Avoid baby gates that require screws

I’m pretty useless as a handyman. Tools are not my friend, and I try to avoid them whenever I can. When my wife and I were looking for a baby gate we were set on finding a gate that did not require installation of any kind. We would eventually settle on something very similar to the First Year Hands Free Gate. It requires no screws and is pressure mounted to the door frame. 

Some entrances may require a gate wider than 44 inches and require a larger gate like this offering from Evenflo. It expands to 60 inches. Rather than buying multiple gates for your home, these gates are convenient since you can easily move them around your house. 

Avoid the screws and hardware needed to mount permanent gates and keep your eyes open for pressure-mounted options.

40 Comments for “Avoid baby gates that require screws”

  1. posted by shris on


    The one in the picture was our very favorite baby gate when the kids were small. Love that thing. It was sturdy, easy to operate, solid as a rock..

    We had one opening that was six feet wide in our last home, so my husband, the handyman, altered two gates–one of the item pictured, and one that required screws to mount. That worked very well, though it was definitely not a beginner project.

    When we sold our house, we had to fill and paint just a couple of holes–nothing major. Now all the gates reside at grandma’s house, protecting some of her rooms from her rambunctious dogs.


  2. posted by battra92 on

    When I was a little kid the gates we had, if I remember correctly, were just that hard “fuzzy” plastic so common in the 80s. They didn’t use screws either but we figured out to get around them easily enough.

  3. posted by K.H. on

    I love those gates, we used them in our kitchen which has two openings, both right next to stairs (eek!). However, there are very few pressure mounted gates that can be safely used at the top of stairs, so readers, be aware. We have a narrow hallway in our upstairs so we kept the baby gate in the hallway instead of at the top of the stairs, but if you have a large landing you will have to be more careful about the gate you pick to go at the top of the stairway.

  4. posted by Jim on

    Pressure-mounted gates at the top of the stairs is a horrible idea. Enough pushing and any pressure-mounted gate will give in.

    Everyone should have a screw-based gate at the top of the stairs, regardless.

  5. posted by Tom on

    Our house came with a screw in gate at the the point where the kitchen empties to the basement stairs and side door. It opens nicely out of the way and it rock solid. I don’t know if I would have mounted one myself, but since it is there it has been wonderful. Definitely more secure then the temporary gates we have.

  6. posted by amanda on

    I agree with the previous commenters, you just can’t have a pressure-mounted gate at the top of the stairs. While it may be reasonably safe for for a crawling 9 month old, a jumping, shaking 18 month old could totally crash that puppy down the stairs…and go down right after it!


  7. posted by Benjamin M. Strozykowski on

    We have three of these, in non-staircase locations throughout our house. Our son is 2, and he has yet to be heavy enough to activate the foot pedal, not without trying, of course.

    We have cats and dogs, and the cats happily hop over the gates, while it successfully thwarts the dogs’ attempts to bypass them. I guess they have two purposes: dog and son containment.

    These are absolutely great to keep a kid in his terrible twos where you want him, while not having to step over wooden or temporary gates.

  8. posted by Karen on

    Please don’t use pressure mounted gates at the top of the stairs.

    Our older two children never knocked the gates down, so we thought we were safe. Our youngest was an escape artist and knocked the gate down at the top of the stairs within days of learning to walk. Fortunately, he didn’t fall down the stairs.

  9. posted by Tony on

    In the name of safety, I’ll repeat previous comments stating that the use of pressure-mounted gates in all areas is not safe. The price paid (wall touch-ups when/if you move) is a small price to pay for the added security. If you are worried about securing the gate without having a wall stud to screw into, a few heavy-duty wall anchors (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....tterer-20/ have always done the trick for me and resulted in a rock-solid gate. It’s also a good idea to use screw-mounted gates at the bottom of stairs, where appropriate since what goes up, must come down.

  10. posted by Cat on

    Also watch out where the gate would fall if pushed over, even if it’s not a danger of stairs! When I was in elementary school, I’d gone to get something out of our basement and couldn’t reach it, so Mom left baby brother penned in our kitchen eating area and came downstairs. Trying to follow us, he pushed the pressure-mounted gate between the kitchen and the basement door (hallway dead-ended into the kitchen, basement door opened into the hallway, pointing away from the kitchen). The gate closed the door as it fell and promptly pinned the door shut… Mom had to hoist me through one of the tiny basement windows so I could get back in the house through the (thankfully unlocked) back door!

    Of course, this was a gate leftover from my toddler days in the early 80s, so maybe (hopefully) they’ve improved since then!

  11. posted by Ann on

    Pressure mounted gates are fine for the bottom of the stairs. But, ours bent the walls! One was mounted on the wall that contained one of those sliding into the wall pocket doors– and it bent the wall so much that the door scraped the frame as it slid. Now that the gates are gone, we need to repaint that door.

    Only use screw-in gates for the top of stairs. Kitties just scoot under it, and kiddo can’t knock it down. We’ll eventually have to do some minor wall repair when it comes down.

