From the category archives:

Safety Gate

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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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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Stair railings are nearly as important as stairs themselves. Material selection is the first priority when choosing a stair railing systems. Handrails for stairs and balusters are available in different types of metal, wood, vinyl, stone and composite materials, each of which offers its own advantages in terms of decoration, durability or economy. This is an overview of the most popular types of modern stair railings for indoor and outdoor installation.

Indoor Stair Railings

Being more organic and less formal than wrought iron, wood is the most common material to install indoors, with oak stair railings being the most popular. Wood stair railings can be stained or painted to match virtually any interior, not only in color but in texture. For hardwood floors, it’s common practice to apply a stain finish on the railings to give aesthetic consistency to the landings.

While it’s a popular material for gates, wrought iron railings are less popular for homes of average size, especially for the expense. In smaller houses, wrought iron stair railings tend to look rather heavy, so it’s more common to see more lightweight metal stair railings, such as aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum railing is quite durable, coated with a baked enamel finish that makes it suitable for either indoors or outdoors.

The most modern stair railing systems for industrial homes use stainless steel and glass. Cable stair railings feature widely spaced balusters with steel cables stretched between them horizontal, typically ever 4 inches. Glass stair railings also have wide balusters, with rectangular glass panels (or panels of parallelograms) inserted between them with steel brackets.

Outdoor Stair Railings

Vinyl railing systems are usually considered the most cost-effective solution for porches and decks, offering a somewhat of the look and feel of wood to the casual eye without the wood’s tendency to warp from prolonged exposure to rain. Composite railing, though more expensive, has an even more wood-like texture, and is less likely to yellow or flake than vinyl. Since decks are more exposed to rain than porches, composite decking is more economical in the long run, with lower maintenance costs, than wood decks, so composite deck railing is a logical choice.

Wrought iron stair railings are great for decks. While railings made entirely of wrought iron are common, combinations of wood and iron, or vinyl and iron, are effective alternatives, where the banisters are made of wood or vinyl, and the balusters are wrought iron. Balusters are often sold in packs ranging from 10 and 200 pieces.

With a wide array of materials to choose from, you’ll not only have to consider how the possibilities for stair railings mesh with the look and feel of your existing stairs, but how much they’ll cost, how durable they’ll be, and how safe they are for your family. There’s more to think about than decoration.

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If you have a hearth that you actually use, a fireplace safety gate is essential for childproofing your home. While a hearth gate is pricey, typically ranging between $100 and $200, it’s a much more secure and versatile option than protective foam padding which is sometimes recommended.

Pads can be pulled off, and don’t provide a high enough obstacle for children anxious to touch a visually dazzling fire. Even worse than foam padding specifically designed for fireplaces are pool noodles that some parents try to tape down. Not only are these easily pulled off, but they usually come in bright, child-friendly colors that makes them even more seductive for meddling.

Unlike a baby gate, or other safety gate products made from lighter materials, fireplace safety gates are usually made out of non-toxic, heat resistant steel or iron, giving them a heft that makes them fairly difficult for small children and small pets to knock down. Fireplace gate dimensions vary from product to product, but typical measurements are 6′ wide, 2′ deep and 30″ high. A hearth gate should be tall enough to discourage children from climbing.

Unlike fireplace doors, most fireplace gates are portable enough to be used for wood burning stoves and outdoor grills as needed. The also have the advantage of protecting children from a fireplace’s sharp brick or stone textures and corners.

Some child safety gate products consist of three interlocking segments whose left and right segment angle inward. Higher-end models are made up more segments to accommodate wider fireplaces, with additional segments available for purchase. These gates often have a section with a walk-through gate with an adult release latch. It’s important to measure your fireplace and the clearance you’ll need before committing to a particular model, since the number of segments included by default may not be enough, and having to purchase extra segments might bump up your total cost by 30-50%.

While a determined child can knock down a baby fireplace gate, the gate’s heavy metal hitting the floor is excellent for alerting a parent that the fireplace is exposed. The thud of the falling gate will usually prompt the child to jump away from the fireplace rather than toward it, at least long enough for the parent to intervene.

