8 best stair gates for 2021

15 December 2020

baby stair gate

Stair gates are a must in any home with a baby or toddler. But when you’re dealing with something as important as your child’s safety, how do you know which stair gate to trust? We rigorously tested the most popular products on the market to reveal the eight top stair gates to suit most families.

A baby learning to crawl or walk is always a joyous occasion, with claps and laughs and plenty of ‘well dones.’

But, suddenly, your once immobile baby can now reach all the places they couldn’t get to before, and it won’t be long before you find them wandering into a room that was previously off-limits.

Unfortunately, babies don’t always know their own limitations and are often more than happy to attempt stairs on their own, with no idea of the potential consequences. If your baby likes to explore, then a stair gate will be a necessity.

Stair gates can be used at the top of the stairs (to prevent your baby from falling down) and at the bottom (to stop them from climbing up). They can also be used to close off unsafe rooms and to temporarily add additional barriers to your home, whether that’s across a doorway or another narrow opening.

When it comes to choosing such an important safety item, it can be tricky to know where to start. Which stair gate will really keep your child safe and which will give way as soon as they fall into it?

We tested the 14 most popular stair gates on the market, scoring them on six key areas before whittling them down to a final list of eight high performers, all of which scored a minimum of 40 points out of a possible 48. You can read more about how we selected and tested our gates below.

After four months of in-depth testing, the results are in. Here are the best stair gates to buy right now.

1. Best stair gate: BabyDan Guard Me

1. Best stair gate: BabyDan Guard Me

The BabyDan Guard Me is a retractable gate with a unique folding function, and the best retractable stair gate we tested. With the press of a button, the gate automatically retracts, folding up neatly to leave your path clear.

The gate can be left folded when not in use, which looks fairly inconspicuous – unlike door-style gates which can often block corridors if left open – and it has a straightforward opening mechanism (once you get used to the slide-and-push technique) that can easily be tackled by older siblings.

The Baby Dan Guard Me is a versatile gate that can be used at the top and bottom of the stairs, or on the inside or outside of a doorframe. This means that it can fit a fairly wide range of spaces – anything from 55cm to 89cm wide. Or, if you have a wider gap to cover, up to 113.5cm, you can also purchase additional Extend-A-Guard panels which slot into the existing gate.

Made from white plastic, the gate looks stylish and can be wiped clean if your child covers it in sticky fingerprints. It’s also easy to vacuum around.

While slightly more expensive than many of the other gates we tested, its features and versatility means it offers great value for money for most families.

Pros

  • One-handed opening
  • Folds back neatly when not in use
  • Fits a wide variety of spaces, including very narrow openings
  • Can be installed at the top and bottom of the stairs

Cons

  • Needs to be at least 9cm from the top of the stairs – might not work in all houses
  • Lengthy installation despite clear instructions
  • Skirting boards may make installation awkward
  • Pricey

Specs

  • Type: Screw-fit
  • Width: 55 – 89cm, with additional extensions available to fit up to 113.5cm

2. Best budget stair gate: Cuggl Wall Fix Safety Gate

2. Best budget stair gate: Cuggl Wall Fix Safety Gate

If you like the idea of a fuss-free safety gate, let us introduce you to the Cuggl Wall Fix. While it may not have the handy features of a retractable or pressure-fit stair gate, it’s a good, sturdy option with a price tag to match its simplicity.

Costing just £16.99, it’s the cheapest of all the gates we tested, but it still scored well. We awarded this gate 41 points out of 48, coming in only two points shy of our top scorers.

The Cuggl is a wall-mounted gate, so it’s suitable for use at the top and bottom of a staircase as well as in doorways. Its width is less adaptable than other stair gates (particularly the extendable ones), but if your gap measures between 76cm and 81cm, this gate will fit perfectly. It’s easy to install, taking our tester just 45 minutes to fit.

While the opening mechanism is a bit fiddly to use at first – you need to push a button then lift and open the gate at the same time – it can be soon be mastered one-handed.