    We took the bottom gates down now that she’s 3, but kept the one at the top just in case she gets up in the night.

  12. posted by Celeste on

    Even the pressure-mounted gates can damage paint or bite into the trim a little. I liked the screwed-on ones better because they don’t have any part on the floor to step or trip over when you are walking through carrying a baby or anything else.

    Barter handyman services with somebody or just hire it out, and just install the screw-mounted gates. Where is it written that we all have to be good at everything?

  13. posted by Robert Reed on

    This is an interesting topic and discussion, but it seems a stretch to include it in a blog about clutter. simple living maybe.

  14. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Robert. Please read our About page. This website IS a simple living website.

  15. posted by Sue on

    DS has a “Harrison Ford” scar on his chin from his dislodging a pressure mounted gate on the 1/2 landing, and riding the gate to the bottom like a sled!

  16. posted by sarah on

    ditto what everyone else said on the pressure-mounted gates — they can damage your walls/paint, they loosen themselves, and they’re not safe at the tops or bottoms of stairs (which are really the only places most people need gates). A good screw-mounted gate is easy to install, never needs to be adjusted or tightened, and when it’s gone there is very little to clean up.

  17. posted by Alan Perkel on

    We owned this exact gate for over four years, we used it at the bottom of the stairs, and it worked very well, I was very impressed. We had the soft pads on one side and a Y bolt on the other because it was going into a banister and I could not screw it in, I was very skeptical at first, but it performed as designed. I would highly recommend it.

  18. posted by Briana on

    We had this baby gate and loved it! If your stairs are wider than the original gate, they have extensions that go right into the gate so it makes it wider. We had to use the extensions and they worked great.

  19. posted by molly on

    We have this gate at both the top and bottom of our staircase. The gate has been great in both locations. The only issue we’ve had with it, is my son learned to open it at 14 months. He opened the top gate and walked right through. He fell down the entire staircase. He was fine. A trip to the ER confirmed he only had a rug burn across his face and an eye swollen shut. Now he is much more careful with the gate at the top of the stairs. He loves to swing on the door at the bottom of the stairs. It makes a nice ride.

  20. posted by Josie on

    We use the evenflo gate for our large double-door openings and it works great! But it did take the paint right off our wall. I cut a little square of grippy pad (like the kind used for drawer liners or rug pads) and put it between the gate and the wall, and that keeps the gate firmly in place, but does not ruin the paint.

    I agree with all the other posters about using screw-in gates at the top of the stairs – a must! We live in a 100-year-old Victorian with plaster walls, and we could not find anchor bolts that would stay in the wall, nor could we find any proper studs. So we bought a 1/2″ thick plank, and screwed it into the slats in the wall in 4 places and then screwed the gate into the board. You can pretty up the plank by buying one that has a routed edge and painting or staining it to match your decor.

    On the banister-side of the gate, we did not want to drill into the 100-year old wood, so we attached the gate with metal clamps (They look like metal zip ties. You can buy them at any hardware store). This is a good option for people who don’t want to drill.

    It’s held for over a year despite many strong impacts by our 2yr old.

  21. posted by [email protected] Awareness * Connection on

    We had a couple of the pressurized version, which worked pretty well all told. Definitely more versatile, though the ones we had were a bit fussy on the adjustment. Ours even worked on the stairs, but at the time we were in recent construction so didn’t have the plaster wallls challenge Jose is mentioning. The zip tie dealies are an interesting solution. Even the conventional plastic ones are pretty darn strong when you wrench them down with some needle nose pliers.

  22. posted by infmom on

    We tried pressure mounted gates to keep our son out of the kitchen and the bathroom (house was all on one level). However, as you might imagine for a kid who grew up to be 6’7″, he quickly figured out how to push or pull the gates over. If your kid is large for his/her age and has more muscle power than the average kid that age, you’re not going to have much luck with these gates.

    Granted, that was 30 years ago but I doubt the technology has changed all that much.

  23. posted by BK on

    I enjoy reading this blog, but have to say…
    1) I agree with Robert; doesn’t seem like this post fits the website described in your About page. But that’s minor compared to:
    2) There seems to be an instant response to Robert’s question/criticism, yet no response or update to the original post following the onslaught of expected responses (at least from this father) regarding the safety hazards of pressure-mounted gates. I disagree with the statement “avoid baby gates that require screws”, since I see no reason to given their advantages in some situations, but would be more concerned that such one-sided advice could lead to injuries.

    When looking into gates, I recall seeing the “don’t put pressure mounted gates at the top of stairs” advice on virtually every source of information I saw regarding gates. We have stair-rails on both sides at the top of our stairs, so I got some wood, tightly “tied” the wood to the rails with velcro straps, then screwed the gate to the wood. Has worked very well, even when our now-2-yr-old enjoyed rattling the gate rails like they were prison bars, putting all her energy into ripping the gate off it’s frame.

    On the flipside, we have a couple pressure-mounted gates we’ve used in hallways and so on for temporary blocking (as recommended in blog post). Usually works fine, except we’ve had several cases of kids leaning into the gate and taking a nice tumble as the pressure-pads and gate frame skid down the wall.

