Wood is a beautiful natural building material, and choosing the right type of wood for a garden gate is important – as it’s constantly on show and will be seen and used everyday.
The best woods for garden gates are spruce, fir, pine, cypress, cedar and redwood. The ultimate choice comes down to your purchasing budget, personal style, maintenance budget and what climate your state has. Whatever wood you choose, keep it well maintained to protect it from the elements.
Let’s consider the relative merits of these different types of wood in greater detail, so you can make an informed decision when parting with those hard-earned dollars. 🙂
What Types of Wood Are Used For Garden Gates?
There are various different types of wood used to make garden gates. Whether you’re buying, making, or commissioning a new garden gate, you’ll need to make sure you choose the right wood for your yard.
The most common woods for gates and fences include spruce, fir, pine, cypress, cedar and redwood, and we’ll look at their characteristics one at a time further on.
All of these woods are good gate material, so how do you pick the right one? As ever, a lot of it depends on budget. However, it’s also worth factoring in ongoing costs when you’re choosing a wood: it may be cheaper, but might need more regular treatments or simply not last as long.
Speaking of longer-lasting woods, some types thrive better in certain climates than others. Some woods work better in damp conditions without warping, others survive in strong sunlight without becoming too dry.
Then of course, there’s aesthetics. Do you want a wood that looks good naturally, or will you be staining or painting it? Some woods take paint more easily than others. If you already have a natural redwood fence, you may prefer to find a matching gate.
Many of us are conscious of the impact our purchasing decisions have on the environment. How a wood is grown, harvested, and managed is another consideration to take into account. Is the timber grown in properly managed forests?
We’ll take a look at the main types of wood used for garden gates. Hopefully this will help you find the best material for your own yard.
Spruce is often used for pre-made fences, so is also a common choice for matching gates. It’s a good budget option (it’s actually usually the cheapest gate and fence timber), and many people choose it for this reason.
You do get what you pay for, however, and spruce does tend to warp with time. If you live in a damp, snowy, or coastal climate, do not go for spruce. It also attracts insects, or choose either pre-treated timber or treat it immediately yourself.
However, spruce has its good points as well. Like pine, it’s a light color so is an excellent paint for paint and stains. If you’re planning a colorful gate, and are willing to put in a bit of extra effort with treatment and preservatives, spruce isn’t a bad choice at all.
This is a durable and good-value wood. Fir and pine are often pre-treated with a stain (but check this) and can also contain an insecticide. These woods are treated with something like alkaline copper quat (ACQ), which stops the bugs from moving in.
It deters termites, which is good news if you live in termite country. (Older gardeners may mention chromated copper arsenate, CCA, as a treatment for wooden gates; however we generally try not to work with arsenic-based substances these days…).
Douglas fir is a strong softwood that’s popular for a range of yard projects. It has a nice yellow shade, which does fade with time. If you want to keep your fir gate looking natural, you’ll need to give it a clear stain to lock in that lovely yellow color.
Pine is affordable and tough, and so is one of the most popular materials for garden gates. Like fir, it is often pre-treated with preservatives and insecticides, but of course, you’ll need to check this with your supplier.
Southern yellow pine is a popular choice. Some suppliers will kiln-dry and pressure-treat it to remove a lot of its moisture, which helps prevent decay. It’s a good choice for easy painting or staining, so if you have a color scheme in mind, this could be the perfect wood.
However, pine is cheap for a reason, and you will need to look after it to prevent warping and decay. Again, it isn’t the best wood for damper climates. If you’re happy to keep looking after it, it remains a great option for most yards.
Cypress doesn’t need to be treated with insecticide, as the wood contains a chemical called cypretine. This is a natural bug repellent, and has made cypress a popular fencing material for generations.
Cypress is rot-resistant, so it has a long life and you won’t need to keep treating it. It has a toght grain that makes it less likely to warp, and it’s easy to work with. However, it does fade to gray over the years.
Just like hair, if you want to keep its original color and prevent it turning gray, you’ll need to dye it. It also takes paint well if you want a completely different color.
This isn’t always the cheapest choice – or rather, isn’t the cheapest choice if you live in certain parts of the States. It’s native to the Southern States, so if you live up the line, you’ll be paying extra for cypress to cover its shipping costs.
We all love the sharp, clean scent of cedar. This wood is blessed with rich natural oils, which as well as giving off that piney aroma, naturally repel insects. Like cypress, it’s rot-resistant but you might want to keep treating it to preserve its original color. Some people actually prefer the silvery-gray shade, which does actually look great in contemporary surroundings.
Red cedar is both lightweight and durable, which makes it a great material to work with. If you live in the Midwest, you should be able to get hold of red cedar easily. Different species of cedar have different properties. Western and Eastern red cedars are extremely tough, whereas the Northern white cedar isn’t. You’ll need to check exactly what “cedar” means.
Cost-wise, cedar wood tends to be somewhere in the middle. That actually makes it a reasonably priced choice, as it doesn’t require as much looking after as other woods. One of the main downsides is that it doesn’t take paint well. If you want a painted garden gate, either drop down to pine or spruce, or increase your budget and go for redwood.
Redwood is both beautiful and durable, and is one of the strongest woods used for gates and fences. If you want a gorgeous-looking natural wood, redwood’s rich rusty shade is an excellent choice. Again, you may need to treat it to retain its original color, and you can do this with a clear stain, which will preserve the color without changing it.
Redwood used for gates has often been pre-treated with preservatives and insecticides; however its tannin content will deter insects naturally. It’s also resistant to moisture. If you live in a rainy or snowy area, redwood will deal much better with your climate than most other woods. It’s also a good choice for coastal climates.
If you have the budget, redwood really is an excellent choice, as this timber is strong but easy to work with, porous enough to take stains well, and of course, it has that naturally beautiful reddish-brown color. If you decide to paint it, paint goes on well provided you use the proper primer first (although why pay more for a beautiful color and then cover it up?).
In the final analysis, the best type of wood for your garden gate comes down to your purchasing budget, personal style choice, maintenance budget and what state you live in. One type of wood that’s perfect in a certain climate might be useless in another.
Hopefully, our guide of the best types of wood for garden gates above should help you make a decision based on where you live, how much you’ve got to spend and what you most like the look of.
Ultimately though, whatever wood you buy for the job – just so long as you keep it well maintained and protected from the elements – then you should get on just fine. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >