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Most homes need more than one type of baby safety gate

When erected between doorways, at the top or bottom of a stairwell, or in front of household features such as hearths and media centers, a good baby gate can prevent your child from being hurt and prevent damage to your valuables. According to experts, different locations often require different types of gates:

Pressure-mounted baby safety gates provide a stable barrier between two walls or in a doorway without requiring drilling into walls for mounting. Pressure-mounted gates, while generally strong, are not recommended for use at the top of stairs because they are not as stable as hardware-mounted gates. Even though you don't have to drill holes, these gates can pull paint off when removed or tightened, and they may damage drywall.

Hardware-mounted baby safety gates are attached directly into a wall or banister using bolts, providing a strong solution for blocking off the top of a stairwell or other opening where falling is a hazard. While these gates do require permanent mounts, many of the gates can be removed from the wall mounts when not in use.

Child enclosures are usually made up of interlocking panels that create a playpen or can be arranged to enclose specific areas, such as a hearth, media center or Christmas tree. Child enclosures can often be wall mounted, but typically they are used as freestanding barriers.

Not all gates are safe. Safety gates have been used for decades to keep babies and toddlers out of adult-only areas, but some gate styles pose hazards in themselves. Accordion-style gates with diamond shaped spaces between the slates can pose entrapment hazards and provide young adventures with footholds for climbing. Experts don't recommend using this style of gate even, if it meets current ASTM standards. (ASTM was formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials.) Gates with horizontal slats can also provide young climbers with footholds, making them unsafe. Pressure mounted gates, while great for the bottom of a stairway or a doorway, should never be used at the top of stairs.

Gates are not a substitute for supervision. You may be tempted to rely on safety gates for older toddlers, but they are recommended only for infants from 6  to 24 months of age. Toddlers older than 24 months can and will climb gates -- even the high ones, which is a particular hazard at the top of stairs. An extra-tall gate may help extend the usable life of the gate, but they still should be used only with supervision.

ConsumerSearch has analyzed a number of expert reviews and hundreds of owner reviews to evaluate the safety, ease of use and specialty features of basic baby safety gates, as well as baby gates for the top of stairs and wide gates for specialized areas. The result is our picks for the best baby safety gates for baby proofing your home.

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