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Product Information: Gates - What you need to Know about Gates before you Buy.

Whether you have stairs or not and you have a baby, you probably will need a safety gate at some point. Safety gates are not only used to keep children from falling down stairs but out of windows, away from "off limits" areas and from escaping your supervision.

Choosing from amongst the many different  types of gates with different features and prices can be confusing. Checking internet reviews only gives you a very narrow perspective. It is not likely that the reviewers have gone out, brought  several gates home, installed each to find which one was better. Their homes are not the same as yours and their circumstances probably do not apply to you. Contacting a service with a Certified Professional Childproofer, as Babysecure,  who stocks and and has experience installing several lines of gates would be a better way of finding the right gate for your home.

No one gate fits in every home but you can make your home fit the gate. Certified Professionals not only have the experience and knowledge about the products, they also have the greater safety awareness to know how to safely make the modifications which are usually necessary to make gates fit in your home. Send Babysecure your pictures and we can makes suggestions.

Following general information about Gates. There are two general types.....

1) Hardware Mounted Gates

If you need a SAFE gate for the top of stairs, Hardware Mounted Gates are the ONLY type to use. In other words, if you want to be safe, the gate must be screwed into place. While people think they want to have Pressure Gates at the top of the stairs (see below for added understanding) they can be pushed out and are therefore not safe for the top of stairways. The constant pressure will also lead to the weakening of your railing.  

If there are glass walls, bannisters or wood work on either side where you need a gate, there are ways to work around screwing into them. See Hole-Free Mounting Kits If there is wall board, there is no getting around needing to screw into it. Any painter would find the holes an easy repair when the gates are no longer needed.

 More Need to Know.....

  • There are clamping systems to avoid screwing into your bannisters or fixing gates to glass railings, see section on Hole-Free Mounting kits
  • Top of the Stair Gates are best installed into studs in the wall. These are sometimes not easy to find or are not in the practical place where you want the gate to be installed. This is where you need to know how to adapt the installation to properly anchor the gate to the wall using added fixtures to create outside studs. See Gate Mounts
  • Gates generally need to have two flat surfaces on either side for the gates fixtures to work. Most homes have baseboards, which interfere with this flat surface. This is where people have a hard time trying to get a gate to fit. Rather than trying to find a gate that fits, you need to find a way to make flat surfaces on either side of where you want to put the gate. Depending on what combination you have on either side of the opening, wall board or plaster, wood or metal railings and baseboards along the floor, you usually need to install wood fittings, see Hole-Free Mounting kits.  They create the appropriate level surface to safely install these gates. 
  • NEVER EVER use plastic wall anchors to install Mounted Gates in walls, despite what the hardware store person tells you. They do not have the experience to know how to properly install gates. Plastic anchors are not sufficient to sustain the weight, the wear and tear of frequent use or a child swinging on it. The Gate Mounts will also help to disperse the weight of the gate to solid wood and come with the appropriate spring loaded wall anchors to assure secure installation. 
  • Different gates have different hinge and opening/closing mechanisms, making one more appropriate than another for your needs. Choose a gate where the opening mechanism can be used with one hand because you are often holding the baby in the other.
  • Be in the habit of drawing the gate towards you when you open a gate at the tops of stairs. Pushing a gate away from you over the stairs can put you out of balance especially when carrying something in your arms. Some gates have built in or removable stoppers which do not allow for opening over the stairs.
  • Most gates have hinge mechanisms, which allow for a range of movement from 0 to 180 degrees. This can be useful for those who want to keep a gate opened and swing around to a wall or railing
  • Only a few gates allow for the opening and closing mechanism to work on an angle.
  • While many people would like it, there are no safe Top of the Stair gate which automatically close. See Walkthrough Gates below.
  • Take the idea that a Gate folds up out of your way, like old style Accordian Gates, out of your thinking.
  • The reason you do not easily find Accordian gates on the market anymore is they were dangerous. Children and even pets climbed them and strangled in the open V's across the top. If you have one it should be broken up and destroyed. It is illegal to pass it on to anyone, even in your family. There are a few which are currently on the market but they now have modifications which meet the safety regulations for construction of gates.

