Retractable Baby Gate Features
Some Frequent Questions
1. Can you make a custom gate wider than 72 inches?
At the present time we only offer two standard sized retractable safety gates which fit openings up to 52 and 72 inches. Some possible solutions for wider openings are below:
The best option is to connect multiple Retract-A-Gates together using straps. How this works is the handle rod of one gate connects to the rod of the reel section on the next gate (see photos below). This can be repeated with as many gates as you need to cover your opening. The benefit of this solution is that you can still easily use one hand to open or close the gates. If you decide to use this solution, make sure to always lock ALL gates connected together. This solution is only for special situations such as non-critical applications or where only a visual barrier is needed. Hooking multiple gates together with straps has not been certified for use with children. It is just a special option for non-critical applications. There are 17 inch straps (Additional Railing Guard Straps) available for purchase on the Online Store page if you decide to use this option.
This use of Retract-A-Gate is for special circumstances only.
Some customers have hooked two Retract-A-Gates together using two S-hooks in order to cover up to 104”/144”. Each retractable safety gate mounts to either side of the opening, and then the handle rods hook together in the middle with the S-hooks. One S-hook would be used in the top cutouts and one S-hook would be used in the bottom cutouts (see photos below). This solution is also for special situations such as low traffic areas, non-critical applications, or where only a visual barrier is needed. Retract-A-Gate is very easy to operate with one hand; however, when using this option, you would need two hands and the process will be slower.
The S-hook solution has not been tested or certified for use with children, it's just a special option for certain non-critical applications. If you decide to use this option to cover an opening wider than 72 inches, a set of S-hooks is available for purchase on the Online Store page.
This use of Retract-A-Gate is for special circumstances only.
The only other option to allow the safety gate to span a wider distance would be to put up a partition to close the gap and then attach Retract-A-Gate to that. You could then paint or stain the structure to match the surroundings.
2. Retract-A-Gate is "JPMA Certified" what does that mean?
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. (JPMA) is a national trade organization chartered in 1962 that is dedicated to educating consumers on the safe use and selection of juvenile products. JPMA developed an extensive Certification Program to help guide consumers toward purchasing juvenile products that are built with safety in mind.
To become JPMA Certified, Retract-A-Gate was professionally tested by an independent testing facility for compliance with the specific American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM) standards. Once a product passes the tests, JPMA allows the manufacturer to label it with the JPMA Certified Seal. Our baby gates are re-tested every year to maintain their certification. Additionally, Retract-A-Gate also exceeds the Canadian Safety Standards for baby gates.
3. Can Retract-A-Gate be used at the top or bottom of stairs?
Retract-A-Gate is certified for use at the top and bottom of the stairs, has been tested for that application, and can withstand a push out force of up to 200 pounds.
We recommend that you mount the retractable safety gate a minimum of 6 inches back from the edge of the top step; being close to an edge can create a gap. If this is a problem for you, Retract-A-Gate is very unique in that it can be installed diagonally, at any angle, which can help achieve the 6 inch requirement by angling it away from the stairs. Another option would be to block off near-by areas which still restrict access to the stairs.
For the bottom of the stairs we recommend mounting the Retract-A-Gate on the floor and not up on a step. If the safety gate was mounted up on a step, a child would have farther to fall if they stepped up and then fell backwards.
4. Will my child be able to climb over the gate?
With a mesh height of 34 inches, Retract-A-Gate is one of the tallest retractable safety gates available. When locked, the mesh is held taut, so it is difficult to push down. The Retract-A-Gate baby gate doesn’t have any large openings or places where little ones can step up onto, so climbing over the baby safety gate would be difficult.
5. Why is Retract-A-Gate better than the competitors' gates?
Retract-A-Gate is the only retractable gate which offers the best combination of safety, durability, ease-of-use, and ease-of-installation. Retract-A-Gate can truly be operated with one hand, offers an easy, smooth operation, and can be used in multiple locations using an additional set of brackets. Retract-A-Gate is also unique in that its operation is quiet; you don't need to worry about waking up your baby or just simply being annoyed by a noisy gate. The Retract-A-Gate is so easy to use, it will be the first gate you own that you won't want to climb over.
The Best Baby Gates of 2021
Baby gates are critical elements of effective childproofing, keeping your baby out of harm's way and giving you much-needed peace of mind. Unfortunately, not all baby gates are created equal: some are sturdy and versatile, whereas others are flimsy and limited.
Every year we gather and review at least a dozen baby gates. We test installation locations (doorway, hallway, stairs), sturdiness, safety, ease of installation and use, and versatility.
Here are the Best Baby Gates of 2021 (not for stairs)!
Never use a regular baby gate near a stairway! Jump to Gates for Stairs.
1. Toddleroo by North States Baby Gate.
Usually about $60. The top-rated North States Supergate was one of the best reviewed baby gates on the market, and was recently renamed the Toddleroo. The Toddleroo is a tension gate, meaning that there is no assembly required, it basically squeezes itself into your doorway. They provide wall cups that hold the tension arms in place to prevent slipping forward/back when baby pushes or pulls on the gate. The wall cups can screw into the wall, or to avoid screw holes in your wall you can use the double-sided mounting tape like we did. The tape comes in the box. It has a 2" tall threshold on the bottom, so it is NOT recommended for use at the top of stairs due to the tripping hazard. We found that the gate is very sturdy and uses a clever locking mechanism that has two settings - one that requires only lifting the gate to open it, and another that involves twisting the lock for extra security. In both cases, we found that it only takes a couple minutes of practice to perfect a one-hand opening.
The gate also swings both directions for convenience, and it swings shut very easily (but not automatically). You can lock it into the open position as well, as needed. The gate includes extensions that come with it, and in our testing, we found that it can fit doorways from about 31" to 38" wide. It measures 29" high when installed, making it easy for taller adults to step over it rather than opening it (we do this a lot!). This safety gate is also available in white or bronze, and this is the third year that this gate has appeared at the top of our best baby gates list! Who else loves the Toddleroo? It's a top pick by our friends at Babylist and Babygearlab! Impressed? You can check out the North States Baby Gate here.
2. Regalo 192-inch Super Wide Gate and Play Yard.
Usually about $90. Have a doorway wider than the usual 40-42" maximum of typical baby gates? Want to close off an entire section of the house, block the fireplace, or secure a large opening between rooms? Then the Regalo 192" super wide gate is probably the best option for you. This gate is comprised of eight independent detachable gate sections that can be put together in any configuration (like two on one side, four on the other), with the door counting as one of the eight sections. This means you can set up the gate in a doorway, between room openings, or even configure it as a large play yard by making an octogon shape. When we received the box for testing we were immediately overwhelmed by how large the gate is, how many pieces there are, and how much hardware it comes with. But we quickly realized a few cool things: first, the entire thing stands on its own like a big accordion, so you can stand it up while configuring it, and make markings on the wall (for mounting) super easily, and second, after a few minutes of reading the manual and arranging the gate around our room, we realized it was just like any other gate, but much more versatile. Another great feature is that on the top of each joint where two gate sections come together there is a tightening knob that will effectively fix the gate into your desired position.
We set it up in front of our fireplace, and then again as a play yard. For the fireplace, we used the included hardware to mount each end to the wall on both sides of the fireplace (we found studs first). It was an awesome way to make sure your baby is safe during the colder months when you might be operating your fireplace or wood stove. The door works pretty well and seems well-constructed and sturdy, though we do want to point out that it requires two hands to open. My husband figured out how to open it with one-hand, but he has pretty big hands and frankly it looked a little awkward when he did it. The door is not spring-loaded so it doesn't close on its own, and there is a step-over bar on the bottom, making it structurally rigid even when the door is open. Putting it together as a play yard involved removing some of the mounting hardware, pulling together the two sides, and sliding a connector rod down into the holes. Once we figured out how to do it, it was pretty straightforward. We love testing this super wide baby gate, and think it's an awesome way to make flexible configurations around your house, in doorways, between rooms, and more. Other than the two-handed door lock, we think it's perfect for most people and situations. Who else loves the Regalo Super Wide baby gate? Our friends at Babylist, Babygearlab, and WhatToExpect also call it a top pick! Interested? You can check out this Regalo 192-inch Super Wide Baby Gate here.