  24. posted by Marco on

    Pressure gates at the top of the stairs are a bad idea.

  25. posted by Karyn on

    Just going to agree–as a mom of three active boys–that pressure mounted gates are NOT meant to be at the top of stairs. They may be practical for keeping a toddler out of a downstairs hallway, but never, ever at the top of stairs.

    If you are not handy with tools, then ask a friend to help you install a screwed-in gate. It’s well worth it to keep your child safe.

  26. posted by Renee on

    OneStepAhead.com has a large selection of baby gates, if anyone’s interested.

  27. posted by Rich on

    My parents set up a gate that looks just like the one in the picture when my nephew was visiting… and discovered that it’s pretty simple to lift up the “step” to open the gate (instead of standing on it). It’s easy enough that my nephew can do it. And it makes this gate totally inadequate, if you ask me.

    Oh, and I’ll ditto those who have asked, Why hasn’t the original post been updated to include the “not at the top of the stairs!” disclaimer?

  28. posted by Erin Doland on

    @BK I don’t have children, so for me to comment on a baby gate or even pretend to know about baby gates would be inauthentic. I am not in the habit of reviewing baby products. I could lie, but I have no desire to do so.

    I do know for certain, however, that this blog covers topics beyond clutter.

  29. posted by Robert Reed on

    “Welcome. Unclutterer is the blog about getting and staying organized.”

  30. posted by Meg on

    That particular gate will take a chunk out of your wall if you leave it in one place long enough. I know this from experience. It does much more damage than screws.

  31. posted by Meg on

    Oops – sorry for the double post. I was trying to make a new line in my post, not submit it. I was also going to say that it seems like much more of a hassle to have to move a single gate around all the time, especially when you have a “helper” in tow. I’m definitely willing to deal with owning multiple gates for this very reason. It’s not really clutter if it’s serving a purpose.

  32. posted by Bonnie Blackburn on

    For all who are complaining about this topic being inappropriate for an unclutter website: keeping my kid contained helps me keep the clutter contained. Lighten up, people!

  33. posted by Pamela on

    We have one of these gates and it was great, but it can still damage your walls (as others have mentioned). When we took it down, one of the rubber pads stuck to the wall and pulled a circular piece of paint right off the drywall. And if you put too much pressure, dents can be left behind. We sort of solved that last issue by using a scrap piece of 2×4 between the wall and pressure posts. It was actually necessary on one side because a door frame interfered with placement otherwise. It was still very sturdy and secure, in part due to the wide base, and only came down once when my husband forgot it was there and stumbled through it in the middle of the night.

  34. posted by Michele on

    A bit off topic, but pressure mounted gates may not work for dogs either. Our smaller guy could plow right through it with just a short running start.

  35. posted by Laura on

    My sister has used the gate shown in this post and it has worked great for her needs.

    We have a very, very wide doorway in our house and the only gate we could find was one that required mounting with screws and brackets. Ugh. And the worst part? It didn’t stay up. The weight of the gate was too much for the hardware to hold.

  36. posted by Alex on

    yes, heed all the warnings about installation at the top of the stairs! My six year old tried opening the gate at the top of the stairs and pulled the gate on top of him. He required five stitches.

    Please update the post with the warning.



  37. posted by Judy on

    I agree with the majority here, NO pressure gates at the top of the stairs. Also, the pictured gate looks a lot like out gate by Summer. The convex aspect of the bars when adding the extensions are not taken into account when they took the measurements for the spaces they fit. The Summer version did not fit in a 37 inch space, unless you have a concave wall. Also, if you have a space that requires the maximum settings, the pressure screws become wobbly.

  38. posted by Jen on

    Please, please, PLEASE update the original post to say that these should never be used at the top of the stairs!

    We used many pressure mounted gates downstairs when our daughters were younger and never really needed the fancy ones that have the doors — we could step over the gates and our kids couldn’t.

    That said, they’re also nice for people trying to contain pets while keeping them in human contact.

  39. posted by Kelly T on

    Opps..pretty sure this should be edited as pressure point gates are NOT safe at the top of stairs:) And I should know…

    The 1 yr old of a good friend of mine had the HORRIFYING experience of being just beyond an arm’s reach of her child who pulled himself up on a pressure gate at the top of a stair case(visiting relatives who didn’t want to install screw mounted) and the gate GAVE WAY. Thank god her 1 yr old who fell ALL the way down a WOODEN stair case was not severely hurt. HOWEVER- he permanently lost his front teeth! Until his next set comes in-anywhere between 5-8 years old!

    And, the pressure mount ones have always driven me nuts. I was a nanny for years and was so over putting so much muscle into them, I just dealt without them! I just do not care for them. I would close doors and thankfully the limits I set for our munchkin were followed.

  40. posted by Christine on

    Pressure-mounted or not, a gate is always in the way. When we bought gates for our very wide staircase, we decided to buy retract-a-gates, since they roll into themselves when not in use. They are actually the color of our walls, so when they rolled up, they are pretty much invisible.

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