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.


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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.


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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.

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 from an expert?

If you have a new or old garden gate and are unsure of how to tackle the project, give our resident experts a call. They’re here to help and best of all, our expert advice is free.

10 Responses to “Garden Gates – The Essential Guide”

  1. Linda Elliott Says:

    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

  2. Samantha Taylor Says:

    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.

  3. Liz Says:

    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

  4. Samantha Taylor Says:

    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.

  5. taz Says:

    I’ve bought a new exterior softwood gate. It is bare wood with no paint , treatment etc. What do you advise? Thanks.

  6. Samantha Taylor Says:

    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.

  7. Shak Says:

    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

  8. Samantha Taylor Says:

    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.

  9. George Says:


    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.

  10. Samantha Taylor Says:

    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.

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