Retractable Gates.

There are now on the market several companies who make Retractable Gates that meet safety guidelines for the manufacture of gates and are similar to window roller blinds which wind up to retract into a casing.

On first thought, they are popular because they roll up out of the way. However for Safety Specialists and Professional Childproofers, this is an oxymoron.  For safety, Gates should aways be up and in place. While there may be times when a baby is asleep and you might not want the gate in your way, leaving gates open is a habit which might lead to injury.

The other issues about retratable gates..... are they 1) Suitable or 2) Practical for the place you want to put a gate?

  • 1) First and foremost for top of stairs, because the roller shade style is flexible in the middle, ALL the Manufacturer's instruction specify that they need to be set back a good 6 inches from the edge of the top step. (A child could push it through the middle and fall down under the gate.) This is almost never the case and therefore Not Suitable for the place where most people need a gate. These gates may be appropriate for the bottom of the stairs or as a division in a hallway or between two rooms.
  • 2) These retractable gates, usually are more labour intensive to open and Not Practical because they need two hands to open. You usually need to release the locking mechanism on one side, hold something in place, then move to the other side to open. Because they are not one handed to open and close and a nuisance to put back, the tendency is to leave them open, exposing a child to unblocked stairs. Another impractical thing about these gates are that they have a loud racheting sound to them which families find noisey with sleeping babies.

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2) Pressure-Mounted Gates

Pressure gates stay in place by pushing up against the walls or railings. To stay in well they need two flat even surfaces directly across from eachother. There are two types of Pressure Gates, see added information a) and b) below.

  • Pressure Gates can be dangerous, particularly at the top of stairs because they can be pushed out.
  • Simply said they should NEVER be used at top of stairs.
  • They can be used as room dividers, in the doorways between rooms or sometimes at the base of stairs.
  • These gates are on first thought favoured because they do not need to be screwed in, but the truth is they do cause damage to your walls. Constant putting up and down of the Removeable Pressure Gates or children wiggling at the gate cause scuffing of the wall. They often remove patches of paint that will need to be repaired.
  • Pressure gates are also popular because they do not need tools to install. However, people only find out after they have bought them how annoying they can be. Putting the Removeable version up and down all the time or having to pass through a smaller doorway of the Walkthrough style are not thought about before buying.
  • Pressure gates will usually only work between two walls that are flat and not where there are baseboards. Walls are rarely even, nor are banisters completely flat or solid, so there is great potential for a pressure gate to give way, taking a child down with it.
  • Many people do not stop to realize how forcing pressure gates up against bannister posts may prove to damage and weaken them.

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a) Removable Pressure Gates

Removable pressure gates are ones where you need to take the whole gate out to pass by.

  • For the Top of the stairs they should NEVER be used. Their instructions usually explain this.
  • Bottom of stairs. Sometimes will fit.  When there are banisters, they generally do not have the even surface needed for a removable pressure gate to stay up well. Also the constant pressure on the banister will lead to its weakening and long-term damage to its stability. On the wall side the baseboard moldings interfere with having the flat surface. 
  • Between two rooms Sometimes will fit. Again baseboard moldings are a problem. 
  • Most removable pressure gates require completely flat surfaces on either side to stay in tightly. With few exceptions, almost none work well where there are mouldings along the floor. To create pressure there are preset slots for the fixtures in the gate to set into. If the width of your opening happens to be between these fixed measurements, the gate will be loose.
  • To take the gate off and put it back all the time is generally found to be labour intensive and a great nuisance. Rather than do this all the time, people get into the dangerous habit of leaving the gate in place and walking over.
  • If you walk over a gate you not only risk falling yourself but you suggest to your child that this is what to do with gates. They wilI then look for ways to climb over themselves. If you buy a Removeable Pressure Gate, be prepared to use it safely.
  • Removable Pressure Gates are good for temporary use as a room divider, to carry around to different rooms throughout the home, to bring when visiting or for closing of "off-limits" rooms (without doors) not frequently used.

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b) Walkthrough Gates

Walkthrough Gates are semi-permanent U-shaped frames which stay in place by pressure but have a built-in doorway with a one or no-hand latching systems. Instead of taking the whole gate off and on, you walk through the inner doorway.

