A Better Baby Gate


Introduction: A Better Baby Gate

Why lay down 50 bucks or more for a gate (that has less than a 2' opening), when you can MAKE exactly what you need for next to nothing?

Step 1: A Trip to the Garage...

Project idea:

The goal here is to set your gate to slide in & out of place, vertically, with little effort on your part.

Parts you'll need:

(1) standard wooden/plastic baby gate
(8) boards of equal length and thickness...1x3's, 2x4's, or the like
(*) wood screws, wall anchors, (and possibly) washers and nuts to match
(*) plastic cable-ties

Tools you'll need:

- drill w/bits
- screwdriver
- saw
- wire cutters
- level
- square
- tape measure
- an extra pair of hands?

Step 2: Getting Started...

Scope it out.

I needed our gate placed at the top of our staircase. Placement of your gate may vary.

I took some measurements and planned to keep our kids and dog in place, while allowing for our cats to move about. Your needs may vary here as well.

Note: Watch for baseboard trim, rails, etc., when taking your measurements into account.

WARNING: Do NOT use this approach with babies!

CAUTION: Toddlers will most likely test the gate!

Step 3: Measure Twice. Cut Once.

Once you have your measurements, cut your boards as necessary (and to match). Two of these boards will be fastened to your gate, while the other 6 boards will form the supports or "tracks."

Once your boards are cut, take the two boards that will be mounted on the walls (one on each side of the entryway), and drill 2 counter-sink holes into each -- this will allow for your gate to slide freely within the tracks. Then drill through completely with a bit a little smaller in diameter than the screws you're using.

Note: I am not listing drill bit or screw sizes here, because you may be using screws of a different diameter and length.

Step 4: Assemble the Supports.

Now you want to build your gate supports or "tracks."

To do this, you may need that extra pair of hands...

Screw one board to each side of the wall support, being sure to keep the edges aligned. When complete, you will have two tracks(each being in the shape of a "U").

Step 5: Screw 'em.

With your "U" shaped tracks in hand, you're now ready to mount these supports to the walls of your entryway.

(And here's where it may get a little tricky. Where'd that helper of yours go off to now?)

Using your tape measure, level, and square, align the supports on the walls across from eachother. Using a pencil, trace each support for proper placement (just in case), and then drill through the holes of the supports and into the wall.

If you hit a stud, go ahead and screw the support(s) to the wall. If you miss a stud, set your supports aside and insert the wall anchors...

Once your supports are mounted securely in place, feel free to paint them to match the walls. Just watch that trim...

Step 6: Mod the Gate (part I).

With your tracks securely in place, and painted (or not), it's now time to modify the baby gate.

Take the remaining two boards and mount one to each side of the gate. The alignment matters here as well -- keep the boards even with eachother.

Note: Most gates have some type of "feet," and you may find this to difficult to work with. I kept the feet on our gate and mounted each board over top of them. For the center screw, I actually used a few machine nuts to make up for the missing "foot." Depending on the gate you have, you may need to make some adjustments...

Kitty may or may not be of any help here.

Step 7: Mod the Gate (part II).

Once you have the ends of the gate together, adjust the gate itself (+/-) and slide it down into the tracks.

Triple-check to be sure everything is in alignment before continuing. The gate should be level and the ends should be flush with the inside of each support.

Step 8: Mod the Gate (part III).

With the gate in position, make any final adjustments...and then bind the gate "closed" with the plastic cable-ties, using as many ties as necessary to secure the gate.

Tighten and trim the ties.

Step 9: Try It Out!

Move the gate in and out of the tracks -- the gate should move freely. Adjust as necessary. Some lite sanding may be in order...

Check to be sure the gate and tracks are secure, and that you can't push your way through. Adjust as necessary.

Step 10: What About the Cat?

Ah! I'm glad you asked...

With everything in order, simply lift the gate to the desired height and put a "stop screw" into the bottom of each track.


Step 11: Making a Better Baby Gate...BETTER!

To prevent little ones (or the dog) from lifting the gate on their own, you could fit the top of the tracks with a latch or pin system...one that only an adult can undo.



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    Please be positive and constructive.




