Tips for choosing a stair gate to keep your child safe, and our pick of the best you can buy
Choosing the best stair gate should, in theory, be simple – you just need a way to stop your child (or dog) from getting up and down stairs. The reality is more complicated. Stair gates come in various designs, from wood to metal and material mesh. Some have step rails, others don’t. Some use pressure to stay secure, others rely on drills and screws. Then there’s the price, the style and the width.
Below we explain more about how to choose a stair gate, as well as when you should start to consider one. We detail some of the pros and cons of different types of stair gates and list those we consider to be the best stair gates to keep your increasingly mobile little ones safe.
Best stair gate: At a glance
- Best all-round stair gate: BabyDan Multidan Metal Extending Safety Gate | £40
- Best stair gate for style: Fred Screw Fit Clear-View Safety Stair Gate | £225
- Best stair gate on a budget: Cuggl Safety Gate | £21
- Best stair gate for small children: Lindam Easy Fit Plus Deluxe | £42
How to choose the best stair gate for your child
When should I buy a stair gate?
With the many, many essential baby items you’ll be buying – from bottles to car seats – it can be tempting to either put off spending money on a stair gate or consider not getting one at all. Babies and toddlers are explorers at heart, so it’s worth getting a stair gate before they’re even showing signs of crawling or walking.
As soon as they discover they have freedom to move, they’ll be off and babies move faster than you’d think. Having a stair gate either installed or ready to install means you won’t be caught by surprise.
What types of baby gates are there?
There are two main types of stair gates, and two principal methods for fitting them in position.
Side-opening stair gate: This type of stair gate is probably the most popular and common design. It consists of a hinged gate attached to a frame, which is secured in place. These gates open like traditional doors, meaning you need a fair bit of space surrounding them to pass through.
Some are made from wood, others are made of painted metal. Some are referred to as being step-free, meaning they don’t have a bar along the bottom of the frame, others have a raised lip. The latter provides a more robust frame, but can present a trip hazard.
Retracting stair gate: Also known as concertina stair gates, these are typically made from panels of mesh or softer material that extend from one side of an entrance, are temporarily fixed to connectors on the opposite wall and are retracted when they’re no longer needed.
These tend to be more stylish and less obtrusive than standard stair gates, which also makes them more expensive, but they particularly suit areas with restricted space.
What’s the difference between screw-fit and pressure-fit stair gates?
Screw-fit stair gates, as the name suggests, require some drilling and screwing to securely attach them to the wall, staircase or door frame.
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Pressure-fit stair gates don’t require any drilling – or require fewer holes – because they rely on a vice-like handle that turns and elongates the rubber-mounted fittings on either side to create pressure between them and the door frame or staircase.
What else do I need to know when buying a stair gate?
- Screw-fit gates are more secure and stable for use on stairs, particularly at the top of the stairs. There is a danger that a child could lean on a pressure-fit stair gate and cause it to come loose or fall. It’s also not advised to use the retracting mesh/concertina gates at the tops of stairs due to their material being more flimsy and their connections less secure.
- Stair gates at the top of the stairs should open towards your landing, not towards the stairs because if it does happen to unclip, or if it’s left open by accident, your child can’t simply fall through it.
- If you have a particularly wide staircase or entrance, you can buy extension packs for many makes and models of stair gates so it’s worth measuring each space you need a stair gate for before you go shopping. When measuring, you go from the narrowest point, which is typically from skirting board to frame, or the centre of a door frame.
- The gate’s latch or clip needs to be secure enough to stop a child from opening it. Most connections can be opened one-handed, for when you’re carrying your child, but the safest are those with mechanisms requiring two actions, such as squeezing and lifting.
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The best stair gates to buy in 2023
1. BabyDan Multidan Metal Extending Safety Gate: Best all-round stair gate
Price: £40 | Buy now from AmazonA hugely popular and highly rated choice, BabyDan’s Multidan extending safety gate ticks a lot of boxes in the search for the best stair gate. It has a step-free, screw-fit, wall-mounted design that opens both ways, has a double-lock mechanism and can be unlocked easily with one hand. This double lock includes a lock at the top and a clip on the bottom.
It extends, via screws and holes in the frame, meaning you can customise its width to suit whichever location you choose to place it in and it’s available in wood or white metal to suit your decor.
The fact it opens both ways is ideal when used in door frames, but if you want to put it at the top of the stairs and have it only open inwards, you can use stop pins (included) to prevent the door from opening outwards.
Fitting: Screw-fit; Width: 62.5cm–106.8cm; Finish: Wood/white metal
2. Fred Screw Fit Clear-View Safety Stair Gate: Best stair gate for style
Price: £225 | Buy now from John LewisTaking the idea of premium to the next level, this safety gate from Fred is a staggering £225 but for good reason. If you don’t like the cage-like nature of standard stair gates and don’t trust the stability of material gates, the Fred Clear-View Safety Stair Gate provides a happy medium.
