How to choose the best stair gate for your home?
How to choose the best stair gate for your home?
With so many child safety gates to choose from, selecting the most suitable option for your needs can often seem like a daunting task. To help you make the right choice, this guide will take you through everything you need to know about buying safety gates, the different types of stair gates available, plus the pros and cons of each type of gate. We've also asked our customers for their thoughts on our stair gates to help you reach the right decision.
Why do you need a stair gate?
Stair gates are still one of the most popular baby safety items purchased for babyproofing the home thanks to their versatility and security. Also called baby gates or safety gates, they're used to keep young children from going up or down the stairs. Many parents also install these gates in doorways to keep their little ones safe from dangers in kitchens and bathrooms, or simply to create safe play zones. Safety gates can also be used to secure open external doorways to prevent infants and pets from venturing outside.
What age do you need stair gates?
You should begin thinking about installing a stair gate just before your child starts crawling and moving around independently. Babies generally start crawling from the age of eight months, but some can start crawling earlier or later than this. We recommend taking a look around your home to establish areas where a safety gate might be needed by the time your child reaches the age of five months.
Installing a baby gate in doorways and stairwells is one of the first steps many parents take to babyproof the home once their child shows signs of crawling or shuffling. It’s best to think ahead and fit stair gates before your baby starts crawling, as once they find their legs it’s simply a case of gaining speed — and before you know it, they will be into everything!
When to stop using stair gates?
We'd advise that you keep your stair gates in place until you're confident that your little one can make it up and down the stairs safely on their own. Most parents make their own judgement based on their individual child. Each child develops differently and some show independence long before others. Most child safety experts like Charles E Schaefer, the author of ‘Ages and Stages’, and other safety gate manufacturers suggest removing baby stair gates when the infant reaches two years old.
Another important indication of the right time to remove stair gates is a child’s abilities. By the age of two, some children might climb or even attempt moving the baby stair gates, which can be dangerous. It is important to gauge the level of risk based on the child’s level of independence and development. Most Stair Gate manufacturers add features such as a ‘double locking mechanism’ to their range of baby gates. The reason for this is that young infants under two years of age are unable to complete simultaneous tasks such as pulling back a lever and lifting a handle. By monitoring your child’s development, you will soon determine when your child would be able to open a gate independently, and therefore it is time to take the baby gate down.
Where to buy stair gates?
While stair gates are available from some large homeware retailers, we always recommend shopping with a baby safety specialist. When it comes to child safety equipment, quality and security are of the utmost priority, so it's best to buy from an expert. Here at Safetots, we specialise in children’s safety equipment, stock the very best brands in the business, and can share our in-depth knowledge if you have any questions.
Never buy a second-hand stair gate off an auction site as it is impossible to know any damage which may have been caused to the product in previous use. Only purchase baby gates from retailers who clearly advertise the safety standard the gate is compliant with on the product listing. Never purchase stairs gates which have not passed the British or European safety standards.
How much is a stair gate?
Stair gates vary in price depending on the size and style you want. As with most safety products, more expensive options also tend to be higher quality, so it's worth spending that little extra for peace of mind.
How to measure for a stair gate?
It's vital that your stair gate fits correctly in the space you intend to install it, so it's important to measure the opening accurately.
To establish the wall-to-wall measurement, measure from one wall to the other where you estimate the top edge of the safety gate to fit — standard baby gates are approximately 75cm and extra tall gates are around 100cm tall.
To establish the floor level measurement, measure the estimated floor space from one wall to the other. Make sure to consider any skirting boards when measuring as this may be different to your wall-to-wall measurement.
Our handy stair gate finder makes it easy to select the right stair gate for your space. Simply enter your wall-to-wall and floor level measurements to the left of the product selection to filter out any products that aren't suitable for your home.
Which stair gate is right for you?
Now that we've covered the basics, it's time to start finding the best stair gate for your needs. Choosing the right stair gate can be challenging. Safety gates aren't a one-size-fits-all matter and different gates have their own unique features that make them suitable for various areas of the home. That's why we have put together our advice for choosing the right stair gate fitting, size, and more, to help you narrow down your search.
What kind of fitting do you want?
Here, we'll go through the different types of stair gates and the pros and cons of each:
Pressure fit stair gates
Pressure fitted safety gates are incredibly versatile. They can be moved easily from one doorway to another by simply releasing the pressure at the four spindles in each corner and re-installing it in another doorway or stairwell. There is no lasting damage to walls or bannisters with pressure fitted stair gates as they are installed using pressure only and no drilling or screwing into place is required.Pros
- These gates are fitted by pressure with four spindles and wall cups meaning there is no lasting damage to surrounding walls and bannisters once removed.