3. Summer Infant Multi-Use Deco Extra Tall Baby Gate.
Usually about $65. The top-rated Summer Infant Multiuse baby gate differs from the North States Toddleroo in two primary ways. First, the Summer Infant gate is 34" tall (36" tall at the peak) while the North States gate is only 29" tall, making it an extra tall walk-through gate. It is difficult to know whether this is a pro or con. On the plus side, parents don't need to reach down so far to open the gate, and they don't need to worry about climbing as much. On the negative side, in our testing we realized that a lot of men and taller women like to simply step over the gate sometimes, especially when their hands are full or they're in a hurry. You will be hard pressed to step over this extra tall gate, so that's a definite down-side of its tallness. Second, the Summer Infant gate swings shut (swings closed) and locks automatically, which is super helpful - no more turning around and pushing it to shut. However, this also means that it uses a stop bracket (which is reversible to change swing direction), which sometimes snags your pants leg as you pass through. Couple that with the narrow opening (about 17" wide opening), and it can be a pain sometimes.
The North States gate swings both ways for convenience, but doesn't auto-close like this one. Also, the Summer Infant gate is tension-mounted (even with the hardware kit, it's still tension-mounted) and very sensitive to the amount of tension you set during installation; if you over-tension, it will squeeze the opening too narrow and the gate won't shut; this isn't specific to this gate, however, so if you find your gate isn't closing properly always check tension first. So, there are some pros and cons for each, and you'll need to make an informed decision for your particular situation. Overall, however, you're getting one of the best gates currently on the baby market, regardless of whether you choose the Summer Infant or North States Supergate. Note that the Summer Infant Multiuse gate markets itself (on Amazon and on its own website) as good for use in doorways or at the top of bottom of stairs. They do this by allowing you to choose whether you're using a tension-fit (doorways) or mounted (stairs) option, while making sure you change gate swing direction so it doesn't open over the stairs. In our opinion, however, because the gate has a bar across the bottom that may pose a tripping hazard, we do not recommend installing it at the top of stairs. In fact, a parent emailed us and let us know that the instruction manual for the Deco actually says "to prevent falls, never use at top of stairs." In our testing, the widest doorway we could fit the gate into was 48" using the included extensions, so this definitely qualifies as one of the wider gates that could be used in larger doorways and openings between rooms. Who else recommends the Summer Infant Deco baby gate? Our friends at Babylist, Babygearlab, and WhatToExpect! Interested? You can check out this Summer Infant Baby Gate here.
4. DreamBaby Chelsea Extra Tall Baby Gate.
Usually about $90. The DreamBaby gate is very similar to the Summer Infant option above. It is a tension extra tall gate with a 2" threshold along the bottom edge, very sturdy construction, a child-proof locking mechanism, one-handed opening, swings both directions, and automatically swings shut. The opening is about 18" wide, which is a little better than the above options. This gate, if bought from Amazon, includes extensions for people with doorways larger than the typical 31", which is why it's the "extra tall and wide" version. In our tests, we could get it to fit a doorway as small as 38" wide, and as wide as about 70" (which is more like an opening between rooms than a doorway!). If your doorway is smaller (normal, like 28-32" wide), you can get the same gate but not as wide for about $50. Disadvantages? It doesn't have a hold-open feature to keep it open at 90-degrees, unlike the North States safety gate. Also, in one of our test units, the locking mechanism failed after a few months of use. The other one is still going strong without issues, so not sure what happened in the quality assurance department. As with any gate, be careful of small parts (screws, nuts) that can fall off if not tightened properly, so be sure to occasionally check the gate for loose parts. Interested? You can check out this DreamBaby Gate here.
5. Lemka Walk Thru Baby Gate.
Usually about $60. The Lemka is a new addition to this list, and we're impressed by its quality and versatility. It's a pressure mount gate which means that it cannot be mounted at the top (or bottom) of the stairs due to the bottom rail (trip hazard). Instead, it's perfect for doorways and between rooms. To accommodate a wide range of openings, this baby gate comes in a 31" width with a wide range of extension sizes that can fit openings from 31" to 47" wide (at about 30" tall). It uses telescopic screw rods to pressure mount into 4 included wall cups that can (and should) be screwed onto the wall. Without any extensions, the gate can fit a doorway between about 31" and 33" wide. The assembly instructions were a bit challenging to follow partly due to language barriers, but we've been doing this for a while so it only took about 15 minutes to install. All of the parts seem to be decent quality, including the mounting rods, hinges, and locking mechanism. There are some cool features offered with this gate. First, it's easy to reverse the swing direction so you can customize the swing to your situation. Second, it uses a hinge that allows you to open it really wide (beyond 90-degrees) and it will stay open; if you open it to a swing less than 90-degrees it auto-closes reliably. Third, the locking mechanism can be opened one-handed if you have reasonably strong thumbs and good manual dexterity - you need to push forward on the thumb latch and pull up at the same time. This two-step mechanism is pretty good at keeping curious toddlers from opening the gate. Finally, the gate is lead-free and uses non-toxic paint. Overall, we're really happy with this baby gate and think it's a great option if you're not planning on mounting it at the top of the stairs. We're unclear how it will hold up long-term, so we'll update this after about 6-12 months of continued use. Interested? You can check out the Lemka Baby Gate here.
6. Munchkin Loft Aluminum Baby Gate.
Usually about $180. No, that's not a typo - this is one of the most expensive baby gates we've ever tested! The Munchkin Loft aluminum baby gate is quickly gaining popularity this year, for parents looking for a relatively sleek and modern baby gate that doesn't make their home look cluttered or dated. Munchkin makes some great baby gates in general, but this one really takes the cake. Out of the box, the weight and sturdiness of the aluminum build are immediately apparent, and its big wide bars are sleek and modern, looking pretty dapper with their brushed aluminum finish. This is a hardware-mount baby gate without any tension-fit or bottom step-over bar. While this might make it seem appealing to use at the top or bottom of stairs, we advise against it because the door can swing both ways, including out over the stairs if it's mounted at the top of a staircase. That's a bit of a safety issue for kids who like to push and lean on a gate, and will make some attempts (hopefully unsuccessful ones!) to open the latch. Anyway, mounting this gate was actually pretty clever. We liked a few things about it. First, we appreciated how the mounting hardware was a long vertical piece with multiple screw holes, giving it a super sturdy attachment to the wall. Second, we liked how attaching the gate to the hardware involved sliding the entire gate down into the wall mount, which again made it sturdier than most other gates. Third, we loved how even once you've adjusted the width of the gate, you can fine-tune it using built-in Integrated Tuning System that lets you adjust how much the wall mount sticks out, to fill any tiny gaps during installation. Speaking of which this gate accommodates openings from 26.5" to 40" wide, and stands just under 31" tall. Opening and closing the gate is a breeze, with a clever locking mechanism that you basically grip and squeeze with one hand. No kids under 3 could get it open on their own, which was nice to see. Overall, we loved this gate and thought it was one of the sturdiest and most substantial gates on the market; and if the brushed aluminum appeals to your aesthetic, it could be an awesome option for you. While it's one of the best gates we've ever owned, we find it hard to justify the steep price tag - otherwise it would be higher on this list. The only other downfall with this gate is a relatively complicated and involved installation process that you need to make sure you get exactly right, or the gate may not lock shut properly; if you or your significant other are not particularly handy, please consider hiring a carpenter to handle the gate installation! Who else recommends a Munchkin baby gate? Our friends at Babylist and WhatToExpect! Interested? You can check out the Munchkin Loft Aluminum Baby Gate here.
7. Munchkin Easy Close Metal Baby Gate.
Usually about $50. The Munchkin Easy Close metal baby gate is well-reviewed, but not quite as well as the North States or DreamBaby models. It is also a tension gate with a 2" threshold along the bottom edge. The locking mechanism is well-reviewed as highly child-proof. The gate does not have an auto close feature, and some parents report that it can be annoyingly difficult to push closed sometimes, particularly when you only have one hand available. Even if you swing it closed forcefully, it requires you to open the latch mechanism to get it to latch shut. We also found that this particular tension-fit gate requires quite a bit of outward pressure for mounting, so it is very restricted to solid doorway frames on the sides. The Munchkin Easy Close metal gate fits doorways as narrow as 29.5" wide, and up to 35" wide when using the one included extension. If you're trying to fit a wider opening, you'll need to purchase some more extensions. Who else recommends a Munchkin baby gate? Our friends at Babylist and WhatToExpect! Interested? You can check out this Munchkin Baby Gate here.
