Traditionally, wood has been the material of choice for gates and boundary fences.

It remains hugely popular in the UK, is pleasing to the eye and incredibly versatile.

However, it’s not ideal for every purpose.

If you’re considering whether to install automated gates, for example, it may not be the most appropriate choice of material.

For many years, a big attraction of wooden gates was that they were noticeably cheaper than aluminium alternatives.

More recently, that has changed, meaning the choice is no longer clear-cut if price is your main consideration.

There are several compelling reasons why aluminium is a better material for driveway gates.

These five are at the top of our list:

Wood expands, rots and decays over time

Wood is a natural product.

It is sensitive to the weather and, no matter how often wooden driveway gates are painted or treated, they will eventually rot and decay.

For a while, they can be patched up.

However, over time that will become impossible and the gates will need replacing.

Another factor to consider when choosing a material for automated gates is the way in which wood expands and contracts depending on the ambient conditions.

When it rains, the gates expand, sometimes significantly.

It’s something many people encounter with shed doors or wooden garden gates after a heavy rainfall; they can be difficult to open until they’ve had chance to dry.

When the weather changes again, the gates will contract.

During long dry spells, cracks can appear.

In winter, water can freeze in the wood, which then causes it to crack and splinter further.

Indeed, over the course of an average year in the UK, wooden gates go through a series of changes caused by weather conditions.

The net effect is warped and cracked gates with flaking paint or varnish that appear less attractive as a result.

Wooden gates require more maintenance than alternatives

All electric gates depend on a regular maintenance schedule to keep them working efficiently.

If they are made of wood, they need additional care and attention.

With automated gates, where the smooth running of different parts is essential if the they are to operate effectively, constant changes prompted by the weather can present a particular challenge.

For example, one area where issues can occur is around the hinges, which must be able to cope with changing weight of the gates they support.

Paint will crack and joints will slowly open-up over time, and huge gaps can appear where there was once tightly-fitted joints.

Even after just a year, the impact can be pronounced – a disheartening outcome if you’ve spent hard-earned cast installing wooden gates.

Many new wooden gates are pressure treated to protect the timber against wood rot and insect attack, but these methods rarely provide total protection.

Instead weather erosion and UV rays will gradually reduce their effectiveness.

The timber will need to be treated regularly using a wood preservative and a topcoat of oil, stain, paint or varnish applied afterwards.

It is inevitable a wooden gate will eventually need a full restoration, even with regular maintenance. It’s worth keeping in mind that professional maintenance of wooden gates, involving stripping down, smoothing off and refinishing with two coats, is likely to cost £200-400 every couple of years.

Wooden gates place a heavier strain on a motor when automated

Another aspect of material choice that is rarely considered is the weight of a gate and the impact it has on the motor required to move it.

The hardwood required for an automated gate is heavy when compared to aluminium, for example.

A more powerful motor is required to move a wooden gate, which gets even heavier in wet conditions.

This means the motor will not only have to be able to cope with the gate when it’s dry, but also after it has absorbed water. Get it wrong, and the gate won’t move, or even worse the motor will break and require replacing.

As a general rule, the more powerful the motor required, the more expensive it will be.

One that’s required to do regular heavy lifting will need servicing more often than another that has a lighter load.

Environmental footprint

It’s often presumed that because wood is a natural material it must be a better choice for the environment than some of the alternatives.

This is not strictly true.

Although wood does have environmental advantages, it also has drawbacks.

First, carbon-capturing mature trees need to be harvested and prepared for commercial use.

The wood will usually be sourced via a commercial forestry that plants large-scale trees of the same type, which in effect creates a monoculture.

Some large-scale plantations are harsh environments for native wildlife to live, and the more land that’s given up to commercial forestry, the less is available for bio-diverse native woodland.

The chemicals used to treat and maintain wood are toxic, and these need to be applied regularly to keep wood free from rot and looking its best. 

Even with the application of these chemicals, the life of wood is limited, meaning that gates will need to be replaced sooner than some of the alternatives.

When wooden gates come to the end of their life, they will need to be disposed of.

Whether they are left to rot, or they are burnt, all of the carbon that was captured by the wood when it was part of a tree will be released into the atmosphere.

Aluminium gates are available with a wood-look finish

Wooden gates were once the most popular choice for people enticed by their aesthetic appeal.

The alternatives were not as attractive, even if they offered a range of other benefits.

That is no longer the case, and contemporary aluminium gates now come in a range of wood-look finishes that combine the appearance of wood with the practicality of aluminium.

With a range of different tones available, such as Light Oak, Dark Oak, Golden Oak, Light Nut, Dark Nut and Walnut, you can find an aluminium gate that replicates the visual appeal of your favourite wood.

Aluminium gates have real advantages

If you’ve been considering installing wooden automatic gates, it’s worth considering if aluminium might be a smarter alternative.

They have a much longer lifespan, and don’t require the same amount of maintenance to keep them looking good. 

Aluminium is a lightweight material, so the motor required to operate the gates won’t need to be as powerful. A robust coating means they can withstand any kind of conditions, and most are guaranteed for 10 years.

Whether your preference is for a traditional look, or for something more contemporary, there’s an aluminium gate to match your requirements.

The modular construction of aluminium gates is similar to that of wooden gates.

Separate sections are assembled into the finished gate, held together by hidden fixings.

If a section is damaged, it is removed by unbolting the appropriate component, removing the affected part, and then replacing it.

The low weight and modular design of aluminium gates means that the installation process is simplified.

As well as being straightforward for an expert to install, the gates and their fixings are incredibly strong.

When you consider their strength, appeal, reasonable cost and low environmental footprint, aluminium gates come out as the better option over wooden ones. If you would like to find out more about Stargates’ aluminium gates, or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us by sending an email to [email protected] or call us on 033 022 34800.