- Pressure gates are versatile. They can be easily moved to doorways and stairwells measuring the same width. However, it is not recommended to move your pressure fit stair gate from space to space regularly, as it will become less stable over time. This should only be used as a temporary option for grandparents or in holiday homes.
- Most pressure fitted gates are compatible with extensions, which come in a range of sizes enabling you to make a gate configuration to suit your space.
- Pressure fit stair gates are designed within a U frame. The base of the U frame forms a bar that can potentially be tripped over. Pressure fit stair gates are therefore not recommended for the top of the stairs and are more suited to the bottom of stairs and doorways.
Screw fit stair gates
Screw fit stair gates are the strongest and sturdiest stair gates. These gates have no trip bar, so are recommended for the top of the stairs. Wall mounting brackets are featured at either corner of the gate and drilling into walls or bannisters is required for installation.Pros
- Screw fit gates have no base trip bar making them the safest option for the top of stairs.
- Screw fitted stair gates, such as the Safetots Flex Gate, are made up of individual panels that range in size enabling you to create a gate configuration for your own unique space. Our Safetots multi-panel baby gate solutions come in black or white metal and natural wood finishes, and are available in standard height and extra tall options, which allows you to find a style to suit your home interior.
- As screw fitted stair gates are physically screwed in place, once the gate is removed the holes will remain. However, these can easily be filled with the right materials.
- Extensions are not available for many screw fit gates. The only screw fit gates that can be extended with extra panels are the multi-panel configurations. It’s therefore important to ensure you have the correct measurements before purchasing.
Retractable stair gates are generally made of a strong mesh that fully retracts into the frame when not in use. These safety gates are installed using wall mounting brackets that are screwed into place. They can be fitted to the outside wall around a door entrance or within the door frame itself.
Retractable stair gates provide a sturdy barrier for children and pets, however they do not offer the same strength as a more permanent fixed stair gate, such as metal stair gates and wooden stair gates.Pros
- The gate is discreet and can be fully withdrawn into the wall-mounted bracket when not in use, but will provide an instant temporary room divide when needed. This makes them the perfect space-saving solution.
- Retractable gates are ideal for small or awkward spaces as they can be fitted inside or outside of door frames. So, you can install your gate wherever it fits best.
- Retractable gates have no base bar so there is no risk of tripping, making them a good option for the top of stairs or external doorways.
- Retractable gate brackets can be fitted practically anywhere.
- Retractable gates are not generally recommended for use with dogs, as the fabric can become damaged if chewed. However, an anti-chew dog spray is a simple solution to resolve this issue.
- Retractable gates are not as strong as wooden gates or metal gates and create less of a permanent divide.
- These gates are not suited to extra wide spaces.
What kind of mechanism do you want?
Along with the fitting options, you may also need to consider how the gate opens and closes. Two-way opening stair gates are the most versatile option but may not be suited to all spaces. For example, at the top of the stairs, the gate should always open towards the landing for safety. This way, if it is accidentally left open, there's no hazard of falling.
If you are purchasing a two-way opening gate, please look out for the feature ‘one way restrictor’. This feature will enable the user to put a block on which direction the gate should not be opened towards
Another option to consider are self-closing gates that shut automatically once you have walked through, ideal for children with siblings who may not always remember to close the gate. Manual closing gates have to be physically closed behind you, often featuring a slide and lift mechanism to open.
You'll also want to consider how easy the gate is to open. Of course, you don't want your little one being able to figure out how to get through but buying a gate with an overly complicated lock can become a nuisance for yourself and guests. It's therefore important to find the right balance. A double locking mechanism is a great option, as it can easily be opened with one hand by squeezing and lifting but will be difficult for your child to figure out.
What colour and material do you want?
As your safety gate will remain in your home for a couple of years, you'll no doubt want it to blend in with your décor. Stair gates and baby gates come in a wide variety of colours and materials, from metal options through to wooden safety gates, so you can choose an option that suits your home best.
How tall do you want your stair gate to be?
Regular stair gates are approximately 75cm in height while taller versions are approximately 100cm. In very simple terms, some users prefer not to have to lean down to open a baby gate and prefer the opening mechanism at approximately waist height. Extra tall gates are also recommended for families with pets, particularly large dogs that would be able to jump over a standard safety gate.
Stair gate solutions for tricky areas
Top of the stairs
Screw fit safety gates are the best option for the top of the stairs. This is because these gates don't have a base bar that could be a trip hazard.
When positioning a stair gate on a flight of stairs, the number one consideration is the fact that all pressure fitted gates will have a trip bar. While you may think being careful is the solution, an unsettled baby and a tired parent on a dark landing could pose an obvious danger. Instead, it's best to only install screw fit gates on the stairs.
