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Driveway Gate Design Guide

white wood driveway gate scalloped with metal decor

So, you want to install a new driveway gate – great choice! A driveway gate can boost your home’s curb appeal and provides an added layer of privacy and security to your property.

However, it doesn’t take long to realize that designing a driveway gate is more involved than heading to a big-box hardware store. You have to consider different gate materials, a plethora of design options, paints and stains, lighting features, and height and width variations, just to name a few. People know what they like when they see it, but sometimes it’s hard to remember all the different components that go into designing a truly beautiful gate that complements the aesthetic of your home.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to some of the design basics you should consider as you start to plan your own custom entrance gate.

Common Types of Driveway Gate Materials

The three main materials for driveway gates are woodmetal (which includes wrought iron, bronze, aluminum, and stainless steel), and composite. Wood and composite gates are preferred for privacy, while metal gates are generally preferred for their aesthetics or for the increased safety options they can provide at high-security sites.

Can’t decide? Check out this blog post that examines the case for each material in depth. You can also combine iron pickets or custom iron flourishes with a wooden frame to add greater visual interest to your design.

A composite driveway gate with an arched top.
A composite driveway gate with an arched top.

Arches and Scallops

An arch is a curve upward along the top of the gate; a scallop is a downward (u-shaped) curve. If you have a basic design idea in mind but don’t want to look like every other house in the neighborhood, try changing the degree of curve on an arch or scallop to dramatically alter the entire look, as in the image below. We specialize in crafting one-of-a-kind designs that truly stand out from the rest.

Scalloped wood picket driveway gate
A scalloped wood picket driveway gate.

Custom Pillars and Statues

All driveway gates require posts, which can simply be painted to the homeowner’s liking. However, wrapping a post in custom stonework, masonry, wood, or concrete adds a beautiful custom touch that elevates the aesthetics of even the simplest gate. A fine pair of columns can lend dignity and grace to an entrance, and statues or decorative planters will also upgrade the look.

Wrought iron driveway gate with lion statues on stone columns
The stone columns and matching lion statues lend extra weight and ceremony to this wrought iron driveway gate.

Paints and Stains

Wooden driveway gates can be painted with almost any outdoor paint; however, most customers opt for a tinted wood stain to allow the natural beauty of the grain to show through. For a weathered look, you can leave the wood untreated for a month before applying a clear stain.

Wrought iron and metal entrance gates get a coat of primer and two coats of finish paint in the color of your choice. (Some gate companies will use powder coating; we don’t recommend this approach because it can’t be fixed on-site.) Composite gates can’t be stained, they need to be painted – but your color options are endless.

Cedar wooden gate with rich stain
A wooden gate with a rich stain that accentuates the rich, earthy tones of the cedar.

Lighting Options

Almost all of our customers install lighting at their driveway entrance; it’s strongly recommended for safety purposes as well as for aesthetics. Lights can be installed on top of the post, on the front, or on the ground (up-lighting). We recommend that the size of the light fixture balance well with pillar size and gate width. If a fixture is too small, it can get lost in the rest of the design and may not provide enough light. Follow this link to explore some other driveway gate lighting tips.

Wooden driveway gate with lighting on posts
As wide as the posts themselves, the lighting boxes on these posts almost have a lighthouse design to them.

Finials, Collars, and Other Decorative Elements

With a wrought iron gate, the possibilities for extra ornamentation are endless. Your gate can have additional decorative elements such as:

Finials, which are small protrusions that extend past the top of the gate
Collars, which are added “knob” elements on the pickets themselves
Scrollwork, which are S-shaped curved elements (such as those at the base of the gate in the photo below)
Other custom details such as spirals, squares, circles, and floral patterns.

Your imagination is the only limit, and these additions can dress up an otherwise basic gate design.

Wrought iron driveway gate decorate finials and collars
A wrought iron driveway gate with decorative finials, collars, and scrollwork.

Gate Inlays and Cut-outs

Inlaying a design element or adding a custom cut-out is a great way for all types of properties to make a driveway gate truly unique. Tri State Gate can create almost anything you can think of – the sky’s the limit! Check out this blog post to see some custom dear and buck head inserts we designed for a rural property.

Custom horse and rider metal cutouts for a driveway gate
A custom horse and rider metal cutout for a driveway gate.

Gate Width and Height

The width of your gate is ultimately dictated by the width of your driveway and surrounding terrain. This is why it can be difficult to install a DIY driveway gate kit. We have encountered many DIY jobs gone wrong, which ends up adding to the overall installation cost. Tri State Gate custom measures each gate to fit your property, including any slopes, existing landscaping, gravel, concrete driveways, and so forth.

Varying the height of a gate is a quick way to dramatically alter the look of your driveway. We’ve installed extra-high gates on narrow driveways and low, slatted gates on wide driveways. Discuss options with your designer to come up with the right look for your home.

Tall gate on a narrow driveway
An example of a particularly tall, narrow driveway gate.

Swing vs. Slide Entry Gates

As their names imply, swing driveway gates swing inward to open, whereas sliding gates slide to one side to allow the vehicle to pass through. Sliding gates are great where space is limited and/or there’s a steep slope that prevents the effective use of a swing gate. However, most residential driveways use a double swing gate, which consists of two separate gates mounted to posts on both sides of the driveway. High-security locations and gated communities can combine a barrier arm with a swing gate for maximum protection.

Mahogany double-swing automatic driveway gate
These mahogany gate panels swing open at the middle to allow vehicles through.

Design Your Gate with Tri State

Eager for more examples? Check out 35 Modern Driveway Gate Ideas for Inspiration in 2024. If you still have questions and would like to consult with an expert, contact us today! We’re happy to help you design the perfect gate for your property, and we offer free on-site consultations.