8. Regalo Easy Step Walk-thru Baby Gate.
Usually about $35. The Regalo Easy Step baby gate is a great option, and one of the best-selling baby gates on the market. Because it is not for use near stairs, it uses pressure mounts for installation that push out against two walls. It fits openings from about 29-39" wide, and in our testing, we needed to add an extension to get it to fit one of our larger openings of about 42". Or you can just purchase the wider version that includes extensions for up to 50" applications, or the enormous and frankly quite excellent Regalo 192" super wide baby gate! That Regalo super wide gate is perfect for sectioning off an entire room or making a circular playpen. The gate uses a unique lever-locking mechanism, which we found logical to use, but some of our reviewers said they needed to use two hands to open it (to pull back and lift up simultaneously), which was a pain. Personally, my husband and I could do it with one hand after getting the hang of it. We also found the opening pretty narrow, especially for wider thighs and hips, or if you're carrying something. It's also rather short, so if your toddler is becoming a monkey this definitely won't stop them. There is a taller version of this Regalo gate, which you can check out here. Note that the gate only swings one way, it cannot be reversed. Also, when you close it, you need to latch it yourself using the same (difficult for some) locking mechanism. Overall, we thought the build quality was quite good, and when mounted correctly it felt very secure and not possible for little fingers to figure out (with older kids about 5+ able to figure out with both hands). Note that while this gate suggests it can be used at the top of stairs, we do not suggest this type of application: it has a step-over rail at the bottom of the gate, which is a tripping hazard for that type of application. Who else likes the Regalo Easy Easy Step baby gates? Our friends at Babylist, WhatToExpect, and Babygearlab! Interested? You can check out this Regalo Baby Gate here.
9. Evenflo Soft and Wide Baby Gate.
Usually about $40. The Evenflo Soft and Wide baby gate uses a different concept than all the other gates on this list. It doesn't have a door, and it doesn't swing open and shut like most other gates. Instead, it's a bit like those old wooden expansion gates our parents used when we were kids (the retractable baby gates that were really good at pinching fingers, and easy to climb on!), in that you install it and leave it. As long as it's not too high for adults to easily step over, then it usually just stays in place most of the time. Because it either needs to be removed or stepped over, it's not a good option for the bottom or top of stairs. It uses a pressure-mounting system, pushing out lateral force against the two adjacent walls. This particular baby gate is actually pretty nice; in our testing, we liked that the gate itself had nice padding and cloth over it, and that it used a sheer mesh that baby can look right through to see what's going on in the next room. It's a great basic gate that's cute, sturdy, and reliable. The installation was much easier than any gate you need to screw into a wall, as this one requires no tools or anything. You just adjust the outer knobs to the right diameter of your opening, and then secure the gate in place. There is a good installation video here, that we found really helpful for our install process. The gate adjusts narrow enough for small doorways (down to 38" wide) and wide enough for openings between rooms (up to 60" wide). It's the usual 27" tall, but that's if you mount it basically all the way down toward the floor - you can also come up a few inches from the floor and make it quite a bit taller. That makes it more difficult for kids to climb over the gate, but also makes it more difficult for you to step over as well! We know a lot of parents who use this type of baby gate in their homes, though it doesn't work very well when you're wearing a dress or skirt or if you're shorter than like 5'5"! Anyway, this is a great baby gate if you are looking for a stationary gate that's high quality, relatively easy to install, durable, and safe for your baby.
Here are the Best Baby Gates for Stairs.
The top of the stairs is a difficult and dangerous location, and there are only a few baby gates for stairs that we recommend. Here are our criteria: no step-over bar along the bottom edge (you do not want to trip at the top of your stairs!), can be attached to a variety of configurations (railing posts, banisters, walls with moldings), wide enough to fit a variety of stair configurations, doesn't automatically swing shut (so there is no risk of the gate swinging and bumping you or a baby in the back, risking a fall down the stairs), is easy to use in our hands-on testing, and well-reviewed by parents.
When picking a baby gate for use at the top or bottom of stairs, be sure to first survey your situation and figure out what surfaces you need to attach to. Are they wood, metal, or drywall? Also check the angle of installation: are attachment points directly across from each other, or will the gate need to be installed at an angle? Once you survey the situation and take measurements, you'll be better equipped to make an informed decision about which gate might work in your situation. Feeling confused? Feel free to send us a message on Facebook or email, and we'd be happy to help!
1. Toddleroo by North States Baby Gate for Stairs.
Usually about $50. The Toddleroo replaces the old North States Supergate, which was also an awesome gate for the top or bottom of stairs. The Toddleroo has a bunch of great features, including one-handed open, swing-over-stairs prevention, highly adjustable from 29" to 48" width, a good height (31" tall), durable constuction, and a gate that swings closed very easily. For testing, we purchased the gate for about $50 directly from Amazon, and installed it at the top of our basement stairway. In our home, there is no door at the top of the basement stairs leading down to the finished basement, so it's a pretty dangerous spot for curious kids. The gate uses hardware installation so we suggest having a power screwdriver (or at least a manual one), measuring tape, and level. The instruction manual was pretty clear regarding how to install, and installation only took about 20 minutes to put the gate into a 37" wide space at the top of the stairs. Once installed, the locking latch allowed for a one-handed operation, making it really easy to open - you basically grab the gate with one hand and push down on a button with your thumb. We really like this locking mechanism! The gate swings open and shut freely and easily, without any spring-loaded shut, which is ideal for the top of the stairs. We actually had a slightly off-level mounting surface that caused the gate to try to swing shut a little bit automatically, which is why we suggest using a level to make sure your wall is truly vertical (unlike ours!), and using shims under the mounting hardware as necessary. The other things that are ideal: the installation hardware prevents the gate from swinging open over your stairs, there is no bottom kick rail that you could possibly trip over, and the gate swings open really wide to really open up the stairwell when open (which great for when you're carrying something up or down the stairs). Since not all mounting services are even with one another and one side might be at a slight angle, another benefit of this gate is that the hinges can be mounted at an angle up to about 15-degrees while still being able to effectively close the latch on the other side. After a year of use, the locking mechanism and hinges all work like new, without any obvious wear and tear on any of the hardware. We're impressed with the simplicity, safety, and style of this baby gate and think it's the perfect baby gate for the top or bottom of your stairs! Who else loves the Toddleroo stair gate? Our friends at WhatToExpect, Babylist, and Babygearlab call it a top pick! Impressed? You can check out the Toddleroo here!
2. Evenflo Easy Walk Thru Top of Stairs Gate.
Usually about $50. This is the second year the new Evenflo Easy Walk Thru gate appears on our list of best baby gates, and it's here for some really great reasons! The gate stands about 30" tall, which means that if you mount it 2-3" off the floor, it will stand about 32-33" high. It has no bottom rail, so is intended for use at the top of stairs, though we were also able to get it working very nicely in regular doorways as well. It expands to fit openings from about 29" to 42" wide, but is not as versatile as the Toddleroo in terms of the angles it can accomplish or types of surfaces it can mount to. It uses two screw-mounts on each side to mount to most surfaces, including wood and drywall (assuming a corner with a stud behind it, or the use of heavy duty anchors). It can be mounted in either direction (left or right-handed opening), as the gate can swing either way. It includes a removable swing-stop bar that can be attached to prevent the gate from swinging out over the steps. We thought the lock release handle was pretty easy to use, and after a few tries can be opened with one adult hand, while still being too difficult for even our sneaky 3-year-old to figure out. Speaking of the lock, there is a handy red/green indicator to tell you whether the gate is securely locked, which is reassuring. Note that if you have an opening wider than 42", there are no extensions available that we are aware of, so we suggest going with the Toddleroo. After 6 months of use, the gate shows consistently great performance, without any signs of malfunction coming any time soon. We do suggest that once you have the gate mounted in your preferred position, that you use something like a zip-tie or a bolt/nut to tighten the gate into your preferred width. This is because the width of the gate can actually be pushed and pulled when the gate is open, and this gets more possible over time. With a little zip tie to secure the two gate pieces together, the problem is solved forever. You can also go wild and drill a hole through both pieces and attach them to each other using a bolt and nut, but it seems like overkill! Overall, an excellent and easy to use baby gate with some great features! Interested? You can check out this Evenflo Baby Gate here.
