If you have children below the age of 5 years in your house, you know how alert and careful you have to be. You have to ensure that your house is safe for your child and you need to child-proof certain equipment and furniture so that your kid doesn’t harm himself.
I have a 3 year old niece and she is very naughty. She is running around the house all the time and seldom rests in one place. In such situations, there are chances of her hurting herself if there are sharp objects or treacherous surfaces at home. So proper steps have to be taken to ensure that she doesn’t hurt herself.
One place where a toddler stands risk of hurting himself is in the balcony of the house. If you live in a multi-storied building or your child’s room is on a floor above the ground, you know what I am talking about.
A child over the age of 5 years can be tempted to climb over the parapet of the balcony. And more often than not, if the obstacles are not challenging enough, he can very well succeed in climbing over the railing.
This can be a disaster if you’re living in a multi-storied building.
So it becomes essential to childproof your balcony. In this article, I’ll walk you through some really good ideas how you can childproof your balcony.S
Childproofing your balcony
Make your deck less accessible
First and foremost, the best way to prevent and mishap happening is to make the deck or the balcony area as much inaccessible to your kid as possible. Try closing the entry to the deck with a door, opening it only when you need to use the deck.
You can lock the door and open it only when you need to go to the deck. I’ve seen some decks have a sliding door entry from the room. That won’t be as much an obstacle to entry for the kid as a solid door with a lock.
If you do not want to deny access to the deck to your child, given below are some ideas to childproof your existing balcony.
Safeguarding the railings
Design the balcony by replacing the grill with a transparent screen. Now you have a range of options what kind of screen you want to use. You can either use a transparent sheet of tough acrylic plastic i.e. Plexiglass that is durable and can withstand high stress. A presence of a solid cover is enough to deter the child from lunging forward, but the more tough the sheet, the better it is. Just make sure that the Plexiglass is completely transparent so that the view and aestheticism of the deck is not lost.
If the railing cannot be replaced with a Plexiglass sheet for aestheticism or whatever your reason, you can use a hard mesh made of steel or aluminum to cover the railing. A netting made of fabric can also be used but avoid because as the child gets older curiosity can make him try to cut or damage the netting.
Replacing wide gap rails with narrow gap rails
The grill or the railings on most of the balconies have a wide gap between each vertical railing. This poses a risk of your child falling through the railing if he is thin. So it is important that something be done for this. One way is by using a netting or Plexiglass.
If you do not want to lose the look of the rails by replacing with Plexiglass or netting, I have a solution. Replace the wide gap railings with railings having narrow gap between them. You can get them in the market and with the help of a professional install them in lieu of the wide gap railings.
Avoid the use of horizontal railings
Many designer homes in high-storied buildings have balconies fitted with horizontal railings. The main reason to use horizontal railings is that it is a more aesthetically pleasing design. But the risks that come with horizontal railings are two-fold.
At a young age, children are not much aware of the dangers of falling from height. And the toddler mind is very experimental. This is why you have to be extra careful to ensure the right protection.
The first disadvantage of horizontal railings is that the child can slip in between the railings since horizontally the length of the railings doesn’t pose any restrictions. This can prove to be fatal.
Another very big disadvantage of horizontal railings; which I consider to be a big one; is that the child can use the horizontal railings as steps to climb over the parapet of the balcony or deck. So even if you reduce the gap between the horizontal railings or the grill, the danger will still persist. Your toddler might not be able to slip in between the railings but that won’t stop him from climbing up the railings to reach the top of the parapet.
Hence it is a better idea to use vertical railings with less gap between them in place of horizontal railings.
Ensure proper height of the railing
What’s the point of securing the railings of your balcony and deck when your toddler can simply climb over them?
The International Residence Code (IRC) requires that balcony railings should be at least 36 inches high for residential homes. This is the minimum height to be maintained as children below the age of 5 are still below 36 feet.
For an extra precaution, it is a good idea to increase the height of the railings beyond 36 feet. This will prevent toddlers as well as small kids from climbing to the top of the railings. For further safety requirements of the railings, check out this article.
Use Anti-Grabbity Strips
So while doing my research for the best ways to child proof your balcony, I came across this great concept of anti-grabbity strips.
Anti-grabbity strips are flat plastic strips with a prickly texture that fit perfectly on the top of the railing using glue or ties. Being transparent, they do not cause much changes I the looks of the railing.
The prickly texture of the anti-grabbity strips is to ensure that your child does not take the support of the top of the railing to try climbing up. These strips can just be fitted on the top of the railing and you can prevent any attempts by your child to climb over the balcony railing.
These strips were invented by Hollie Bell who is a mother herself. To find a solution to her boisterous child trying to climb over the deck railing, she decided to do something about it. The result is in front of you. You can check them out here.
Finally, the best way to ensure the safety of your child in the balcony or deck is to be a vigilant parent. The modifications in the structure and the safety devices can make it virtually impossible for your child to climb over the balcony.
It is however your duty first and foremost to ensure that if your child is below the age of 5 years, you must take adequate steps to ensure that he is not left with a chance to experiment much.
You also need to be extra vigilant in case you’re visiting someone’s home or are renting a hotel room. You won’t have the safeguards in the balcony that you have at home. Hence it is a good idea to restrict access completely.
Which Material is the Safest for the Railings?
As far as the safest material for the railing of the balcony or deck is concerned, there are more than a few things you should keep in mind.
The material should be able to withstand the wear and tear over a period of time. This is so that the railings can last for a longer period.
The material should be tough and be able to withstand great force. More specifically, it should be able to withstand the weight of a 6 year old kid leaning against it.
It should be reasonable in price and not cost a bomb.
Considering all these factors for selection of railings, the best material to go for is metal. Especially metal with an anti-rust properties. This will make it last for a long period of time, giving it adequate strength and durability to withstand rough weather conditions and force. In metal, you have the option of choosing wrought iron or stainless steel. I’d say choose stainless steel.
So these were some practical steps you can take to make your balcony or deck childproof and safe for your children. Do you have any more ideas that you’d like to share? Do let us know in the comments!