How we test stair gates
Our testing is fully independent and combines strength, safety and durability tests with an expert assessment of how easy the stair or safety gate is to use.
Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about stair gates including:
- How long does the stair gate take to put up?
- Is the gate easy to use every day?
- Is it safe and will it withstand repeated attempts to force it open?
- Will the gate damage your walls?
How long does the stair gate take to put up?
Our experts assess how skilled a DIY-er you'll need to be by assessing the instructions, what tools you need and whether they're included, as well as recording the total amount of time it took to put together in our lab.
Is the stair gate easy to use every day?
Our expert assessors look at the things that will make or break how easy the gate is to use on a daily basis. These include:
- How good is the latching mechanism and can it be opened and shut one-handed, necessary when you've got a wriggling child under one arm?
- Do additional features such as auto-close actually work?
- Does the gate pose a trip hazard? Pressure-fit gates usually have a bar across the bottom - the thickness and height of this bar can affect how easy the gate is to walk through.
- Can you clean the gate easily?
Will the gate withstand repeated attempts to force it open?
We test stair gates according to the EU standard (BS EN 1930:2011), which includes checks and tests to find out how sturdy it is.
Your stair gate may need to withstand the force of a toddler throwing a tantrum and kicking or shoving the gate. We carry out two tests, one that falls within the EU standard, where we apply an impact of 10kg at different points on the gate to see if the gate moves or weakens. We would hope that all gates will pass this test and any that fail this test are made an automatic 0% Don't Buy.
However, we also test beyond the safety standard by applying an impact of 25kg to see if there's any movement or weakening of the gate. This is what separates the good stair gates from the great stair gates which are particularly sturdy and strong.
We also check if a stair gate can withstand repeated shaking and rattling over time by a determined child. This test, which falls within the EU standard, is known as the fatigue test.
A motorised arm is clamped to the top of the stair gate and the gate is pulled back and forth 10,000 times while applying a 140 newton horizontal force. If by the time it has done 10,000 cycles the gate has moved more than 25mm from the original position it was set up, or it comes loose, then it is a failure and will be made an automatic 0% Don't Buy.
We open and close the gate repeatedly to make sure that there's no weakness in the locking mechanism.
And we fit the gates at their minimum and maximum width to check it's safe to use them in all positions. If you can extend the gate beyond a safe point, we'll let you know.
These are just a few of the numerous safety checks that we carry out to make sure your stair gate does the job it's supposed to do.
Will the stair gate damage my walls?
If you are renting then this may be a particular concern. Screw-fit gates will, by their nature, leave a mark on your walls but so too will some pressure-fit gates as you might need to use adhesives. We make sure you know if the damage is something that you need to seriously consider.
It's worth noting that some stair gates that are sold as pressure-fit, and so have a metal running along the floor, actually state in the instructions that you need to install the wall cups with screws, rather than the typical adhesive pads. This is something to bear in mind if you live in rented accommodation and can't make holes in your walls.
We'll state in the review if a stair gate is pressure-fit but needs to be screwed in, or has the option to be screwed in.
Should I buy it?
After analysing all the data we get from the lab, we give each stair gate a total test score so you can easily compare what makes the best and worst models.
The score ignores price and is made up of:
- 65% safety
- 5% instructions and packaging
- 5% removing the stair gate from the wall
- 20% opening and closing
- 5% installation
To become a Which? Best Buy, a stair gate must score at least 80% overall in our tests.