A pressure-mounted gate just won't do at the top of the stairs – there's too much of a risk that determined children could muscle it out of place and topple down the steps. For that reason, baby gates for stairs must be mounted with hardware to either the wall itself (studs, not drywall) or the stairs' bannisters. To further reduce the risk of falls, specially designed stairway baby gates usually open only one direction (away from the stairs) and don't require users to walk over any sort of bars.
The KidCo Safeway Top of Stair Baby Safety Gate (Est. $45) is well-made and easy to mount and use, reviewers say. The basic model secures openings of roughly 24 to 43 inches, and there is also an Angle Mount Safeway (Est. $55) that allows the gate to be placed in oddly shaped areas where it can't be installed perfectly straight.
The Safeway gate mounts to walls or stairwells using hardware that must be drilled into a wall stud or stairway post. While less convenient, this heavy-duty mounting ensures that the gate cannot be knocked free. According to reviewers, the Safeway's hardware mounts create a highly stable gate that kids can even hang from. It opens in one direction only to prevent it from swinging out over the stairs, and there is no crossbar at the bottom to trip over. The Safeway features vertical spindles that don't have footholds for children to climb. The majority of users say these are amazingly strong.
Most parents say the Safeway is simple to install, but feedback on the latch is more mixed. Many say that they can operate it with one hand, but others say the bolt connection is uncomfortable to lift up and poorly designed. Despite the fact that the gate opens in just one direction for safety, some users are frustrated by this design. Others wish it closed automatically – users must take care to re-latch it after each use. Reviewers do like the quick-release design of the hardware, which allows them to temporarily remove the gate without unscrewing the whole thing.
The Safeway has a slim frame and spindles that most reviewers say blend well in their home. The basic model is available in white or black, but there are also wooden Safeway gates and wood-metal combination Safeway gates. The all-wood gate has slightly thicker spindles, and only the metal angle-mount version can be used with extensions. There is also a Stairway Gate Installation Kit (Est. $33) that attaches the gate to stairway posts without drilling into the wood.
The Evenflo Top of Stair Plus Gate (Est. $40) is a favorite among parents who want a tall and sturdy gate for the stairs but don't need to mount it an angle. The Evenflo gate is easy to open with one hand and stands up to toddler abuse. It fits openings from 30 to 48 inches and has a light wood finish that can be painted if you're ambitious.
Owners say the Evenflo Top of Stair gate is strong enough to withstand toddlers who shake it and even throw themselves up against it. Parents also say the latch is strong and toddler-proof. The latch clicks audibly when it is secure. But because the gate does not have a latch at the bottom, securing it takes a little extra time and attention so that a child can't pull the gate loose at the bottom. At 32 inches tall, the gate is higher than most baby gates. This makes it safer for potential climbers, although the vertical slats make climbing almost impossible. There is no bar at the bottom of the opening for parents to trip over.
As with any gate used at the top of stairs, the Evenflo Top of Stair gate takes a little more attention to detail during installation than pressure-mounted gates. Some reviewers complain that the hardware supplied by Evenflo is cheap and may even break, and they recommend purchasing higher-quality hardware or turning to a professional for installation. Once installed, the gate is able to open in both directions, but there is a blocking mechanism that can keep it from swinging over the stairs if desired. The gate can easily be lifted off the permanent hinges and stored when it is not needed. It does not close automatically.