Quick Tip: Choosing Child Safety Gates

Setting up safety gates to block entrances to stairways is one way to make your home much safer for young children.

Safety Gates

baby safety gates. Photo: From Bob Vila's Babyproofing the House TV Project: Bob Vila Season 2, Episode 7

Important Safety Tool
If you’re a parent, one of your many important jobs is making your home safe for your child. As your child grows, safety means different things. But of all the gadgets available to help you, one of the most important is the safety gate.

Choosing the Right Safety Gate
Because falling down the stairs is so common and so dangerous, start by looking for gates to fit both the top and bottom of all the stairs inside and outside your home. This might mean choosing several different types. If you have turned posts, angles or other complex trim details to contend with, look for a gate or adapters with angle-mounting brackets, a wood trim kit or straps to attach it firmly.

Fixed Gates Versus Tension-Mounted Gates
Generally speaking, even though they take a little longer to install, fixed gates will be more reliable than tension-mounted gates that hold to surfaces with rubber feet. A fixed gate doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it forever. If you’d like to be able to get it out of the way in a hurry for a party, for instance, choose a model with quick-release mounting hardware that allows you to remove and replace the gate panel without detaching the hardware from the wall.

Looks and Flexibility
Safety gates are available in several colors and now even in high-end natural wood finishes to fit most decors. Some can grow with your child and expand up to 41 inches. Some can expand lengthwise to fit around fireplaces or in wider openings like the stairs off an outdoor deck.

Easy for You, Tough for Kids
Beyond looks, you want to find safety gates that make it impossible for a toddler to figure out but easy for adults to operate with one hand. Self-closing mechanisms are another great feature, especially in households with other children who might forget that a safety gate can only do its job if it’s closed!

Installing Safety Gates: Read the Instructions
Be sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when you install safety gates.