Choosing A Safety Gate
To help determine which gate is best for each situation, ask questions like:
- Where will the gate be installed? (e.g. at top of stairs, in doorway, or to section off room)
- How wide is the opening? (exact measurements since there is no "standard")
- To what surface will the gate be mounted? (e.g. door frame, hollow wall, wrought iron, brick, wood)
The design diversity of today's homes commonly includes open architecture, sweeping staircases, over-sized openings, and wide patio doors. Gone are "standard" doorways, which today can mean anything from 30", 32", 34", or 36". That's why so many different child safety gates are on the market and why it's easy to understand why close to 7 million units are sold in North America, making gates and enclosures one of the top baby product categories.
Gates fall into several categories: pressure mounted, hardware mounted, and enclosures/gate systems. The installation decision should be determined by where and how the gate is being used. Safety gates can be wood, metal, plastic or mesh ranging from 22" to 36" high and as wide as 6' or longer. Most experts agree that accordion style expansion gates with the crisscross diamond shapes should be avoided since they can ensnare clothing, pacifier strings, etc. Unless the safety specifications at time of manufacture can be determined to show they pass the minimum safety standards, consumers should avoid hand-me-downs and garage sale purchases. In some cases, a pet gate does not necessarily pass child safety standards.
Pressure mounted gates require no holes or hardware for installation and are best suited for less hazardous locations such as a doorway, between rooms or at the bottom of a stairway. Traditional pressure gates are made of wood and plastic, and have panels that slide past each other making them more of a barrier. They utilize a locking bar or other locking mechanisms combined with rubber feet to wedge the gate into place. These barriers can easily be dislodged if not properly adjusted each time they are repositioned, which often encourages adults to "climb over," causing another safety hazard. More advanced pressure designs made from wood, metal or a combination of the two stay mounted in uneven openings and utilize a step-through, walk-through, or swinging door section that can be easily opened in one or two directions. These styles are a little more expensive, but their convenience encourages proper use. A smaller subcategory of pressure mounted models is soft mesh, marketed for travel or temporary situations and are, too, considered more of a barrier as there is no mechanism by which to 'open' the gate to pass through.
Hardware gates can be made of metal, wood or retractable mesh and are considered safer than pressure gates because they are permanently mounted and are best for areas where safety is paramount, like at the top of stairs. Gates should never swing out over the stairs, and some models have built-in directional devices to prevent this from happening. No one likes to drill holes, but parents and caregivers need to understand that a little wood putty or spackling can save an agonizing trip to the hospital emergency room. The screws generally included with these gates are for mounting directly into wood. Installation into other surfaces like dry wall, brick or wrought iron will require additional hardware available from any hardware store or home improvement center. Specially designed gate installation kits are offered by several companies to aid in the mounting of any gate.
Enclosures and Gate Systems
Most gates have to be mounted from point A to point B in a straight line. Resulting from today's open architectural designs and irregular openings, "build your own gate systems" are now available that form angles to isolate dangerous areas like staircases, exercise areas, home offices, hot tubs, fireplaces, etc. A typical system is available in basic sizes and then can be extended with optional sections to create the length and shape necessary to enclose these hard to fit areas. These gate systems create wonderful play areas for babies and are very useful for pet confinement.
Taken from an editorial piece provided by Ken Kaiser, President, KidCo.
- Original article published in Baby Shop Magazine – April 2012
- Used with permission from KidCo
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