Garden Gates – The Essential Guide


The humble garden gate – It’s easy to think of them as just a necessary fixture of the garden, a continuation of the garden fence or wall and merely a point of entry and exit. In reality however, they enhance the aesthetic appeal of a property or garden by adding character, colour and style. The gate is often the first thing visitors see and its appearance can define someones expectation of what lies beyond by giving a good or bad first impression.

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Which garden gate to choose

Choosing a garden gate largely depends on the style and intended purpose. For some, a small white picket style gate that blends in seamlessly with the fence provides a traditional country cottage look. For others, something altogether more sturdy and secure that provides a higher level of privacy and security may be what is needed.

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Types of gate

Essentially, garden gates tend to be made from one of two materials, wood or metal. Metal gates come in a variety of shapes and styles. Although straight angular designs are available, metal gates traditionally tend to be more ornate in nature with symmetrical twists and curves in the metal work.

In terms of size, it depends on the size of the opening. From the standard garden gate and side gate to the altogether more impressive estate and driveway gates. They can be as small and simple or as big and impressive as can be imagined.

New metal gates

Deciding on whether to invest in a new metal garden gate largely depends on budget and the type or style of gate required. Modern metal gates can be picked up from many of the major DIY chains relatively cheaply, in many cases for as little as £40. High quality metal gates can cost hundreds of pounds or more for bespoke designs and materials.

Metal gate restoration

Reclaimed metal gates, usually constructed out of Wrought Iron can be purchased from around £50 upwards. Depending on size and style, and if they are sold ‘as is’ or have been lovingly restored, reclaimed gates can run into the hundreds or even thousands of pounds. The beauty of an old metal gate is that it can be taken on as a home DIY project. They can be sanded back with an abrasive paper or wire brush to remove rust and other loose surface material. Once returned to clean metal they can be treated with a rust treatment if required and painted with a suitable exterior metal paint, or other treatment such as Hammerite.

Shutterstock | By Kent Taylor

If getting your hands dirty isn’t for you, there are companies who can be found online that offer sand or shot blasting services. This takes old gates back to bare metal by removing all traces of rust, corrosion and previous surface coatings. Some provide professional refinishing or coating services or are happy to send the stripped gates back to the owner for painting.

Wooden garden gates

Wood has been used in gates for centuries, think of castle draw bridges, ancient church gates and doors. This all proves that wooden garden gates can last as long if not longer than a metal one if well maintained. For some, keeping it wooden reinforces the connection with nature and the surrounding plants and trees.

New wooden gates

As with metal gates, wooden garden gates can be bought off the shelf at any number off online and high street retailers. Costs can vary dramatically depending on the size, style, type and grade of the wood used. For a budget garden gate, look to spend around £30 to £50. For a budget full height side gate, usually around 1.8mtrs tall, look at spending around £70 to £100. At the other end of the spectrum, an off the shelf premium garden gate usually costs between £80 and £160 with full height premium side gates costing anything up to the £250 mark.

Shutterstock | By jacqueline moore

Basic estate and driveway gates can range from £200 upwards, again depending on size, style and construction. High end versions can cost thousands.

Gate care and maintenance

Having spent your hard earned cash on the perfect gate for your garden, it makes sense to ensure that your investment is given the best protection to keep it looking good for as long as possible. If well maintained there’s no reason why a good quality wooden gate wouldn’t last a lifetime.

Almost all new garden gates are tanalised or pressure treated to protect the timber against wood rot and insect attack. This said, these treatments don’t provide all-round protection against weathering. Weather erosion and UV rays will slowly degrade the effectiveness of these treatments eventually rendering them ineffective. Whether made from a softwood or hardwood, treating the timber with a wood preservative and a top coat of oil, stain, paint or varnish will protect the wood for years. Fence paints are perfect for use on garden gates and will help to protect the wood from weathering and water damage.

If the gate is to be kept natural where the wood is clearly visible, our recommendation is to overcoat any preservative treatment with a clear exterior wood oil or decking oil. These products tend to contain a blend of wood oils, waxes and resins that penetrate into the wood grain to provide excellent protection against water ingress. Many of these products also contain UV filters which help to retain the natural colour of the timber for longer, delaying the onset of the grey, weathered look.

