden infill panels usually butt up against each other to create a close boarded design with no gaps.
Metal-framed wooden gates are much more rigid than wooden gates without frames. As wood shrinks and expands over its lifetime, alignment between metal framed gates and motors is less affected than gates made only of wood.
Close boarded gates
Close boarded gates give more privacy to homeowners. Their horizontal, vertical or diagonal boards have no gaps between them so no-one can see through them from outside. The curious and the downright criminal must get down on their bellies to look under these gates, or jump or climb onto something to see over them.
Open boarded gates
Gaps between gate boards allow wind to pass between them. This helps them operate where strong winds would slow or even stop close boarded gates. The downside is that the gaps between the gate boards allow passers-by to see through the gate.
What Types Of Wood Are Used To Make Wooden Gates?
Gates made from hardwood are usually longer-lasting than softwood gates. A hardwood gate also needs less maintenance to look good for longer.
Also, hardwoods look a little different from softwood gates which usually have less knots in the grain. Many people prefer the appearance of the flowing grain of a wood rather than lots of knots.
Some examples of hardwoods used to manufacture gates includes the following:
This is strong but it needs to be pressure-treated to make it resistant to attack from insects and fungi.
Iroko is a long-lasting wood with a great lifespan and attractive grain patterns and colours.
European Oak is very long lasting as it is dense, and its high tannin content helps it resist fungal and insect attacks. For many it is also beautiful, but it comes at a high price.
Softwood is not as durable as hardwood but is usually cheaper. The exceptions to this are Red Cedar and Accoya.
Red Cedar has a high oil content that helps provide its unique smell. This also makes Red Cedar wood resistant to insect and fungal attack. Red Cedar does not require a preservative coating to protect it, as it oil content makes it naturally rot-resistant. Although it is not recommended to use this wood without preservatives, uncoated Red Cedar turns a pleasant silver colour once weathered.
Pine is one of the most commonly used woods for making gates and one of the cheapest. But, as a softwood, pine needs to be treated and regularly maintained for it to last.
Accoya is a type of pine that has been treated with acetic acid. This makes it incredibly strong and long-lasting although it is also very expensive.
Manual Wooden Gates vs Automatic Wooden Gates
Gates are not cheap and adding automation ups the bill considerably. For this reason, some homeowners decide not to install gate motors and automatic control systems on their gates. Instead, they decide that they will open and close their gates by hand.
Unfortunately, this is a boring exercise. In the rain, it leaves the homeowner soaked. When it’s cold, they have to put on coats and gloves just to open and close their gates.
Eventually, many manual gates simply get left open. This obviously defeats the object of having gates in the first place. But it gets worse. When the owners of manual gates go away on holiday, they usually try to close their gates. Unfortunately, wooden gates that are left open will eventually sag on their hinges and may seize up. Either way, closing them can be difficult. But there’s another problem. Leaving gates open all year and then shutting them in Summer for a week or two is an obvious change. Burglars on the look-out for changes like this get a good indication that the homeowners are away. Ultimately, the security you wanted from your gates in the first place becomes the opposite and advertises that the homeowners are away.
Electric gates open and close automatically at the touch of a button. This means that they are usually closed unless someone is passing through them. So, you have a physical barrier across the driveway that is only open briefly for a few times each day. Consequently, thieves would have to get over the gate to get in and then back over it to get out. This is an obstacle that makes your house less attractive proposition for them, so they look elsewhere.
How Do You Make Electric Wooden Gates?
Installing a gate automation system onto wooden driveway gates is a process that should only be dealt with by a professional gate installer. They will carry out a safety audit of the site and discus how you want to use your electric gates. They will then design a system that works best for your unique circumstances and includes your perfect style and design of gates.
Swing gates are great if you have room inside the driveway entrance for the gates to swing open into without hitting anything. This obviously means that there has to be room for you to park cars away from where the gates travel.
Sliding gates are often chosen when this space is not available, but they need room to slide into to one side of the driveway. Sliding gates are a great choice of automatic gates, but they’re rarely seen as manually operated gates.
Installing swing gates at the entrance to driveways that rise needs special consideration to ensure that each gate doesn’t ground itself on the rising drive before it is fully open. And sliding gates shouldn’t be installed on driveways that slope across their entrance. This puts extra strain on gate motors as the gate moves uphill or downhill as it opens or closes.