Bottom of the stairs with no wall
If you're looking to install a safety gate at the bottom of your stairs with no wall, you may be considering a free-standing gate. However, we'd never recommend using free-standing gates for toddlers. This is because a toddler will naturally pull against a gate for balance or to lift themselves up, which may result in a free-standing gate falling on top of the child.
Instead, it's best to use a multi-panel configuration where there is no wall. The panels come in a variety of sizes, with no limit to the number of panels that can be used. These options can also be angled as required. The fittings can be installed with more flexibility than regular stair gates and do not require four fixing points directly opposite each other. Instead, you can move the gate and fix the panels to the closest wall or surface.
If you're dealing with an awkwardly shaped space, finding a baby gate to match can be tricky — but not impossible. There are a number of solutions available when you do not have fixing points directly opposite each other. As mentioned above, multi-panel configurations are great gates for awkward stairs thanks to their size and versatility. Another option is a flexi gate, like the BabyDan Flexi Fit Gate or Safetots Diagonal Fit Stair Gate. The fittings on these gates can be rotated 180° to be mounted diagonally, which is perfect if your walls aren't directly opposite each other.
If your space is awkward due to its size, you'll be pleased to know that you can find a gate to fit it. Along with standard sizes of around 70–85cm, wide (up to over 3 metres) and narrow (from 61cm) stair gates are also available and are designed to fit awkward spaces. Stair gate extensions can also be purchased for certain models, particularly pressure fit stair gates. These come in a variety of sizes so you can pick a combination that fits your space.
If you're living in a rented property and have rules against wall fixtures, a pressure fit baby gate is the best option for you. Unlike screw fit and retractable gates, pressure fit gates aren't screwed into the wall. Instead, they're installed using pressure, with wall cups to keep them in place without damaging your walls.
However, as previously mentioned, pressure mounted gates are only suitable for the bottom of the stairs. It's a good idea to contact your landlord and explain the reality of the U-shaped frame of a pressure fit gate and the potential dangers. If you offer to repair any damage before you move out, they may allow you to install a screw fit baby gate at the top of your stairs.
Retractable gates are great space-saving solutions and can be installed with ease in many areas of the home. Because they can be folded back into the frame, they virtually disappear once retracted. So, if space it as a premium a retractable gate is for you.
The best stair gates, as voted by our customers
Now that you know what you're looking for in a safety gate, it's time to choose the right one for you. To help you decide on the best safety gate for your baby and home, we asked our customers — real mums and dads — what they thought and put some of our most popular stair gates to the test.
All our safety gates have been tried and tested and conform to safety standards. The information below is formed from a collection of customer stair gate reviews and our own assessment and testing.
Best auto closing gate: Safetots Self Closing gate
The Safetots Self Closing gate is a good value pressure fit safety gate. It comes in three sizes, extra narrow (61cm-66.5cm), narrow (68.5cm-75cm) and standard (75cm-82cm), and will fit spaces as small as 61cm up to 161cm with extensions. These extensions are available in 7.2cm, 14.4cm, 36cm, and 79.2cm.
The Safetots Self Closing gate comes with lots of great features including a two-way opening door, an automatic close function, and one-handed operation. While the auto close mechanism is loud, it can be closed manually for a quieter shut.
The pressure mounted fitting ensures no damage to surfaces and a compatible Y spindle can be used on rounded bannisters to aid installation. After use, the adhesive wall pads will need to be removed with care.
This gate is perfect for doorways, hallways, and the bottom of stairs. However, it is built within a U frame and the bottom bar presents a risk of tripping, so this gate is not recommended at the top of the stairs.
Best tall safety gate: Bettacare Child and pet gate (extra tall)
The Bettacare Child and Pet gate is an extra tall (104cm) pressure fitted gate, giving extra security to dog owners and families with young children. This gate is best suited to hallways, doorways, and the bottom of the stairs, but can be safely installed on the second step from the top of the stairs due to the extra height. The trip bar is safely tucked in the ridge of the stairs and the additional height prevents infants from toppling over.
Available in a range of sizes, the Bettacare Child and Pet gate fits a minimum space of 75cm and a maximum of 147cm with extensions. Top features include the double locking mechanism, one handed operation, the additional height (104cm), and the ability to add extensions, available in three sizes (6.4cm, 12.9cm, 32.4cm).
The pressure fitting ensures no damage to walls or door frames and the gate can be fixed in place with steam removable adhesive wall pads. A Y spindle can also be used on bannisters to aid installation.
This gate is also extremely durable and safety tested to withstand 10kg on impact, enough to withstand frequent toddler impact with toys, baby walkers etc. If the gate is frequently slammed shut the pressure will be compromised and the gate will need regular tightening weekly to ensure pressure isn’t lost.