Garden gate paint

If painting a wooden gate to add character is on your agenda, it’s important to ensure that any wood preservative used beforehand is wax, oil and silicon free. Many garden paints are water based and any pre-treatment that contains wax, oil or silicon will simply repel the paint from the wood.

An alternative to painting is using a pigmented or coloured exterior wood oil. These are available in both semi-translucent and opaque finishes and work perfectly well over wood preservatives that contain wax or oil.

Shutterstock | By Natalia Dobryanskaya

Wood Stains

Applying an exterior wood stain to a wooden gate is a great way of retaining the natural grain of the timber while changing the colour to give a desired effect. For example, a light coloured softwood gate can be stained and sealed to give the colour appearance of Mahogany, Teak, Rosewood or Walnut. Wood stains such as Sadolin and Sikkens are designed to provide excellent colour and long lasting protection to exterior joinery and wood. Ideally suited to smooth planed timber rather than rough sawn wood, a key feature of these varnish-like stains is that they can be maintained over the years by cleaning and re-coating when the finish starts to look dull or tired.

Why oil wooden gates?

As with any other garden wood such as sheds, fences and decking, it’s always a good idea to oil the wood as part of a yearly garden maintenance program. Why? Simply speaking, wood oils penetrate in to the wood grain to replace the natural oils lost over time. This helps to keep the wood nourished and flexible, helping to prevent or reduce cracking, warping and splitting. In addition, many exterior wood oils and decking oils contain UV filters that help to protect the timber from the bleaching effect of the sun.

Another benefit of using wood oils is that they help to prevent water ingress, a common cause of mould, algae and wood rot.

Wooden gate restoration

Old wooden gates that have turned grey or silver over time can usually be restored, as long as they’re not rotten and falling apart. Follow these simple steps to give old wooden garden gates a new lease of life.

  • Remove any old coatings such as paint or varnish with a paint stripper or by sanding
  • Treat any green or black areas with a suitable mould and mildew cleaner
  • To restore the colour of timber that has turned grey or silver over time, use a wood reviver and restorer and scrub in to the surface of the wood grain with a stiff brush or scotch pad
  • Rinse off the wood reviver with water, following the manufacturer’s instructions at all times
  • Treat the gate with a suitable exterior wood preservative remembering that if the gate is going to be painted or treated with a water based product, the preservative must be wax, oil and silicon free
  • Apply a clear or coloured exterior wood oil, decking oil, exterior wood stain or paint

Top Tips

  • Wooden and metal garden gates must be clean, dry and free from surface dirt, grease and other surface contaminates before treating, coating or painting. Wiping the gate down with White Spirit or Methylated Spirit is a great way to de-grease the surface before treating
  • Wooden gates should be allowed to dry for several days to allow any moisture in the wood to evaporate before treating
  • Most paints and wood finishing products require an ambient air temperature of 10? or above to aid application and work effectively
  • Do not paint or treat garden gates if frost or rain is likely within the next 48 hours

Need help with your garden gate project?

For more information about garden gate maintenance, contact our team of resident experts who are always on hand to help with project advice and product recommendations. Alternatively, see our gate finishes FAQ page which covers many of the most commonly asked questions about wood preservers.

We love to see before, during and after photos of any wood finishing project. If you would like to share your project pictures with us and our followers, you can either send us some photos or share on our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram pages.

Other great blogs that discuss gardens

  • All About Wooden Garden Fence Maintenance
  • Using Wooden Railway Sleepers in Your Garden

    1. I bought a small wooden gate a few years ago. It is a hard wood which has been treated, and needs a couple of coats of fence paint when I paint it, and then still doesn’t look great. It had five ‘spear’ heads to the vertical timbers which are above the top bar. In February the middle ‘spear head fell off. The bottom part of it was rotten and white and black all around a knot, as was the timber it had come off. I intend putting a timber bar covering this area and the adjacent upright timbers. Sooner or later I’ll replace the gate. In the meantime should I treat the remaining black upright, and if so what would you recommend?