3. Summer Infant Deluxe Stairway Simple to Secure Wood Gate.
Usually about $60. This is a great bang-for-the-buck baby gate that has some great build quality, safety, and usability. We were really impressed by what Summer Infant has squeezed into this inexpensive baby gate that's designed for the top or bottom of stairs. Out of the box, it had a nice classic wooden style that reminded us of older gates, but this one definitely has much better modern features. Assembly and installation was just as involved as the other stair gate options given that you need to attach everything to the side walls and make sure that you have a good anchoring there (i.e., either to a stud in the wall, or using super strong anchors - preferably not the little ones provided with the gate). We were able to install it in our rather wide (44") hallway at the top of our stairs without any issues. One side was attached to the top bannister post of the stairs (a 3" x 3" wood post), and the other side to the wall that happens to have a stud in it. If you're not comfortable screwing the gate into your wooden bannister, then you can buy a separate installation kit that basically uses straps to attach that side to the bannister so you don't need to put holes in the wood. While we got it into a wide 44" opening, it can go even wider - up to 48" wide, according to the manufacturer (or as narrow as a 30" span). So that's pretty wide, especially for a relatively inexpensive gate. The gate itself is 32" tall, and it gets mounted about 1" above the floor, making it about 33" tall in total. which is about average for a baby gate. While we mounted the gate at the top of the stairs, it could theoretically be mounted in doorways or anywhere else, since the upper and lower unidirectional swing-stoppers are removable. Those are important safety features when used by the stairs, but not necessary when used anywhere else. We liked the one-handed operation, the strong and sturdy construction and hook-latch closure. We didn't like that you can't just swing it shut, the wood was a lighter color than in the photos, the wall mounting kit is pretty confusing and imperfect, and it doesn't include the kit for attaching to your bannister without screwing into it. But then again, it's only $40 so maybe those concerns aren't that major! Interested? You can check out this Summer Infant Deluxe Baby Gate here.
4. Cardinal Gates Stairway Angle Baby Gate for Stairs.
Usually about $70. This Cardinal baby gate comes in white (pictured), brown, black, and wood. It uses a really unique locking mechanism that none of our testing kiddos could figure out, which is a good thing! The best part is that it took about 5 tries for adults to master it, and once they did it was easily unlocked with one hand. The secret is to push down on both latch tabs while pulling up on the gate. That type of manual dexterity won't be found in a sneaky toddler trying to thwart your every attempt at keeping them safe! It meets all of the criteria we mentioned above: no step-over bar along the bottom edge, it can be attached to railing posts and/or walls, and is very well-reviewed. It doesn't swing shut automatically behind you, though it does close automatically if you give it a forceful swing shut. What's most unique about this gate is that it can be mounted in all sorts of awkward mounting situations and angles. It can accommodate up to a 30-degree angle for those imperfect stairway scenarios, making it a great option for unique angles between railings and adjacent walls. Notice how the pictured is mounted at an angle, that's a great capability that can fit basically all sorts of wall and railing layouts. A lot of parents message us asking what type of gate to get when they don't want to drill into wooden banisters at the top or bottom of their stairs, and this is the one we suggest. The reason is that it comes with straps that can be used for mounting instead of screwing holes into the wood. It does have a stop-bracket to prevent swinging out over the stairs, but this is optional if you decide not to install it (which we don't recommend!). The width adjusts from 27" to 41.5" wide, and it is just under 30" tall. In our testing, we found the Cardinal gates installation a little complicated, but we do note that there is a great video here (see the 5th image) that shows a step-by-step installation. Very helpful for those who aren't super handy, and the Cardinal Gates Stairway models are some of the best baby gates of the year! Interested? You can check out this Cardinal Baby Gate here.
5. Kidco Safeway Baby Gate for Stairs.
Usually about $50. The KidCo gates used to be really well-rated and widely available, but that's becoming less and less the case over the past couple years. The Safeway baby gate is definitely one of the best gates all-around for the top of the stairs, but it's increasingly hard to find. The Kidco Safeway gate meets a lot of the criteria we mentioned above: no step-over bar along the bottom edge, can be attached to railing posts and/or walls, and is well-reviewed. It also has a one-handed operation, doesn't automatically swing shut, and in our testing we found it sturdy and reliable. It also prevents swinging out over the stairs with a one-direction swing/hinge mechanism. You can easily reverse this for your specific stairway configuration. Obviously, at the bottom of the stairs it can only swing one way to begin with. It is also available in black or white, to suit different styles. In our testing, we found that the provided screws were a bit too short and may not have a strong enough hold. In the end, we purchased different screws, though we do think it probably would have been completely fine with the existing screws. For people who don't mind drilling/screwing into their railings, this gate is an excellent option. We configured the Kidco Safeway gate for openings from 28" to 43.5" wide, and even got it to work really well on an oddly-angled wall by using the included hinge mounts. We love the locking mechanism, which is basically identical to the Toddleroo gate, involving gripping the gate with one hand and using your thumb to push down on a little lever. Super easy, and it swings open freely and nice and wide, and swings closed easily with a gentle push. Interested? You can check out this Kidco Baby Gate here.
6. Regalo 2-in-1 Stairway and Hallway Wall Mounted Baby Gate
The Regalo top-of-stairs baby gate fits all of our criteria, and has several other great features. First, this is one of the only gates on the market that attaches without having to drill holes or install screws into your railing posts. It uses Velcro straps, so it was very easy to install. Second, it can be opened and closed with one hand, and does not automatically swing shut (so you can leave it open during naps, or when everyone is downstairs already). Third, the railing comes with hardware so that you can attach it to two railings (one on each side), two walls (one on each side), or a wall on one side and railing on the other. Finally, the gate is well-reviewed for being sturdy, reliable, difficult for little kid hands to open, and long-lasting. The gate also swings both directions for convenience, though some may not like it swinging out over the stairs. People report using it on openings from 26" to 42" wide. A few limitations though. First, one of our testing babies figured out how to rip open the velcro and basically remove the entire gate from the railing! So that was scary. Also, there have been some recent reports about lower quality craftsmanship, like some flaking paint, failed welding points, etc. Note that our unit didn't have any of these issues, but just keep that in mind.
How We Pick Baby Gates
Once your baby starts crawling and pulling up on furniture and toys, you will realize just how dangerous your house is! Stairways, fireplaces, exterior doors, glass furniture, fragile decorations. You name it, your baby will soon find it! To prevent your baby from getting hurt or gaining access to a certain area, most parents install baby gates at various places around the house. For instance, at the top and bottom of stairs, blocking a fireplace, or in the middle of a room as a little baby corral. Parents also use them to secure play areas, like a play-room, without having to close the door. Baby gates are also great for keeping that curious, jealous, or toy-gobbling dog away from a newborn! Not surprisingly, there are different gates that are better or worse suited for each of these uses.
There are a lot of considerations when choosing a baby gate. Here are some of the more important ones:
Where you plan to put the gate matters! Simple swing-open gates are great for doorways and at the top and bottom of stairs. But the ones that are tension-fit require walls on each side to support the outward pressure mounts; do not attempt to install these tension-fit gates in situations where one side is a wall and the other side is a railing post (like at the top or bottom of stairs). The outward pressure mounts will push the railings to the side and eventually give you a wobbly railing. The outward pressure mount gates are easy to install, but simply not safe near stairs. Also, do not install a gate at the top of the stairs if it has a bottom (step-over) rail - this is a serious tripping hazard, and should always be avoided. Because of these different uses of baby gates, we categorize gates by their primary uses: ordinary/doorways, versus top-of-stairs (sometimes called a banister gate). If you ever plan on using the gate near the stairs, then check out something like the Kidco Safeway gate, which is fantastic and can also be used in doorways if needed. The other option is to seal off an entire area (like a baby corral), or seal off a room with a very large entranceway; in either case, something like the North States Metal Superyard gates would work really well.
The gate needs to be sturdy! Babies will amaze you with their ability to foil all your best attempts to keep them safe. They will try to pull the gate, push the gate, climb the gate, lean on the gate, or bite the gate! All of the gates recommended below are rated as the best in terms of sturdiness, to help you keep your sanity when you can't have your eyes on baby 100% of the time. And if you're using a baby walker (see our best baby walkers here), you'll want to be extra careful!
The locking mechanism needs to be child-proof! This seems obvious, but there are a lot of gates on the market with locks that babies figure out before their second birthday. Avoid gates with a simple button lock, or a simple lift-open mechanism. Your baby may not figure out how to open the gate now but give him or her another year and you'll be kicking yourself for not buying a gate with a better, relatively child-proof lock. All of the gates recommended below have well-reviewed locking mechanisms that are reliable, easy for parents to use, and difficult for babies to figure out (or physically grasp).
Little fingers pinch very easily! We don't recommend any of the wooden retractable gates, wooden expanding gates, or the gates with the pressure locking bars. These increase the risk of finger pinching, and in some cases lacerations, and should be avoided. But if you have a pet-only home and you're trying to keep your dog in certain areas, they're quite good for that purpose!
