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I would like to make a set of external timber yard gates, i.e. both sides of the gates will be exposed to the elements. Since I live in the North of England, it tends to rain. In order to avoid the gates swelling during our damp winter, what sort of things should I aim to do?

The sort of things I'm thinking of are:

  • Should I specially treat the wood before construction
  • Should I paint along the bottom of the gates
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"tends to rain" :) Wood will shrink and swell. You can't stop it. Rather, allow for it. You can use wood naturally resistant to decay. Not sure what's available in your locale, examples include redwood, cedar, teak, cypress. You can also use pressure treated lumber, in which case, be sure to apply preservative to cut ends. Field applied preservative will help for a while, but it will not last. You should avoid paint, the shrinking and swelling will quickly cause failure. If you must paint, all surfaces of every piece should at least be primed, if not fully painted.

Use corrosion resistant hardware and fasteners. Stainless steel if possible. At least hot dipped galvanized. Not the much thinner electro-galvanized. For hardware, a durable factory applied finish such as powder coating would be OK. Don't waste time with fine joinery, big and clunky is more appropriate. This is not an excuse to be sloppy, the big and clunky joints must be well made. The frame's primary diagonal should be low at the hinge side so that it's joints are in compression.

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I was told not to paint the bottom (underneath) the door since if water penetrates the door, it needs somewhere to go. Is this sensible? Also when you say primed, do you mean an undercoat? Also, what about the joints - should they be primed? –  csgillespie Jan 3 '13 at 20:19
    
Yes, undercoat and prime coat are synonymous. You normally wouldn't prime the joints, it would be detrimental to fine joinery. But with big and clunky joints, it would help. If you have the patience to apply it to every cut, you are indeed a patient worker. I never paint the bottoms of doors out of habit, but as long as there is a weep opening, I'm not sure it matters. The reason for priming the hidden parts is wood that gets more wet on one side will warp big time. When uniformly coated, it gets more uniformly damp. –  bcworkz Jan 4 '13 at 21:09
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Yes, you should paint along the bottom of the gates. Paint and oil keeps the wooden garage doors safe in rainy season and also protects your house.

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Please put links to your company in your profile, not in the answer text. (Link edited out of answer) –  Chris Cudmore May 9 '13 at 12:36
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