In most cases, making existing manual gates automatic or buying new electric gates is a job for a professional gate installer.
What Are The Strengths Of Wood Gates?
Wooden driveway gates definitely need a lot of maintenance to keep them looking good and to extend their lifetime as long as possible. But wood is still immensely popular for many reasons. Wooden gates are beautiful and natural looking. They can be coated with paint, varnish or creosote with a little effort and time. Sections of a wooden gate that get bumped by careless drivers are easily replaced. The old section is simply unbolted or unscrewed, and new wood that has been easily cut to the right shape and size is inserted.
And as we all try to protect our World from our impact on it, it’s important to know that wood is a renewable resource and environmentally friendly. A tree’s growth will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and a gate that has reached the end of its lifetime will decay naturally.
What Are The Downsides To Using Wood To Make Gates?
Wood is a natural material that has ways to protect itself from attack when it’s a living tree. Once it’s cut down, a tree dies and its active protection stops. Additionally, one of the first steps in the preparation of wood is to remove its protective bark. Now that the naked wood is exposed to water, sunlight, insects, moulds and fungi, it will start to decay.
Joining sections of wood together is usually done with screws, bolts and nails. But these all need holes to accommodate the metal fixings. As iron and steel expand differently from wood as the temperature changes, water will eventually find its way in.
Once water enters the wood, it expands the gate sections and increases a gate’s weight. As a gate gets bigger, it stretches the protective surface coating. The individual boards, uprights, capping rails and other components of the gate push against each other. This pulls screws and bolts through their holes slightly. Once it warms up in the sun, the water evaporates and the gate shrinks back and loses weight. This makes the surface protection looser and joints open up as the wood grabs the metal fixing tightly again and shrinks away from its neighbours.
The whole process is a vicious circle as it creates more ways for more water to get into the wood. Once water gets in, rot will begin. This is the way wood decays naturally when a tree dies or a branch falls off.
Looking After Wooden Gates
There are plenty of ways to keep wood looking as good as possible for as long as possible and most focus on keeping water out. Treatments with chemicals that deter insect attack and fungal growth are also effective. Unfortunately, these require chemicals and sometimes expensive treatment processes.
The simplest way to keep gates made from wood looking their best is to stay on top of their maintenance. Ideally, every year any flaky paint would be sanded off. Then, rotten wood can be cut out, gaps can be filled with wood filler or new wood and the whole gate can be repainted.
Alternatives To Wooden Gates
If you think that wooden driveway gates are great, but you don’t want the hassle that comes with owning them, what are the alternatives?
PVC gates are cheap and come in a range of designs but they’re plastic and not to everyone’s taste. They can also twist, and motor mounting bolts can pull through the material.
Iron gates are usually more ornate in design. This often means that they are open boarded. With gaps that allow anyone to see what’s behind them, iron gates don’t usually give a lot privacy. Iron gates also come with their own maintenance issues as they rust if the bare metal is exposed to air and water.
Stainless steel gates are highly resistant to corrosion but are expensive. Like iron gates, they’re usually assembled into the more ornate designs.
Aluminium gates are built from sections like wooden gates. So, many aluminium gates are designed to perfectly mimic wooden gates. Aluminium is also naturally resistant to corrosion. Even so, many aluminium gates are supplied with a tough outer coating to protect them even more. This surface coating also gives the gates their colour or wood grain finish to complete the wood-effect look.
Composite gates are a good alternative to wood as they look just like real wood but require very little maintenance. They aren’t affected by water absorption like wood but are approximately the same price as hardwood gates.
Is Wood The Best Choice For Driveway Gates?
Wooden gates are beautiful, natural and come in a wide range of designs and styles. These gates suit many different properties and personal preferences. But the owners of wooden gates need to keep on top of preventative maintenance. All wooden gates will eventually succumb to warping and their joints will open up.
We rarely install gates that are made of only wood. Our alternatives use steel frames to give the rigidity wooden gates slowly lose as they warp and rot.
Our favoured alternative to wooden infill panels are composite panels with surface coatings that perfectly mimic various types of wood. The steel frame is corrosion-resistant and gives the composite panels the required strength. The finished gates are strong, beautiful, and free from rot and rust.