No matter how diligent the parent, it’s impossible to keep an eye on a child every single moment. Without exception, every child at some point learns the hard way that fire and hot objects should not be touched. A parent’s task is to make the hard way less severe, and as unlikely as possible. Even a bad safety gate is safer than none.

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A baby stair gate is a critical childproofing accessory, one that you’ll want to install that the first signs that your child is becoming capable of walking. Stair gates are arguably more important during the initial stages of walking than when a baby can walk at full speed. In order to walk, babies have to learn how to balance themselves upright, which inevitably means they’ll fail more than they succeed at first, frequently falling backward. Falling on a level floor only hurts, but the consequences of falling anywhere near or on a flight of stairs can be disastrous. A baby safety gate is no minor precaution.

Baby Gates for Stairs

Baby gate products come in different designs with different mounting arrangements, so there’s always at least one model on the market that can work with your home’s stair configuration. With slight variations between products, baby gates stairs tend to be 30-34″ wide and 28-31″ tall. Gates for stairs are designed to use one of two primary fastening methods: pressure-fitted mounts and screw-fitted mounts.

While pressure mounted baby gates obviously require less assembly in terms of drilling, screwing or gluing, they’re prone to egress from babies or pets to butt against them over time, and they run the risk of eventually slipping out of place. For this reason, pressure-fitting stair gates should not be installed at the top of stairs.

Screw-fitted mounts are inherently more secure, and can also be used between doorways to close off access to rooms. But they’re more labor intensive to assemble, and less convenient to reposition if desired. Having the flexibility to reconsider the best placement of a stair gate is an important consideration. While screw fitting gates aren’t conducive to repositioning, most models have a quick-release fittings that allow the gate to be removed when not in use.

Baby gates for stairs aren’t just for stairs (not are they just for babies; they protect pets as well). They can often be used to block access to any area not suitable for children: a kitchen, an office desk with exposed cables, an entertainment center or a dining table. Sometimes your goal is not just to block off stairs, but to whole floors.

Just because a safety gate is a necessity doesn’t mean it has look utilitarian. Many safety gates are quite attractive. A wooden stair gate blends in nicely with most walls, and is usually available in a variety of common colors. While a metal stair gate is less attractive, it’s also far less prone to damage from children and pets.

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A retractable baby gate combines safety with convenience. Using a polyester mesh screen that pulls across the doorway on which it’s installed, retractable baby gates operate in a similar fashion to window shades, but laterally instead of vertically, and locking to a mount installed at the opposite end.

Since these baby gates pull across to a desired length, they’re capable of handling most doorway widths. There are wide and extra wide baby gate products available if your doorway is exceptionally wide. Typical retractable baby gates are designed to handle 42-72″ openings, and range between 30 and 34 inches in height, which should be more than sufficient to prevent toddlers from climbing over them. On the other hand, while the mesh screen is taut when stretched across a doorway, the material is still flexible, and in most cases should not be used at the top of stairs.

Some retractable baby safety gate products marketed as baby stair gates are newer or different designs, and may be suitable for their advertised purpose. Some “retractable” gates are actually older designs, like accordion gates, which use wood lattices to expand and contract. An accordion baby gate is not recommended, as it presents a danger to fingers and limbs when closing and opening. True retractable baby safety gates with mesh screens are often called rollers to distinguish them from other designs.

These rollers are compact alternatives to swinging baby gates, and are ideal for rooms with limited floor space, since they don’t arc outward from the doorway. When retracted, the rolled-up screen extends less than half a foot, so there’s no need to store it elsewhere when not in use.

Some retractable gates only rewind manually with a knob, which may not be an issue for many owners. In many cases, it’s not necessary to fully retract the screen when entering or exiting the room; it only needs to be briefly taken off the mount, then put back. Other models have automatic rewind mechanisms that retract the screen once the locking mechanism is released. This is idea for avoiding the trip hazards of an unmounted, unretracted screen that hangs limp across the doorway.

Most retractable baby gates only have a couple of drawbacks. They have a reputation for being noisy while extending and rewinding, which can be an issue when checking in on a sleeping baby. They’re also rarely the instant install that manufacturers advertise them to be, unlike some pressure-mounted gates. The components usually have to be screwed into the wall of the doorway, which isn’t a complicated process, but it definitely falls into the “some assembly required” category.

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