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Product Information: Latches

There are many items in our homes that can be dangerous to a child. Parents often feel bad when they lock up or remove these items, thinking it might be somehow limiting to the baby. In actuality this is the opposite. By removing dangers, you create an environment that gives both the child and you more freedom. The child is freer to explore and the parent freer from worry about their safety. Using the following information you decide which and how many cupboards or drawers you need to latch. Generally, this involves all the lower cabinets from counter top level down. Do not overlook any cupboards on an upper level, such as in the kitchen where you store the vitamins and medications or cleaning solutions over the appliances in the laundry room.

1) Where You Need to Use Latches

While it is often suggested that it is harmless to play with these things, from a child's perspective, how would they be able to distinguish a pot that they are allowed to play with and the same pot now full of hot water on the stove. Making homemade toys such as a rattle made out of empty plastic medicine bottles and dried peas would help to give a confusing message.

All breakable, pointed, sharp objects or cooking utensils, plastic or foil wraps with sharp cutting edges.

Heavy cans or cooking containers that could drop and break little fingers or toes. Spices and flavourings may pose a danger (e.g. vanilla)

Cleaning solutions, detergents and soaps, kept in their original containers. If you substitute containers keep them well labeled, preferably copying hazardous product symbols and fixing them to the outside. Teach the children about these symbols.

All lower drawers, even if they contain just towels and place mats. Not only do the children often slam these drawers on their fingers but use them to climb onto the counters.

All items small enough to fit inside a toilet paper roll and usually found in junk, or shallow drawers, particularly in bedside cabinets could be something a child may choke on.

Plastic bags, dry cleaner bags, disposable diapers, objects wrapped in plastic, and other small plastic pieces (bread tags, corners snipped from milk bags, etc.) can lead to a choking hazard for curious children.

An inside-the-cupboard garbage container is the safest approach but if this space is limited, you will need to think of latching the lid of an exposed container.

Keep plastic liners for garbage cans out of sight, a child might pull off a piece and quickly put it in their mouth.

In the living area, newspapers need to be kept out of reach. Some newsprint can be toxic to young whose hands are forever in their mouth. Ripped pieces of paper from magazines and newspapers could become choking hazards.

Liquor, cigarettes, and ashtrays full of butts and ashes are hazardous for children, who do not know why these things are not to eat.

Keeping matches and lighters in locked cupboards will reduce the children's opportunity to try them out and one of the main reasons fires are started in homes.

Different plants, their fallen dead leaves, soil and fertilizers can also be poisonous. Become familiar with the botanical names of your plants. Check with the local poison control centre and remove those that might pose a danger.

Purses and briefcases often contain medication, cosmetics, (potentially toxic) or sharp items such as nail files. Be aware of where these are placed in relation to children, especially when visiting.

All the creams and medications, especially those you have kept in and around the changing table, need to be stored somewhere else and locked before the baby becomes mobile.

Although moving harmful goods to top cupboards is often recommended, this may not be the safest approach because children can develop into climbers. Further parents might find it inconvenient and forget to return the frequently used items. Remember if you use a chair to reach for something, you only give them the same idea.

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2) What You Need to Know About Installing Latches

The first thing you need to know - is not all latches are the same nor will one type work in your all cupboards. Professional Babyproofers generally find they need to use several different latches in one home. It is all based on how the cupboard door or drawer is constructed. Outside Side-by-latcheslatches that go around handles or knobs are very limited where they can be used. They do not work on single doors or on any drawers. They are not the best solution because they are too much work to relock after going into the cupboard. Inside, installed latches are the safer choice because they relock themselves when you close the door or drawer.

What Cupboard System Do You Have?

Before you install latches, you need to understand the types of cupboard system you have in your home. In simplest terms, "classic" cupboard systems have doors that are fixed to the outside of the frame. You see the hardware from the outside when the doors are closed. The drawers to these systems fit into slots of the frame and when the drawers are closed you generally see parts of the frame between each drawer. In newer systems, often referred to as "European" cupboards, you see nothing but the doors and drawers when they are closed. Sometimes there can be a combination of both, with European doors and classic drawers.

