“ Brand: Mothercare / Type: Safety Gate „
Last year we moved into a new house and very quickly became aware of the fact that a stairgate would be definitely needed at the top of the stairs. We hadn't needed stairgates at all with our daughter as we had lived in a flat, but our son's bedroom door was at the top of the steep narrow stairs, barely a metre from the top step. After several close calls from me blearily staggering to his room in the night and from him learning to move, I packed my husband off to Mothercare and he came back with this.
It cost £29.99 and for that you get the choice of a birch or white gate that is 75 centimetres high and fits an opening between 62.5cm and 102 cm. It was important to us to get an adjustable stairgate as our house was built in 1911 and nothing is level, straight, or the 'standard' size. The gate comes in two large gate pieces with holes drilled along the top and bottom. Once you have worked out what size gate will fit you simply make a gate that size with the two pieces and screw them together with the four screws supplied. The holes are drilled about five centimetres apart so there is a great deal of flexibility over size.
We were worried about the frankly frightening concept of a gate where you have to step over something at the very top of a flight of stairs, but this is simply a gate that opens both in and out of the space, with no bar at the bottom to cause your death so hurray for that! It also opens all the way so there is no teeny space to squeeze through. We had a Lindam pressure safety gate on the kitchen door for a while and it was lethal and we all looked like a cage fighting family with all the bumps, scrapes and bruises we sustained from it - the space you had to walk through was too small (especially if carrying a washing basket, child or chair etc), it didn't open all the way and it had a step over bar that was responsible for an inordinate amount of stubbed toes and tripping. There are none of those problems with this gate.
To fit it to the wall follow one simple instruction. Take the screws etc that come with the gate, laugh sarcastically and throw them in the bin. Then replace them with ones that aren't cheap, stupid and bend like aluminium foil. Then drill holes in one wall to fit the hinges and holes in the other wall/doorframe/bannister to fit the latches. All these bits are made of plastic but they are very easy to fit and I probably could have done it myself if I had had the inclination, but I didn't. They are also very sturdy and have lasted very well over the last 15 or 16 months with no warping or cracking. The stairgate has two big screws on the narrow end which fit into sockets on the latches; the top latch has a flap that goes over the top. To open the gate you have to flip the flap off the top latch and lift the screws out of the socket - the hinge fittings have springs in them to allow you to lift and push much more easily. Once you get the hang of it you can do it one handed, carrying a child although I prefer to avoid it. The screws can be turned to make them longer or shorter to further adjust the gate to your doorway.
As I said we have had this gate for a good while now and on the whole I am pretty happy with it. Even if we don't close it properly with the latches it makes the upstairs much more secure to have it there, as there is no chance a trip or a stumble will send you down the stairs by accident. My 6 year old can use it easily and all our visitors have been able to puzzle it out very quickly - its that or have to ask for assistance to get through it to get to the bathroom! It is very sturdy and whilst it is only recommended to 24 months of age we are definitely going to keep it for much longer, even if just for the fact that taking it out would be a huge faff and we would have big screw holes to fill in the wall and bannister.
There are a few niggles however. Firstly the hinges make a distinctive audible whirr when you open the gate. Most people won't see this as a problem, but if you have spent an hour getting your sick, clingy, light sleeping baby to sleep and another hour upstairs completely quiet to ensure they stay asleep and don't wake and call for you instantly, then something that goes 'HELLO BABY. MUMMY IS GOING DOWNSTAIRS. MUMMY IS ABANDONING YOU. WAKE UP. NOW' is a bit of a pain to be honest.
Secondly if you want to use this on plasterboard walls you need different fixings that aren't supplied and it's a real pain fixing it onto uneven walls. In the end we decided to fit a wooden baton to the wall which does the trick, but doesn't look pretty. Thirdly the bottom big latch screw rarely makes it into its socket. Because there are 4 screws/bolts to adjust precisely, two at each side, its very hard to get it perfect and we don't have time to fiddle, so we just use the top big latch screw to keep it securely closed. It may not be 100% safe but we have resigned ourselves to this - now our son is older we don't want to stop him from going down the stairs, we just want a barrier to stop a misstep and tumble down the stairs. In addition these 'latch' screws also loosen or tighten from the movement of the gate, from fingers slipping as they lift the latch and from little fingers investigating. This means regular rejigging in order to stop the gate from being so stiff it won't open at all, or so loose it just pops out of the latch hole.
Finally (phew!) the big connecting screws that hold the two parts of the gate together have the same problem as the other screws on the gate- repeated lifting and twisting of the gate works them loose. We have lost all the original bottom screws that came with the gate at one point or other and the screws are now held in place with duct tape, with additional pieces providing further support to hold the gate pieces together. I have to be honest, it really doesn't look pretty at all, but it does the job and I don't have to remove enormous screws from my son's mouth on a regular basis anymore.
The gate gets three stars, its pretty good for the price and if you are aware of the issues beforehand then they aren't going to be a problem. It loses two stars for the rubbish screws it comes with, the fact things keep unscrewing themselves which isn't very safe on a baby product, the fact its hard to align everything to get it to shut as it should and the noisy hinges.