  • Top of Stairs These gates are not recommended for the top of stairs because the bottom of the U becomes a threshold that would be a tripping hazard.
  • Bottom of Stairs.They can work at the bottom of the stairs as long as there is a railing towards the back of the step. If the only available post is near the edge of the stair then the threshold bar would be under your foot as you step down. This would be very uncomfortable and a hazard for safe use of the stairs.
  • Between Rooms On a flat floor surface between two rooms, care would need to be taken to remember to walk over the threshold so as not to trip. The smaller doorway of Walkthrough gates compared to the opening that you are putting them in, is something that should be considered to see if it will fit into your day to day activity in this area.
  • Walk-through Pressure Gates have a threshold bar across the bottom of the doorway, which is a big tripping hazard for everyone. Some companies suggest that their Walk Through Pressure gate can be used for top of stairs but you screw in mounting cups where the pads reach the wall. They then become a Mounted Gate. Safety Specialists still find them a hazard because of the threshold bar. If you think you can manage to walk through safely, consider when your baby starts to walk and how unsafe that bar at the top of the stairs will be for them. Because Walkthrough gates are smaller than the opening of the stairway, this could lead to clothing to get caught or knocking against the sides and more chances of loosing balance at the top of the stairs.
  • Some walkthrough gates have unique hands free features, which make them great for high traffic areas such as a kitchen doorway.
  • Walkthrough Gates can be good where the space is either somewhat small or very wide and swinging open an entire gate would make movement around inconvenient.

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3) Installing Gates

  • Few gates will readily fit your home. Searching far and wide to find the gate that does, is time lost. In almost all cases, you need to make your home fit the gates See Gate Mounts.
  • If a pressure gate is mounted to a banister, then the constant pressure can lead to weakening of the post. The more pressure that is needed to keep the gate in place, the more unstable the post may become, leading to an unsafe gate and a more complicated repair job.
  • If there are one or two walls at the top of the stairs, there is no getting around screwing the gate into walls. Here there is no worry. Most painters would laugh at people who are reluctant to put holes in the walls, finding it simple to fix. Several years later, when the gate is no longer needed, these holes are easily filled and painted over. No one would ever know there were holes in that wall. It is usually time to paint again anyway.
  • If there are wooden banisters where a gate needs to be mounted, there are different strategies to avoid or reduce the number of holes (See Gate Mounts).
  • Where the banister post is a large 3 - 4" square along the whole height of the post, a wider 3" or 4" x 1" board or brackets clamped around it, could help to avoid screwing into the post directly. The added cost and look of this extra fixture may be a deterrent.
  • As with the painted walls, most wood workers would have little problem with using wood fillers to patch up holes. The bottom line is, at the top of the stairs why risk an injury for a few holes.

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4) Finding a Good Looking Gate

  • For some, the main concern about buying gates is what will the gate look like. They want to find something to match their home. There are more choices than people generally think.  (BabySecure stocks the widest selection of safety gates) There is white or grey plastic, generally with a crisscross mesh look, and black/ brown/ white/ chrome metal or neutral/dark brown stained wood with vertical bars.
  • Parents think of having a contractor custom-make a gate to match their banister. This usually compromises the safety. Most contractors are not aware of the legislated specifications for construction of baby safety gates. They also have no means of supplying a child proof opening and closing mechanism. Nimble little fingers could conceivably undo the hooks or sliding bolts that they would use. The cost is also usually much more than 5 - 10 times a regulated manufactured safety gate.
  • People think they will stain or paint the ready-made wood gates to make them look better. Unless you have enormous amounts of time, this is unrealistic. The gates already come with a wax or stain finish and all surfaces would need to be thoroughly sanded before applying anything different. Also, these gates usually have moving parts and another layer of finish may clog them up, making the gate harder to use. This sliding movement wears off the paint causing scratching marks and making the gate even less attractive.