    I have a laundry room doorway that is near 6ft exactly in width. I haven't been around a crib in a while so if the side rails don't fit, you could find some way to frame it out as a wall and use one of the crib end pieces as a door of sorts. This will help me since I have 2 dogs and 2 cats and the 5 month old beagle-mix puppy keeps chewing on brooms and getting into the litter box (googled it and apparently cat poo has protein that puppies like to eat. Can you say ew ick and yuck!!). I wouldn't have to leave space at the bottom for the cats since they jump my other babygates anyway. As for preventing the gate from sliding up and down, why not just put the flap from a padlock on top and the fastener on the back. Then you can lock it and keep it in place and unless the child is old enough to reach over and behind it to unlock it, the gate should stay in place. You wouldn't have to use an actual padlock unless people had a reason for it to be necessary.


    Thanks for the idea! I turned the side of a crib into a doorway baby gate from this idea. Buying a gate that spans this distance was way too much money for what it was.
    1. The opening that I was closing off was on a slight angle. This design still worked, I just needed to have the center U opening a bit larger.
    2. The gate slides in fine but it sticks when sliding out. I guess I could put some sort of wax in there to make it slide better but I probably wont. Its better if it's a little tougher to open.

    I included some pics for you to check it out. I still need to add another coat of paint but other than that it's finished.


    1 reply

    Most excellent, Jim! Thank you for sharing! (I apologize for the delayed response!).

    That actually does not look child-safe to me (I am a pediatrician). The gate looks like it has too much space below it. A child could wedge their head or limbs under it. The crib standard for safe spacing is no more than 2 and 3/8 inches. A safety gate should go almost all the way to the ground.

    2 replies

    A 4" ball is used to check baluster spacing and other gap spacing in Rochester, MN.  Whether or not that is more appropriate than crib requirements is a good question.  I'm using the 4" requirement for the gate I'm making, but the 2-3/8" requirement is probably not a bad idea.

    You can make yours to your own specifications. I think the IDEA here is what this is all about.

    Your sliding-gate approach gave me some good ideas. I used a vertical slider, made from plywood & metal mesh, on the door at the top of my basement stairs. Since we need every inch of door width sometimes, I had to mount L-shaped metal "guides" on the outside of the wood trim, which was a bit trickier than I thought.

    My biggest problem was a 37" opening that needed a wood & metal mesh gate also (with wood heat, air circulation is important).. It would have taken huge garage-sized hinges, done as a regular gate, but I finally settled on a slider there, too, but more like a pocket door mounted on the OUTSIDE of the wall. A couple of Teflon furniture glides to ease sliding, and maybe brass towel bars -- vertical -- to guide the sliding gate. Still working out the last of the design.

    My camera is still defunct, but a friend did take some shots of the regular Great Dane super-gates we made from scrap plywood & dog crate floors:

    Great Dane Gate

    The pins I put in keep the dog from slipping under while we're away. The cats can come and go as they please...and the kids know not to mess with it if the gate is in place. 'Nuff said.

    Slow down there Buckaroos! This is a fine, quality project, if I may say so myself and I'm in the position to use it (if you're not, then don't), seeing that my kids are 3 and 4 (and very well-behaved). I would never attempt to manipulate anything that shouldn't be manipulated (well, with my children that is), such as with a car seat. If there was any question about their lifting the gate and/or getting under it, I wouldn't have done this. If they were any younger, I wouldn't have done this. (Did anyone actually R-E-A-D my post? I did type in a couple of warnings...) This won't work for everyone. And don't let the photos I took worry you. The gap is actually smaller than it looks. I can see that the angle doesn't help here... Oh, and this thing would really have to take a beating to come off. The damn gate would crack before anything. What do you think I am, "new?" ;-)

    1 reply

    You're right. The pediatrician is wrong, as far as the strength of the wood "channel" you built. This thing is FAR stronger that the way it came out of the box. Assuming you used adequate screws into the center piece of wood (and gluing wouldn't have been a bad idea, either), it'll take a lot more than a 30-lb kid at full steam will give it -- assuming that the gate would even take that impact. If I were keeping Great Danes or Rottweillers behind that gate, I might upgrade to a metal channel, but they'd walk over or thru that plastic gate anyhow.

