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retractable baby gate

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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