Painting expert Mauro Henrique, master electrician Heath Eastman, and carpenter Nathan Gilbert take us on a house call to help a homeowner with babyproofing their home. The three get to work testing for lead paint, installing safer outlets, and mounting gates and latches to keep baby Jack safe as he grows.
Childproofing Checklist: What You Need to Do
Babyproofing a home is essential for keeping children safe as they grow. Safeguarding items like household cleaners and poisons, as well as hazards like electrical outlets and stairs, can help avoid terrifying accidents.
To help, painting expert Mauro Henrique, master electrician Heath Eastman, and carpenter Nathan Gilbert show us how to babyproof a home.
1. Check for Lead
One of the most important aspects of babyproofing a home is checking for lead paint. Lead paint can cause physical and mental development issues for children under 6. Homes built before 1978 have a significant risk of containing lead paint.
Using a utility knife, cut down into original woodwork, such as a window sill or window casing. Remove a small chunk of the trim, exposing raw wood underneath. Using the test kit according to its instructions, dab the chip, the gouge where the wood was removed, and the reference card that came with the kit. If the tested area matches the reference card, there is likely lead paint present.
If there is lead paint, there are a few options:
- One option is to clean the area whenever any dust is present, as it may contain lead and the child could ingest it.
- The other option is to renovate the room, following regulations for any materials that contain lead paint.
Starting in the nursery, Mauro explains the dangers of lead for pregnant women and children under age 6. Using a chip of paint from the windowsill, Mauro demonstrates an easy way to check for lead paint with a lead test kit.
2. Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detection
Ensuring that a home has the proper fire safety and gas detection is key not just for babyproofing, but for home safety as well. This includes installing these devices in stairways, hallways, bedrooms, and common areas.
Heath explains he’s primarily looking for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the nursery. He recommends testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. Heath also explains the importance of tamper-resistant receptacles. Tamper-resistant receptacles, which are part of the national building code, are designed to remain closed unless a plug, and only a plug, comes in contact with it.
After killing power to the nursery, Heath removes the cover plate with a screwdriver, removes the old receptacle from the electrical box, and replaces it with a tamper-resistant receptacle.
It’s also important to test these devices to ensure that they’re working properly and communicating. Most models now have sealed batteries that last for 10 years, so if you’re still replacing your batteries, it might be time for an upgrade.
3. Safer Outlets
Babyproofing involves placing safety covers in outlets to prevent babies and children from shocking themselves. These covers slide into the outlet’s prong slots and sit securely inside.
But parents can upgrade their actual outlets to be safer as well. Tamper-proof outlets feature plastic gates that require both outlet slots to be pressed at the same time to allow anything inside. If someone pressed just one slot with an object like a screwdriver or coin, the gate wouldn’t open.
Replacing these outlets is relatively simple. Follow these steps:
- Shut the breaker controlling power to the outlet at the electrical panel.
- Test the outlet to ensure it’s off.
- Remove the outlet from the wall, and swap the wires from the old outlet to the new one. The black wire attaches to the gold screw, the white wire attaches to the silver screw, and the copper wire attaches to the green screw.
3. Add Cabinet Latches
In the kitchen and living room, Nathan covers preventing child access to hazardous home products and preventing falls. He recommends baby gates to section off rooms of the house that are too difficult to fully childproof.
Traditional gates can be secured with compression points, leaving no damage to walls when the gate is no longer needed. Retractable gates are secured with screws to the wall and can be installed in less traditional locations where a compression gate wouldn’t fit securely. Nathan suggests using cabinet locks to prevent children from accessing cleaning chemicals and detergents. Traditional locks are secured with screws, while magnetic locks are secured with an adhesive that can be removed.
We keep all kinds of things that babies and children may find interesting behind cabinet doors and drawers, so it’s important to keep them safe. Installing latches that parents can manipulate but children can’t is a great way to do so.
There are different types of latches available, such as one-piece latches that hook the cabinet face frame, two-pieces that mount to the door and face frame, and magnetic latches that hook the face frame and require a magnetic tool to unlock. They’re all great options, so it’s important to add them to cabinets in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, and even workshop if the child will be in there.
4. Protect Door Knobs
Lever locks can be attached over door levers to prevent children from opening the doors Knob covers spin over a door knob, which makes it harder for children to open unintentionally. To keep children safe from tipping furniture onto themselves, Nathan recommends using furniture safety straps. These straps can also be used to secure televisions safely.
Door knob guards can keep children from accessing unsafe areas, leaving their bedrooms at night, and many other hazards. These covers pop over the top of existing door knobs and require the users to squeeze two tabs to turn the door. Children’s hands are too small to reach the tabs. But for homes with lever-style door knobs, there are knob latches that secure the latch in place.
5. Add Baby Gates
Children are adventurous and blocking hazards with baby gates is important. There are lots of baby gates on the market today, with adjustable models that wedge themselves in the doorway, metal gates with their own latching doors, and retractable gates that roll up when they’re not in use. These are all great options, but note that the adjustable and metal gates don’t require drilling into the woodwork, while retractable models do.
Areas to place baby gates include at the top or bottom of stairways, in doorways around play areas, and even across kitchen doorways to keep babies safe while parents are cooking.