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Bonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer

How to Buy a Baby Gate

A baby gate will probably be one of your most-used childproofing tools. Find out what types of gates are out there and how to choose.

Types of gates

A cinch to install, this gate works like a tension rod—just place it in a door frame or between two walls and the pressure will keep it in place. Since you don’t need any hardware to install one, a pressure-mounted gate is easy to move from one location to another. On the other hand, since it’s not drilled into the wall, it’s not totally secure. (With enough force, a child can knock it over.) Plan to use this type of gate in places where falls aren’t likely, such as between two rooms or at the bottom of the stairs (definitely not at the top of the stairs).

Like the name implies, hardware-mounted gates are anchored to the walls with screws or brackets, which means they’re extra-secure and won’t budge if knocked into. For that reason, use this type of gate in places where a dangerous fall could happen, like at the top of the stairs or where floors are uneven.

Safety considerations

Baby gates come in metal, wood and plastic. Metal ones are the sturdiest and should be your go-to choice for spots where you need extra protection (again, at the top of the stairs).

Make sure that whatever gate you choose has been certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (there should be a JPMA sticker on the package). This means the manufacturer has met the association’s voluntary safety standards.

Before you buy

Before you head to the store, measure the opening where you plan to put the gate. That way, you make sure you get the right size right off the bat and don’t have to keep going back to make exchanges.

Installation tips

Follow these tips from the JPMA:

• If you’re using a pressure-mounted gate, install the adjustment bar, or lock side, away from where baby will most often be.

• Anchor the gate securely in the doorway or stairway.

• Always close the gate when you leave the room and never leave baby unattended.

• Many new accordion-style gates are safe, but older models could pose a safety threat. Also avoid gates with horizontal slats—they’re like ladders for climbing kids.

• Always read and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions (and remind your partner to do the same).

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Photo: Martin Prescot / Getty Images