Homemade stairway gate? Talk amongst yourselves.

Katherine needs some Parenthacker ingenuity!

I need help with a bottom of the stairs gate….and not just any stairs; these have a (thin!) metal banister (there is a wall along the other side).  Ideally, we'd keep the gate open when the little one isn't on that level to allow the dog to go up and down.

I like the idea of the retractable gates, but not the $100 price tag that goes along with them.  My dad suggested just sliding a piece of plywood across, but I think the PH'ers could come up with some thing a little classier!

Any ideas?


  1. Candace Prosser says

    What about getting two retractable clothes lines, like you would use to dry your clothes at the fancy hotels. Thread the line trough some strong fabric and attatch it to the wall with the opening on the banister side.

  2. Candace Prosser says

    What about getting two retractable clothes lines, like you would use to dry your clothes at the fancy hotels. Thread the line through some strong fabric and attach it to the wall with the opening on the banister side.

  3. Awesome Mom says

    We found some pressure mounted ones at a yard sale for a nice price. We checked for any recalls before using them. We have the same thin metal banister issues and this has worked very nicely for us.

  4. mama d says

    We use the Sure and Secure™ Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate, bought at BabiesRUs, on stairs that sound much like yours. We had to put the gate a touch off kilter to make the top, banister-side brace fit at the top of one of the sturdier uprights, but it works very well.

  5. SheilaC says

    I like to save money, but when it comes to safety, you get what you pay for in my experience.
    I don’t think this is a situation where home-made is going to be safe.

    Our kids (triplets) liked to pull up on the gate, climb on it, bang on it, crash into it… if it wasn’t screw-mounted into the wall studs, it would have collapsed, and somebody could have been hurt.

    Pressure mounted gates usually have warnings that they are not suitable for stairs. And I doubt that something made of clothesline and canvas would be kid-proof.

    A good quality wooden or metal gate that screw mounts to the wall and railing will last for years. Bonus – many of them can be opened by an adult with one hand, while carrying a baby or a load of laundry. We resold our gates for half price to another family when we were done with them.

    You might need to mount some pieces of wood onto the metal railing in order to secure the gate to it. We did that, and were able to remove the wood framing later with no permanent damage to our banisters.

    Good luck!

  6. LisaS says

    Sheila’s point is a good one: kids have tendency to test gates. A piece of falling plywood would probably hurt the toddler more than stumbling on the stairs.

    But it brings up a question: is the gate primarily for safety or for your convenience? If it’s about convenience, then devise something, maybe out of fabric, that will deter the kid most of the time and not cause injury if it falls on them.

    If it’s about safety, I’d look into used gates at garage sales. We had both the pressure mounted variety and a metal mounted gate (http://www.amazon.com/KidCo-G-80-Configure-Gate/dp/B000056HMX/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-6534256-3237520?ie=UTF8&s=baby-products&qid=1183587411&sr=8-1), and both worked well. Or, get some metal and wood strips, hinges, and other hardware at the local store and construct a sturdy gate that matches your home–but frankly, the cost may be nearly the same.

  7. Ross says

    Depends on what you need to use it for. If it’s supposed to withstand exploration by the kids, you definitely need something that can mount into a wall. However, if you’re just trying to obscure the steps, you can do what I did –

    1) Take two hooked bungee cords (you can buy a little set of 3-4 at a hardware store if you need them) and cut off one end of each. ($3-5)

    2) Install two “hanging hooks” into the wall opposite your banister – they usually just screw into a wall anchor you set in the wall. ($2-3)

    3) Run the bungee cords through a piece of fabric or the fabric portion of a cannibalized pressure gate. Attach the hook ends back on the bungee cords after adjusting the length to what you desire to cover your stairs while leaving a little extra for the fastening (see below). (~$4-10)

    To fasten, hook one end of the bungee cord into the wall hook. Wrap the other end around the banister once and then hook it over the bungee cord itself.