Pros

  • Competitive price
  • No ground bar, so can be used anywhere in the home
  • Can be opened one-handed and in either direction
  • Child-proof double-locking system

Cons

  • Can’t be extended beyond the initial range of widths
  • Less straightforward to fit on uneven walls or bannisters
  • May get in the way in narrow corridors
  • Can’t easily be removed from its hinges if needed

Specs

  • Type: Screw-fit
  • Width: 76 – 81cm

3. Best screw-fit stair gate: Safety 1st Wall Fix Extending Metal Gate

3. Best screw-fit stair gate: Safety 1st Wall Fix Extending Metal Gate

The Wall Fix Extending Metal Gate from Safety 1st is our favourite non-retractable, wall-mounted stair gate. Our tester awarded it the same score as the BabyDan Guard Me (43 points out of 48) but, if you have a little more space to play with at home, this door-style gate is the better option of the two.

The Safety 1st Extending Metal Gate is super versatile. It can fit a variety of widths, extending from 62cm to 102cm, with no need to purchase any additional parts. The hinges also swing in either direction, so you can position the gate wherever you need to in your home without worrying about which way it will open. Although it doesn’t retract like the BabyDan Guard Me, it can easily be lifted off its hinges when not in use.

Our tester found the gate simple to open (after a day or two to get the hang of it!) and also liked that it could be opened with one hand – a must when carrying a baby or toddler around the house. The opening mechanism is trickier for an older sibling to operate than the BabyDan, but this could prove useful if you have a particularly boisterous child.

All in all, the Safety 1st Extending Metal Gate is a great all-rounder. It looks good, is easy to use and it comes in at a budget-friendly price point that many parents will appreciate.

Pros

  • Fits a wide variety of spaces
  • One-handed opening
  • Can be used at top or bottom of the stairs as no trip hazard
  • Easy to wipe clean and vacuum around

Cons

  • Might get in the way if left open in narrow corridors
  • Tricky to install (took two adults approximately 90 minutes)
  • No additional extensions available past the initial 102cm

Specs

  • Type: Screw-fit
  • Width: 62 – 102cm

4. Best pressure-fit stair gate: Lindam Sure Shut Axis Safety Gate

4. Best pressure-fit stair gate: Lindam Sure Shut Axis Safety Gate

In terms of appearance, the Lindam Sure Shut Axis looks similar to the Safety 1st Wall Fix Extending Metal Gate. But there’s one major difference between the two, and that’s the way the gates are fixed into place.

The Lindam Sure Shut Axis is a pressure-fit gate, rather than a screw-fit, which means you don’t need to drill any holes in your wall to secure it. The U-shaped frame simply squeezes against your walls, holding itself in place entirely through pressure – although you do need to attach some wall cups to your wall using the sticky pads provided.

Pressure-fit gates are ideal if you live in rented accommodation or simply don’t want to drill into your walls. Some pressure-fit gates can shift slightly over time, which may be worrisome if your child is in the habit of grabbing onto things, but our tester found that the Lindam Sure Shut Axis stayed firmly in place and didn’t wobble at all when pulled.

Installation is quick and easy since there’s no drilling required. It takes just 20 minutes to fit, which is more than the advertised five minutes but still significantly quicker than all of the wall-mounted stair gates we tested.

This stair gate doesn’t fit a huge range of doorways, spanning widths of only 76cm to 82cm. However, there are several extensions available which, when used in various combinations, can extend the gate to fit gaps of up to 117cm. This makes it one of the wider gates we tested, second only to our Best Premium Stair Gate, the Fred Pressure-Fit Clear-View.

Pros

  • One-handed opening
  • Can open in either direction
  • Easy installation
  • Pressure indicator offers reassurance that it’s been installed correctly
  • Additional lock at the base

Cons

  • Has a bar to step over, so mustn’t be used at the top of the stairs
  • When used with extenders, only the main gate opens rather than the full width
  • Recommended to check and tighten the gate daily
  • Ground bar may get in the way when vacuuming

Specs

  • Type: Pressure-fit
  • Width: 76 – 82cm, with additional extensions available to fit up to 117cm

5. Best premium stair gate: Fred Pressure-Fit Clear-View Safety Gate

5. Best premium stair gate: Fred Pressure-Fit Clear-View Safety Gate

If the Cuggl Wall Fix is at one end of the price range, the Fred Pressure-Fit Clear-View is at the other. With a price tag of £150, it’s significantly more expensive than all of the other gates we tested. But it scored well, achieving 40 points out of 48, and has a lovely feature that none of the other gates have: a clear window that allows you to see through to the next room.

The Fred Clear-View is made from an acrylic panel, which creates the see-through window. This means that you could use the gate to segment off your child’s play area in your home and still be able to see them playing through the gate.