You want to open the gate with one hand! Carrying the baby? A laundry basket? Groceries? Talking on the phone? The last thing you'll want to do is put something down because both hands are required to open the gate's locking and swing mechanism. All of the gates recommended below have well-reviewed locking mechanisms that can be opened with one hand. It's a complicated trade-off between making it difficult for a baby to open, while keeping it easy enough for an adult to open with one hand. This usually means the locking mechanism will require larger hands to grip and pinch/rotate/slide. As a result, some adults with smaller or weaker hands (like older relatives) tend to have some difficulty with modern gate locks.
Make sure your doorway isn't too wide! Some baby gates come with extensions to accommodate larger doorways, but other gates do not. Keep in mind, if your door opening is greater than 31" wide, then you will likely need at least one extension. In our recommendations, we provide specifications regarding door widths and when available, links to extension kits that fit the application.
Tags: nursery , safety , best baby gates , best of 2021
Carlson Tuffy Expandable Pet and Baby Gate Pressure Mount
Pressure mounts and locks with the patented Easy Fit Locking System, The metal frame is strong, This all-metal expandable is the first of it’s kind. sturdy, no tools required, Product Description The Carlson Tuffy is an amazingly versatile expandable pet gate with patented small, Plastic gate is easy to step over. Carlson Tuffy Expandable Pet and Baby Gate, Buy Carlson Tuffy Expandable Pet and Baby Gate. Perfect for puppies, Expanding 2-42-inch wide and stands a convenient 24-inch tall, Great for use with pets and kids. This gate is adjustable from 26 to 42 inches wide and stands 24 inches tall. Designed with small pet door to allows for small pet to pass through. Quick and easy set up, small and medium sized breeds, Slate size is 1, Box Contains Pet Gate, The lightweight compact design is great for travel and storage. Pressure Mount: Pet Supplies, Pressure Mount at UK, Free delivery and returns on eligible orders. 75-inch wide, takes literally seconds, Super easy to install, Soft rubber bumpers are gentle on walls and keeps them scuff free, Pressure mount design that is easy and soft on walls. and durable making this gate extra secure and superior to plastic.
Carlson Tuffy Expandable Pet and Baby Gate Pressure Mount
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Carlson Tuffy Expandable Pet and Baby Gate Pressure Mount
Carlson Tuffy Expandable Pet and Baby Gate Pressure Mount
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We’ve updated this guide with long term testing notes on our top pick and otherwise confirmed that all our picks remain dependable and available.
June 30, 2021
After talking to four childproofing professionals and then installing and testing 20 baby gates, we have determined that the best one for most situations is the Cardinal Gates SS-30 Stairway Special. (And it's the best for dogs as well.) We have additional suggestions for wide openings, retractable gates, and freestanding enclosures—but we don’t recommend pressure-fit gates, a popular option that is less secure than our picks, not much easier to install, and actually likely to do more damage to your walls.
The Stairway Special by Cardinal Gates is the only one we tested with an all-metal build, including the latch, making it a very durable gate, one that could even hold the weight of a 180-pound person without having it flex (like the plastic gates did). The latch mechanism is simple for an adult to use, yet confounding to a toddler, and the gate can be easily opened midstride. It can also be set up at an odd angle (unlike the majority of its competitors, which install only perpendicular to a wall), making it a more versatile choice. The Stairway Special is also among the easiest gates to install, needing just four screws and taking less than 20 minutes to complete. Last, it has a swing stop, so the gate can be prohibited from swinging out over a set of stairs.
If our main pick is not available, we also like the North States Easy Swing & Lock Gate. It’s less expensive than our main pick, but it has a plastic latch, so it lacks the strength of the all-metal locking system. It also can’t be set up at an angle, so it will work only in doorways or other areas where it can be mounted perpendicular to the wall. But it’s a snap to install, easier than some to open and shut quietly, and far more secure than comparably priced competitors, including pressure-fit gates.
For a tight space without room for a swinging gate, or if you just prefer a discreet look, we like the Retract-A-Gate by Smart Retract. It’s a piece of mesh fabric that unspools across an opening and hooks on the other side. We looked at three retractable gates, and the Retract-A-Gate stood out for its simpler handle. It was also the easiest to hook in the closed position, and the sheet never got bunched up during testing. The downsides are that it has a multistep lock that can be tedious, and it’s also expensive.
If you have to gate off a wide opening up to 6 feet, the North States Deluxe Decor Gate will serve you well. It’s like a small fence with a doorway in the middle. We tested three wide-opening models, and the Deluxe Decor really impressed us—it has a large door, plus a latch that's secure yet easy for parents to use.
North States Metal Superyard
To enclose an area
For closing off a larger area like a fireplace hearth, the six-panel North States Metal Superyard offers a nice latch and an easy installation. It can also be configured into a small stand-alone play yard.
For keeping kids from touching wood stoves, fireplaces, AV cabinets, or other dangerous or sensitive areas, we like the North States Metal Superyard. It’s a six-panel adjustable fence, complete with a door panel. The ends can be secured to a wall, or to one another to make a small play yard. The Superyard distinguished itself with a nicer latch and simpler installation than the competition.
Everything we recommend
North States Metal Superyard
To enclose an area
For closing off a larger area like a fireplace hearth, the six-panel North States Metal Superyard offers a nice latch and an easy installation. It can also be configured into a small stand-alone play yard.
Why you should trust us
In researching baby gates, we found no credible reviews that covered more than one or two gates at time. So to learn more about the ins and outs of baby gates, we turned to the people who install them every day—experts in babyproofing. I spoke with four from different areas of the country: Ryan Schecter of Atlanta’s Safe Nest Babyproofing; Louie Delaware, then of Colorado Childproofers and author of How to Childproof Your Home; Neal Onos of Safe Beginnings Childproofing, servicing the Boston area; and Tom Treanor of All Star Baby Safety in New York. In addition, we corresponded with Kelly Voelker, director of public relations at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, an advocacy group for manufacturers.
As for myself, I have shepherded four kids through the baby gate phase. Since the first came along, I’ve lived in three different houses, each with its own specific baby gate needs. Over the past twelve years, I’ve installed close to 10 baby gates in my own homes. I also spent 10 years in construction as a carpenter, foreman, and jobsite supervisor, so I have an understanding of materials and hardware that helped me assess which gates are built to withstand constant abuse and which ones aren’t.
How we picked and tested
After researching the topic and talking to our experts, we looked for gates that had certain characteristics.
JPMA certification: We only looked at gates certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. This organization independently tests child products to confirm that they adhere to the standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials, an international organization that develops technical standards for both products and materials. Ryan Schecter of Safe Nest Babyproofing told us, “All of the gates I use must meet or exceed the voluntary standard set by the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association.” Like Schecter said, JPMA certification is entirely voluntary, but we found that all of the major manufacturers of baby gates are in compliance. While it’s possible for a non-JPMA–approved gate to be completely safe, we felt that with all of the major manufacturers represented, there was no compelling reason to go outside of the certification for a recommendation. We also found that companies that have not undergone JPMA certification tend to be those that don’t specialize in child safety, and in recent years there have been three recalls of non-JPMA approved baby gates (one from Madison Mill and two sold by IKEA).
Hardware-mounted: Because security and stability are the top concerns with any baby gate, we feel a successful one must be hardware-mounted, meaning it is attached to the wall with screws into wood (whether a wood door jamb, a newel post, or a stud behind drywall). The most popular alternative is a pressure-fit gate, which is held in place through pressure against the wall. But after testing five of them, we’re certain that they have too many drawbacks to recommend. We have more information on this below.
But not all hardware-mounted gates are safe. In a blog post on his site, Schecter explains, “Never use an accordion-style gate or one with V-shaped or diamond-shaped openings. There have been several recalls on this style of gate due to the risk of a baby getting their head entrapped in these openings. In addition, older children have been able to use these openings as a foot- or handhold to climb up and over the gate.”
One-handed operation: This is not only a convenience issue, but also a safety one as parents will often have a baby in their arms. We found that there are enough good one-handed gates to not have to bother with needlessly difficult two-handed models.
Versatility: Many gates are limited in their setup and can only be used if the hinge hardware and the latch hardware are directly across from one another (putting the gate perfectly perpendicular to the walls). This setup will work in many cases, like in an existing doorway, but for a hallway or the top of stairs, “it’s rare that wall studs are located perfectly across from each other,” Schecter told us. “Gates that mount on angles are much more practical.” Delaware, the professional babyproofer from Colorado, agreed: “For hinged gates, I only use ones that can be mounted at an angle as studs or posts are not always across an opening.” Professional childproofers also prefer angle mount gates because they offer the most mounting options, which is a big plus if you’re unfamiliar with the home or if the gate just doesn’t work in the originally planned location.