Best space-saving stair gate: Safetots Advanced Retractable gate
The Safetots Advanced Retractable Gate is a screw fitted gate that works on internal and external doorways, and fits narrow and wide openings from 60cm to 120cm. While slightly more expensive than other gates, top features include the advanced locking system — unlike other gates of this type, you can walk through this gate without fully retracting. The mesh is almost invisible once retracted and a green and red indicator shows whether the gate is open or closed during use.
As far as installation goes, this gate is quite easy to install with brackets at either side of the door frame. Plus, as the Advanced Retractable Gate has no trip bar, it is perfect for the top of stairs. The mechanism also locks in place when open to prevent children from playing with it.
Made from a mesh fabric, this gate is both lightweight and sturdy. While some may find that this gate doesn't feel as strong and secure as a metal or wooden gate, it has passed impact testing of EN1930:2011 standards.
The downside is that this gate can be a bit tricky to operate. There is a switch on one side of the gate linked to a timer for opening and closing which indicates red or green when in use. There is also a switch on the opposite side of the gate that slides down, enabling you to lift the gate open. Our experts noted it took a few uses before they felt comfortable with the mechanism.
Best stair gate for awkward spaces: Safetots Diagonal Fit Stair Gate
The Safetots Diagonal Fit Stair Gate is a screw fit, two-way opening gate, suitable for spaces between 67cm and 105cm where a conventional gate may not fit. This powder coated, steel gate has no trip bar and is fixed into place with screws, making it a good option for use on stairs.
Unique features include the 180° rotation of the gate fittings, which allows the gate to be mounted on the outside of door frames or where fitting points are not opposite each other. The double locking mechanism also makes this gate extra safe and secure.
The only downside of this gate is that it can be a little more difficult to install compared to other models. That being said, it should only take around 20 minutes if you follow the instructions. Extensions also aren't available for this gate.
Most versatile baby gate: Safetots Multi Panel Configuration
The Safetots Multi Panel Configuration is the most versatile screw fit safety gate. Each individual metal panel comes in black or white and is available in four sizes: 20cm, 33cm, 46cm, and 72cm. While expensive, the Multi Panel gate is incredibly versatile and fits on straight or angled walls, plus large, small, and awkward spaces. Panels can also be added or taken away to achieve the desired size.
It has multi uses as a safety gate, room divider, play pen and, thanks to its strong, heat-resistant panels, it can be used as a hearth gate. The gate also opens in both directions for maximum versatility.
Opening gate panels can be fitted anywhere within the configuration and more than one opening gate can be added. Panels should be angled at 10° increments and zig zagged to achieve maximum stability. When not in use, the panels can also be disconnected for easy storage.
The gate is straightforward to install with wall mounted brackets that can be removed with ease. The two-way opening mechanism can also be operated with one hand for total convenience.
The cons of this gate is that it is built within a U frame, which means the bottom bar can be a trip hazard. As a result, it's not recommended for the very top of the stairs.
Best for quick and easy installation: BabyDan Designer True Pressure Fit gate
The BabyDan True Designer Pressure Fit Safety Gate is made from beechwood and metal. Designed within an L shaped metal frame that makes it perfect for narrow spaces, this gate opens in both directions and can be operated using one hand.
This gate fits spaces from 69cm and up to 95.6cm with extensions — 6.5cm, 13.5cm, and 20.5cm extensions are available. Special features include the built-in safety indicator which turns white when correctly mounted or red when incorrectly mounted, making it super easy to install. The unique indicator and the double locking mechanism provide extra safety measures. Wall cups aren’t required but may be needed if the red indicator is still visible.
The BabyDan True Pressure Fit gate is best suited to the foot of a stairwell and in doorways throughout the home. However, it is not recommended for the top of stairs due to the trip bar and the L frame.
Made from a strong beechwood and metal frame, this gate is designed to withstand the test of time. The L frame may become dislodged after prolonged use, but the indicator will alert you when the pressure is lost. The extension kit will also need building as it does not come pre-assembled like other extension kits. However, this is relatively straightforward.
The advice above should help you choose the best safety gate for your home and your family. Now that you know what to look for, it's time to buy your perfect stair gate. We are the leading suppliers of a wide range of stair gates stocked from reputed manufacturers like BabyDan, Bettacare, and our own Safetots gates. All of these gates have been rigorously tested for quality and safety and are made to a superior standard.
Our useful stair gate finder tool will help you narrow down your search to the most suitable and safest stair gate for your home. If you need help with choosing the right baby gate, feel free to contact our child safety experts for advice.