Of course, most of the other gates we tested are also transparent, but with metal bars partially blocking your view. We like the unrestricted visibility you get with the Fred Clear-View and found this unmatched by any other stair gate we tested.

The acrylic window also adds a sleek and contemporary feel. If the rest of your home is modern, the Fred Clear-View should blend seamlessly with your decor.

As well as looking attractive, this gate is sturdy and places an obvious emphasis on safety. Like all pressure-fit stair gates, there’s a bar across the bottom which could pose a trip hazard. However, the Fred Clear-View has a glow-in-the-dark strip that illuminates the bar to help prevent tripping. There’s also a visual colour indicator that alerts you if the gate is left unlocked, and indicators to show you that the gate has been correctly installed.

Pros

  • Transparent acrylic window
  • Straightforward installation
  • One-handed opening and slam-shut closing
  • Useful safety features, including visual alerts
  • Easily adjustable to fit around skirting boards

Cons

  • Can’t be used at the top of a staircase
  • Above budget for many families
  • Screws are needed if mounting to any surface other than wood
  • Window shows sticky fingerprints (but easy to wipe clean)

Specs

  • Type: Pressure-fit
  • Width: 76 – 96cm, with additional extensions available to fit up to 124cm

6. Recommended buy: Lindam Sure Shut Deco Safety Gate

6. Recommended buy: Lindam Sure Shut Deco Safety Gate

The Lindam Sure Shut Deco, winner of our Best Stair Gate 2019 award, is similar in many ways to the Lindam Sure Shut Axis, but with beautiful wooden bars set in a grey metal frame.

The design is more contemporary than the white metal bars the Lindam Sure Shut Axis shares with so many other stair gates – a style that can look too industrial for some homes. However, the Sure Shut Deco's wooden finish also brings with it a higher price tag, costing almost double the price of the Sure Shut Axis.

Just like the Axis, the width of the Sure Shut Deco gate is fairly limited, only fitting gaps ranging from 76cm to 82cm. But there are various extenders available, which can stretch the gate to fit gaps of up to 117cm – wider than many other stair gates.

If you’re keen on buying a pressure-fit gate, but you’re not keen on the appearance of the Lindam Sure Shut Axis, the Deco could be a great alternative.

Pros

  • One-handed opening
  • Can fit extra-wide spaces (with extenders purchased separately)
  • Straightforward installation – approximately 30 minutes
  • Pressure indicator confirms correct installation
  • Double-locking feature

Cons

  • Opening mechanism can take a while to get used to
  • When used with extenders, only the main gate opens rather than the full width
  • Recommended to check and tighten the gate daily
  • Ground bar may get in the way when vacuuming

Specs

  • Type: Pressure-fit
  • Width: 76 – 82cm, with additional extensions available to fit up to 117cm

7. Recommended buy: Safety 1st SecureTech Flat Step Safety Gate

7. Recommended buy: Safety 1st SecureTech Flat Step Safety Gate

Pressure-fit stair gates are usually not recommended for use at the top of the stairs as the ground bar creates a trip hazard, which could cause you or your child to fall down the stairs. However, the Safety 1st Flat Step has a specially designed flat bar, which greatly reduces the risk of tripping.

Screw-fit stair gates are still the best option for use at the top of a staircase, but if you’re unable to do this – for example, if you’re in rented accommodation and can’t drill into the walls – the Flat Step is a better option than any other pressure-fit stair gate.

Despite the flat step, our tester wasn’t completely confident with installing it at the top of her stairs for the simple fact that pressure-fit gates have a tendency to move over time. If you do choose to install this gate at the top of your stairs, be extra careful to install it securely and check it daily in case any bolts need tightening.

Aside from the selling point of the flat step, this gate looks very similar to most standard stair gates, with the same easy-to-clean white bars as the Cuggl Wall Fix Safety Gate and the Lindam Sure Shut Axis, among others. It also has many of the features we’ve seen before, such as two-direction opening and a visual indicator to help you see that the gate is securely locked.

If you’re looking for a stair gate to use at the bottom of your stairs or in a doorway, there’s nothing in particular that sets the Flat Step gate apart – the Lindam Sure Shut Axis, which has a very similar price tag, may be the better choice. However, if you do need a pressure-fit gate for the top of your stairs, the Flat Step is our recommended choice over any other pressure-fit gate.

