Aluminum versus Steel Gates

Aluminum vs. Steel Security Gates

When deciding on a gate you need to consider many factors- opening size, security level, whether it should be horizontal slide, swing or vertical lift, ornamental or standard, and even the material of the gate itself- aluminum or steel. While these materials may seem similar, the facts regarding physical properties and internal mechanisms show that the material you select for your gate may be the most crucial decision of all.

So, what is the difference between an aluminum and a steel gate, and which is the best choice for your application? Here’s what you need to know about these two materials when choosing a gate.

Steel Gates Rust, Aluminum Does Not

Steel is corrosive and aluminum is not. Even galvanized steel can rust in some areas. While all the joints in a steel gate may be welded, each joint is painted with only a cold galvanizing paint that breaks down over time. When the joints are exposed to rain, ice and snow, the breakdown process speeds up, decreasing the gate’s product life. The appearance soon begins to deteriorate and you are left with an eyesore at the customer entrance. Hot dip galvanizing would eliminate the need to apply cold galvanizing paint at welded joints, but the hot dip process does not handle extremely large gates well (limited to tank size) or gates that need to remain perfectly straight and level (the heat for a hot dip process can often introduce slight warping to large complex gate panels).  Steel gate panels are often painted, but a moving gate can get chipped or have holes drilled into it for accessories, causing penetrations which open up the steel structure to rust.

Aluminum, however, is protected by a thin layer of its natural corrosion properties, aluminum oxide. The aluminum oxide is a natural, rust-resistant shield. Aluminum oxide acts as a shield because when it comes in contact with water, the aluminum and oxygen molecules can shift apart more than 50% from their normal molecular positions. As a result, when the outer layer of aluminum oxide gets wet, its structure changes just enough to become chemically inert and unable to react rapidly with additional water molecules or atmospheric oxygen. Because of this change in molecular structure, aluminum gates remain aesthetically pleasing for years.

The end result is that, in the competition between steel and aluminum gates, aluminum is the smart choice for long-term durability. The extra investment today gives you a product that will last longer and require less maintenance over the long term.

What Are Aluminum Alloy Gates?

Not only does Tymetal use the naturally protected aluminum, but it also uses 6063-T6 and 6105-T6 alloys. These alloys were specifically designed for gate frame and track applications to enhance the corrosion resistance, tensile strength, and yield strength of aluminum. The structural integrity of the joints remains intact – and the opening to a facility is protected by a gate that both the installer and owner remain proud of year after year. The lighter weight aluminum offers more strength per lb. and a lighter gate with less effort than heavy steel gates. Less effort equal lower operating costs and increased reliability, both important considerations for security and safety.

While we often think of steel as being one of the strongest materials available, when you compare the strength per lb. of aluminum vs. that of steel, aluminum is the clear choice. As a result, an aluminum gate from Tymetal Corp. can be counted on to provide the highest level of protection possible for your business.

Aluminum vs. Steel Gate Roller Safety

Our aluminum gates have another advantage over steel gates – their moving parts. Steel pipe frame gates often move over exposed rollers that have grease fittings for periodic lubrication. When more time sensitive issues require immediate attention, gate maintenance programs can be forgotten. Rollers are neglected. Again, when snow, ice and rain multiply the effects of everyday dust and grime, the rollers can bind at the most unexpected and inconvenient time. Gates become difficult to move and operators become overworked. An even bigger concern is the dangerous pinch point created by an exposed roller. These rollers are hazard-prone due to design.

Aluminum gates benefit from an enclosed truck and trolley that provides protection from the elements, dirt, and other debris. The truck assemblies glide on sealed ball bearings that require no maintenance – they will perform as specified regardless of climate conditions. Pinch points are eliminated without the need for roller covers.

Aluminum cantilever slide gates can even extend the life of operators. Because the truck track combination and the lighter weight put less strain on the operator, it uses less power to get the gate moving.

The Bottom Line

While steel gates may be an acceptable choice in certain situations, your investment in a quality aluminum product is one that will deliver benefits for years to come.