From the monthly archives:

May 2010

Dog gate and baby gate products are fairly similar, with subtle but important difference. While babies can only rove around the house slowly, and are only a danger to themselves, dogs can cover a lot of ground quickly, and are potentially dangerous to children, adults, and even other pets. Let’s look at a few critical features in safety gates for dogs.

Dog Gates for the House

Dog gate indoor products are often simpler in design than child safety gate products, which require extra measures to keep babies from falling down staircases. Some dog gates are designed to be free standing, while others are pressure mounted. As the term suggests, free standing pet gates are not secured to wall, door or stair fixtures; only their weight and wider footprint keep them in place, which obviously is ideal for cats and smaller dogs. They’re also more convenient for the owner, since they’re easy to reposition, and require no installation. Free standing brands are almost always designed for pets, as opposed to hardware or pressure mount gates, which are the two main types used to restrict children.

Pressure mounted pet gates should be used for larger dogs, or puppies that are expected to grow into larger dogs. A pressure mount gate features bolts that slide or screw outward to brace against a door frame, a wall, or the newel post of a stair railing. These gates have adult release latches operated by handles or foot pedals, so the gates can remain in place while allowing people to pass through them easily. In this respect, child and dog safety gate products are identical.

Extra Tall and Extra Wide Dog Gates

First time dog owners sometime underestimate their pet’s ability to leap beyond what seem to be sufficiently high barriers. It’s always better to err on the side of getting a gate that’s too tall. An extra tall dog gate is usually classified as such when it’s a least 40 inches in height, which is about human waist level.

Extra wide dog gates are ideal for cordoning off hallways and decks. An extra wide dog gate is usually classified as such when it’s at least 48 inches in width, or wider than an average door frame. Since gates become less stable as their width increases, models mounted with pressure screws are often preferred over free standing gates, and while pet gates of all types are available in a variety of materials, metal dog gates are recommended over wooden dog gates to discourage biting. But the material is less important than the height and width of your dog gate, since the main point is containment, not protection against bites and blemishes.

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Wooden gates may be less coveted than gates of iron or steel, but they’re often more appropriate and certainly more common, especially for garden and entrance gates. For privacy, stockade fences with no gaps between slats are more opaque than almost any kind of metal fence. The organic texture and ambiance of wooden garden gates and driveway gates can blend in more seamlessly, and seem less imposing than wrought iron or aluminum. Vinyl fences can be more durable while offering a similar look to wood, but up close, the heft and grain of boards made of actual wood is unmistakable. But some woods are more manageable over time than others, so let’s examine a few options.

Types of Wood for Gates and Fences

Cedar is a naturally moisture-resistant stock that doesn’t need to be treated with chemicals. The most popular type for fencing is Western red cedar. Knotty cedar is the most recognizable, with knots, blemishes and imperfections that give it more of a country style character than clear grade cedar. Clear grade lumber, however, lasts longer (up to 40 years with proper care), and has a cleaner look. Another softwood to consider, of chemical treatment is acceptable, is Southern treated pine.

Among hardwoods, oak is a popular choice for stockade fences. With its naturally high tannin content, oak fences are resistant to pests and fungal infections. Northern red oak and white oak are used most frequently for residential fencing. Teak, particularly in older stock, is a long-lasting wood which, like clear grade cedar, will last around 40 years. Also in common with its softwood counterpart, teak doesn’t require chemical treatment, and is naturally impervious to pests and harsh weather.

Installation Considerations for Wood Gates

Special attention needs to be paid to the structural properties of wooden driveway gates and fences. Wood posts planted in the ground will degrade and lose their strength, so if you don’t find it aesthetically inconsistent, steel posts are recommended. This is especially true for gate posts, which are much more prone to creep out of alignment with repetitive opening and closing. When fitting the gate, ensure that the posts can handle the load, since wider gates mean heavier panels. If you must use wood posts, pick a material resistant to rotting like redwood or cedar, or a pressure-treated lumber.

Gate hardware should either be made of rust-free components, like stainless steel or molded plastic, or be coated for rust resistance with epoxy or polyester. A wooden gate frame should have an anti-sag gate kit, with a hook and eye turnbuckle, to adjust for eventual wear.

If you take the time to examine the lumber options and fencing styles available for wooden gates and fences, you’re certain to find a solution that’s aesthetically appropriate and within your budget while keeping maintenance hassles to a minimum.

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Baby gates, sometimes referred to as stair gates, child gates, or baby safety gates, can be extremely effective for restricting your child’s access to unsafe rooms and staircases. They’re offered in different types with different strengths and weaknesses that should be carefully examined before settling on one particular model.

A typical baby safety gate is 42 to 72 inches wide, which should be sufficient for most doorways and stair landings, and 30 to 34 inches tall, which should be tall enough for most infants, toddlers and pets. Wooden and plastic baby gate models are available in a variety of colors and textures to blend in with their surroundings.  For wider openings and taller children, extra wide and extra tall gates are available. There are three main types of baby gates for stairs and doorways: pressure mounted, hardware mounted and retractable. For fireplaces, there is a separate product category of fireplace safety gates, not discussed here, which are usually made out of some kind of powder coated iron or aluminum.

Pressure Mounted Baby Gates

A pressure mounted baby gate is favored for portability and easy of installation, usually requiring no tools. They feature screw-out pads that brace the unit in the doorway or between the wall and newel post of the stair landing. Many older pressure mounted gates were one-piece constructions (also true of many hardware mounted models), which encouraged parents to unsafely step over them, but modern gates tend to have an inner swing gate with a release latch for easy adult access.

Hardware Mounted Baby Gates

The biggest disadvantage of pressure mounted baby gates is that they can slip out of place gradually, especially if pets or children meddle with them. A hardware mounted baby gate is the safest option by far. These feature brackets that screw directly into the door frame or newel post, which makes them harder to reinstall in different locations, but being embedded also makes them impossible to be nudged. While pressure mounted frames have the gate in the middle of the unit as a smaller section, hardware mounted child gates are usually single-piece units which, when unlatched, swing open with hinges mounted on one set of brackets.

Retractable Baby Gates

A retractable baby gate is the most flexible option. Some models are have clamp-on brackets, hardware mounted brackets or pressure mounted frames; but what they have in common is a polyester mesh screen that draws closed and retracts open across the doorway or stair landing like a sideways window shade. The component that spools and stores the screen when retracted, the roller, can be detached from its wall bracket, so that the brackets can be left in place if the screen needs to be removed. Unlike a pressure mounted gate, where the entire frame needs to be moved or stored, only the roller of a retractable gate needs to be removed, so it’s very compact for storage. Unlike the other two types of gates, whose width needs to be known before purchasing in order to ensure a correct fit, retractable gates can extend to just about any width.

This is not the idea choice for a stair gate. Retractable baby safety gates should only be used for doorways and the bottom of stairs. Since they’re not rigid, and don’t offer exceptional resistance if pushed by a determined child, placing this these gates at the top of stairs may result in the child falling through, which obviously has more severe consequences than falling on a level floor.

Which type of gate you choose should be determined largely by where it’s meant to be installed. For the top of stairs, a hardware mounted child gate should probably be your first choice. For doorways, either pressure mounted or retractable gates are sufficient. If you’re interested in a gate that can be taken to other parents’ homes, retractable baby gates are the most practical choice.

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