Pros

  • Can be used at the top of stairs, unlike other pressure-fit stair gates
  • Visual colour indicator shows correct locking
  • Double-locking feature
  • You can vacuum over the flat step

Cons

  • Not useful for wider doorways
  • Opening mechanism can take a bit of getting used to – our tester often needed to use two hands despite the claim of a one-handed opening
  • Will need to be checked (and potentially tightened) regularly
  • Took an hour to install – longer than any other pressure-fit gates we tested

Specs

  • Type: Pressure-fit
  • Width: 73 – 80cm, with additional extensions available to fit up to 101cm

8. Recommended buy: Cuggl Wall Fix Extending Gate

8. Recommended buy: Cuggl Wall Fix Extending Gate

The Cuggl Wall Fix Extending Gate, not to be confused with the Cuggl Wall Fix Safety Gate, fits a wide range of doorway widths without the need for additional extensions.

With a similar design and price point to the Safety 1st Wall Fix Extending Metal Gate, the Cuggl received a lower score (40 out of 48, versus the Safety 1st gate’s 43) due in part to its more fiddly installation.

Despite not scoring as highly as the Safety 1st, the Cuggl fits slightly narrower openings – anything from 60cm wide compared to the Safety 1st’s 62cm. So, if you do have very narrow doorways to gate off, the Cuggl Wall Fix Extending Gate may be the preferable choice.

Like many of the other gates we tested, it offers features such as two-way opening (for use in any doorway or at the top or bottom of a staircase), a double-locking mechanism and one-handed opening. What sets it apart though is the value for money it offers, retailing at just £19.99.

Pros

  • One-handed opening
  • Easy to clean
  • Can be used at the top of a staircase

Cons

  • Very fiddly to install – took our tester two hours

Specs

  • Type: Screw-fit
  • Width: 60 – 97cm

When should I buy a stair gate?

Stair gates are typically used when a child is around six months old. Of course, there’s no harm in buying a stair gate earlier than this, but until your baby is beginning to move around on their own, there’s generally no real need for one. Most experts recommend you purchase a safety gate to put at the top and bottom of your stairs as soon as your baby learns to crawl – whatever age that may be.

What age do you stop using a stair gate?

You can stop using a stair gate when you’re confident that your child can go up and down the stairs safely on their own. This will depend on the individual child, but this usually happens at around two or three years of age. As long as your child doesn’t pull or push on the gate, which could cause it to shift or break, and doesn’t attempt to climb over it, you can keep it in place until you feel comfortable removing it.

What are the different types of stair gate?

All stair gates fit one of two main categories: pressure-fit or screw-fit.

Screw-fit (wall-mounted) stair gates screw into your wall or bannister. This has the major advantage of ensuring the gate is secure and won’t move around once it’s installed, but the screws will cause minor damage to your walls. Screw-fit gates can be used in a variety of ways: at the top or bottom of a staircase, or in a doorway or other narrow opening.

Pressure-fit stair gates are great for use in rented accommodation as installation requires absolutely no drilling. This type of stair gate comprises a U-shaped metal frame, which squeezes against your wall or bannister, holding the gate in place through pressure alone. It often requires a small cup to be applied to your wall with an adhesive, which the bolts of the gate then sit in.

The bottom bar of the frame can pose a trip hazard, so pressure-fit gates are generally not suitable for use at the top of a staircase (more on that below). All pressure-fit gates can be used at the bottom of a staircase, or in a doorway or other narrow opening.

Within these two categories, there are a few other features that can form part of the identity of a stair gate. For example:

  • Retractable stair gates: formed from a flexible material that rolls or folds up when not in use
  • Door-style stair gates: these open and close just like a normal door
  • Extending stair gates: can be adjusted to fit a range of doorway widths without the need for any additional extension pieces

Which type of stair gate you choose will depend on your home and your needs. Generally, screw-fit gates are more reliable, so if you’re planning to have a stair gate in place for a relatively long time, and you’re able to drill into your walls or bannister, then a screw-fit gate will be the best choice. You’ll be left with a few small holes to fill when you eventually remove the gate, but nothing that a bit of filler can’t fix.

If you’re only planning to have a stair gate in position for a short time, or if you're unable to drill into your walls or bannister, a pressure-fit gate will be the better option.

Are pressure-fit stair gates safe?

Pressure-fit gates are very safe for use at the bottom of a staircase or in a doorway, as long as they’re installed correctly and regularly tightened as necessary.

However, they are generally not safe for use at the top of a staircase. This is for two main reasons.

