Here's How to Child-Proof Your Staircase

From stair gates to floor maintenance tips, we've got you covered.

High angle rear view of brother and sister walking down the stairs
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Wardrobe, social life, sleep patterns, car... Everything changes in an instant when you have children as you adapt to family life, but the biggest and often trickiest changes are the ones needed to turn an adult-centric home into a family-friendly one.

Retaining a stylish, dream family home post-children is a challenge that many parents face. The white sofas that once seemed like a great idea are suddenly covered in crayon-proof throws. Vases, ornaments and anything breakable are now on the top shelves; basically, anything that could either be damaged or cause damage is out.

There are numerous ingenious products out there that can help child-proof potential dangers around the home. Plug socket protectors, door slam protectors, corner protectors—practically everything that can be protected has a solution.

There is one area of the house, however, that many parents find incredibly difficult to family-proof: the staircase.

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Why are staircases so hard to family-proof?

An independent survey carried out by Jackson Woodturners revealed that 20 percent of parents found staircases the hardest area of the home to child-proof. Some of the reasons for this are:

  • Badly fitting stair gates don't effectively secure staircases
  • Flooring can present trip or slip hazards
  • Balustrades may be in poor condition

    Here's what can be done to rectify these problems…

    1. Stair gates

    In theory, stair gates should fit securely at the top and bottom of a staircase, effectively preventing a child from accessing the stairs. In reality, it can be extremely difficult to find a stair gate to suit anything other than the most basic staircase.

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    Here's why:

    There isn't such thing as a "standard" staircase configuration. Skirting boards, unstable newel posts and uneven walls can prevent stair gates from being secured properly.

    Building regulations state the bottom two steps of a staircase do not require a balustrade—making it incredibly difficult to attach a stair gate. Often finding a stair gate suitable to fit your exact staircase configuration can be a matter of trial and error.

    The at-a-glance guide below to the different types of staircases will help identify your needs and simplify your search.

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    2. Stair flooring

    Once on the stairs, it is essential that there are no trip or slip hazards. Here are four ways to help keep stairs safe:

    1. Ensure stair carpets are in good condition. Repair any frayed areas and make sure that the carpet is securely fixed to the stair treads.
    2. If your stair treads are painted or polished they can be slippery underfoot, especially for those wearing socks. Always make sure that children either wear slippers or have bare feet when going up and down the stairs.
    3. Apply a clear coat of non-slip paint or varnish over polished or painted stair treads.
    4. Ensure that all toys or objects are tidied away into suitable, safe home storage systems and aren't left lying around to be tripped over.
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      3. Staircase Maintenance

      Keeping your staircase in good overall condition will help prevent potential accidents. The main areas to focus on are the spindles and the newel posts. Ensure that spindles are firmly secured and correctly positioned so that children cannot squeeze through the bars. UK Building Regulations specify that the gap between spindles should be no more than four inches.

      The newel post is the supporting post that sits at either end of the balustrade. It is essential that the newel posts are secure and not at all wobbly, especially if you are planning to attach a stair gate. Seek the advice and expertise of an experienced joiner or staircase specialist if you are in any doubt about the safety of the staircase.

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      Kids will be kids

      No matter how hard you try to family proof your home, you can guarantee that children are always going to outsmart you and find trouble in the least likely of places. And aside from installing eyes in the back of your head, there is little that you can do to protect against the unexpected. But by following the above advice, you can ensure that your staircase is as safe as it can be.

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