Buyer’s guide to safety gates

Once your baby or toddler is on the move, a safety gate is on the cards. But what styles are out there and what safety advice do you need to know?

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What is a safety gate?

Safety gates are designed to prevent your child falling down the stairs (or climbing up them) and to prevent them having access to selected areas of the home, such as the fireplace or kitchen. They can sometimes be known as stair gates, though balcony and banister guards are also available.

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In general safety gates range in size from widths of about 60cm to as wide as 10 metres and are around 1 metre in height.

All safety gates should comply with safety standard BS 4125. Safety gates can be made from metal (often the cheapest price), wood or fabric.

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When should you buy a safety gate?

Most experts advise you to buy a safety gate before your baby can walk, and definitely as soon as your baby is mobile – even a bum-shuffling baby can make it to the top of the stairs. Safety gates are not essential, but if you choose not to use them you’re going to have to be hyper-vigilant and/or in the same room as your baby at all times.

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What type of fitting you want?

There are two types of fittings: pressure-mounted and wall-fixed.

Pressure-mounted fittings are easy to fit without the need for screws or permanent adhesives. They basically expand outward until they become wedged into the doorframe. These gates are ideal for separating rooms that are on the same level but they aren’t for use at the top of stairs as they can come loose and there’s a bar across the bottom that can easily trip your baby (and you) up! On the plus side they can be moved fairly easily and they don’t cause any damage to your walls.

Wall-fixed gates are seen as being safer and more secure. They can be used at the top of stairs or on doorways, but you’ll need to get out your drill to fix them in place, and once removed there’s going to a hole or two in your wall. On the plus side, there’s usually no bar at the bottom to trip up the unsuspecting walker.

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How will you use your safety gate?

Safety gates aren’t just for the stairs. They can be used to contain a baby in a room or place (where they double as a playpen), or to protect a baby from falling through the gaps in a balcony or banister rail. Some are multi-use and can be angled around fireplaces or other dangerous items. Some parents choose to use a safety gate to protect a baby from a dog or other family pet (or vice versa!).

Before you buy a safety gate you need to measure the gap, taking into account banisters, skirting boards and door frames. Many models have extension kits available and there are also some narrow gates for more unusual gaps. Remember that pressure-fitted gates aren’t particularly recommended for use at the top of a staircase.

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Do you want 2-way or 1-way opening?

Safety gates can swing open, slide open, roll out or lift off. If you’re opting for a swing-open gate you need to decide if you want 2-way or 1-way opening. The advantage of a 2-way opening gate is that adults can pass through the gate more easily as they don’t have to step back to swing the gate towards them. A gate that only opens one way is much better at the top of the stairs though, and it should open towards you when you’re at the top facing down the stairs, as it’s difficult (and dangerous) to open a door towards you when you’re coming up the stairs because it forces you to lean backwards. This is especially tricky if you’re carrying your baby!

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