Eliminate Gate Weight: Choosing Lightweight Materials For Automated Gates

Posted on: 21 April 2016

Automated gates can be an impressive and luxurious addition to any residential property, not to mention a positive boon to convenience and safety, especially when used at night. However, any automated gate is only as good as the motor that powers it, and many automated gate systems are equipped with motors too weak to effectively open and close gates which are forced to work at full power during operation. An underpowered motor will have its working lifespan dramatically shortened in this way; it may also become more prone to mechanical failures, and the high power draw can add significant costs to your energy bills.

As such, it is always important to balance the power of an automated gate system against the weight of the materials used. Using lightweight materials to build your gates is an effective way to do this and spares you the expense of purchasing and running large, powerful gate motors. The following materials are ideal choices for lightweight automated gates:


Vinyl gates are an excellent choice for the homeowner who wants to spend as little time and money on their automated gates as possible. Vinyl gates are relatively inexpensive, highly resistant to damage caused by weather and sunlight, and are available in a vast array of designs and configurations. They require little maintenance compared to wooden or steel gates, requiring little more than the occasional cleaning to remain looking new for years. In terms of weight, vinyl gates are among the lightest options available, requiring little power to function.

Unfortunately, vinyl is perhaps not the most pleasing aesthetic choice and may look out of place next to more traditional houses and gardens. Limitations inherent in the vinyl manufacturing process also mean that vinyl is available in a very limited choice of colours.


Ideal for rustic country homes and traditionally styled properties, wooden gates may seem a little old fashioned, but they can effectively combine light weight with surprising strength like few other materials can. However, it's important to choose the right kind of wood for your gate, as different woods have drastically differing weight and strength properties. Consider choosing one of the following woods for your gates:

  • Port Orford cedar: Light and tremendously strong, with excellent rot resistance. Can be expensive and difficult to find.
  • Western red cedar: Extremely resistant to damage caused by moisture, rot and insect attacks, but slightly heavier than Port Orford cedar and not as strong.
  • Redwood: Attractive, rot resistant and very light. Reasonably inexpensive but can be dented and damaged relatively easily.
  • Douglas-fir: Cheap and strong but can be vulnerable to mould without surface treatments.
  • Baldcypress: Durable and resistant to decay, but relatively heavy.


While steel and traditional wrought iron are often too heavy to be suitable for large automated gates, aluminium offers the strength and security of metal without the immense weight. Aluminium has other advantages too; unlike steel, it is not vulnerable to rust and corrosion, and it forms a layer of natural oxidisation to protect the metal from the ravages of the elements. This natural durability can be supplemented with a variety of paints, adding aesthetic versatility as well as longevity. 

However, all these fine properties come at a premium, and aluminium is one of the more expensive choices for gate building. In addition, aluminium is somewhat harder to work with than steel and other metals, requiring special processes for welding and forging. As such, the array of designs aluminium gates are available in can be somewhat limited.