Installing a top of stairs baby gate without drilling into wood trim or banister post

The challenge: in an old house with nice woodwork, mount a baby gate at the top of the stairs such that it’s secure – without damaging the wood.

baby gate at top of stairs
The final product

This was a fun project.  Got some ideas from YouTube videos (a learning format I usually dislike) and improvised a little.  This is built from scrap parts I had on hand, plus a baby gate I had installed at our previous home.

The uneven surfaces presented by the trim on both sides pose the creative challenge.

On both sides, it was a matter of:

  • Trimming a 2×4 to match the protruding trim
  • Mounting the 2×4 to the surface (harder on the wood post side)
  • The final step is just a regular baby gate installation, screwing into the 2x4s.

Post side

(I think the post is called a “newel”?)

I first cut out two channels in the 2×4 to match the protruding trim on each side.  I used a jigsaw, freehand cutting one side, then the other (the blade was only long enough to cut halfway through).  This ended up looking less shoddy than I suspected it would.

Top of the 2×4 attached to newel post – see cuts to make room for trim

I then mounted the 2×4 to the newel post by drilling through the 2×4 , then running zip ties through the 2×4 and around the newel post, pulling them tight.  I had to connect two ties in series to attain sufficient length.  Under the zip ties are webbing straps, to protect the wood surface from the zip ties.  I’d originally planned to secure the webbing tightly, but the zip ties are strong enough that I just left the webbing loose as a protective layer.

Lower zip tie pass-through

This neatly secured the 2×4 flat with the post.  Between the post and 2×4 I added a layer of non-slip shelf liner, to reduce slippage and protect the post surface.

Wall side

Here I could drill into the wall, but faced the challenge of tall baseboard moulding at the base of the wall, where I needed to mount the bottom of the gate.  I didn’t want to drill into it, and even if I did, it was uneven, protruding from the wall.

I again cut away a curved portion of the 2×4 to make room for the moulding.  And again I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out, freehanding it with a jigsaw on both sides and meeting in the middle.

From there I screwed the 2×4 into the wall (with a layer of shelf liner sandwiched between to protect the paint) and mounted the gate as normal.

Wall side – cutaway for moulding

It’s strong, operates well, and looks acceptable (I didn’t bother finishing the 2x4s).  When the gate comes down in a few years, I’ll keep these 2x4s to pass along with the house someday, in case a future resident needs to mount a baby gate here.

2 thoughts on “Installing a top of stairs baby gate without drilling into wood trim or banister post

  1. What type of screws and what length of screws did you use to screw the 2×4 into the wall? Is your wall drywall? If so, was there a stud behind the drywall or not? If there was no stud, did you use wall anchors in the drywall?

    Thanks.

    1. For that guidance, I’d default to whatever the baby gate manufacturer suggests. Mounting it to the wall is a more general problem than dealing with the wood trim, the focus of this post.

      In my case, I had a plaster wall, not drywall. Don’t remember if there happened to be a stud there or if the hold was sufficient from screwing into plaster and lathe. I used leftover screws from another project, they were probably 2″ long.

      Though since you ask, I installed a baby gate at a previous house where I needed a stud at the top of stairs and there wasn’t one there. I wanted the gate where I wanted it, and I wanted it safe, so I went the whole nine yards: broke down the drywall between two studs, installed new wood pieces (I’d recommend 2x4s) by screwing them into the existing studs, refinished the drywall and repainted, and installed the gate where I wanted it. It did not look great, but it was in a low-traffic area and kept the kids out and safe.

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