      • Good Morning Robert,

        Hardwood should really last for years and years, its unusual to hear of such a quick failure. It could be down to the build and structure of the gate, standing water will cause significant damage to any wood and this is where mould and or rot can cause problems. Horizontal surfaces of wood on anything, gates, fences, joinery or pergolas are the areas that will need slightly more care then verticals. And with some woods knots can leech resins or tannins and this feeds the mould.

        If the problem you are having is with black mould then a really good scrub with a Barrettine Mould and Mildew Cleaner is the first thing to do, stubborn stains from the mould may need to be sanded off, then a good scrub with Methylated Spirits, many hardwoods are high in natural oils and when you sand these come to the surface, the Methylated Spirits will remove this for fresh coats of protective treatment.

        Once clean and dry you can apply a good quality preserver and a finish that will repel moisture, if the structure and design of the gate is the main cause of the problem then regular maintenance will be essential to keep the wood good. For advice of product please feel free to get in touch contact us

        All the Best Samantha.

    2. Just bought new drive gates look to be softwood with a preservative on it giving a light tan colour. I’d like to enhance the grain of the wood possibly giving a bit of a shine! What would you recommend first time I’ve had this task and a complete novice
      Many thanks, Mike

      • Good Afternoon Mike,

        Thank you for getting in touch via our Blog with your question. We often recommend oils for exterior wood as it can be easier to maintain. However to achieve some shine you will need a surface sealer like a varnish. You could look at the Sadolin Yacht Varnish as an option although this is mainly designed for use on joinery however could be considered for a smooth wood gate.

        As with all products a test area is recommended and for tropical hard wood such as Iroko or Teak a thorough wipe down with Methylated Spirit first will aid application and a full test area that checks for good adhesion.

        For further advice and alternate Oil options please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our friendly team via our contact us page.

        Kind regards Samantha.

    3. Good morning Samantha
      I have acquired a pair of soft wood gates for my drive entrance. They are second hand and appear to have had a basic preservative treatment.
      I should like them to end up with a natural looking mid green stain finish but am not sure if the correct procedure.
      They have been out in the rainy weather for a few days- I’d be so grateful for your suggestions for specific steps to take and possible brands?
      Thanking you in advance , Jenny P

      • Hi Jenny,

        Thank you for you question. If the gates are already hung then you will need to wait for a period of dry weather to allow any moisture to disperse and the wood to be dry. The first product to apply will be a preservative, the current one may be old and ineffective, and this will help to prevent mould, mildew and rot. There is a product that you could consider called Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative many people use this as a stand alone product as it also contains wax to give some moisture repellent protection as well. If used on its own two or three coats are recommend, each coat will intensify the green and so if you like the colour of one coat the second can be a clear coat from the same range.

        This is only one green colour however and if you are looking for an alternative there is also the Osmo Natural Oil Woodstain this is a top coat product, a penetrative oil that overs UV protection and a far better protection against moisture. It can be applied over one or two coats of the Osmo WR Basecoat and will give a more superior protection to the wood. The colour can again be controlled with number of coats and using tha clear if required.

        With all of the above option a test area is recommended, as the current preserver is unknown the test area will highligh any compatibility or adhesion issues that may arise, the gates may even benefit from a light sand to ensure a even all over finish. If you need further advice please feel free to get in touch with me via our contact us page.

        Kind regards Samantha.

    4. Hello, I have Cedar wood driveway gates, which are 2 years old and turning a dull greyish colour. What would be the best treatment to bring them back to life and looking like new Cedar wood again? Many thanks in advance.

      • Good Afternoon Darren,

        You could have a look at the Osmo Wood Reviver Gel this with a bit of elbow grease ca restore wood to it original condition or close to it. Depending on the extent of the silvering two applications may be necessary and a test area is strongly recommended to be carried out first.

        Once you have the wood clean and dry and in the desired condition, I would recommend a coloured finish. The pigments act as UV filter and will do a better job of protecting against UV than a clear product will, even a very pale colour will be better. And the darker the colour the more the UV protection it will give. For advice on what to use on you gates please feel free to call and speak to one of our friendly advisers on 01303 213 838.

        kind regards Samantha.

