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Driveway Gates – Aluminum vs Steel

Aluminum vs. Steel

Aluminum tubing vs steel tubing for building custom driveway gates.
Aluminum gate frame tubing on the left; steel tubing is on the right.

The Problem:

Corrosion, Oxidation, Rust & White Rust

rusty gate hinges
Rusty orange gate post and hinge frame. Hinge has a galvanized coating and has not rusted after several years.

We’ve already learned that steel and aluminum are two different types of metals. All metals suffer from varying degrees of corrosion when exposed to oxygen. Both steel and aluminum are susceptible to corrosion in the form of oxidation. A clean metal surface requires immediate protection from oxygen in the atmosphere or else an ever expanding layer of oxidation will form on the surface. When oxidation i.e. corrosion occurs on steel it is called “rust“. Due to its stained orange or brown color, rust stands out on steel like a sore thumb. When oxidation is formed on aluminum, it’s simply called corrosion, or sometimes “white rust”.

Simply put; oxidation is corrosion and in most cases it’s undesirable. It is sinister because it forms beneath the painted surface until it spreads and begins to push the paint off the surface in many areas at once.


One solution some clients choose is to entirely forego the powder coat and wish to let the metal age naturally into a brown finish.

Steel Before Outdoors Exposure:

Steel driveway gate before rust.


Steel After Outdoors Exposure (left to rust naturally):

Rusted raw steel driveway gates for Sacramento California property entrance.
Customer in Sacramento chose to let his gate rust naturally.


Myth: Aluminum Doesn’t Corrode & Is Superior To Steel

Fact: Aluminum & Steel Both Corrode When Exposed to Mother Nature

Paints EASILY Peel & Blister Off Corroded Aluminum

In aluminum the layers of oxide which form are called “white rust“. Unlike steel, aluminum corrosion is white and powdery once it gets thick, therefore it can be very hard to notice at first. Then, suddenly it is noticed everywhere at once.

Paint peeling off of an aluminum estate gate.
Paint flaking off aluminum estate gate due to the visible powdery white residue which is sometimes referred to as “aluminum rust”.

On aluminum, an invisible, very thin film forms immediately and grows exponentially until a visible white film appears, typically within a few months.

Paint peeling off aluminum.
Peeling paint failure on shiny aluminum due to lack of adhesion. Paint of powder coat adhesion matters for both steel and aluminum, but aluminum is truly the more finicky of the two metals.

Installed gates are more or less prone to corrosion depending on the climate and microclimate of the gate installation site. A metal gate at an oceanside villa or very close to a heavily salted winter highway would be much more prone to corrosion than would the same metal gate in a relatively salt-free environment.

The Answer:

Building Corrosion Resistance with Powder Coating

louisiana plasma cut gates by jdr metal art 2015 spraying zinc rich primer powder coat
Spraying Zinc Rich Primer on a steel driveway gate for the ultimate in steel corrosion resistance.

The first three stages before painting or powder coating any metal such as steel or aluminum are “prep, prep, prep”. The more time spent preparing the surface, the longer the paint job will last. Nearly all coating failures can be attributed to a failure in surface preparation.

Although in the past steel and aluminum each required their own separate preparation approaches to get the best corrosion resistance results over the long term, some newer technologies demonstrate impressive corrosion resistance results on both steel and aluminum, thus streamlining the finishing process and getting gates shipped out sooner with a longer lasting finish than ever before.

Once the preparation is complete it’s time to protect the fresh metal surface. It is covered with a metal coating, typically either paint or powder coat. Preferably powder coat. Once the gate is coated and exposed to the elements at its installation site then nature begins her testing of the work of the painter or powder coater until sooner or later the coating fails.


Paint is generally the lowest cost, lowest technology coating method. Powder coat is a high capital investment, high technology process and costs more initially, although it is an investment that pays off over time in maintenance-free nature of quality powder coats.

Cure Times

Paints cure by a chemical reaction and most, if not all, suffer from extended cure times, especially for water based paint products. Other paints such as acrylics and enamels cure faster than water based paints but use harmful chemicals such as accelerators and hardeners while still falling short of the hardness of powder coat.

Powder coat is an environmentally friendly method of painting with an electrostatic applicator which uses no water or chemicals but rather a large parts oven to cure the paint after it has been applied. The part is baked at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and is completely cured once it cools down to room temperature.

Once the gate has been powder coated it is visually impossible to distinguish whether it is made from aluminum or steel. The difference would not be known until the time for handling and installation of the gates due to the weight difference between steel and aluminum.

Aluminum & Steel Driveway Gate Designs

Although steel is several times stronger than aluminum, steel also weighs several times more than aluminum. A heavier gate means there will be added stress on the gate opener system.

A common misconception is that aluminum does not rust. Technically this statement is true because “rust” refers specifically to iron oxide which is created when iron (the main ingredient of steel) is exposed to moisture. While steel corrosion is called “rust” aluminum corrosion is called aluminum oxide or “white rust“.

Steel and aluminum will both corrode although at different rates. Given the same environment aluminum will corrode at a slower rate than steel.

For our aluminum gate designs use marine grade aluminum materials because they contain magnesium which makes our gates much more resistant to moisture’s corrosive effects than a purer aluminum would.

Proper Powder Coating Adds Long Life to Both Aluminum & Steel!

Despite the differences in corrosion resistance between steel and aluminum; advanced powder coating technology allows us to greatly reduce the likelihood of corrosion on either our steel or aluminum gates.

Powder Coated Aluminum:
Aluminum metal driveway gates with copper finish.
Aluminum driveway gates with copper powder coat finish.

We use powder coatings which provide the perfect barrier between metal and moisture. Our steel gates all receive a zinc-rich epoxy primer specifically formulated for exterior applications. The primer prevents the spread of rust by creating an impermeable layer of zinc-infused epoxy directly over the steel surface. The top coat (usually black) goes on last and looks nice but the primer is what does the work keeping the steel gate rust-free for a long time.

Powder Coated Steel:
Ornamental driveway gate powder coating
Steel driveway gate with copper powder coat finish.
Bronze powder coat on steel driveway gate.
Steel driveway gate with aged copper finish.

Ranch driveway gates for Florida Aluminum entrance gates with black powder coat finish.

Steel & Aluminum Driveway Gates

JDR Metal Art specializes in handcrafting exquisite entry gates for clients from all walks of life. No matter what your needs, we have the perfect solution and enjoy taking on new challenges all the time.

Here is a selection of some of our steel driveway gates.

You can check out some of our aluminum driveway gates here.

We Want Your Business!

Dear Customer,

Are you interested in having the best metal driveway gates built for your home, farm, ranch or estate? We’d love to hear about your upcoming driveway gate project! We build custom driveway gates for people just like you from all over the United States. We are able to make any metal driveway gate design that you can imagine! And we have some of the most competitive pricing nationwide! Thank you for considering JDR Metal Art for your customized metal driveway gate needs. We are excited to offer you a unique and personalized metal driveway gate design that will add both aesthetic and functional value to your property.

Our team of experienced expert designers and craftsmen specialize in creating custom metal driveway gates that reflect your unique style and preferences. We use high-quality materials, such as durable metals and powder coat finishes, to ensure that your gate is built to last beautifully for many years to come. We work closely with you to understand your specific needs and preferences, and we will provide you with a comprehensive design proposal that meets your requirements and budget.

We are confident that our custom metal driveway gates will exceed your expectations and provide a lasting value to your property. We look forward to working with you to create a beautiful and functional gate that reflects your unique style and enhances the security and privacy of your property.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation.

Best regards!

The Team At JDR Metal Art.