In most Kenyan homes, wood-only gates have started fading in favour of wrought iron.
Moses Mwangi who makes gates and doors on Nairobi’s Ngong Road said he has been selling about 10 gates on a good month, most of which are made from metal, costing from Sh90,000.
Wooden gates are more expensive than metal ones because timber is costly and scarce as Kenyans import it from Democratic Republic of Congo. Automatic gates, bulletproof ones and those made from heavygauge steel are also pricey.
“Metallic gates sell more as they offer better security and there is also less of maintenance work involved because they are not easily affected by vagaries of weather,” Mr Mwangi said.
Fredrick Omondi of Fomosa Metal Works, also located along Ngong Road, shares similar sentiments.
“I prefer to make metal gates as they are not easily affected by weather. A wooden gate’s vanish will be affected by rains and if it takes time on display, the price depreciates because of the layers of paint formed because of constant repainting to maintain its look,” he said.
For customers who love wood, a middle ground can be found: adding wood to the metal, which makes the gate even sturdier. Mr Mwangi said a sizeable number of clients still want their gates wooden but he makes them from metal but plays with stains and colour to give the gates a wooden look. “We use bronze, copper and gold colours to achieve the wooden look,” he said.
On design, Mr Mwangi explains that there are thousands of designs as one can mix one or two types to come with a unique one. “There is no one specific design that is more preferred by clients. Some love plain gates while others go for one embellished with different fabrications,” said Mr Omondi, adding that the design of a house and fence should determine the look of a gate.
Cost of gate
The price of a gate is informed by the material used, size, thickness, and design. A gate made from soft wood is cheaper than a hard wood one. A standard size wooden gate of 10-feet might goes for well over Sh100,000.
“A standard size gate of four metres goes for between Sh90,000 and Sh120,000 but a wooden one would cost between Sh120,000 and Sh160,000,” Mr Omondi said.
Mr Omondi started his gates business in 2011. Before he opened his own workshop, he was a welder.
“I started out as a welder just along this road but I decided to quit to set up my own business. Now I employ 10 people during peak season but this falls to four when business is low. They include welders who cut and join the metals, those who do finishing including body fillers and painting,” he explains.
His sales, he said, are seasonal where sometimes he can sell even more than 10 gates in a month, but at other times, four gates or even nothing in some months.
For Mr Mwangi, he started his gates business, Craft Masters Workshop, to feed the booming construction industry.
“I started out as a designer dealing with aquariums but the fish tanks market was not good. I switched to this business as I saw homes coming up every day and I guessed they will need gates,” he said.
“A friend who was in the construction industry advised me to open the business along Nairobi’s Ngong Road because it is strategically located,” he added.
However, the gates business has been affected by the ongoing expansion of Ngong Road as customers stay away.
“We will be now forced to go out to look for market. There are no feeder or access lanes and the dust that comes with the construction has kept away some customers.”