Gate Basics

Purchasing a safety gate for the first time can be a daunting task. We can help explain the terminology and educate you on finding the right baby gate options for your needs.

Mom smiling while helping her baby walk through a Driftwood Extra Wide Auto Close Gate
Safety Starts Here: Learn the Gate Basics

Once your baby starts crawling, safety gates can make your home safer for your curious child by blocking off potentially dangerous areas such as stairways, kitchens, bathrooms, and more. Child safety gates are designed for children between 6 months and 2 years of age. We recommend that you install a baby gate early, before the crawling stage, so that you and your baby become accustomed to it. If your child learns how to open the gate or climb over it, you should not rely on the gate to keep your toddler contained. Always look for gates that display the JPMA Certified Logo. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is a trade association that has developed a stringent safety certification program that has reassured parents for more than 50 years. JPMA certification assures you that our products meet or exceed all of the applicable U.S. Federal Laws and voluntary ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) Standards for safety gates. These standards outline safety and performance requirements, including but not limited to the strength of the materials, minimum height, size of the bar or slat openings, and the security of the latch. The certification program requires testing and annual verification by independent third-party labs. To learn more about JPMA and all of the juvenile products it certifies, you can visit its website at All Toddleroo by North States® gates and play yards are certified by JPMA.

Types of Gates 101

There are several types of baby gate options available, with these being the most common:

Pressure-Mounted Gates:

A pressure-mounted gate is held in a doorway or opening by applying pressure against the door frame or walls. No hardware or tools are needed for this type of mount. Here are the most popular varieties:

Portable Pressure-Mount: Portable pressure-mount gates typically have two sliding panels that can be adjusted to fit your opening, plus some type of pressure arm or locking mechanism that holds the gate in place. To pass through, you remove it from your doorway or slide the panels back. These types of gates are usually the most budget-friendly and can be quickly installed and removed. The portability of these gates makes them especially great for travel and can make Grandma’s home safer for your young child. However, this type of gate is never recommended for use at the top of stairs.

Walk-through Pressure-Mount: The distinguishing feature of a walk-through pressure-mount gate is a swing door that allows for easy pass-through without removing the entire gate. Walk-through pressure gates are typically made of metal or wood, and may also come with optional hardware to enhance the strength and security of the opening. Walk-through pressure gates work well in high-traffic areas, but we do not recommend these gates for the tops of stairs.

Hardware Mounted Gates:

Hardware-mounted gates require permanent hardware and screws to be installed into a solid door frame or wall stud. The benefit of these gates is the extra security they provide – necessary, for example, at the top of a staircase. Some wall and/or woodwork touch-up may be needed when the gate is removed (a little spackle or wood putty, stain, and paint will usually do the trick). Please note: hardware-mounted gates should never be screwed into drywall or plaster alone.

Hardware-Mounted without a Threshold: These hardware-mounted gates swing open and closed for pass-through without a threshold to step over. Many, but not all, hardware-mounted gates can be used at the top of the stairs, provided that the gate has a stop feature that ensures the gate can only open in one direction; you do not want the gate to swing out over the stairs. As with all gates, be sure to follow manufacturer instructions regarding whether or not the gate you choose can be used at the top of the stairs. Many of these gates can be adjusted to varying widths to fit your space.

Hardware-Mounted with a Threshold: Hardware-mounted gates with a threshold are useful in wide or irregular spaces, or openings that need extra strength and security. These gates have a swing door for easy pass-through. Look for models that can be easily removed from the hardware when not in use.

Freestanding Enclosures:

Freestanding enclosures do not mount to any walls and can stand alone when positioned in an interlocked formation. A common name for this type of enclosure is a play yard. These can be made from plastic, wood, or metal and can feature a variety of colors. Play yards are great for creating an enclosed, safe play space. Look for models that fold up to be compact, for easy portability. Plastic models can often be used indoors or outdoors. At Toddleroo by North States, we have a wide range of plastic, wood, and metal Superyards to meet your needs.

