Childproofing Stairs: A How-To Guide
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) cite falls as the primary cause of injury in children; and this highlights the necessity for childproofing. It is essential to make any stairway over 3 treads safe for your child before they become mobile. Below are the steps to help you out.
Step 1 - Measure Openings and Determine Needs
Measure the width of the opening at both the top and bottom of each staircase to be protected. Using the tape measure, determine the width of the openings. Each staircase will require 2 gates, one each at the top and one at the bottom for childproofing. With the tape measure, also determine the width between balusters (vertical posts). If the spacing exceeds 4 inches, it is recommended that the railing be covered with appropriate netting.
Step 2 - Purchase Appropriate Products
It is essential that the products for stair safety meet ASTM guidelines for childproofing. The package will indicate that the item is certified. There are different types of baby gates. You must purchase a hardware-mounted gate, which is designed specifically for stair safety. Pressure mounted gates are sufficient for room-to-room, but by no means will provide the required strength needed for stairways. Additionally, be certain to purchase netting specifically designed to keep a curious toddler’s head from getting stuck in the balustrade.
Step 3 - Install Stair Gates
Remove all contents from the box to ascertain that all mounting hardware is included. If there is a template provided, use this to mark the wall (or balustrade) where the gate will be mounted. Drill pilot holes, 1 size smaller than the provided hardware. Chances are you may need to use wall anchors if the gate cannot be mounted on an existing stud. Follow package directions for the chosen anchors. Hold the gate up to the prepared holes/anchors and screw the supplied hardware through the gate frame into the wall/balustrade. Repeat for the remaining safety gates.
Step 4 - Install Railing Safety Mesh
Rail nets will keep your child from getting their head stuck between the balustrades of the stairs. If you determined that the spacing exceeds 4 inches in Step 1, the stair rail will require ASTM-certified safety netting to provide childproofing. Installation is achieved with included ties that attach directly to the railing.
Step 5 - Carpet Stairs
If possible, carpeting stairs is strongly advised. Wood can be very slippery for older toddlers and even babies, when crawling on steps. Carpet will also cushion any falls.
Step 6 - Additional Precautions
NACHI requires that stairs of more than 4 treads have at least a handrail on at least 1 side of the stairs. The height of the handrail must be between 34 inches and 38 inches from the top of the stair treads. Any area of a stair that will allow an object larger than 4 inches to pass is a violation of safety code and must be rectified immediately. Also, keeping stairways well lit and clutter-free will reduce the possibility of falls. It is advised to keep a night light or other source of light on at all times. Many toddlers take serious falls down stairs when in walkers. It is best to keep walkers on one level and away from stairs. Looking ahead and childproofing before your child is crawling is one of the best things you can do to prevent accidents.