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Baby gates. They’re critical to the safety of your baby. But they can be difficult, too. It can be hard to install the right gate in the wrong place, and it can be difficult to find the right gate for a challenging place. If you’re a new parent, or have moved into a new home, you might be discovering some issues with regular baby gates.
Most of the problems people encounter with baby gates have to do with installation. How do you install them in strange situations? What do you do if you don’t want them installed full-time, or if you have restrictions as to where they can be installed? Other issues concern how the baby gates are used and maintained. Regardless, not dealing with the issues could mean that the baby gates themselves become dangerous.
Here are some of the most common problems with baby gates, as well as the best ways to manage them.
1. Your doorway or staircase is too wide or too narrow for a baby gate.
Let’s say you have a fairly small door, and you don’t know how to get a gate that will fit. Most gates are built for standard doors, but if you have an older home, or some irregular openings, you could have issues. In this situation, you can purchase a retractable door. A retractable door unrolls from one side to the other, usually with a mesh or a cloth.
There are accordion doors, too. These can be placed in very narrow doorways, but they’re often not advisable. They can have moving parts that can catch small fingers, and can be easier to climb than a mesh or cloth door.
So, what if your door is too large? You could have a very open entryway, or a large door that you need blocked off. First, you can look for extensions. Many baby doors can be extended on either side (or both sides). Just don’t try to chain extensions together, because this usually weakens the door and makes it easier for it to collapse.
What if it’s even too big for extensions? Then you might need a playpen instead. In many open concept kitchens and living rooms, it’s really not possible to use a baby gate everywhere. Instead, a playpen can be used for when your baby is in that area, and baby gates can be used in every other situation.
2. You aren’t allowed to drill holes for installation.
If you’re renting a house, you might not actually be allowed to install a baby gate. This can be a frustrating situation, because hardware-mounted gates tend to be the sturdiest. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only option, and that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options that are also good.
Consider a pressure-mounted gate. Pressure-mounted gates don’t require you to drill holes. Instead, they use tension to hold the rods in place. You will adjust them until they are tight against the walls, and they will hold themselves in place with rubber stoppers that won’t leave permanent damage.
These are easy to install and usually require no additional hardware. The downside is that they can shift over time. They should never be used in places like above stairs, because someone leaning on them could cause them to collapse. But for lighter, everyday use, they’re fine.
To install a pressure-mounted gate, make sure you follow all instructions and tighten it as much as possible. You may need to re-tighten it from time to time.
However, you might also want to talk to your landlord. Pressure-mounted gates are good, but they can’t be installed in places like above stairs. It’s safer to have hardware-mounted gates. Though they do create some holes in the walls, they’re not more significant than the holes you might have when hanging paintings, and they can easily be patched. Ask your landlord if they would be okay with you putting in hardware-mounted gates if you patch and paint them when you go.
3. Your pet keeps jumping over the baby gate.
This can be a frustrating situation. Your pet wants to be able to wander around the house, too! But there are just some areas that they shouldn’t go into, and your baby’s own areas are some of them.
If you don’t want your pet to go through the gate (such as a gate to a nursery), you should get an extra-tall baby gate. These gates are like regular baby gates in every respect, the only difference is that they’re very tall, too tall for even a cat to jump over.
You should also avoid gates that are made out of mesh or cloth, because they’re much easier for both a pet and a child to scale. Cats, in particular, will climb right up a mesh gate regardless of how tall it is.
Keep in mind that pets can “parkour” up walls; if you’ve got something next to your wall, your agile cat or dog might be able to jump from place to place very quickly. Keep everything away from the baby gates to keep the baby gates functional.
Whatever you do, don’t try to use a pet gate that has a pet door. It can be tempting if you actually do want your pets to come and go as they please, but regardless of how small the pet door looks, a baby can (and often will) try to squeeze through it. Pet gates are designed differently from baby gates. Some gates are dual purpose. But a pet-only gate has likely only been tested for pets specifically.
4. Your baby gates keep breaking.
You’ve had to replace your baby gates multiple times and you’re getting frustrated. Your gates keep falling apart. The hardware keeps failing. It’s frustrating and it’s unsafe. What do you do?