    I suppose you could strengthen that wooden channel with some L-brackets, but it seems like gross overkill.

    I don't think much of baby gates in general and spent weeks looking for something that would be adequate for some medium-sized (60-lb) dogs. Not a one of them gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling, so we just started building some out of scrap plywood. Since my #%@$%&$ Sony camera's floppy disks can't be read by anything other than the camera now .... (angry obscene thoughts deleted) I can't do an instructable unless I can solve this problem. Sony will keep it for three months to fix it (if they can), so I'm on my own puzzling it out. I refuse to scrap a $1200 camera even if it is old, since it turns out incredible photos, even micro and macro. (Yeah, I know -- if you can't "read" them, what good is it?)

    I should mention, though, that I definitely would not trust ANY baby gate to keep in a dog of ANY size that really wanted to get through it. They're just too cheaply made, and even a little dog can chew thru plastic in minutes, and I've had medium-sized ones tear through the five or six different types I've tried over the years (we do dog rescue & have 12-15 at a time).

    We built our own, finally, out of plywood, with a large cutout in the center for a metal grate. Toughest part was finding the grate material, small enough openings that a paw couldn't get poked through or hung up in it. After months of haunting fencing places, hardware stores, etc., finding nothing usable, we had the brainstorm of ordering replacement floors for dog crates -- indestructible, and the black ones look really neat framed inside the finished plywood. Held it on with little metal loops designed to hold wire or tubing, screwed to the back side (with a few bolted through -- can't go wrong with overkill with 225-lb Great Danes). Usual hinges & tough brass latch, etc.

    Considering what they charge for some of these baby gates, anyone can build something better, cheaper, especially for containing dogs.

    I like your slide-up design -- very creative. Unfortunately, the four gates I have to build have to go in doorways, so I have little room to work with, and have to make it easier since we'll be using some of them every hour or so, and my metal & plywood design is a bit heavy. I may try it on our basement door, tho, since it's going to be lighter & used seldom.

    Nice approach to the problem, and it's given me some good ideas. Thanks!

    I have a small (12") dog that at certain times I wanted to keep out of assorted room in my house,yet,leave the door open---thank you So much for an economical solution!

    UPDATE: We found out that our dog was getting upstairs (while we were out), simply by lifting the gate up with her head. Ggrrr. So, I modified it further by drilling holes in the tracks, just above the gate itself (while the gate is in place), and then inserting a couple of 'pins.' Problem solved. *Note: We don't use the pins at any other time.

    Oh, and thank you for your comments (both positive and not so positive)! I appreciate it. Now go make something.

    No, the latch/hinge wouldn't work, because I'd have the handrail to deal with and then the swing of the gate... I did consider that. Vertically was the only way to go.

    Wouldn't it be easier to hinge one side with a kid safe latch on the stair side? Lifting the gate with a handful of stuff would be very difficult and cumbersome.

    That actually does not look child-safe to me (I am a pediatrician). The gate looks like it has too much space below it. A child could wedge their head or limbs under it. The crib standard for safe spacing is no more than 2 and 3/8 inches. For a toddler, slightly more spacing might be OK-- but I would recommend that a safety gate should go almost all the way to the ground.

    1 reply

    I concur with doc (IANAP). My 2-year-old would have his head under there in a nanosecond. Additionally, a couple of screws holding the sides or the "tracks" together (in cheap 1" soft pine?) isn't going to hold back a 30 lb toddler running into it. Maybe using a premium hardwood and mortise/tenon joints with glue would improve the strength slightly, but this doesn't appear to be a very durable or safe design. Bottom line, I wouldn't build this thing to hold back anything bigger (or more important) than a medium-sized pet dog. Important safety devices-- like car seats, gates, high chairs, cribs, seat belts, etc-- which have been carefully tested and developed and refined for decades are simply not worth the risk of hacking up. Some of the snarkier comments here must be from people that don't have kids.

    Bah on the pediatricians comments.Most kids are so goofy they don't know how to squeeze into the hole. But if it went lower the cat could still easily squeeze in. The best thing about this is that the gate by itself is a pretty good paint remover(mainily where the rubber pads meet the wall.This would fix that.