The first 6 months after bringing our baby home were relatively peaceful, at least as far as chasing him around went. For the most part, we could expect to find our son where we last left him. We did not sleep much so it was probably nature’s way of saying “hey, I know you are a bit sleep deprived so we’ll keep your baby immobile for a while, OK?”
When he turned over for the first time we were very excited! Finally he was doing something besides just laying there. Then he started trying to crawl – first a couple of inches, then a couple of feet and soon he could cross the entire room at an ever-increasing pace. One minute he was sitting on the floor and then the next minute he was already at the bottom of the stairs trying to figure out how to make a crawl for the second floor. At this point it was obvious that we needed to get some baby gates to set up the perimeter.
We inherited a pair of Safety 1st Perfect Fit baby gates from a generous co-worker who wanted nothing to do with them after his kids grew out of “I’m gonna throw myself down these stairs as soon as you turn around” phase. These really do work Perfect-ly in any area where you have a flat surface to work with on both sides of the gate. It will even adjust to fit base moldings and other slightly uneven surfaces. We set them up downstairs to limit escape routes and even use it on the deck to close off a gaping hole for the stairs in the railing. Unfortunately, these baby gates don’t work that well on our main stairs inside the house and we still need something more permanent for the top of the stairs.
We purchased a metal baby gate that comes with a banister kit. (2014 Update: This particular model has been working great for us so I highly recommend it).
Just like the picture in the link shows, the gate works just fine if you have a banister on one side and a wall on the other. However, we have two banisters at the top of the stairs. To install the gate, I would have to drill into one of the banisters which would be less than ideal. Alternatively, I could spend almost $70 on a stairway gate installation kit designed to solve this problem… Whoa, that’s expensive! Time to improvise.
In my garage I had a couple of 2×4’s that would make a great drilling surface for the gate, but how do you attach it to the banister without drilling? Zip ties, of course. I use them for lots of things when working on cars so I always have a bunch of different sizes on hand. Lots of plastic clips that hold everything from trim pieces to bumpers break easily when you try to remove them, and often times the best solution is to use zip ties to put stuff back as they are easier to work with and, for the most part, stronger.
Of course for something as critical as a baby gate that will go at the top of a 12 foot drop you would not want to use some flimsy zip ties. We are talking about industrial strength ones rated at 175 lbs each.
The banister kit supplied with the Summer baby gate actually comes with two brackets that use zip ties to secure them to the round banister, which was reassuring me in my decision to go with zip ties. Actually, I replaced the ones supplied with the kit by the industrial ones I already had because I was able to tighten mine much better than the kit ones that are meant to be reused.
I cut a piece of a 2×4 to be the same height as the banister, sanded and stained it with some Golden Oak stain I had left over from when I ripped the carpet off the stairs and refinished them. This is an optional step but it helps the 2×4 blend in a little better.
I used 3 zip ties to secure the 2×4 to the banister. When you grab the 2×4 and shake it the whole banister should shake and there should not be any play whatsoever.
Now I was ready to install the hardware that was supplied with the gate. After it was finished it looked like this:
In the following picture you can the final result – a baby gate securely installed with absolutely no damage to the banisters. Keep in mind that this method should work with other gates that don’t come with a banister kit. In that case, I would just use another 2×4 with zip ties on the right side and then install the gate as if I were drilling into the wall studs. You can certainly save a bit of money since you don’t have to buy expensive banister kits.
The method described worked so well that I installed a 2×4 at the bottom of the stairs which allows us to use our Safety 1st baby gate as needed. There is nothing permanent at the bottom and we can quickly put a gate up if necessary. This is not as secure as the Summer gate at the top, which has a special safety lock practically impossible for a little one to figure out. That’s fine, because if our son got through the bottom gate it would get noisy and we would have enough time to run to the stairs and get him.
This simple and cheap method has been working great for us for over a year and counting. I hope this post is helpful to some of you looking for a simple DIY solution for installing a baby gate without drilling into a banister. If so, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
*Obviously, none of these methods are a substitute for common sense such as knowing that leaving your small kids unattended is not a good idea. Do I even have to say this??