When investing in a set of timber gates, there are a number of issues that need to be taken into consideration. The first of these would be which species of timber will best suit your requirements. The answer will depend on the location the gates are to be situated and the aesthetic look you want to create.
There is no doubting that hardwoods are far superior in durability, and that's an advantage, especially as the majority of gates are open to the elements from all sides. However, oak, although a popular choice and durable material, can easily turn black should regular and sufficient treatments not be applied. Of the hardwood timbers, the best for use in exterior gates would be Iroko, Idigbo or mahogany. Iroko is extremely durable, very similar to teak, and even when it’s left untreated will outlast generations. Idigbo is similar yet lighter in colour, and can easily be colour graded to match another timber such as oak. Mahogany is the darkest of the three, but again has excellent durability and reacts well to coatings.
Another important consideration is the section of timber used to construct your gates. The larger the gates the greater the section needs to be. For a single pathway or side entrance gate a 45mm finish will suffice, but a pair of driveway gates should be constructed from 56mm or 70mm section depending on their size. Should you be planning on having your gates automated, it’s advisable to opt for the heavier sections due to the extra pressure created by the mechanism. Failure to do this could result in twisting and distortion.
All timber gates should be constructed with wedged mortice and tennon joints. The top of your gates need a bevelled cap running along the entire length, or the edges rounding so that water doesn’t have any gather points where it can sit and begin erosion. For the same reason, all horizontal rails need to be slightly bevelled.
There are plenty of gate designs available, and the labour cost for this should stay relatively the same regardless of the material used. However, there is a massive cost difference if you do choose to have solid oak gates, rather than one of the previously mentioned timbers. If you want the "Oak look" and don’t want to pay the "Oak price", then use Idigbo and an oak stain as this will give the closest resemblance.
Whatever your choice, make sure you take the relevant measures to ensure your gates will stand up to the elements they are exposed to. As long as they’re well constructed from the right material for your needs, installed correctly and treated regularly, you should have no issues for many years to come.