The Impact That Temperature Can Have On Wooden Gates
July 31, 2021

The Impact That Temperature Can Have On Wooden Gates

A gate isn’t just an entryway; it can act as an enchanting visual flourish in your home’s outdoor space, as a way to provide extra security, or as a way to offer more privacy to your outdoor areas. This applies whether the gate is installed as an entrance to your garden or driveway or instead simply as a side gate. It’s not hard, then, to see the particular appeal of a wooden gate.

Wood is a traditional choice of material for gates – not least as, when compared to metal, it can blend in more easily with other fixtures of the garden, such as the existing fencing that is in place. Wood also naturally varies in its grain pattern and knots, thereby ensuring that each wooden gate is truly unique in appearance, which is great for the aesthetic appearance of your home. 

Nonetheless, you could (understandably) be concerned about some stories you have heard about the resilience of wood. You might have heard on the grapevine that wood is vulnerable to swelling, shrinking and splitting – perhaps leading you to perceive wood as a less-than-durable material.

In truth, however, wood can certainly – provided it is carefully maintained – match metal in durability. You could benefit from being particularly aware of how temperatures are able to affect wood and therefore the condition of any wooden gates you get installed at your home.

Strictly speaking, it is not directly the temperature itself that affects wood but instead the humidity of the wider environment. Temperature does, however, remain an influencing factor – and, as a general rule, you can expect your wooden garden gates to grow in summer and shrink in winter

Perhaps the most immediately discernible sign of temperature-induced damage to timber is the emergence of splits in the wood. These arise from the wood drying out in hot weather after being pelted with rain during cold weather, with parts of the wood nearest the surface drying sooner. 

However, as this drying is a natural process, you should be wary of classing these splits as flaws – especially given that they can at least somewhat “heal” and become less visible as the surrounding environment dampens once again.

Why does the size of a wooden gate change in hot weather?

We’re going to introduce you to a few new terms and acronyms now. For a start, wood is hygroscopic; in other words, its MC is affected by the surrounding air’s RH. We’ve just thrown a lot at you there, but MC here stands for moisture content, while RH means relative humidity. 

As the air surrounding your gate becomes more humid, the wood’s MC will increase – leading the wood itself to expand. Conversely, the opposite will happen as that air’s humidity falls – as, in tandem, the wood’s MC will decrease, resulting in the wood itself physically shrinking.

This relationship between the MC, the RH and the wood’s size is referred to by another acronym: EMC, which stands for Equilibrium Moisture Content. This metric could turn out to be surprisingly useful to you, as it can actually be accurately predicted while the gate itself is being designed. 

It’s worth pointing out that a wooden gate, once installed, can take a while to adapt itself to the local humidity level. However, we can take the EMC into account as we discern how the wood will respond to RH; in other words, whether that wood will shrink or expand.

If a wooden gate has an excessive MC when installed, that gate could go on to shrink well short of its original measurements, leading the wood to develop glaring gaps and cracks. In contrast, if the MC is overly low, the wood could grow – and lead surrounding material to buckle, bow or distort. 

It is in your interest, then, to account for potential fluctuations in your wooden gate when you originally order it. However, rest assured that, if you opt to order this gate from our team, we can consider this risk on your behalf – and help you to make sure your gate is measured accordingly. 

How to measure a wooden garden gate

Buying a ready-made gate runs the risk of it fitting poorly to the opening intended for it in your garden. That gate could, for example, turn out to be awkward in height or width. Unfortunate scenarios like this are why we craft all of our gates bespoke, enabling you to get a gate that fits just right in your outdoor space.

All of our hardwood and softwood garden gates are made to measure – and hand-made by experts thoroughly experienced in getting garden-gate measurements perfect for our customers. This shines a light on how we can help you to take the headache out of deciding what would be the correct size for your own gate. 

For example, we know that the wider your gate, the more it will move once secured. This relationship is directly proportional, too; a gate measuring 14 inches wide will shift twice as much as one spanning just seven inches in width. 

You should also consider that, even if your gate is made up of several glued-up panels, those will still act as one single piece of timber – meaning that you should be sure to carefully consider the gate’s width as a whole. 

One thing we can do to predict how much your finished gate should move is to measure the wood’s MC. Through using a moisture meter, we can measure this MC and factor this information into what measurements we recommend you choose for your gate. 

It’s worth heeding, however, that hardwood garden gates are, compared to softwood alternatives, less prone to wood expansion in heat. This is another factor we can keep in mind once you have signalled to us whether you favour hardwood or softwood for your garden gate. 

The benefits of wooden garden gates

Ultimately, whether you should choose wood or metal for your garden gate will depend on your specific needs and preferences. However, wood is an easy sell on account of this material’s natural appearance, which can prevent it from looking out of place alongside trees and foliage.

Wooden garden gates also outclass their metal counterparts in the privacy stakes, as the former will each comprise a consistent panel of wood rather than several smaller panels attached together in a way that leaves subtle gaps in the structure. As a result, it won’t be possible for prying eyes to see right through a wooden gate. 

All in all, you should consider not only which type of gate would look better once installed in your garden but also which type of gate would be more effective in meeting the purpose you intend for it. However, as we have acknowledged, choosing wood does not have to mean sacrificing durability.

You should be careful how you treat wood to preserve its condition – as this would carry different implications to looking after metal. Once you are familiar with the right approach to treating your wooden gates, you would be able to treat them periodically to prevent them from swelling in the heat. 

We highly recommend that you select a base coat and a top coat from the range of wooden gate treatments we offer. We stock base coats in various shades, including dark oak, light oak, medium oak, mahogany and teak – and you are essentially free to choose whichever one you like.

After you have applied the base coat, you can move onto adding the top coat, which would form a layer of protection on your wooden garden gate without altering how it looks.

The top coat would, however, give this gate an impenetrable defence against swelling and bowing – two examples of physical changes that excessive heat could otherwise cause in your gate. You could also use Treatex external oil treatments to protect wooden gates from winter weather.

Shopping with Stellar Gates

We offer wooden gates in a vast range of made-to-measure and common sizes. We can provide you with quality wooden gates aesthetically matching or complementing existing features, such as fence panels and posts, already installed in your property’s garden. 

In most instances, once a customer has ordered a treatment product through our website, we will dispatch that item, assuming it is in stock, to that customer’s specified address within 24 hours. The product in question could be one of the Treatex oils. 

However, in any case, if there will be any delays in the delivery of your Stellar Gates order, we will notify you and provide you with new estimated times for the dispatch and arrival of your order. 

If you would like to ask us anything about the range of products and services we offer, please get in touch by phoning 01925 967 071. We will respond at the earliest opportunity and can reassure you if you are concerned about how the temperature could impact any gates you order for your garden.