Firstly, pressure-fit gates have a tendency to shift and move around over time. If a child was to push on a gate at the top of a staircase and the gate moved, then they could fall down the stairs.

Secondly, the bar at the bottom of a pressure-fit gate poses a trip hazard for both you and your child. The Safety 1st SecureTech Flat Step Safety Gate Safety Gate claims to have eradicated this risk with its flat metal bar, but you must still check the gate daily to ensure that it hasn’t begun to move. If it has moved, you'll need to tighten it.

What safety features should I look out for when buying a stair gate?

Most commercially-sold stair gates will have been tested to meet safety standard BS EN1930:2011. There’s no statutory requirement to comply with this safety standard, but most gates claim to conform.

To ensure your stair gate is as safe as possible, there are a few things to consider:

  1. Pressure-fit gates should not be used at the top of a staircase
  2. Gates at the top of a staircase should always open towards the landing, not out across the staircase
  3. Pressure-fit gates must be checked and tightened regularly
  4. All gates must be mounted between two strong, solid surfaces, using all the fittings provided
  5. Make sure your gate is tall enough to stop children from climbing over it

Some stair gates boast specific safety features, which can help to ensure your gate is installed and used in the safest possible way. Here are a few features you might like to look out for:

  • Indicators that tell you when the gate has been properly installed
  • Indicators that tell you when the gate has been properly locked
  • An opening mechanism that can be operated with one hand, so that you can safely use the gate while carrying a baby or toddler
  • Additional child-proof double locks at the base of the gate
  • Self-closing gates, which close themselves behind you after you’ve gone through
  • Slam-shut gates, which you can just slam shut behind you

Which safety gate is best for the top of the stairs?

Although the Safety 1st SecureTech Flat Step Safety Gate is the only pressure-fit gate that claims to be able to be used at the top of a staircase, we still think it’s preferable to use a screw-fit gate wherever possible. This leaves far less room for error and, once the gate is installed correctly, it won’t shift. There’s also no ground bar to cause a trip hazard.

The BabyDan Guard Me is the best stair gate to buy overall, but the retractable screen does have a bit of give to it, and it needs to be installed at least 9cm from the top of the staircase.

Although the BabyDan Guard Me is safe for use anywhere in your home, the best stair gate for use at the top of the stairs is the Safety 1st Wall Fix Extending Metal Gate, which is also the best screw-fit stair gate we tested.

The Safety 1st Wall Fix Extending Metal Gate is easy to adjust to fit securely at the top of any staircase, and because you don’t need to use any additional extenders, the full width of the gate will open, leaving no obstruction that could cause you to trip.

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How we chose which stair gates to test

Our researcher, Becca Heyes, a mum of two girls, spent five hours researching hundreds of different stair gates to compile a list of the 14 most popular stair gates on the market. These included lists on major review websites and our very own Mumsnet forums.

She also looked at Amazon consumer reviews from real parents, and Which? Best Buy stair gates. Which? conducts thorough safety experiments to determine which stair gates meet the safety standard BS EN1930:2011, so this was an important resource for our research. We didn’t test any gates that failed any of Which?’s rigorous safety tests.

The most popular recommendations were pulled together to include in a longlist of approximately 30 stair gates, then whittled down to form our final shortlist.

How we tested the stair gates

Once we’d selected the 14 best stair gates for our shortlist, our tester, Katja Lakha, installed them one at a time in her home. Katja is a busy mum with three children (girls aged one and four, and a seven-year-old boy), so each gate was put through its paces. The gates were tested for at least one to two weeks each in busy areas of Katja’s home.

Katja gave each stair gate a score in six key categories:

  1. Safety and stability: did the gate shift once installed? Were there any sharp corners or edges? Were there any small gaps that might trap a child’s fingers? Is the gate well made?
  2. Assembly: how easy was the gate to install? Were the instructions clear? Were any additional tools or fixings required?
  3. Day-to-day use: does the gate do the job it’s supposed to? Does it withstand a toddler’s weight? Is it easy to open and close with one hand?
  4. Cleanliness: does the gate show grubby fingerprints? Is it easy to clean? Is there a bar that gets in the way when vacuuming?
  5. Aesthetics: does the gate look good and fit most interiors?
  6. Value for money: does the price match the product? Would you pay this amount for the gate?

Each category was scored out of eight, giving each gate a total possible score of 48. All the gates that scored 40+ points were included in our final list, with five of these being awarded coveted Mumsnet Best awards.

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