Easy setup with clear instructions: No one wants to spend an entire day deciphering instructions to set up baby gates. In our testing, some gates took as little as 15 minutes to install while others cost us nearly an hour. We preferred gates that use the fewest screws (while still remaining secure, of course). Gates are a short-term installation, and the less wall patching and painting when they’re removed, the better.
Average height: For the most part, we kept our search to standard-height gates of about 28 to 32 inches tall. Some models are sold as “extra tall,” and those reach a range of 36 to 38 inches. “If a child is old enough or strong enough to climb over a standard-height gate, then I’m not sure a few more inches will make much of a difference,” Schecter told us. Delaware said something similar: “Once a child can climb over a 30-inch gate, it won’t take long for them to figure out how to get over one that is 36 inches.” The bigger issue, he said, is that another 6 inches will hurt when the child falls onto the floor. Schecter pointed out that added height also adds weight to the gate, which can mean the need for more or larger screws to attach it securely to the walls and ultimately make the gate harder to open one-handed.
Good value: We found that the majority of swinging hardware-mounted gates cost between $40 and $100, with a few outliers on each side. Retractable gates are more expensive, starting around $60 and cresting at almost $200. We focused our search on the average-priced, mainstream models.
We tested the gates’ stability by repeatedly opening and closing them, pressing against them, sitting on them, banging into them, and grabbing on to each one and simply throttling it.
Focusing our attention on these characteristics and features, we searched retailer and manufacturer websites and selected 20 gates to test. This included the few gates that can be set up at an angle and a variety of gates that can be set up only perpendicular to a wall. We tested retractable gates, wide-opening gates, and multipanel enclosure gates that can shield off a dangerous area or convert to a free-standing play yard. We also tested five pressure-mounted gates.
To test the gates, we used stock lumber to frame out two 32-inch doorways—a standard size—and installed each gate across our mock thresholds. Then we tested the gates’ stability by repeatedly opening and closing them, pressing against them, sitting on them, banging into them, and grabbing on to each one and simply throttling it. We also opened them delicately (and quietly) and after that quickly (and loudly). We tested our finalists by installing them in a few real-world doorways at home to see how they held up over a couple of weeks of routine use. Finally, we had three kids, ages 3, 5, and 8, go to work on the installed gates, by pushing, pulling, locking, unlocking, and generally abusing them.
Our pick: Cardinal Gates SS-30 Stairway Special
Of all the gates we tested, the Cardinal Gates SS-30 Stairway Special offers the best combination of stability, durability, and versatility. Out of the box, the setup is faster and easier than most competitors, taking less than 20 minutes. This gate also has the rare ability to be installed at an angle, so it can accommodate odd situations where the gate isn’t perfectly perpendicular to the walls. Once installed, it has a simple latch that’s easy for adults to undo, but confounding to anyone under 2 years old. It is the only tested gate with a 100 percent metal locking system and, properly installed, the gate had no problems supporting 180 pounds of weight (me, sitting on it) without any flex. No matter how much we throttled, kicked, and rattled it, the gate didn’t budge, while other gates, with plastic hinges and latches, strained under weight, and even came loose with a few aggressive pulls. Usually sold for around $70, the Stairway Special is one of the more expensive models we tested, but we feel the value you get is worth the investment, particularly knowing what’s at stake when you’ve got a 1-year-old standing at the top of a set of stairs. This gate fits openings 27 to 42½ inches and is available in white and black.
Like the majority of baby gate locks, the lock here is built around two opposing motions. In this case, you press down on two little metal tabs that unhook the gate from the latch, then the gate can be lifted in order to open it. The metal tabs sit loose on the gate and fall into place through gravity, so with this simplicity, we saw little room for any kind of mechanical failure.
Once engaged, only the two-part process will open the lock. Our testing showed no way for the gate to be battered or shaken open. On numerous occasions, we stood and aggressively shook the gate back and forth, side to side, and up and down, and it never released or showed any signs of weakening. Many of the plastic latches on other gates also survived this treatment, but we could see how parts could wear or break over time (one of them, we were able to wrench open with a few rough pulls). No other gates we tested gave us the long-term sense of security that the Stairway Special did.
The lock is not only secure, but also a snap to use. Once we got used to it (we had to get used to all of the gate locks), we found it to be an easy one-handed motion, and we could do it quickly as we approached the gate, almost without breaking stride. We also liked that the process includes lifting up the gate. This wasn’t the case with all of the latch systems, and we found that we had more confidence in the ones that had it, given the strength it takes to lift the gate.
Our main pick was among the easiest gates to install, with a setup time of 15 to 20 minutes (here’s a video tutorial). The instructions fit on a single page and are clear, which is in stark contrast to the hieroglyphics supplied with other gates, some of which took more than an hour to install. Along the edge of the instruction sheet is a printed ruler that has the only measurement needed to get the gate in. A lot of the other gates came with cut-out templates that were essential, but a bit of a pain to deal with.
We also liked that the Stairway Special uses only four screws. Not only does this make for a quick installation, but when the gate is no longer needed there is also minimal patching to do—in most cases, just a few fingertips of joint compound and a little touch-up paint. No other gate used fewer screws; most needed more, often many more (one gate required 10).
Our pick has the rare ability to be installed at odd angles, while many competitors can only install at 90-degree angles, perpendicular to the walls. Most manufacturers recommend that the gates be screwed directly into wood, whether it’s a door jamb or the studs behind drywall. (Some, though, supply drywall anchors with their gates, but due to our own experiences with the long-term stability of drywall anchors, particularly those under constant strain, our recommendation is to always mount your gate into wood). If a gate is being installed in a doorway, a 90-degree angle is easy because both wood sides are directly across from each other. At the top of a set of stairs or in a hallway, though, there is no guarantee that studs or woodwork are going to line up across from one another. Because of how its hinge and lock work, the Stairway Special can be safely installed even if it skews up to 30 degrees. This image, from babyproofing company Baby Safe Homes, shows the gate (with an extension) set up at an angle—there is no other way to install a gate in this location.
This gate can be used in any opening measuring 27 inches to 42½ inches wide. If you have a wider than normal opening, additional gate pieces can be added to make it compatible with up to a 64-inch space (a 10½-inch extension and a 21¾-inch extension are available). We didn’t test out the extensions, but just be aware that 64 inches is a lot of gate and would require a good bit of swing room. Like most of the gates we tested, the Stairway Special has a removable swing stop that can prohibit the gate from swinging out over a set of stairs for safety reasons.
Two of the experts we spoke with specifically recommended this gate. “It’s far from perfect, but it’s the best I’ve found,” Schecter told us. Tom Treanor also likes what Cardinal Gates has to offer and specifically called out the SS-30 as one he uses often. Wirecutter senior editor Erica Ogg used the Stairway Special for several years and found it sturdy and easy to open and close: “It’s been great! I’ve never had any problem with it,” says Ogg, who ended up buying another one for a different part of her home.
The SS-30 is available in both a white and black finish. There is also an outdoor version of the SS-30 (SS-30OD) that can be used on a deck. The only difference is that the hardware is stainless steel.
The SS-30 carries a one-year warranty. The Cardinal Gates website also offers a wide selection of parts, should a piece ever be lost.
In October 2016, the SS-30 was recalled in Canada due to a chemical in the black paint and the potential for a choking hazard presented by the plastic endcaps used in the gate frame. In response to questions from readers after this guide was published, we spoke to a representative at Cardinal and they informed us that the SS-30 is now in compliance with Canadian safety standards. To remedy the situation, they changed the composition of the black paint and redesigned the plastic endcaps. It’s worth noting that the gates were always in compliance with US safety standards, even before the recall. Additionally, the Canadian recall points out that there were never any reports of incident or injury concerning the SS-30.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
This gate has several drawbacks, but none of them offset its secure locking mechanism and its overall strength and durability.
While many gates are made of stained wood or have sophisticated finishes, the SS-30 is available in either bright white or pitch black. As mentioned above, this is a sturdy gate, but it is not compatible with any extensions. Also, by virtue of being made entirely of metal, the SS-30 will have greater durability.
Another downside is that the all-metal latch and hinge is noisier than latches on gates with plastic locks. With a little practice, we could lock and unlock it without much sound, but a quiet unlock takes a more delicate touch than with the other gates we tested, which all have plastic latches and are naturally quieter. Also, if someone were to rattle the locked Cardinal, you get the clanking metal-on-metal sound, rather than plastic on plastic. It’s something to keep in mind with young kids sleeping nearby.
