Safety Gates

Even with a carefully baby-proofed house, sometimes it is useful and sometimes it is necessary, to keep a baby in a safe place or out of a dangerous one. Moving a Christmas tree into the house, for example, will render an otherwise perfectly safe living room hazardous. For times when a child needs more room to move than a highchair or playpen (play yard) provide, safety gates can be used to create both child-safe and child-free areas in the house. Whether your baby is learning to crawl or walk, or you are anticipating company with small children, the easiest and safest time to purchase and install safety gates is before you need them.

Safety gates are not only useful for confining or restricting children to a particular area, but for pets as well. For pet owners who want to keep dogs or other pets out of their bedroom, or confined to a kitchen or laundry room, a safety gate can serve that purpose.


It is absolutely imperative that any adult and older child in the house can open the safety gate easily in case an emergency arises. At the same time, it is necessary that the child who is being guarded can neither open the gate nor climb over it. Check the area around the gate carefully for anything that the child could use as a step to go up and over. A clever child can turn even a stuffed animal into a stepping stool.

Types of Gates

There are two basic gate mechanisms: those that work by pressure, which are removable and portable and do not mar the area where they are placed, and those that are hardware mounted to a wall or door frame. Pressure gates can be installed without tools, but must be checked every time they are put up to make sure they are securely in place. They are not safe for the top or bottom of stairways. Mounted gates swing open and closed or retract into a holder, and are secured by a variety of mechanisms.

Safety gates may be made of steel, wood, plastic, or mesh, and they may have particular applications (indoors/outdoors; stairways; halls; windows; etc.) that they are best suited for. The hardware mounted gates may have special installation kits for different materials, such as drywall/plaster; brick/concrete; newel post; wrought iron, which may render them safer than one-type-fits-all installation.

In the past, accordion style gates were used, but they are no longer recommended or manufactured: children may get pinched or otherwise caught in them. Gates with slats should follow the same standard as for cribs, i.e., no more than 2 3/8” (6.03 cm) between slats.

Some materials used for gates, such as laminated mesh, are nearly opaque, so consider the effects of having the view both in and out of the area diminished – it may be both an aesthetic and a safety issue.

Safety Standards

Voluntary standards for safety gates are set by the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) and administered by the Juvenile Products Manufacturer’s Association (JPMA). Look for the JPMA approval on any safety gate you consider purchasing.


Safety gates have been recalled due to: mountings cracking or breaking so that the gate unlatches; the locking mechanism coming undone when the gate was shaken; breakage of plastic parts resulting in a choking hazard; and other causes. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or Keeping Baby Safe web sites for details about safety gate recalls.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Stair Safety
  • Safety Gate Buying Guide
  • Childproofing the Living Room
  • Childproofing the Kitchen I
  • Playpen Safety
  • Childproofing the Home Office
  • Highchair Buying Guide
  • Baby Bath Seat Safety Tips
  • Portable Bed Rails