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Baby-proofing your rented home

Posted on 2015-08-18

Baby-proofing a home is often a challenge, but it can be even more difficult if you rent. This is because there’s often little you can change in your property without the need to hammer or drill into the walls, which requires the permission of your landlord or letting agent.

With a specific focus on babies aged between 0 and 2, in this post we discuss some of the challenges you may come across when trying to make your home safe for your little ones – and how you can overcome them.

Baby-proofing a new home

If you already have, or are expecting, children – you’re likely to have already brought this up with your landlord. So they shouldn’t be too surprised when you ask the question and may already anticipate the additional needs that families may have.

If you’re starting a new tenancy, this is also the perfect time to discuss the prospect of installing items such as baby gates, and ascertain whether you’d be allowed to screw these into the walls.

When viewing a new property, there are a number of things you should check. Look for hazards such as gaps and drops meticulously, including whether there are any hazards that you’d be unable to cover with a gate, such as gaps between handrails on a staircase.

The NHS recommends using boards or safety netting if the gaps between banisters or balcony railings are more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches wide). Small babies may be able to squeeze their bodies through gaps of this size. Also check the windows closely, as blind cords can be a choking risk for small children - these will need to be pinned to the wall or tied up high. 

Best practice for the installation of stair gates

If you’re looking to block off parts of your home that are potentially hazardous, then baby gates, or stair gates as they’re also known, are perfect for babies between 0 and 2 years old. If your landlord doesn’t allow you to screw or drill holes into the walls, however, conventional baby gates won’t be an option. Instead, you’ll have to opt for ‘pressure-mounted’ gates.

These are perfectly adequate at the base of the stairs, but shouldn’t be used at the top as, with the correct pressure on the baby gate, your baby could fall through.

If you’re worried about this, contact your landlord and ask about alternatives -they may be more willing to allow you to drill some holes if they’re aware of the safety implications and you confirm, in writing, how you’ll repair any damage when you leave.

If your landlord does allow you to install a baby gate, then you may need a safety gate mounting kit to install your baby gate properly. Different types are available depending on where your baby gate will be located and how it will be attached.

So you’ll have to consider how you’re attaching the stair gate, and whether you’re intending to fix it into plasterwork or woodwork.

With woodwork, you’re creating a permanent mark in the wood, so it’s more than likely that, if your landlord allows you to screw in a baby gate, it will be through the drywall/plaster. In this situation, it’s best practice to screw the gate hardware into the wall studs behind the plaster.

However, there isn’t always a stud where you’d like to place the gate, which can make this problematic. If you attach the gate to the drywall or plaster directly without attaching it to the stud behind, then it’s likely the connection won’t be strong enough and could fail over time. As such, using a gate attaching kit is essential in ensuring that it’s held in place safely and securely.

Preventing cabinet access

Additionally, you should look to secure your cabinets from wandering hands.

To begin with, move heavy items onto higher cupboards so they’re out of reach of any little ones crawling around. In addition to this, ensure that you move dangerous products, such as medicines and cleaning products, out of the area completely.

Secondly, for floor level and accessible cupboards (and even the fridge), you may wish to consider investing in magnetic locks or adhesive strips. These prevent children from accessing cabinets but crucially, they don’t require screws, which means that you won’t have to ask for the permission of your landlord as there’ll be no lasting damage.

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