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3) Other Things to Look For

Is there an extension of the counter over the cupboards?

Does your sink drop down? Would a latch installed inside bang against the sink and not allow you to close the door?

How thick are your doors and what are they made of.? Some cabinet systems have moulded framework and there are places where the thickness is not deep enough for screws going through to the front side. Some pressed wood and older door's wood may have become so brittle that the constant banging of the reach-in-to-unlock latches will not hold the depth of screw.

Look inside your drawers and take note of the difference in height of the sides of the drawer in relationship to the front facing. Also, is the drawer made of a four sides or a box screwed, glued or stapled to the facing or is the facing the only layer in the front. Depending on the construction, many drawers to not allow for easy latching.

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4) Which Latch Should I Choose?

The most difficult task surrounding latches is choosing the right latch for fit and convenience. This is usually impossible to do unless you have access to several friends who have already installed different types of latches in their homes. Even at that, because your cupboard system may not be similar, latches that fit for them may not work in yours. This is why BabySecure has developed this unique opportunity to have a hands-on experience of understanding the latches through purchasing one of each of the better quality latches to try them out. See Latches Sampler. You can also take pictures, send them to Babysecure at info@babysecure.ca and we can advise.

Once you have chosen a latch you need to consider various features, including fit, durability, length to reach, preventing pinching, disengaging settings, ease of use (for adults), difficulty of use (for children). In general, the Tot Lock is the lock more likely to fit a larger range of cupboard systems and provides the no-pinch and deactivation features which are very popular. If budget and concern about finding the key is an issue then the reach-in-to-open latches have their different merits. From the outset, whichever latch you choose, you should think of putting your back to the children, to prevent them learning to open through observation. Whichever latch you choose, they will be a nuisance. But this generally last only a few days. Before you realize it they will become routine. The only time you will notice them will be when other adults come visit and cannot get into your cupboards.

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5) Installing Latches

Installing latches properly takes time and patience. When we at BabySecure install latches—and we have been doing for now close to 30 years—we estimate doing 6 to 10 latches in an hour. Your first will probably take an hour. Before you start, go around, open and look inside all the cupboards. You are looking for a consistent place to put the latch. This is particularly helpful with the Tot Lock because from the outside you do not know where the latch is positioned.

Are door handles or knobs or magnetic holders in the way of where you want to install a latch? For your convenience in opening the latch, maybe you will want to move these other fixtures or need to counter sink some screws. Choose two doors side by side, (as opposed to a single door) to be your first place to install. This way you can open one side to see how things are going as you install the other. Always leave drawers to be the last places to install. They are often the more complex place to install any latch and best tackled once you have had a chance to get familiar with them.

Latches need not always be installed in the up/down direction. In narrow single doors, piano hinge and lazy Susan doors, it is simpler to mount them on the side, involving reaching in from the left or right of the door to open. Additional blocks of wood screwed to the inside of the cupboard may be helpful to create a place to mount latches where doors or drawers are inset into the frame. In some cases where there is no place to latch at the top of the door, latches can also be fasten upside down on the bottom of the door.

When there is no frame between drawers, the sides of the drawer need to be 1 1/4" shorter than the front facing in order for a latch to be installed to the side. When you do not have this clearance and , if you can remove (sometimes glued) the facing, you can saw or carve a notch in the upper corner of the inner box. This would allow for insertion of a latch. This notch could be created without removing the facing, however you need a fair bit of skill with more advance tools such as router or a Roto Zip. In some cases the type of drawer glides are large and would not allow for this. The Wonder latch can be a much more direct choice for these drawers but would not prevent fingers getting slammed.

Once installed, the banging on the screws, created by constant opening and closing can result in the latches becoming misaligned. The plastic in the reach-in-to-open style of latches often seems to need a "settling in" period. Latches that work well for a few weeks may become problematic over time. Most latches will require maintenance and occasional readjustment.

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