The SS-30 also lacks any kind of auto-latch mechanism, so you have to manually lock it each time you pass through. Auto-lock gates are convenient—just give them a firm push and they re-latch on their own—but we found that the latch and the gate need to be perfectly lined up for this to be a flawless action. In our testing, we found that if things were even slightly off, an auto-lock gate would only half latch or wouldn’t latch at all. On the bright side, the need to manually close it naturally lets you check that it’s fully secured each time. Obviously, at the top of a set of stairs this security is crucially important. Cardinal Gates offers an auto-lock gate, and we have more information on that in the competition section.
Very large baseboards pose a slight problem with installation. The design of our main pick allows it to be easily installed on a wall with a baseboard measuring less than about 5½ inches tall.1 If the baseboard is taller than that, the upper screws of the hinge bracket screws need to be padded out from the wall with a block of wood in order for everything to line up. It’s rare to see baseboards that tall in new American homes, and adding a block is not a terribly difficult task, but if you’re uncomfortable with basic carpentry, it’s an obstacle to consider.
Finally, as far as cost, the Stairway Special is heading toward the upper price range of hardware-mounted gates. If you’re purchasing more than one, the dollars will add up quickly, but we feel this is a worthy investment because it’s so safe and so well made. Such a durable model should have no issue lasting through multiple children over the course of many years. Again, we don’t feel that “top of stair” security is worth sacrificing for a few dollars.
Runner-up: North States Easy Swing & Lock Gate
If our main pick is not available, your budget is limited, or you simply don’t need the most secure option, we also like the North States Easy Swing & Lock Gate. At around $40, it costs much less than the Cardinal SS-30, but it doesn’t have the durability of the all-metal build or the ability to be mounted at an angle. What it does offer is a fairly simple setup and a design that can handle a baseboard of any height without any additional work. The Easy Swing & Lock also has an auto-lock feature, so it can re-latch with a solid push, rather than only by manually setting the gate in place, like with our Cardinal Gates pick. We feel this is a fine option for separating two rooms, but we strongly recommend the Stairway Special for the top of stairs, due to the added stability. The Easy Swing & Lock can fit an opening between 28.68 inches and 47.85 inches and is available in matte bronze.
The installation on this one took us about 20 minutes, so it’s in the same ballpark as our main pick. It requires eight screws, so in the end there will be more wall patching than with the Stairway Special. It also uses a fiddly template to place the screw holes, which is a little tedious.
Once installed, the gate feels secure, and the two-part latch is easy for an adult. When a thumb lever is pressed, the gate can be lifted up and out of a little holder piece. The gate is re-latched with a firm push. There is no need to lift it back in place, like with the Cardinal Gates pick. As we said above, this may sound like a convenient feature, but we don’t recommend relying on it, especially if you decide to mount the gate at the top of the stairs. In our testing, we found that if the gate is even a little misaligned, it doesn’t properly re-latch. We prefer manually closing the gate each time because it allows us to give it a little shake to check that it’s properly closed.
We didn’t have any issues with the strength of this gate, although the plastic hinges and latch did show some flex when we really leaned into it. The lock is firm, but the majority of it is plastic, and we felt much more confident in the all-metal Stairway Special.
The downside of this runner-up, other than the durability when compared with our top pick, is that it cannot be set up at an angle. This means that to install it, you must be certain that there is wood to screw into directly across the opening. In a doorway, this shouldn’t be an issue, but for more complicated stairway setups, this may be a problem (one that our pick nicely solves).
Best retractable gate: Retract-A-Gate
Retractable gates are hardware-mounted screens that use a sheet of mesh fabric pulled across an opening and hooked to the other side instead of a swinging metal door. We don’t think they’re a great fit for most people due to their expense and two-handed operation, but there are enough situations in which a retractable gate is a good option for us to make a recommendation. The plus side of retractables is that they're discreet and can be used in tight areas like an entryway or in an old house with tight hallways, where a swinging gate would simply get in the way. They are also a good choice for a relative who might want a gate for young kids’ visits, but doesn't want to deal with it all the time.
Of the three retractable gates we tested, we prefer the Retract-A-Gate. Like the Cardinal Gates pick, it can be set up at an angle. It is also the easiest to pull and unspool. Other models would get hung up a little or they wouldn’t fully retract when we wanted them to. The Retract-A-Gate also has the most forgiving latch system among its competitors. Its two hooks catch the bar at the leading edge of the fabric mesh, and the hooks are large, so it’s easy to get them to catch. Other models require a more precise lining up of the parts in order to hook on. With those, if the latch side is even a little bit off, it’s hard to get the parts to connect. The Retract-A-Gate can fit an opening up to 52 inches wide. A larger model is available that can reach 72 inches.
The handle on the Retract-A-Gate sheet, which is really just a cut-out in the mesh, is easy to grab and pull, regardless of which side of the gate you’re standing on. The two other retractable gates we tested had designated handles that only protruded on one side of the sheet and were awkward to hold from the other side.
The locking mechanism on the Retract-A-Gate is functional, but it's fussy when compared with the simplicity of the more traditional Cardinal or North States gates. To use the gate, a locking dial on the spool side needs to be turned to unlock, then the mesh sheet can be pulled out of the spool and hooked on the other side of the opening. Once it’s attached, the locking dial needs to be turned again to the lock position. This can all be done with one hand, but it’s time-consuming and it is quicker with two. As the childproofing professional Onos told us, “They’re not necessarily easy to use.”
One negative of the Retract-A-Gate is that the mesh can be pulled across the opening and attached to the other side while the dial remains unlocked. In this situation, the gate looks secure, but any pressure on the mesh will cause it to further unspool. Parents are likely to program themselves to lock the gate after each use (Wirecutter employees who use the Retract-A-Gate confirm this), but we have concerns about siblings or those unfamiliar with the gate, like a babysitter.
Another drawback is that the Retract-A-Gate comes at a very high price. At the time of our research, it cost about $120, roughly $50 more than our main pick, which is already on the expensive side for a swinging hardware-mounted gate.
Colorado Childproofers’s Louie Delaware told us that he limits the length of retractable gates to about 54 inches. A larger model reaches to 72 inches (as opposed to our pick's 52-inch span), and based on Delaware's input we didn't test the 6-foot version. The Retract-A-Gate is available in white, tan, and black.
For wider openings: North States Deluxe Decor Gate
If you have a wider opening that you need to secure, we like the North States Deluxe Decor Gate. This gate can cover an opening 72 inches wide, or up to 87 inches with an added extension, sold separately. We looked at three versions of this style of gate, and the North States model stood out because its gate door opening is wider and its lock is easier to use than on similar gates (for adults, not kids).
The Deluxe Decor consists of three panels, the center of which has the gate door. The three panels are fixed in width and will stretch straight across a 72-inch opening. But if the opening is less than that, the gate installs at an angle and arcs into one of the rooms, sort of like a bay window. This actually adds stability to the gate. When it’s installed straight across an opening (with no angles), it has more of a wobble to it.
To open the Deluxe Decor, press a button at the top of the gate and lift the whole thing up. The gate closes and (sometimes) latches on its own. This lock works but is not as secure as the Cardinal or even the North States Swing & Lock. We found this to be true of the locks on all the multipanel gates we tested, including the larger enclosure style gates. When you have multiple panels connected to one another, we discovered, there is so much flex inherent in the design—as opposed to a single panel mounted on each end, with no joints—that with a few very aggressive pulls of the gate, you can get it open.
Because of the multipanel design, the Deluxe Decor has a threshold piece that crosses the door opening and presents a tripping hazard. That said, this isn’t a gate that can be used at the top of a set of stairs, or, if it is, gate manufacturers and childproofers recommend it must be at least 2 feet away from the top step. Delaware of Colorado Childproofers told us this is “to allow an adult to recover in case their foot trips on the bottom rail.”
The door panel of the Deluxe Decor is 27 inches wide, which is significantly larger than the others we tested. The width makes it easy to walk through while carrying a kid or something else. Another model we tested, the KidCo G3010, has only a 16-inch door, which we feel is a very tight doorway to maneuver through, particularly considering that the entire gated opening is as wide as as 6 feet.
A downside of the Deluxe Decor gate is that it can be opened in only one direction, and that direction can’t be changed. It comes in dark brown or white.
Also great, for enclosures: North States Metal Superyard
What about pressure-fit gates?
