• Cardinal Gates SS-30 Stairway Special Safety Gate

  • Regalo Easy Step Baby Gate

  • How We Tested

  • What to Know About Installing Baby Gates

  • Other Baby Gates We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Baby Gates of 2020

  1. Best Overall

    Cardinal Gates SS-30 Stairway Special Safety Gate

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Regalo Easy Step Baby Gate

    Skip to the full review below
Best Overall
Credit: Cardinal Gates

The Cardinal Gates Angle Stairway Gate is the best baby gate we tested.

Best Overall
Cardinal Gates SS-30 Stairway Special Safety Gate

The Cardinal Gates Stairway Special is the best baby gate on the market thanks to several thoughtful design features and solid construction. Not only does the product come with a comprehensive installation manual, but their videos are an excellent tool for those who need a bit more help.

The baby gate is made to be mounted about six inches from the floor, which avoids the common installation issues that plague many gates. Often, molding, baseboards, or an intricate banister can prove difficult, but not for this one. We found the hardware to be logical and that the installation and subsequent uninstallation left minimal damage. The latch isn’t the prettiest or most obvious, but it’s simple to open with one hand for an adult, but not for toddlers.

One of the more uncommon features of this product is that this baby gate can be installed at a bit of an angle. While it may never be an issue if you have a fairly new home, often times an older home may have more quirks and non-standard openings, where this gate (and probably only this gate) would work, thanks to the adjustments made available by design.

The Cardinal Gates Stairway Special gate is constructed from sturdy yet lightweight aluminum. You should have no problem installing this, seeing as the instructions are particularly outstanding. For those who get a facial tick upon glancing at Swedish furniture instructions, trust that you won't have to worry about losing your weekend over this one.

Best Value
Credit: Regalo

The Regalo Easy Step Baby Gate is our best value pick.

Best Value
Regalo Easy Step Baby Gate

If you’re looking for a less expensive but still effective baby gate, the Regalo Easy Step Gate is a good alternative. We liked how quick and easy the installation was, and that it yielded a solid feel without too much fuss. The features that didn't work as well are the slim opening (16 inches) and the odd two-step handle to open the gate. A lot of times, parents who tested this would turn sideways to fit through the narrow opening, which can be especially awkward if the gate is at the top of the stairs. Overall the gate’s design does the job. This model uses screw-in wall cups to secure the gate to the wall and has a large, if only slightly, clunky-looking handle.

How We Tested

The Tester

I’m Matthew DeLauder, and I’ve spent almost 10 years working in the juvenile product industry in a retail setting, where I was able to see new products and learn about how they differentiated themselves so I could provide parents with advice and answer questions they had about which ones to buy.

The Tests

Most parents are focused on the security and installation of the gates, and how easily they can open and close them while ensuring that the little ones stay safe. We added a few more criteria to our tests, including how easy it was to understand the manual and how much damage was left behind after we were done testing.

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In researching the category, we started by selecting best-selling and highly-rated gates that had been on the market long enough to have an ample track record. Once we had an initial set of candidates, we eliminated gates that had the lowest ratings, and many that had much higher than average price tags. We tested each product with parents and their kids, and asked for each parent to fill out a questionnaire about their experiences. We then calculated the scores and found our favorites.

All of these models we tested were adequate and would ultimately prevent a child from accessing a set of stairs. The features that define the winners and the losers are largely related to the ease of installation, and how quickly you can get through the gate. Gates that swing open fully, and that also do not have a threshold are the best options, and our scores reflect that. It's much easier to walk through a gate straight on versus having to turn your body at the top of the stairs to step through.

What to Know About Installing Baby Gates

Baby Gates
Credit: Getty Images

You don't need a lot of experience to install a gate that's safe for your child and won't harm your walls.

Most baby gates are made of metal with plastic hardware. It’s important to make sure that when you purchase your gate that you hold on to every part that is required for installation (even if you don't use all of them), both now and in the future. As your child grows, so may your home. What works in one space may require special hardware or those extra pieces you thought you would never use in another. One main challenge for a baby gate is the banister. Be sure to check the guidance on each product for how to work around them, or even try to use your gate at a safe angle, like the Cardinal Gates Stairway Special. There are also kits, like the Qdos Universal Stair Mounting Kit, designed to help you mount the gate against an irregular surface.

For those who are afraid of wall damage, there are products out there that can help. The Wall Nanny works great for pressure mounted baby gates. It works on almost all gates, and it’s simple to install. If you have a hardware mounted baby gate, you’ll most likely have some sort of wall cup design, which will help to minimize any damage. The best way to prevent damage is to install the gate correctly in the first place. This means measuring twice, and drilling in the place you are supposed to once (and not testing out four other spots). A final note: If you’re not handy, don’t sweat it, many people have installed a baby gate with no prior experience.

Other Baby Gates We Tested

North States Easy-Close Gate

This model did not score as high as our winner for two main reasons. One, the limited opening (19-inches wide) has a threshold you must step over at the bottom of the gate. For contrast, the Cardinal Gates model opens fully (roughly the size of the gate itself). Two, we didn't love the handle mechanism, which is a “slide and lift,” taking extra effort to get through. This model was the only pressure mounted gate we brought in for testing. We knew it wouldn’t work at the top of the stairs, but it can be used at the bottom of the stairs. We found that even though this is one of the most popular models online, it just didn’t work all that well in practice. The gate felt flimsy, and even after lots of tweaking, it never got secure enough for our testers to be comfortable relying on it as a safety device.

Summer Infant Multi-Use Decorative Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate

The Summer Infant Multi-use Extra Tall Walk Thru Gate has the longest name of any gate we tested. Other than that, it’s performance and installation was pretty average. While some parents commented on the height (36 inches) as a pro, others thought that it was awkward, especially when going up the stairs. Add in a slim opening (17.5-inches wide) and you have a fairly mediocre option that doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the category.

Smart Retract 52" Retract-A-Gate

Retract a Gate is a great concept, and there may be future versions that complete the vision of an easy-to-use and retractable gate. We found that the gate was average in how it operated, but that the main attribute it lacked was a secure feel when in use. Reviewers online have commented about having dogs or cats that can get through the gate, whether it’s underneath of it or by ramming through it, so we worry about the durability of the material. We also thought that it could be possible for a child to get underneath the gate, especially if it wasn’t installed as intended. While future models may eliminate these hazards, we aren’t quite ready to give this one a recommendation.

Evenflo Easy Walk Thru Top Of Stairs Gate

The EvenFlo Top of the Stairs Gate has an overly complicated installation that wasn’t as easy to follow as the other baby gates in this guide. The four-point adjustments that can be made to tilt or arc the placement add unnecessary complexity, and quite often you would have to go back and tweak a bolt. This model had more plastic on it than the other gates we tested, which in this model’s case felt like it could be a durability issue in the long run.

Meet the tester

Matthew DeLauder

Matthew DeLauder


Matthew DeLauder is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and baby gear expert with a decade of experience in the specialty product space.

See all of Matthew DeLauder's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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