Before shopping, measure the width of your openings. An extension might be necessary.
Select hardware-mounted gates for the top of stairways. Hardware-mounted gates are installed with screws. (Don’t worry — you can easily repair a small screw hole.) Don’t use pressure gates at the top of stairways because they can be dislodged or might be a tripping hazard.
Install baby gates at both the top and bottom of stairways. Sometimes, you can block access to the bottom of the stairs by installing a gate in a doorway. Children can quickly crawl up stairways and fall. Although pressure gates can be used at the bottom of stairways, they cannot safely be installed in many areas (i.e. on steps, on stairway posts or on small metal railings).
Use baby gates that are JPMA-certified for use for children. They will meet the voluntary ASTM standard for baby gates. Never use gates intended for pets or modify your gate for pets.
Use gates to block off dangerous rooms or areas of your home like kitchens or fireplaces. Specialty gates are available for use around hearths and other odd-shaped spaces.
Installations above most baseboard moldings will not be safe. Baby gates require spaces to be less than three inches, which is different than typical building codes for railings. Check the instructions. Altering the installation of the gate to accommodate baseboard molding or a pet can put your child’s safety at risk and can allow entrapment of a young child.
Install gate hardware into the wall stud or wood. Sometimes the screws that come with gates are not long enough for installation into a stud behind drywall.
Don’t install latch or hinge hardware into round or uneven banister posts. This can cause improper latching of the gate. Gate mounting kits are available for installations on banister posts and on walls with baseboard molding.
Do not climb over baby gates. Your child may get the idea that it’s safe to climb over the gate, or you could accidentally dislodge the gate while climbing.
Show guests how to use baby gates. If they don’t know how, they might climb over them or leave them open.
Remember, adult supervision is still important even when gates are installed and always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for when to discontinue use of your gates.
Colleen Driscoll, Executive Director, International Association for Child Safety, [email protected]