    5. I have a new gate that’s been tantalised.
      Black mould is starting to appear. Is this normal and what can be done?
      When I bought the gate the supplier said it would not need treating for two or three years.
      What should I do and will the mould damage it.
      It’s a bid driveway gate.
      Thank you

      • Good Afternoon Sheila,

        It can be with some woods, that the natural tannins are activated in the colder, wetter months, they come to the surface of the wood and are in essence a source of food for mould spores, this is why you often get black mould appearing in the early part of the year when you head back out into the garden with the spring weather.

        We have a great cleaner called Barrettine Mould and Mildew Spray for early cleaning of mould and algae. It will remove the spores and clean the surface of the wood. Any stubborn black stains may need removing by sanding and then I would recommend applying a good quality preservative such as the Barrettine Premier Universal which will help to slow down this process in the future.

        For further advice we have a great team available 7 days a week on 01303 213 838.

        Kind regards Samantha.

    6. hi,I have a new untreated pine garden gate.I intend to treat with wood preserver, leave for ? Days and then stain with Cuprinol garden shade in black.Am I doing the right process?

      • Good Morning Maureen,

        Thank you for getting in touch with your question. Using Barrettine Premier Universal Preserver or an alternative wax-free wood preserver is recommended before applying the Cuprinol Garden Shades

        The preservative will require at least 24 hour to dry before application of the paint, however as we are still in a period of cold weather you may want to leave for 36 – 48 hours and ensure that application takes place only when the temperature is above 5 degrees and rain is not expected.

        Always try a test area first and follow the guidelines on each product.

        If there is anything further that I am able to help with please do not hesitate to get in touch via our contact us page.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    7. Hi just had new drive gate made with weather treated wood. The wood is very rough – I want to sand them and then treat with stained – ant advice would be appreciated

      • Hello Sheila,

        Can you send me a photo of the gates so that I can get an idea of how rough the wood is? Also if you know what type of wood it is? And what look and colour you are hoping to achieve I can narrow down the options for you to consider. You can email me at

        Many Thanks Samantha.

    8. Hello
      We have have just had some soft wood gates installed (wrong time of the year I know!) but we have some questions please
      1. We have painted with clear preservative and will give it some more coats however as it is is winter, will the preservative protect it until the weather improves and we can paint it or do we have to crack on and paint asap?
      2. Which primer would you recommend as we wish to paint them Anthracite Grey to match our windows?
      3. How many coats of primer should we do?
      4. Which paint (RAL 7016) would you recommend?
      5. How many coats of main paint colour should we give?
      6. What would be annual maintenance going forward? Oil them or re paint each year?
      Sorry for all the questions but we are gate novices!
      Thanks and kind regards

      • Good Morning Catherine,

        Thank you for coming to us with your questions. You are right it is not the ideal time of year for exterior projects, however applying a preservative to the wood is good idea if the wood is dry. Moving forward with your project I can recommend taking a look at the Protek Royal Exterior Finish this is available in an Anthracite Grey colour, it may not be exactly the same as the current finish you have around your home, however it will be close and this particular paint is excellent when it comes to protecting exterior areas. It is hard wearing and durable, lasting for number of years when applied correctly.

        A primer is not required for this paint particularly as you are using a dark colour, some paler colours may benefit from a primer, however for your project I would not recommend it. Protek do recommend a Knot blocker and you could look at Barrettine White Knotting for this. However test areas are strongly recommended as they are different brands.

        The alternative is a product from Osmo Osmo Country Colour the Anthracite Grey in this range is made to the RAL 7016 however this product is not a paint but rather an oil that gives a paint like finish.

        So it soaks into the surface of the wood and although opaque in finish allows you to see the texture of the wood and is a more natural looking finish than a surface paint. It requires very thin application of just two coats and again would require a test area first, this is to ensure compatibility with the preservative that you have applied and that you will be getting the colour that you want. The wood that you are applying to will impact on the finish that will be achieved.