This is a common problem with cheap baby gates. It can be tempting to purchase a baby gate on sale, but not all baby gates are made equal. There’s more to a baby gate than it seems.
First, baby gates need to be able to move, and they move very frequently. Anything that has a lot of moving parts is more likely to break. And baby gates have to be secured to walls, whether it’s through hardware or through tension. Because of that, there can be a constant strain on the wall or the gate itself.
So, altogether, there are a lot of failure points for a baby gate, and you don’t want to replace them often. The answer is to get the best baby gate you can. Do research and look for gates that have good reviews. Make sure the gate feels sturdy in your hands when you’re installing it, and follow the instructions to install it correctly.
Baby gates are one of those things where it pays to get the best product the first time around, or you’ll just end up spending more replacing them in the long run.
5. You need to move your gates around.
You don’t always want your gates to become permanent fixtures to your home. But what if you want to be able to remove your gates? What if you want to move gates around, to cordon off different areas? What if you need to be flexible about the way that your home is designed?
There are special gates that are designed to be moved. First, you can try pressure mounted gates. They’re fast and easy to uninstall and reinstall. You can also try gates that can be picked up and moved easily: there are brackets that go on the walls, and the gate slides in and out.
You can even install retractable gates. Or gates that will fold from one wall to the other. It all depends on why you need to move your gates frequently. If you just need to separate certain areas, it may be better to get multiple gates. But if you need the freedom to remove the gates altogether, then something like a pressure-mounted gate may be better.
6. You don’t have any flat surfaces to attach your baby gates.
This can be a little tricky. Let’s say you have some round posts around your stairs, and you want to install a gate there. Most baby gates for stairs are designed to mount to a flat surface, so you may not be able to mount it unaltered.
But there are things that can be used to fix this. There are kits that can turn a rounded surface into a flat, mountable surface. The flat area just connects to the rounded area and gives you a place to fix the gate to.
This is used for hardware-mounted gates, not pressure-mounted gates. While you could theoretically use a pressure-mounted gate in this situation, it’s too fragile; if the gate slips at all, it’s going to slip onto the curved portion, rather than stay on the flat portion, and fall off.
But with a hardware-mounted gate, it won’t be any less sturdy. The flat mounting kit will adhere directly to the post, and the gate will adhere directly to the flat mounting kit. This can be used on stairs, but it can also be used in other areas that may have strange or uneven surfaces, such as a hallway that has decorative features along the walls.
7. You need baby gates outside.
It’s important to have baby gates around your porch. But traditional baby gates will quickly rust or become damaged. Will your baby gate stand up to high winds and rain? For the most part, a baby gate will not. They will swing open and damage themselves or injure someone, or they will rust until they fall apart. You might have seen multiple baby gates falling apart, and may be wondering if you should continue replacing it at all.
The answer is simple: Get the right gate for the job. There are baby gates specifically made for outdoor weather, they’re just a little more expensive and niche. These gates are extremely heavy duty, they can withstand wind and rain, and they won’t rust. It’s much better than forgetting about gates altogether, as babies can easily get onto a porch and then try to escape.
One thing you do need to watch out for is that the gate may last, but the hardware might not. The screws that are used to mount the hardware could rust, so you should check them. You might also see the metal or wood around the gate start to degrade, which you should get fixed as soon as possible. But when well-cared for, the baby gate will provide another line of defense.
Solving Your Issues With Your Baby Gate
Do you have a different issue with your baby gates? Do you have problems that you haven’t been able to resolve? One of the first things you should do is consult the manufacturer. The manufacturer will usually have information for you about even unconventional installations. They’ll be able to tell you of the safest way to install your gate, or advise you to get a different gate entirely.
Regardless, it’s important that you don’t just “live with” these types of issues. Living with these issues can make your baby gate unstable, which can mean that it’s worse than just not being there at all. Fix any problems you have with your baby gate as early as possible, to reduce the chances of potential danger.
Last updated on February 25th, 2021 at 11:55 am