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Garden railings and gates – everything you need to know, including whether you need planning

The earliest designs date back to the 15th century and were made from wrought iron. It’s arguably still the preferred choice by most, though today it shares the limelight with more modern alternatives such as steel and aluminium.

Can original railings and gates be restored?

If you’re lucky enough to have original metal railings and gates, there are plenty of companies that specialize in sympathetic restoration services. Their offerings range from basic cleaning and simple hinge, latch and fitting adjustments, to a full refurbishment – it depends what’s needed. When there’s too much damage to the railings or gates to allow for restoration, there are expert firms that can take moulds from the originals and recast exact replicas of them using recycled metals.

How high can garden railings and gates be?

The height of your railings and gates should be the main consideration. Areas with a drop of more than 600mm must be guarded by railings that are a minimum height of 1100mm in order to comply with building regulations.

Additionally, a sphere of 100mm in diameter must not be able to pass through any gaps. This is to prevent the risk of small children or animals becoming trapped or injured in the railings.

What type of metal is best for gates and railings?

Wrought iron

Has the edge over other metals when it comes to achieving an ornamental finish. Sturdy and durable, it can last for years as long as it’s properly protected. Constant exposure to water and air can quickly result in rust and decay, so regular maintenance is required.


A popular option for more contemporary designs. It is inherently stronger than iron and has the added benefit of being naturally more resistant to corrosion and rusting, although a protective layer is still advised. Galvanized, powder-coated or painted finishes will all help ensure longevity.


Also offers a modern look, similar to steel. It’s not as strong, but it does have the added benefit of being relatively maintenance-free. Once installed, you won’t need to worry about it rusting, cracking, peeling or needing repainting. Plus, it’s easily recyclable, too.

Is it better to go bespoke?

Perhaps surprisingly, it often works out to be the most cost-effective option, too. For a smart and secure finish, accurate measurements are essential – buying a generic size will often result in pricey alterations, which can also damage protective coatings on the metal.

What maintenance is involved after installation?

Rusting is the number one enemy when it comes to exterior metalwork, mainly caused by chips in the finish and overgrown plants. Opt for hanging boxes and planters and ensure the contents are regularly pruned to avoid them coming into direct contact with your railings.

Regular cleaning, about once a year, will mean you spot any signs of rust early. Use a steel brush to get rid of any flaking layers and moss, then use a solution of sugar soap and hot water to wash off any grease and grime.


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