DIY or Not: Childproofing Your Home
While we fancy ourselves smart and creative enough to tackle many projects on our own, we also recognize that some tasks are just too high stakes, like writing a will or rewiring our electricity.
In our DIY or Not series, we go straight to the source, getting professionals to tell us when we really need them—and when we can save the cash to dress our kids up in the cutest clothes.
Of all the “Should I DIY?” scenarios that come with parenthood, childproofing is one of the most nerve-wracking. Even if you think you can DIY it, should you? Will it be safe enough? Could that potted plant actually be dangerous?
Whether your kids are babies or are starting to go on dates, we bet you can remember this stage in your kids’ lives. Today, professional childproofing agencies can charge as much as $1,500 for full-service childproofing of a two-story house, says Matt Anderson, owner of Home Safety Pros, a San Diego-based home safety agency.
Luckily, there’s no need to call in the pros for every single childproofing endeavor. We asked Anderson when you should call someone like him … and when you don’t need to.
Meanwhile, if your kids are well past the childproofing stage, let us know: Did you childproof your house on your own, or did you pay an agency? Share your tips in the comments, below.
Don’t Call Me If …
You’re changing outlet plates.
Outlets are a big safety hazard for kids who like to touch and feel everything, but this is one thing you can easily childproof on your own. To do it, skip the push plug option, which Anderson says are easy for kids to pull out and swallow. Instead, swap out the standard plate that’s already over your outlet with a spring-loaded variety. These types of plates automatically cover outlets whenever the plug is not in use, so little fingers can’t find their way into the socket. The only thing you’ll need to DIY this project is a pack of plates and a screwdriver. Remember to keep the original plates for when your child is older, if you think they look nicer or are easier to use than the spring-loaded kind.
You’re swapping out doorstops.
The two-piece doorstops found attached to the wall behind most bedroom and bathroom doors are a choking hazard for kids who can pull the small pieces apart and put them in their mouths. Instead, opt for the large, one-piece varieties, which are practically impossible to swallow. Follow the easy package instructions to replace your two-piece variety with the new, childproof ones.
You’re fixing your blind cords.
Low-lying or long blind cords are a strangulation hazard. To childproof, you’ll need to attach blind cord cleats. These allow you to wrap up cords neatly and keep them away from your child’s reach. You’ll need a drill to install the cleats; make sure you’re placing them as high up on the wall as you can, at a height where you know your children can’t get to them. Pick up some clear cleats if you’re worried about them blending in with paint colors on your wall.
You’re installing doorknob safety covers.
Safety covers can be a great way to keep kids from opening any doors that lead outside or to areas of danger (like to basement steps). You’ll need to pay close attention, though. Safety covers work by spinning uselessly around a doorknob unless pressure is applied on the right and left sides, making it hard for young children to open. However, once your kid sees how you open the door, he may be clever enough to figure out the system. Anderson suggests only using for kids three and younger. For kids older than three, consider installing a regular lock.
Maybe Call Me If …
You’re applying stove knob covers.
Stoves will need knob covers to keep little kids from inadvertently turning on the heat—this is especially important for gas stoves. While you can buy stove knob covers online, you’ll want to call a professional to make sure you’re getting the right cover if you have an elaborate, or even a very old, stove.
You need a lock for your stove door.
Additionally, if your stove door doesn’t have a lock, it’s best to call a professional to install one properly. If you’re very handy and confident in your skills, though, you could try installing one yourself (Anderson recommends this one). Just recognize that most stove locks are flimsy and can easily break. That’s why an expert eye might be best here.
Did You DIY Your Childproofing?
Whether your kid is a baby or in high school, childproofing is a task that every parent shares. Tell us, did you DIY any childproofing tasks? Did you call in the pros?
You’re installing toilet locks.
Similar to the stove conundrum, there are dozens of types of toilet locks to keep kids from opening the lid. Instead of spending hours trying to figure out which type will fit your toilet, it might be worth the money to just call a pro (unless, of course, you’re a plumber). If you go DIY, the right product will probably cost you around $15 and should come with basic installation instructions. Anderson recommends this type, with the caveat that if you decide to go it alone, you may need to test out two or three models to find the best option for your toilet, which could be an added expense.
You’re attaching cabinet safety latches.
The last thing you want is for your kid to get into the cleaning supplies, so make sure you properly install safety latches on cabinets that contain hazardous materials. The latches will come with instructions specific to the type you buy. If you go with the brand Anderson recommends (the long length makes it harder to swallow if pulled apart), you’ll need to drill holes in your cabinets, then attach the plate. If this requires too much work or technical skill, you might consider calling a pro to help; the top drawers in a kitchen can be particularly difficult.
Call Me If …
You need gates installed.
We’re not talking about the pressure-mounted variety, which you can easily install yourself if you’re only looking to keep your kid out of a specific room or area. If you live in a multi-story house, or have stairs leading down into a basement, you’ll need a hanging gate (since kids can easily push on and knock loose the pressure-mounted variety). These hanging gates require wall drilling and anchoring, which is best left to pros. Expect to pay approximately $125 per gate, plus approximately $85 per hour for labor (so around $210 for each gate in total).
You’re looking for plexiglass installation.
If you have open slats between stair or banister railings, you’ll want to get those covered with plexiglass so your kid doesn’t accidentally get his head stuck between them. This is definitely a task for the pros. Plexiglass can have sharp edges that need to be sanded down, and installation requires drilling, which can shatter the glass if it’s not done correctly. Plus, if you’re using plexiglass outdoors (on a porch, for example), you’ll need to account for weatherproofing. Average jobs usually cost between $275 and $320 for this, says Anderson.
You need bars on your windows.
If your kid has access to a floor above the ground one, consider having bars installed. Installation isn’t complicated, but all houses will vary, so it’s best to let a pro take care of it. Parts can run from $60-$120 per window, depending on how wide your windows are.
You’re anchoring furniture to your wall.
In most homes, anchoring furniture is a must because it prevents free-standing furniture from falling if your toddler goes for a climb (believe us, this happens!). The price will depend on how much furniture you have and how heavy it is—and don’t forget to get your TV mounted, as well. Anderson estimates a cost of about $20 per standard piece of furniture.
Oh, and that potted plant in the corner? If it’s an indoor plant variety, it’s probably fine, but you might want to get a cover to go over the outside and seal the dirt completely to prevent your child from eating it. For any additional questions or concerns, check out The International Association for Child Safety.
Once your house is properly childproofed, you can get down to the more important things in life … like enjoying that time in your home with your family.
Tell us: What did you learn while childproofing your home? Did you call a pro or do it yourself?
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