    This “gate” has the benefit of being able to unhook quickly if you want to get rid of it for company, slide down to the floor if you want to just get it out of the way for dogs/people to step over, and takes little time/money to install. It should only be used for kids that ignore stuff they can’t see, and would just avoid the steps if the fabric was blocking them off. A toddler who pulls on the bungee cords probably won’t break them, but can manage to “sneak by” the gate and end up climbing the stairs if not stopped.

  8. ChiDaddy says

    Suck it up and by the $100 gate. I’m sure there’s enough baby stuff to sell to afford it, right? :)

    Any home made rigging could be potentially quite dangerous for your little one. Bungie cords, thin metal stranded wire? Holy cow, all those things are an ER visit waiting to happen!

  9. Dan Jason says

    look, you could make a pretty nice and secure gate for your self out of plywood, some hinges, bolts, etc but if you got good hardwood veneared plywood it would probably end up costing you $50 anyhow, and I would guess you don’t have the tools you need, and do you have the time for all that? Any good, safe solution will take a while. if that is what you want, great, go for it. If you just want a solution, I can second the recomendation for Sure and Secure™ Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate. I note it is avalable on amazon for $60… http://www.amazon.com/Summer-Infant-Secure-Extra-Walk-Thru/dp/B0000DEW91

  10. Bob says

    Get a scarecrow.

    We have a dump truck that our boy is (inexplicably) terrified of. We put it in front of places we want him to stay away from and don’t ever have to worry.

  11. Alix says

    Teach your child not to go up without you. Kids are pretty quick learners. I had the same problem, and after deciding some ad hoc solution wouldn’t work and would be unsafe, we just put a gate up at the top of the stairs, and left it open when he was downstairs in case he did climb up, so he wouldn’t get stuck. He learned to climb stairs safely pretty fast, so the time I was worried about it was only a couple of months. But he never tried to climb it without me. Of course, my child is much more likely to be interested in something he is prevented from doing it, so he left it alone. He would have been much more interested in going up it if I had made a big deal out of it and put something up.

  12. Valerie says

    While not about a useful gate, I concur with those who suggest that you want to think about what your gate should do, and about the personalities of your kids. We pretty much only used pressure gates for a short time, to discourage exploration, preferring to teach our daughter to safely go up and down steps as soon as feasible. We have friends who wanted intense security so they used screw-mounted gates. That just proved a challenge to their daughter, who figured out how to climb the gates. Scarier than stairs, if you ask me!

  13. mountainbunny says

    We have the exact same situation. We put a tall laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs that is filled with toys. It is pretty heavy, so she can’t move it. Even when she eventually is able to move it, it’ll slow her down long enough to grab her.
    At the top, my husband went ahead and drilled through the metal then inserted wall anchors and attached a gate to the rail. It attaches to the wall on the other side.
    We reasoned that if she was at the top of the stairs, we didn’t want to risk her someday being able to push a basket or a piece of wood out of the way and falling down the stairs, so we went further than just the toy basket.

  14. adrienne says

    You could improvise the stair gate installation kit linked to above with some zip ties and 2 by 4 with holes drilled through it (imagine a loop of zip tie wrapping around the black rail and going through the holes in the board. It’s cheap and easy if you have (or can borrow) a power drill.

    I am legendarily cheap, but even I won’t improvise stairway gates. It’s just too big a risk. Bungee and other retractable cords can pose a strangulation hazard- and you can get rope burns if one of those retracting clotheslines gets loose and zips through your closed hand (or… erm… so people tell me). If you install a regular gate, you can just leave it open for your dog when your child isn’t downstairs.

  15. elizabeth says

    most any of the hard mount gates will work – just mount the small side to the wall the regular way with the screws and attach the gate to your metal bannister with the thick, heavy duty zip ties from the hardware store.

  16. Sisduh says

    We had a unique bannister situation too, only we were trying to stop dogs, not kids. The dogs had learned to open, scale, or knock down all the gates we used. We found a slightly taller used gate, with no crossbar to climb on. We nailed two cheap nylon dog collars to the side of the stair that was wood and looped them thru the holes in the gate at the top and bottom. These work like hinges. Next we adjusted the gate to fit just inside the railing. We looped another collar thru the holes on this edge of the gate and simply buckle it around the rail. This works as a lock. We put a fourth collar around the bottom to make it more secure when needed, like when children are in the house. This gate can be removed completely at will with little effort by adults, but has baffled many children and dogs over the last 6 years. And we’ve had no accidents.

