How to buy the best stair gate
By Hannah Fox
Choose the best stair gate for your baby and home with our guide to different types available and what to look out for.
Stair gates frequently top the most useful baby products list in our surveys of parents. You may want to consider them even if you don't have stairs to keep your baby safe from other hazards. Find out about the different types available – pressure, screw, roll-up mesh and travel gates, and read about the features you should be looking for.
Read our stair gates reviews to discover the models Which? recommends.
When to buy a stair gate?
Buying a stair gate is necessary to keep your little one out of harm’s way when they start exploring the world – whether it's to keep them safe in the room, out of the kitchen or away from the stairs.
For safety’s sake, get one as soon as your child starts to show signs of crawling or using a baby walker to get about, as they'll soon be moving faster than you realise.
Choosing a stair gate and what to consider
The type of gate you choose will depend on its purpose and where you are putting it.
Major brands include BabyDan, Lindam and Safety 1st and Kiddyguard. Their stair gates tend to be constructed of wood, metal or fabric mesh, and they can be fitted by screwing them into the wall or by pressure fit.
A wooden or metal stair gate that is side-opening will need quite a bit of room to swing open into, so you need to think about whether this will cause any obstructions, or be awkward to navigate around.
A retracting or concertina stair gate could be the answer for areas with restricted space or if you want the gate to disappear when not in use.
Stair gates at the top of the stairs should open towards you, not towards the flight of stairs, as you could fall forwards while opening the gate. You should only use screw-fit gates at the top of the stairs.
How easy is it to open and close the stair gate? You don’t want your toddler to be able to flick the mechanism open with ease but, at the same time, you may also need to be able to open and close the gate with a wriggling child under one arm. Some stair gates automatically close.
Consider the space you're covering – a particularly wide opening will limit the options available to you, but you can buy wide gates or extensions.
Discover our Best Buy stair gates.
Pressure-fit stair gates
The gate sits within a fixed U-shaped frame that is held in place by pressure at four points. Extensions are often available if your doorway or stairway is wider than average.
They can be made of wood or metal. If the pressure is insufficient, then wall cups can be used to increase the security of the fixing.
- There's no need to drill or screw these to the wall, so they're easier to install and won't leave holes behind
- Extra features on pressure-fitted gates can include alarms to signal that they haven't been shut and auto-closing mechanisms.
- The frame can be a trip hazard as the U-shaped frame means a rail runs along your floor. For this reason, they shouldn't be used at the top of the stairs.
Screw-fit stair gates
These are fixed to the wall with metal screws and can be made of wood or metal. You need to measure up carefully before buying your gate as you may need to buy extensions.
- Very strong, sturdy fitting
- There's no rail at the bottom, so no trip hazard. It's recommended that screw-fit gates are used for the top of the stairs.
- They do involve some DIY and will leave holes behind once they're removed.
Mesh safety roller gates
Made of heavy-duty mesh, these work in a similar way to a roller blind, so can be retracted when not in use. They need to be screwed into the wall.
- There's no frame to trip over
- Discreet when retracted
- Can be good for wide openings.
- They can be tricky to install
- Can be as much as twice the price of wood or metal gates
- Some lack structural strength
Wooden stair gates
Wooden stair gates can be either pressure-fit or screw-fit. You may decide to opt for a wooden stair gate if you have a particular style of decor in your house and you want the stair gate to match.
Travel safety gates
These are made of mesh, don't sit in a frame and completely come away from the wall when you release the pressure. They act as barriers rather than gates.
- They can be useful for travel as they fold up and are light to transport.
- Not the best option for daily use, as they have to be put up and down every time you go through them.
How much do I need to spend on a stair gate?
The answer to this will probably depend on what style you want and the width of the space you're closing off. A simple gate can cost as little as £10 to £15, but if you want something more stylish, or that has to fit an unusual space, it could cost up to £100.
Best stair gates for dogs and puppies
Lots of people use stairs gates to keep pets in or out of certain rooms.
Some stair gates also come with a cat flap if your cat is unable or unwilling to jump over the gate and you want your moggy to be able to come in and out of the room without you having to open the gate each time.
We test all stair gates with an impact test where the gates are hit with a 25kg weight (that's roughly the same weight as a small female labrador or a large springer spaniel), three times to see if the gate comes loose or breaks.
Some gates pass this test, but some come loose after a couple of further hits.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some pet gates are not appropriate for babies, as they may have horizontal slats that your baby might use to climb up and over the gate, or small parts that can fall off and be a choking hazard.
If you're planning on getting a dog (but a baby could also be on the horizon), you're best choosing a baby stair gate as then you'll know it will be suitable for both.
Find out more about how we test stair gates.