Another style of baby gate, and a popular one, is the pressure-fit gate. These are secured in an opening with rubber pads that unscrew from the gate sides and press against the wall, holding the gate in place. The perceived benefits of these gates are that they won’t damage your walls the way screw-mount gates will and that they’re quick and easy to set up and move around your home. Through research and testing, we found that none of these arguments is entirely true. We also found that: pressure-fit gates loosen over time; they’re not all that secure to begin with; they require a threshold bar that creates a trip hazard; they can’t be used at the top of a set of stairs (and aren’t recommended for the bottom either); and because the hinge and latch are not mounted directly to the wall, the passable width of the doorway is reduced. We tested four pressure-fit gates with the full intention of making one of them a recommendation, but in the end, due to our own standards of safety, we simply couldn’t.
It may seem that a benefit of pressure-fit gates is that they won’t damage the wall like a hardware-mounted gate will. The baby proofers we spoke to told us otherwise. As Neal Onos of Safe Beginnings Childproofing said, “If [a pressure-fit gate has] been up for a long time, it might do more damage than a mounted gate.” What happens is that the pressure pads stick to the wall and can pull off chunks of paint and drywall when removed. This is much harder to patch than four or six small screw holes. The pads can also cause a serious scuff (or remove some paint) if anyone accidentally runs into the gate and bumps it out of position. Along these same lines, Delaware remarked that the threshold piece can “scuff up a wood or other soft floor, due to it moving each time it is used.”
We tested four pressure-fit gates with the full intention of making one of them a recommendation, but in the end, due to our own standards of safety, we simply couldn’t.
Pressure gates are supposed to be installed without using any tools (in reality, you often need at least a wrench to get them sufficiently tight), so there is also the notion that they can quickly be moved from location to location. But this relocation is actually often an involved process. If using one gate in multiple spots at different times is how you want to approach your babyproofing, we recommend getting additional hardware packs for our picks and mounting them in the other locations. Once the extra hardware is installed, moving the gate is much easier and quicker than relocating a pressure-fit gate.
One major drawback of pressure-fit gates is their overall security. As Schecter told us, “They tend to loosen over time and unless frequently tightened, they may fall if the child was to push against it.” The thing is that they’re not attached to anything. The gates come out of the box pretensioned, and as the pads are tightened against the wall, they press against this force. We had the same experience that Schecter described: Of the two gates we set up for semi-long-term testing, both loosened within 10 days of regular use. Even when fully tightened, we could wrench the gates out of their door openings. Gripping them, and not using an excessive amount of force, we could rock them back and forth and “walk” them away from their original location.
Pressure-fit gates also present a tripping hazard. Because of their design limitations, they need to have a threshold bar to hold the two sides together. This is usually a 1-inch square metal tube that runs across the bottom of the gate opening and remains in place whether or not the gate is opened or closed. “In the first year of a child’s life, about 25 percent of all falls occur in the arms of a parent,” Delaware told us. Schecter said,“I have had several parents tell me they fell down the steps after tripping on this bar, especially at night.” In our own testing, we also had a few stumbles and one solidly stubbed toe.
If you want to use a single gate in multiple locations, we recommend buying additional hardware packs. Once the hardware is installed, moving the gate is much quicker.
Pressure-fit gates also should not be used at the top or bottom of a set of stairs, for a number of reasons. Obviously, the stability is a problem. In addition, “a pressure gate against a railing is a bad idea,” Tom Treanor told us. “What happens is that the gate pushes on the baluster or newel post and then requires more tightening … until it’s totally loose.” This is not only unsafe, but it can damage the newel post, which could be a costly repair. At the bottom of a set of stairs, the threshold piece can be stepped on which is not only unsafe, but, “painful on bare feet” as Delaware told us.
Another design issue with pressure gates is that they drastically reduce the size of the passable opening. Onos told us that “when you open a mounted gate, you have the entire stairway to use,” but because of the side panels—which are needed for the pressure fit—a pressure gate usually only allow a passable width of about 20 inches, sometimes less. We saw one with as little as 16 inches.
Another specific style of pressure-fit gates are the kind that are simply a barrier, with no swinging door, which need to be completely removed—or stepped over—to pass through. “Gates that don’t actually open, but must be fully removed are another red flag,” Schecter told us. “Most people just step over these, which then teaches the child that they too should attempt to climb over the gate.”
We feel there are just too many hassles and security concerns associated with pressure-fit gates to justify recommending one. Even the cost savings aren’t significant. The models we tested ranged from about $30 to about $60. Our runner-up gate, the North States Swing & Lock gate, is currently well within this range, and our top pick is just above it. It’s true that the installation time is a little faster with pressure-fit gates, but with the best of the hardware-mounted gates taking less than 20 minutes, we don’t think this is a real reason to bring a pressure-fit gate into your life.
Basically, we realized that we wouldn’t recommend a pressure-fit gate to our own families, so how could we recommend one to our readers?
The KidCo Angle Mount Safeway is a nice gate, and two of the baby proofers we spoke with use it often. Like the Cardinal, it can be set up at an angle, which we like. Unfortunately, installing it took us almost an hour, and the instructions are so confusing and unhelpful that we often weren't sure if what we were doing was correct (in one case it wasn’t, and we had to backtrack a couple steps to correct an issue). We’re not the only ones who feel this way, the Amazon feedback is filled with people saying that it’s a great gate, but very difficult to install. In some cases, people mention taking multiple hours to do it. With the ease of the Cardinal, we felt there was no need for this kind of aggravation.
The Munchkin Loft was the priciest gate we looked at. It has a fairly easy installation at about 20 minutes, and it is clearly the most stylish gate we looked at. The downside is that there is no swing limiter, so it’s not an option for the top of the stairs. If you like the look and you’re willing to invest, it’s a nice gate for separating two rooms.
The Summer Infant Deluxe Stairway has an attractive stained-wood look, but it has a hard time with baseboards, so an additional purchase or a little extra DIY work is needed. It also has a plastic latch and handle, and after testing all of the gates, we felt much more confident with our top pick’s metal latch.
Evenflo’s Easy Walk Thru Top of Stairs Gate has a bulky handle, and if you have baseboard that is thicker than ½ inch, you’ll have to pad out the top connection points. The latch mechanism is plastic, and we much preferred the strength of the metal latch on the Stair Special from Cardinal Gates.
Safety 1st’s Ready to Install Gate took less than 10 minutes to set up. While it was the fastest to install, it requires putting 10 screws into the wall. Also, the brackets that hold the hinges and latch side are oriented horizontally with the screw holes far enough apart that it’s unlikely you’ll get them all into solid wood in a hallway situation. Also, during use, the latch would get stuck from time to time.
We did not test the Cardinal MG-15 Auto-Lock Safety Gate. It has the same all-metal build as our main pick, but the lock automatically latches when it is pushed close. On the downside, the MG-15 cannot be set up at an angle. There is also no exterior version, and the overall width is a little shorter (maximum of 40½ inches, as opposed to the 42½ inches of our main pick), although the same extensions are compatible with the gate.
The Summer Infant Retractable Gate was (by far) the least expensive retractable gate we tested. At the time of our testing, it cost around $60, so it’s roughly half the cost of the Retract-A-Gate. Still, the quality of the Summer Infant just isn’t there. The mesh fabric is difficult to pull out and hook, and it didn’t always retract fully into the spool. To close it, the entire leading edge of the mesh needs to be hooked on a channel, which is not always easy to line up. We much preferred the simple hooks of the Retract-A-Gate.
The Lascal KiddyGuard Avant Retractable Gate has a nice locking mechanism, but like the Summer Infant retractable, the entire edge of the mesh needs to be hooked to secure the gate across the opening. Also, the handle is on only one side, and we found it needlessly awkward to have to reach over it to open the gate. It’s also more expensive than the Retract-A-Gate and as of summer 2021 seems to not be available to buy online.
We tested one other enclosure-style gate, the Regalo Super Wide Gate and Play Yard. It’s longer than the North States, and we liked how the segments can be locked in at certain angles, but we felt the gate latch was too insecure. It’s not very difficult to pull open without even touching the lock mechanism.
Ryan Schecter, Safe Nest Babyproofing, email interview, July 16, 2017
Louie Delaware, Colorado Childproofers and author of How to Childproof Your Home, email interview, July 10, 2017
Neal Onos, Safe Beginnings Childproofing, phone interview, July 14, 2017
Tom Treanor, All Star Baby Safety, phone interview, July 5, 2017
Kelly Voelker, director of public relations at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, email interview, July 19, 2017
Sam Robinson, sales representative, Cardinal Gates, email interviews, October 26, 2017
About your guide
Doug Mahoney is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering home improvement. He spent 10 years in high-end construction as a carpenter, foreman, and supervisor. He lives in a very demanding 250-year-old farmhouse and spent four years gutting and rebuilding his previous home. He also raises sheep and has a dairy cow that he milks every morning.
Gate baby 75 wide inch
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