  17. JT says

    Count me in on the “don’t skimp on safety” contingent. We found a terrific gate that actually opened with a push-button remote that was mounted higher up on the wall. It required batteries, but didn’t eat them any faster than a TV remote, and the whole gate could be removed for adults-only parties with little effort.

    I don’t remember the brand (sorry) but I’m almost positive we got it at Babies R Us. We mounted it with the help of a piece of 2×4 that we attached to the wall with construction glue and heavy-duty screws & anchors; then we could drill the gate in securely.

    I once watched my son push the pressure-mounted gate, fall “through” it and tumble down the stairs, and let me tell you, I stalked my husband that night so we could get that gate drilled in as tightly as possible.

    I’ve learned — with three boys — that you can never assume your kids will stop short of doing anything that can result in injury. So I’d say if you find a gate that’s trustworthy and rated correctly for the location, drop the cash if at all possible and count it money well spent!

  18. DarrylD says

    Ours was a stairway with oak bannisters on one side, and a wall on the other. I drill-mounted a commercial gate’s latch hardware to the wall, then cut a small notch out of a 2×4 to make it ‘seat’ into the trim at the foot of the bannister neatly. Then, we used several heavy nylon wire-ties (zip-ties) to clamp that 2×4 to the newel post of the bannister. The gate’s hinge end attaches to the 2×4 (and the 2×4 is better than drywall for sturdiness for the hinge stresses), the 2×4 isn’t going anywhere, and we used it thru 2 kids and countless visits by the grandparents’ cat-chasing dogs. Twice in 7 years, I had to rearrange a slipped wire-tie. I maybe added another one once. But it held well, the gate was easily opened with one hand, and both the gate and bannister were pristine when we finished with ‘em. If it weren’t for the dog visits, I’d be selling the gate next week at a yard sale. As it is, we’ve pulled the gate and 2×4, left the mount brackets in place, and can remount ‘em for a couple bucks in wireties each year when the dogs make their 2-week visit.

  19. Ann at mommysecrets says

    Wow – I’ve been struggling with the same question, and your ideas have been so helpful! Thanks!

  20. kittenpie says

    My in-laws have the same metal rails, so we just took a 1×6 piece of wood, drilled holes in it, and ran a zip tie around two banister rails and the wood at both top and bottom to create a nice wooden surface flat against the railings, and then attached the regular gate’s hardware to that and the gate to the wall opposite. it is removable when we no longer need it.

  21. Jinx says

    I wouldn’t skimp on anything when it comes to children’s safety. Accidents are called accidents for a reason. We certainly don’t plan for them to happen, but we should plan for the possibility that they CAN happen. Not only should the products you use be reliable to keep your little ones safe, but you should also practise good habits when employing safety measures, (ie no stepping over the gate as little ones will inevitably imitate his or her role models). While safety devices should never be used in place of adult suppervision, you should feel confident that during the odd unexpected time you need to pull your eyes from your child(ren) (All too often, in all honesty if you’re a parent!)that the devices you’ve employed will do the job they’ve been put in place to.
    No amount of money or time can ever be comparable to the safety and well being, or god-forbid, the life of a child.

  22. Duncan says

    We went through the same adventure of trying to find a proper gate for our stairs with a banister. We came up with a great solution and made our own.

    Get a bedsheet and sew a “clip” to each corner. We used a dog-collar-leash type clip. Buy 4 metal “eyes” from a hardware store (think hook and eye clasps on screen doors).

    First off, the materials are around $10 .. but second, the bedsheet can be as large as you wish and can conform to whatever stairway you have and you can screw the “eyes” in where you can find wood. I placed our eyes around the corner from the stairs.

    It works great. I’ve had a number of people see it at my house and marvel at its simplicity and effectiveness.