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Gate Buyer's Guide

With a vast variety of styles and options available on the market, choosing the right gate can be a difficult decision. One must consider a number of factors, including installation type, location, materials, span width, and what the gate will be used for. The following Gate Buyer's Guide will help you determine which type of gate will work best for your situation.

Type of Installation:

Gates are available in three basic installation types:
  • Freestanding: Freestanding gates are the simplest type of gate to use and set up. No tools are required - simply set the gate where you want it and that's it. These gates can be moved around easily and are a good solution if you will be using the gate in multiple applications.
  • Pressure Mounted: Pressure mounted gates, like freestanding gates, do not require any tools or hardware for installation. They can be set place (in a doorway, hallway, or entryway) and then locked into position. When not in use these gates can easily be removed. Pressure mounted gates offer a good balance between structural integrity and ease of use.
  • Hardware Mounted: Hardware mounted gates require you to permanently install mounting brackets onto your wall or woodwork. These gates provide the greatest amount of strength and structural integrity and are the only install type that is recommended for use at the top of a staircase.
Location of Gate:

Where you plan to use your gate is an important factor in choosing the correct type of gate. The following list shows the common places that people will install gates, as well as what type of gate would work best.
  • Doorway/Entryway: Freestanding, pressure mounted, and hardware mounted gates are all suitable for securing a doorways and entryways.
  • Hallway: Freestanding, pressure mounted, and hardware mounted gates can all be used to block access through a hallway.
  • Staircase: As a general rule only hardware mounted gates should be used for securing a staircase. They provide the greatest amount of strength and stability to prevent the gate from tipping over.
  • Partitioning a Room: Freestanding and hardware mounted gates are good options for partitioning a room.
Aside from what type of application your gate will be used to secure, one must also consider whether the gate will be used indoors or outdoors. If your gate is going to be used indoors any type will do. If you will be using your gate outdoors you may want to consider a metal gate. These gates will stand up to extreme weather conditions and most feature a rustproof powder coating.

Another important factor to consider is whether you will need a linear or nonlinear gate. For certain situations, such as securing a fireplace or bookcase, installing a gate in a straight line may not be an option. There are gates available that can be configured in multiple shapes to meet your needs.

Lastly, it is important to know if your gate will be installed perpendicular to your wall or woodwork or if it will be at an angle. Pressure mounted gates generally must be installed at a perpendicular angle. Some hardware mounted gates can be installed at a non perpendicular angle if your opening is not straight across.

Child Gates vs. Pet Gates:

While most gates can be used for both, some are designed specifically for use with children and some are designed specifically for use with pets. If you plan on using your gate with small children, or as baby gates, you may want to consider one that has been certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturer's Association (JPMA). In order to be certified by the JPMA a gate must pass a rigorous series of tests to ensure that it is safe to for use with small children, see our Baby Gate Info page for more detailed info. If you plan on using your gate with pets you will need to consider the size and temperament of your pet. For extremely energetic animals a hardware or pressure mounted gate may be more suitable than a freestanding gate (the added stability will help to prevent the gate from being tipped over). If your pet is a jumper a taller gate may be your best option.

Span Width Requirements:

It is extremely important to know how wide of an area you plan on securing with your gate. It is recommended that you measure in inches and try to be as accurate as possible. Many gates come with a built-in adjustment range. You will want to be sure that the span width of your opening can be covered by the adjustment range of the gate you choose.

Many gates can be customized by adding extensions to increase the span width. If your span width exceeds a gate's given adjustment range, it may be possible to add extensions to meet your requirements.

Materials Used to Construct Gate:

Choosing a gate made with the correct type of material for your application is also important to consider. Gates are generally available in one of three types of material:
  • Wood: Hardwood gates are generally very durable. They are usually available in a variety of finish options to match your home's decor.
  • Plastic: Plastic gates are lightweight and generally easy to transport. The heavy duty plastic used on these gates is designed to stand up to abuse. Plastic gates are a great option for the cost conscious consumer.
  • Metal: Metal gates are very sturdy and can withstand years of use. Often times they are covered with a baked on powder coat finish that is smooth to the touch. Metal gates generally can be used indoors or outdoors.
Additional Gate Features:

Many gates have built-in features that make them unique. Listed below are some of the more common optional features that can be found on many gates.
  • Walk-Through Doorway: A walk-through doorway allows you to pass through a gate without having to uninstall it or step over the top.
  • Auto-Close Feature: Some gates that have a walk-through doorway also have an auto-close feature. This will ensure that the gate closes on its own.
  • Built-in Pet Door: Gates with a built-in pet door are a great option for confining larger pets or children while still allowing smaller pets to roam freely.
  • One-Handed Operation: Many gates can be opened with one hand. This can be extremely convenient when your hands are full.