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How to Choose a Baby Gate

Baby gate is a childproofing and safety essential which ensures that your child stays away from danger. This Buzzle article provides some simple tips that will help you choose the right baby gate.
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Tip to install a baby gate
Quick Tip
Install safety gates when a baby starts crawling, and discontinue its use when he turns four or five years old. A baby gate can no longer be relied as a safety gate once he learns to climb up and opens the gate on his own.
Once your baby starts crawling, you are bound to constantly worry about him/her bumping into trouble. The possibility of a child crawling his way into an unwanted situation is something that gives every parent nightmares. One way to keep your crawling baby safe is by installing safety gates. Made from metal, plastic, or wood, these protective gates prevent crawling toddlers from accessing unsafe areas of the home such as the bathrooms, kitchens, and the stairways. Some of these gates are permanently installed, while others are pressure mounted.

Choosing the right safety gate is essential, as this childproofing necessity can help avoid nasty accidents. This Buzzle article provides some simple tips about the features to consider when selecting a baby gate.

Check the Type of Installation

There are two types of safety gates based on the type of installation―pressure-mounted safety gates and wall-mounted or hardware-mounted safety gates. The difference between the two lies in their installation method. While wall-mounted baby gates are anchored to the framing inside the walls of your home, pressure-mounted safety gates are installed by simply pressing them against opposing walls. The pressure-fit gates are ready to assemble, and do not require drilling or screwing to the wall. They can also be extended using extensions. As opposed to this, wall-mounted gates are mounted directly onto the wall, and therefore, require drilling. They are, however, the safest type of baby gates in the market, and are appropriate for certain areas like the top of the stairs.

The pressure-mounted type works great for places where there is no risk of the child falling off such as the space between two rooms. However, they are never to be installed at the top of the stairs. This is because, these gates tend to loosen over time as they are opened and closed regularly. If the pressure holding them in place decreases, a child could push, pull, or shake the gate, causing it to dislodge and tumble down the steps. Moreover, these safety gates have a bottom support rail which can potentially cause a tripping hazard when used at the top of the stairs.

Choose Right Material and Construction

Baby gates are available in a range of materials including metal, plastic, mesh, or wood. Enamel-coated steel or aluminum tubing baby gates are also popular. While wood is popular because of its appearance, metal gates are the safest, as they are sturdy and long-lasting. Moreover, unlike wooden gates, they can be installed around fireplaces as well. It is best to opt for a gate with a straight top edge with either rigid bars or a tight mesh screen.

Look for a gate with a sturdy construction. While plastic safety gates may be inexpensive, it is a good idea to check if they are sturdy enough. If you plan to choose a wooden gate, then look for a sturdy, splinter-free construction. Whichever type of gate you choose, ensure that it has an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) or JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) certification.

Consider Width and Spacing

Baby gates are meant to be installed in a variety of spaces. Most baby gates in the market are standard gates that fit doorways that are about 30"- 45" wide. However, for houses with super wide doorways, you would need standard gates with extension panels. Such gates may require additional support such as the T-bar. Specialty gates are also available for irregularly-shaped areas where the opposing walls do not line up easily. Measure the opening where you plan to put the gate to get the right size.

Choose the Right Type of Latch

Look for gates with different types of latches. Some baby gates have dual-action latches, which you have to push down with one hand to release it, while others have pressure-released handles that can be lifted by one hand to open. Some safety gates, such as the Safety 1st Perfect Fit Gate, have special indicator panels that show when the gate is latched on. Try these different latches at the store to choose the one which is convenient for you and not very easy for the child to use.

Decide the Use of the Safety Gate

One of the first things that you need to decide is the location of gate, and the purpose it is going to serve. A gate with a two-way walk-through is best for areas where there is lots of foot traffic. An auto close, hands-free baby gate is really handy when you are carrying laundry or a sleeping child in your arms. For taller children, it is advisable to look for extra-tall baby gates.

Pick Suitable Design and Color

An ugly metal gate in your aesthetically-pleasing home can be a definite eyesore. Choose a gate that looks good and complements the design and color of the space where you are installing it. Usually, wooden safety gates look the best. However, you can also opt for sturdy metal and plastic gates in a range of colors and designs.

What to Look for When Buying Baby Gates

Ensure that the difference between the slats is fewer than 3 inches.
Never buy a safety gate with horizontal bars or slats that could provide a toe-hold for climbing.
The distance between the floor and the bottom of the gate should be no more than 3 inches.
When choosing the baby gate, do check for recalls at the Consumer Products Safety Commission website.
Choose a gate that is at least three-quarters of your child's height.

Once you have chosen the gate, ensure that you follow the instructions while installing it. Improperly installed safety gates can lead to some undesirable situations. Make sure that whenever you leave the room, you close the gate securely.
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Published: February 18, 2014
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