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5) Before You Buy your Gates

  • There is no one-size-fits-all in gates.
  • Know the measurements of the openings you want to cover before you start shopping.
  • The least likely feature parents oftentimes do not stop to consider is how easy is it to use the gate. The way you open and close a gate will determine if you use the gate or not. If the gate is difficult to manoeuvre then you will start to leave it open or climb over it. Because it is not easy to find places where you can try out several gates, look to friends and their experience, or the advice of a babyproofer can help you narrow the choices.
  • Before getting your gates take some time to consider where you need them and how they will fit into your day-to-day routine throughout the house. This will determine which style (mounted, removable or semi permanent) gate you will need.
  • Recognize you may need to make adjustments to habits for the sake of your baby’s safety. Some of that recognition might be that you cannot make changes, i.e. you are likely to forget to close the basement door. While you could just as likely forget to close the gate, it may be that having a gate there as well will help you to be more careful.

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6) How To Use Gates

  • The safest habit is to keep gates closed all the time…even if the baby is sleeping. Many people think they will leave gates open especially at night, when the baby is asleep. Unfortunately this may lead to forgetting to close it.
  • Be aware that you are their model. If you climb over gates, ask yourself what are you showing your child? Many adults including grandparents end up in emergency with broken limbs from a fall associated with a baby safety gate.
  • Once installed, realize that the banging on the screws, created by constant opening and closing can result in the gates becoming misaligned.
  • Discourage older children from swinging on your gates. Heat, cold and humidity can cause subtle shifts in the walls or banisters. Gates that work well for a few weeks may start to not work like before. Just like a door that sticks in the door frame at different times of the year, gates need some occasional readjustment.

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7) Where Do You Need Gates?

Top of Stairs

  • You always need a gate at the top of open staircases. In some homes, this can be avoided by putting gates down a hallway that leads to the top of the stairs.
  • Often people choose to put a gate at the tops of stairs, even if there is a door, for added protection when children are tall enough to open the door or in case someone forgets to close it. With a gate there, it is felt that it will be more obvious that something needs it to be kept closed. This is particularly thought of when the doorway is to the main entrance to the apartment / second storey flat or to basements. In these cases, parents like having a gate so that while they are making several trips up and down the stairs, bringing in things like groceries, they can safely keep an eye on the baby.

Bottom of Stairs

  • Often, not considered on first thought, you also need gates to block the bottom of stairs. It is usually the first place parents find a newly crawling child is causing them the greater worry.
  • Gates at the bottom of the stairs on the main level are generally awkward for parents to use on a daily basis. When you come downstairs, to open the gate you have to lean down to reach, putting yourself out of balance. This is especially hazardous with a baby in your arms. Frequent trips up and down stairs leads to the gate being left open.
  • Further, gates are already unsightly and this one is usually the first thing guests see when they enter your house.
  • When we at BabySecure visits our clients, we counsel against a gate at the bottom of the stairs on the main level. In many cases, this idea is foreign but after some consideration, most of our clients are surprised how they did not consider the following solution...
  • While the layout of many homes do not have this option, many can put gates across a combination of hallways, doorways to kitchens, dining rooms or living rooms instead of putting a gate directly at the bottom of the stairs. This not only makes traffic flow easier for the adults, but has the added advantage of narrowing your supervision area of the baby. As well, this strategy can help to avoid holes that will need to be patched. The selection of Walkthrough Pressure Gates, with unique features such as no-hands or automatically closing mechanisms for these passageways can add to make life-with-gates easier.
  • Another thing to consider about bottom of staircases is those which have open sides. Even though you gate the opening to the steps, many young children learn to climb the outside edges or try to squeeze through the bannister posts. A solution here is to use a long Configure gate which creates a semicircle around the bottom opening and fastens around to the side under the 3rd or 4th step. This allows you to step down and open the gate's doorway without leaning down and keeps the children from being able to climp the outside edges.
  • Homes with split-levels often appear to need so many gates and it seems unrealistic. Going from the bedroom level down to the basement to do the laundry can mean opening and closing up to 4 gates. If the layout on the main level can allow for it, consider placing gates in other areas as suggested above. Another idea would be to use the Configure or Hearth Gates and their various extensions. You can create a "box" around openings of the up and the down stairways leaving an adult free passage within the gate.

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