        Maintenance of the Protek paint would be at around the three year mark and this would involve repairing any damaged or flaking areas or a full re coat to refresh. Maintenance of the Osmo will probably need to be more regular, probably around the 18 month to 2 year mark and this is again patch repair or recoat to freshen up. Maintenance for both will very much depend on exposure of the gates over the winter also.

        I hope that helps and if you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to get in touch via our contact us page.

        All the Best Samantha.

    9. Hello,

      I am looking to order some wood treatment products from your website. I have a new softwood garden gate and am looking to preserve it.

      I would like to keep the wood finish but I would like it a darker shade. I am looking for a preserver to ensure longevity of the gate, a darker stain and also UV protection too so the sun does not discolour the gate. I was looking at the Barrettine Premier Wood Preserver in Light Brown, but not sure if I would need anything else?

      Could you recommend what would be best for all this please? Thank you.

      • Good Afternoon George,

        Thank you for getting in touch with your enquiry. The Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative will be a good choice, it is a preservative that will help to prevent mould, mildew and rot from forming and also contains wax that will repel moisture.

        It also comes in a range of colours and a clear finish. Applying a coloured treatment will give UV protection, the pigments are a bit like sunscreen, the darker the colour the higher the factor, the more protection it gives.

        Many people use this as a stand alone product to protect exterior wood and some people like to apply an oil also to help improve moisture repellency and a good choice is Barrettine Decking Oil although sold as decking oil it is very versatile.

        If you take a look at these products and feel free to get back to me if you have any further questions.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    10. Got a side approx 4ft wide by 6ft tall Scandinavia treated wood that’s what the gate supplier want to give it a coat of varnish not sure which one any ideas or which oil to protect it

      • Hello Shak,

        Sorry a little confused about what you would like Varnish or Oil ? Would you like to contact me directly via contact us page, with details of current finish and the one you would like to use and I can advice further.

        All the Best Samantha.

      • Hello Taz,

        The first thing to recommend is a good quality preservative to help prevent mould, mildew and rot, Barrettine Premier Universal Preservative it will darken the wood slightly but is a clear finish.

        The top coat depends on what you would like to gate to look like? Do you want to keep it natural looking or add some colour to it ?

        For colour you could have a look at the Cuprinol Garden Shades which has a wide range of colour to choose from or for a more natural look and feel you could have a look at Polyvine Wood Oil which is a clear oil that will slightly darken the tone of the wood.

        If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch via or contact us page.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    11. I recently used Ronseal timbercare on my garden gate (three coats over a coat of Cuprinol garden paint), and although I could see it wasn’t being absorbed well I foolishly carried on and thought I was ok as the product seemed to have dried on well. After a rainfall I noticed that the preservative easily comes off when touched. Can you give me some advice on how to make good the poor job I’ve done so far. Many thanks, Liz

      • Good Morning Liz,

        The Paint will prevent the Timbercare from absorbing as it should to give the wood protection. The paint would need to be removed in order to apply the Timbercare and as they are two different product. It is likely that the Timber care will continue to wash off and my advice would be to scrub it off and re think your project.

        I am happy to offer further advice on how to move forward with your project if you wish to get in touch directly via our contact us

        Kind regards Samantha.

    12. I’m currently restoring my gates which sit at the end of the drive. They are in good condition, although one had a crack a the top. I was intending to fill with Osmo wax, although any advice you can supply would be helpful.
      I was going to oil them, however I read that I would have to oil every 2-3 months to keep them in good condition, hence this is not an option.
      I would like to give them good protection and possibly stain them.
      Any advice would be most helpful.
      They are Burmese Teak.
      Cheers, Linda

      • Hello Linda,

        You could consider the Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra. It is a durable and hard wearing finish that will last 1-2 years depending on exposure to the elements. It is easy to apply and maintenance only requires you to clean the surface and then re apply a thin coat. There is a clear and coloured finish in this range and I would strongly advice a test area first to ensure that you like the result that will be achieved on your particular wood.

        Sample sizes are available and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to let me know.

        Kind regards Samantha.


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