The 411 on baby gate styles

Child standing at baby safety gate and how to pick the right baby gate for your home.


I have talked to my fair share of moms and dads, and we all seem to be looking for the elusive triple threat of baby gates – easy to install, easy to use, and easy on the eyes. 

It feels like searching for the Holy Grail as one of those elements is always just out of reach. 

Nevertheless, safety gates are a necessary part of your baby-proofing needs to create a safe home environment so let me help you navigate the Wild West of gates.

Gates come in different shapes, sizes and colors, and they come in a variety of materials including wood, steel, aluminum, fabric and plastic.

All these gates should be tested to the same ASTM standards for usability and functionality so make sure to look for manufacturer certification. 

Because our homes are like little snowflakes with unique space needs, many baby gates offer a built-in expanding door or a modular expansion kit where you add extra panels to the gate ends so you can childproof irregular widths. Also, measure, measure, measure before you buy your gate.

OK, there are 3 basic types of baby gates:

  • Simple Barrier
  • Door Style Gates
  • Superyard

Simple Barrier: This gate has no door option and can be re-positioned throughout the home and taken down easily.  These usually are not a permanent fixture and use tension mounting to stay in place.

Note: some people use pet barrier gates as baby gates and may not even realize it – ummm we did this by mistake (doh). My husband went out and picked-up a gate at the store because it was cheap and had a small door for our cat to pass through.  Unfortunately, that small door was also the perfect size for our small child to squeeze through – and get stuck! You better believe that gate got removed from rotation faster-than-fast.

To be clear, I do not recommend using any pet gates for childproofing needs. For one thing, if the gate is built just for pets, they may not be tested to the strict ASTM baby safety gate standards you really want to have for stability and usability for your family. 

Another issue, some pet barrier gates have a lower height so adults can easily step over them and Fido is left wagging his tail on the other side.  That great for Fido, but at this lower gate height, your baby could easily climb over this style of gate before they are 2 years old. 

Baby Proofing Tip: Make sure to check if the safety gate is made for children AND pets (which is fine) OR only made for pets which is a no-go.  

Door Style Gates: There are many names for these types of gates such as swing style, pass through, walk through, door style and stair gates. They do have some unique functionality, but what it all boils down to is that you have the ability to open a door and walk through without removing the gate. Ya’ dig?

The tension mount gates with doors are more of a semi-permanent setup and can be repositioned throughout the house for different needs or may stay in the same location for years. 

Some pass through gates can also be permanently installed with hardware that screws directly into the wall or bracket that mounts to the wall and this type of gate is most stable. 

Hardware mounted gates are the only option for use at the top of stairs because they are the most stable and safe. Using this style of gate also allows for there to be no bottom bar horizontally across the floor.

Baby Proofing Tip: Can you purchase a tension mount gate without the bottom bar? Sorry folks, but any tension mounted safety gate will ALWAYS have the bottom bar – even gates that offer both tension mounting and hardware mounting options. This is because the gate is using tension pads to stay in position so it needs that bottom bar to work properly and press outwards.

Superyard: This is kinda treading outside the traditional “safety gate” box but this is basically a very long gate that may or may not have a door. Superyards create a safe contained play space that can even be used in the middle of a room (think MMA octagon).

Many times the superyard is used when a child is barely crawling or cruising and not covering much ground.  Just gonna be honest here, some parents have guilt trips around a product like this because it feels like a "cage" to them.  That being said, most parents that use this product LOVE the peace of mind it provides knowing that your little one is completely confined to Safetyville. 

We used this option for about 2 weeks and boy was it was a glorious two weeks.  So why only 2 weeks? Because then our dude became much more mobile and wanted more space to cruise. Le sigh.

That's the potential drawback with the confined space of a superyard, you kiddo learns right quick that mobility is cool and then wants access to everything almost immediately.  Fair warning, there can be a lot of rattling of gates to get out and if you have the plastic version of a superyard it may not be able to accommodate your bruiser.

In my humble opinion, the real long-term benefit is that superyards are AMAZING for extra wide or wonky spaces. 

Extra-wide areas are usually defined as over 46 inches and with the “hotness” of doing the open concept rooms between living, dining and kitchen areas, chances are you may have the need for one of these extra-wide gates.  

What's a wonky space? If you have a fireplace or bottom of your staircase that is irregular then the superyard is the ticket to safe and sound.

Baby Proofing Tip: Look for super yards with hardware mounting systems. Yes, you will need to drill into your wall but you will need this sturdy option as kids start to pull-up and crawl on and rattle on these gates. 

That’s the basics of gate types, next up is a post tackling the very dreaded gate installation... ooohhh (insert sound of ghost in spooky house).

Did this help you navigate the confusing world of gates? Please like below and share!