It’s a screw-fit, step-free swing gate where the gate itself is made of clear acrylic and the narrow frame is made of metal. It offers a two-way hinged opening, a magnetic locking system and colour-coded indicators that warn you if the gate isn’t closed properly. You can also change it to an optional one-way swing setting if you’re using it on the stairs.
We love the fact it can be used inside door frames or fitted to walls either side of the door and – thanks to its 180-degree mount – it can be installed at an angle giving it the stability of other screw-fit, metal gates in this list but the versatility of a material/mesh model.
Fitting: Screw-fit; Width: 75cm–100cm; Finish: Clear acrylic with metal frame
3. Cuggl Safety Gate: Best stair gate on a budget
Price: £21 | Buy now from Argos
Cuggl – Argos’ baby brand – makes affordable baby products that don’t scrimp on features and its safety gate is no exception. Step-free and easy-to-install, this stair gate has double-locking mechanisms that can be controlled one-handed. The catch is that it only fits door frames or walkways that measure between 76cm and 81cm and there are no extension packs. This restricts its appeal and versatility a little.
That said, Argos also sells an extending version of this gate – the Cuggl Extending Metal Wall Fit Safety Gate – for an extra £3, which comes with the same quick installation features and locks. This extending gate can be used on entrances measuring between 60cm and 97cm wide.
Fitting: Screw-fit; Width: 76cm–81cm; Finish: White metal
4. Lindam Sure Shut Axis: Best pressure-fit stair gate
Price: £31 | Buy now from AmazonLindam’s Sure Shut Axis stair gate comes with a four-point pressure-fit frame, meaning you don’t need to drill screws into your wall or staircase without sacrificing too much on its stability and reliability.
To open, you squeeze the button together with one hand and lift the handle up. This handle can then be pushed closed quickly.
It comes with a double lock, similar to that on the BabyDan, but instead of having an extendable frame like its rival, you need to buy the relevant extension pack, depending on the width of your doorframe or staircase. The basic Lindam Sure Shut Axis measures 76 to 82cm, but with different extension packs, this increases to 117cm.
Fitting: Pressure-fit; Width: 76cm–117cm (with extension pack); Finish: White metal
5. Lindam Easy Fit Plus Deluxe: Best stair gate for small children
Price: £42 | Buy now from AmazonMost stair gates average at around 75cm in height, but if you have a dog that loves to bound over the gate or want the added security – particularly if your child is a climber – Lindam sells an extra-tall version of its Easy Fit gate, which measures 91cm.
It offers a similar lock mechanism at the top and the same lock clip on the base as seen on the Sure Shut Axis. It also features the same four-point pressure-fit frame. It’s quite a chunky stair gate, but this makes it feel sturdy and it comes in white metal.
Fitting: Pressure-fit; Width: 76cm–82cm; Finish: White metal
6. BabyDan Guard Me: Best concertina stair gate
Price: £60 | Buy now from John LewisWhen opened, the Guard Me gate from BabyDan automatically folds closed and sits snugly at the side of your entrance or staircase.
This means it’s step-free and discreet when opened. The one sacrifice you make for this discreet design is that when the gate is closed, its plastic PVC gate is not as stylish as some of the metal or mesh gates elsewhere in this list, but at least it’s wipe-clean.
Width-wise, the Guard Me ships with three extension packs included in the price that take the gate from 55cm up to 89cm. You can additionally pay separately for further extension packs to increase this width to 113.5cm. What’s more, because of its concertina design, it’s easy to fit this gate on a diagonal, which is great if you have a curved staircase.
Fitting: Screw-fit; Width: 55cm–113.5cm (with extension pack); Finish: Cream, plastic PVC
Price: £125 | Buy now from Amazon
This stair gate most definitely sits in the luxury, high-end price bracket coming in at up to seven times the price of our cheapest recommendation, but it’s the most stylish of the lot, without compromising on safety.
Available in black and white, the KiddyGuard Avant safety gate works similar to a roller blind in that it rolls up and is stored compactly in a discreet metal frame. It can be operated easily with one hand simply by pulling it across, and once the gate has been closed, it automatically locks the mesh to the frame via three connectors. It has a step-free design and its mesh and connectors have been tested to withstand the impact of up to 100kg.
Due to its retractable nature, this will suit narrow walkways and entrances as well as wide spaces because it reaches up to 120cm.
All this said, it does require a flat surface for installation, which should be fine for most door frames but it won’t work on curved banisters. Despite its high impact rating, we still wouldn’t feel comfortable using this at the top of the stairs but it’s great for blocking off the kitchen, or at the bottom of the stairs.
Fitting: Screw-fit; Width: 30cm–120cm; Finish: White or black mesh with black plastic connectors and metal case