When we decided to have children we, well I, knew I didn’t want to have to sacrifice my homes style with all of the baby stuff, yet I still wanted them to have what they needed to live and grow safely in our home.
One safety item in particular was going to be a struggle to make work in our home. The baby gate. We live in a ranch style house with stairs leading to the basement. We also have a pretty open floor plan with our stairs facing into the living room so needed a gate to keep our daughter and future children from crawling right down those stairs. Here is what our stairs looked like pre-baby:
The newel posts were hand crafted by my sweet little brother. When we were building our home I searched and searched for newel posts that I loved but they were either too small or too expensive. My brother, a very talented carpenter and cabinet maker, suggested that he could create what I wanted so I drew up what I was envisioning and he made it happen. At the time I wasn’t thinking about children or how this staircase would work when they were in the mix. I bring this up because most baby gates require you to drill holes into your posts in order to be sturdy enough for your baby to not push it over and fall right down the stairs. Baby gates aren’t permanent fixtures in a home. Once our kids grow up and can safely go up and down the stairs the gate will come down so I really wanted to avoid having to drill holes into these if I could. We had to come up with an alternative solution that would 1. be safe for our baby and 2. not harm any custom woodwork. Here is what we decided to do:
We found this gate on Amazon. It was really pretty, the quality was great, and it matched our black wrought iron balusters. It also came with hardware to mount either directly to a stud in the wall or to a post. Since we didn’t have a wall and didn’t want to drill into the posts, we decided that we could “wrap” the posts with wood and secure the gate into those pieces.
In order to create the “wrap” here are the materials we needed for our specific newel posts:
*6 pieces of wood cut at 8.5″ long x 1″ thick
*2 Pieces of wood cut at 8.5 ” long x 1.5″ thick
*2 pieces of wood cut at 36″ long x 1″ thick
*8 bolts that were 8″ long
*16 washers and nuts to secure each bolt
*black electrical tape
All of the wood we used was Alder that we stained to match the existing posts. Brandon cut the wood into the sizes listed above (which are specific to fit our posts) then pre-drilled holes into each piece large enough for the bolt to go through the wood. Then he used a drill bit with a big enough diameter to allow the wrench socket and nut to fit and drilled it just deep enough to recess the nut. This allowed us to create a clamp-like casing to surround the posts without drilling a single hole into them. We glued some felt to the back of the strips and wrapped the bolts with electrical tape in order to prevent any rubbing and scratching on our posts. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of each step as we did them so I have to use close ups of the finished gate to give you the sense of how we created it.
We used an 8.5″x1.5″ and an 8.5″x1″ strip and 2 bolts to wrap the top part of each post.
Next we used two 8.5″x1″ strips and 2 bolts to wrap the bottom part of each post. We had to use a thicker piece (2 pieces in the picture due to lack of thicker wood selection) on top to make up for the difference in size of our newel posts from top to bottom. The top part measures 6.5″ across and the bottom part is 7.5″ across. We then used a 36″ x 1″ piece and secured them onto each side vertically to align perpendicular as pictured below. Lastly we attached the gate hardware to these long vertical pieces. We had to add the vertical pieces in order to have something to secure the gate hardware to. We couldn’t slide the “wrap” on the bottom part any lower due to the staircase tread (as you can see in the photo below, the “wrap” is sitting directly on the tread). We could have raised the gate to attach directly to the horizontal pieces but then there would be a large gap at the bottom that little limbs could get stuck in.
Today there are many brands that make kits to wrap the posts to prevent drilling into them but years ago when we did this it wasn’t as common or easy to come by. Also since our posts are custom, they are much larger than the standard size so finding a kit that would work for our needs was more difficult. Realistically though, even if we did find something that would have fit we probably would’ve still made them ourselves. That way we could use the same wood species and stain and after all….we love to build things ourselves!
We now have a functional baby gate that looks like it was a part of the staircase all along. We didn’t have to sacrifice the safety of our daughter and now son or the custom posts! We have had this on our staircase for 3 years now and still love it! The gate we bought is so well made and there are no signs of wear on it at all. The clamps are still holding strong and we have never had to tighten or adjust them even with all of the pulling and tugging done by the littles!