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Hardwood vs Softwood - Which is Best for Gates?

Posted on 01/10/2020
Softwood and Hardwood Gates Installed by Norfolk Prestige Fencing

When choosing your new driveway or garden gates, there are many factors to consider. As well as the aesthetics of the gate - the height and shape, modern or traditional - there are practical considerations such as the opening, inward or outward, double or single gate, on which side to hang the hinges. These decisions are often instinctive, or decided by the layout of your driveway, or the style of your home. But one factor that’s more difficult to decide is the material of the gate itself - which wood would be best? 

What’s the Difference Between Hardwood and Softwood? 

Hardwood comes from deciduous trees, i.e. trees that follow the seasons and lose their leaves in autumn, and flower again in spring. Deciduous trees reproduce with their seeds in fruits or pods, such as acorns, conkers or apples. Common examples include Oak, Ash, Elm, Birch, Beech, Maple, Mahogany and Teak. 

Softwood comes from coniferous trees, i.e. trees that are evergreen and have needles rather than leaves. Coniferous trees shed their seed without any casing, their seeds fall ‘naked’. Common examples include Pine, Larch, Spruce, Douglas Fir and Cedar.  

The difference in the way that the trees reproduce and grow results in anatomical differences between the timbers, softwood is more flexible and hardwood tends to be heavier. 

Both hardwood and softwood timbers are suitable for gates and fencing, but vary in price, durability, movement and density. Less durable softwoods such as pine and spruce are often preservative treated, and all softwoods should be treated and coated for outdoor use to prolong their lifespan. 

What’s the Price Difference between Hard and Softwoods?

In general, softwoods are cheaper than hardwoods. Hardwoods come from slow growing trees, whereas softwood comes from trees that grow faster and are plentiful in Europe. Hardwoods tend to be shipped from around the world, adding to the overall cost. 

Weather Resistance, Maintenance and Lifespan

Softwoods must be treated for outdoor use, and can also be coated with oils, paints and varnishes to further prolong their lifespan. Treated softwood can be expected to last fifteen years or more, whilst hardwoods naturally have a longer lifespan and can last 30 years or longer if properly cared for. At Norfolk Prestige Fencing, we use pressure treated woods to ensure a durable gate, no matter which type of wood or style you choose. 

Wood is a natural material, and will bend, warp and even crack over time due to changes in temperature and humidity - however caring for your product by treating it with oils will prolong its lifespan and delay natural aging and weathering. 

Which is Best for the Environment? 

Softwoods grow quickly, are farmed sustainably in Europe and so can be considered a more environmentally friendly choice. Hardwoods tend to be farmed in tropical climates, take much longer to grow and require more water and resources to grow. However, as hardwoods tend to last longer and thus need replacing less often, it could be said that hardwoods are the better choice! Whichever you choose, look for the FSC mark to guarantee the materials were responsibly sourced. 

At Norfolk Prestige Fencing we can help you choose the right material for your gates, with advice based on our many decades of experience and a gallery of examples to inspire you. Our made-to-measure gates are available in a huge range of designs to suit all properties. Get in touch for a free quote on 01603 928494 or email

Iroko Hardwood Gate by Norfolk Prestige Fencing

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