When Avery started crawling, we bought a baby gate for the top of the basement stairs. At the time, I was looking for the least ugly option that would fit the opening. We realized later that not only are compression gates not the best option for top of stairs, but our stair width (36″) was at the upper limit of the gate’s adjustability. This meant there was a large amount of exposed all-thread, enough to make us nervous.
So, when I was at a friend’s house a few months ago I noticed they had a nice plywood custom gate. Fortunately for us, they also had an extra one. Perfect, I thought, we can get a custom gate without spending a crazy amount of time making one!
Of course, nothing is ever that easy.
First of all, the gate we came home with was really just a piece of routered plywood. It was also a smidge too wide for our opening, so Kyle had to trim it down (which also meant re-rounding the corners). Then, Kyle installed 2×2 trim on both ends (screwed into the wall framing and painted white) to mount the hinges and latch to.
The plywood had some blemishes and imperfections so we decided to paint it. Originally I voted for white and Kyle the dark gray of our interior steel, but ultimately we landed somewhere in between. (We were concerned that the white would show too much dirt and handprints but that the dark gray would become too much of a focal point.) The color is “Del Ray Gray” (Benjamin Moore). I like it enough. It looked slightly lavender at first but I think we’ve gotten used to it (or over it? Kyle says he’s still not a fan). At any rate, we’re not repainting now.
The hinges are stainless steel and self-closing, so we don’t have to worry about manually closing it each time.
On the latch side, we used a simple stainless steel gate latch. (We realize there may come a point when she can unlatch it herself and we’ll modify if needed.) The only downside to this latch was that with the self-closing hinges it was pretty noisy as the gate swung back into place. So, latch hack! Kyle had the clever idea to install heat-shrink rubber tubing (commonly used for electrical work) to dampen the noise.
The vertical trim on the latch side also provides enough of an offset for the gate swing to clear the handrail.
During the initial installation, we debated adding another latch on the opposite wall in the event that we wanted to keep the gate open. We didn’t love the idea of our pristine white stair wall having a latch wart on it (or the possibility that someone might accidentally leave it open) so we decided to wait.
But, after a summer of having someone sleeping in the guest room almost every weekend, we realized it was nice to have the option of leaving it open (and since it only happened while Avery was asleep, it wasn’t a safety concern). So we added the other latch.
Yeah, it’s kinda dumb looking, but we’re over it. The important thing is that we now have a nice-looking and safe gate that only took way too many hours to fabricate and install.
We still don’t have a great solution for baby-proofing the loft ladder. We currently don’t have any issues with Avery trying to climb it (she just likes to throw her toys down to the basement), but we know it’s something we’ll have to deal with at some point. If Kyle didn’t go up and down the ladder multiple times a day it would probably be less of a design challenge, but as it stands we need something that restricts her use but not ours. So, we’ll keep brainstorming.
Bonus! Can you spot the two photos with a cone-of-shame photobomb?