Common features defined:
  • Stay-Open/Hold-Open: Swing door will stay open if pushed past 90 degrees.
  • Self-Close/Auto-Close: Swing door will automatically close behind you.
  • Childproof Latch: Latches are dual or triple action, making them difficult for a young child to open.
  • Safety Locks: Extra locks to ensure that your child can’t open the gate.
  • Hands-Free: A foot pedal is used to open the gate.
  • Angle Mount: Gates can mount at an angle, where mounting points are not directly across from one another.
  • Extensions: Bars, slats, or panels that are added to a gate to increase width.

How to select the right gate

There are 3 easy steps to sorting through baby gate options and selecting the correct gate or enclosure for your space.

1. Determine Your Location:

Common locations for safety gates are at the top of stairs, the bottom of stairs, between rooms and hallways, and around unsafe spaces such as electronic equipment or fireplaces. You may also want to create an enclosed play space for your little one. Your location will determine the type of gate or enclosure you need.

Three images - one showing a mom and baby walking through a baby gate, another showing a baby in a metal Superyard, another showing a baby standing at a gate at the top of the stairs

Our recommendations:

Top of Stairs: Hardware-mounted gates are the only choice for tops of stairs, where the risk of injury from a fall is high. We recommend a sturdy hardware-mounted gate with no threshold to step over. When installing a hardware-mounted gate at the top of the stairs, always make sure the gate swings toward the landing and not out over the stairs. Look for products with a security measure that only allows the gate to swing in one direction. Follow the manufacturer’s installation directions and, after installing, check the hardware frequently to make sure it has not become loose. Toddleroo by North States has several top-of-stairs gates in wood, metal and plastic to meet your needs.

Between Rooms and Hallways: Pressure-mounted gates are a smart choice for use between rooms and hallways. Portable pressure gates, such as the Supergate® Classic can be conveniently moved throughout your home. If you have a rambunctious toddler, you may want to select a gate with the option to hardware-mount. For high-traffic areas, we suggest a gate with a walk-through door. Look for gates that have sturdy latches with extra locking features, such as the Bright Choice, Driftwood, or Woodcraft Steel® gates.

Blocking Unsafe Areas: Using extra-wide or flexible gates can be a smart way to block your child’s access to the kitchen, fireplace, Christmas trees, electronic equipment or other room areas containing dangerous or valuable devices. Measuring over 12 ft. wide, our 3-In-1 Superyard® gated barriers are perfect for securing large areas or carving out safe play spaces in your home.

Indoor and Outdoor Play Space: Play yards are ideal for keeping your child safe in your home while creating an enclosed spot of their own for imaginative play. Toddleroo by North States plastic Superyards are also weather resistant, offering a great way to safely enjoy the outdoors with your child.

2. Measure Your Opening:

Carefully measure the width of your opening, from side to side, where you intend to install the gate. Look for a gate that has the appropriate width dimension listed. Be aware that mounting may be more challenging at the lowest and highest ends of the gate’s width range, depending on the gate style and manufacturer. Some gate products include extension bars or panels inside the box. Refer to the manufacturer’s installation instructions on which extensions to use to precisely fit your opening. And some gates, such as the Deluxe Décor Gate™ or Light the Way Gate®, offer additional extensions sold separately for use with extra-wide openings. You should also consider the height you would like the gate to be.

Tan Baby gate with arrows pointing out the width at the top and height on the side

3. Select Your Mounting Type:

Remember that if you’re installing a gate at the top of the stairs, a hardware-mounted gate is a must. Pressure-mounted gates offer quick installation and no marks on your walls, but hardware-mounted gates offer extra strength and security. Determine which of these baby gate options works best for your location.

hardware-mounted vs. pressure-mounted

Other Tips:

Quality matters: Look for sturdy materials and construction. Going for the lowest price is not always the best strategy with safety gates or play yards. For further helpful information, watch our Product Demos.

Do your homework: View instruction manuals, videos and reviews online before you buy to make sure you are getting the gate you need.

Once installed, check your gate frequently! Make sure the tension knobs and/or hardware have not become loose.

Recalls: Have a recall question? You can search for recalled items at or at

WARNING! Do not leave a child unsupervised or rely on gates to keep a child safe. These products may not prevent all accidents!

Now that you know the basics, the Toddleroo by North States Gate Selector Tool can help you find the baby gate options that are right for you! Simply use the filters on the lefthand side to find what you need.