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Baby gates: 5 tips for choosing and installing them

Consumer Reports News: January 06, 2010 05:08 AM

With an active baby on the loose, a gate or two can make your life a little easier and your child a lot safer by keeping him away from potential dangers, such as stairs or a bustling kitchen. You can also use a gate to keep a pet away from a child and vice versa. Child safety gates are intended for children between 6 months and 24 months. All the gates we tested (see baby safety gate Ratings) can be opened and closed by an adult but have various designs to prevent children from opening them. Child safety gates come in two basic types, based on the method of installation: Hardware-mounted, or permanent, gates and pressure-mounted gates. (Learn more about safety gate types.)

Look for JPMA certified. Whether you choose a hardware- or pressure-mounted gate, look for one that's Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association certified. Situated on the frame or packaging should be a certification sticker showing that the gate meets the ASTM International voluntary safety standard, and that its manufacturer participates in the certification program administered by the JPMA.

Know the standards and check for openings. The ASTM standard addresses issues such as the bottom spacing—the distance between the bottom of the gate and the floor—so a small torso can't pass through and there's minimal risk of head and neck entrapment, gate height (not less than 22 inches), strength of top rails, slats, and framing components, latching mechanism integrity, and upper-edge configuration—any openings more than 2/3 of an inch deep can be no wider than 1 1/2 inches.

Install the gate according to the manufacturer's directions.

Pick the right type. As you can see in the video (above, right), never use a pressure-mounted gate or the pressure-mount option on a gate that can be installed either way at the top of stairs—no matter how much you want to avoid drilling holes into your woodwork. Choose a gate with a straight top edge and closely spaced, rigid vertical slats or a mesh screen.

Avoid accordion-style gates without a top filler bar (with open points at the top) and gates with horizontal slats or similarly tempting footholds. If you choose a model with mesh panels, look for a fine weave—wide-holed mesh may provide a foothold for climbing or could trap fingers. Follow the safety recommendations for installing and using gates and use our baby safety gate Ratings as a buying guideline.


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