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Childproofing a Low Rail Balcony

by Shara JJ Cooper

You might love to bask on your balcony, particularly if you are in an apartment and consider it your yard. But if you have a kidlet and a low railing, you have a recipe for disaster. You'll need to take action immediately to kid-proof your railing and prevent any accidents. The railing should be at least 3 feet high before it is safe enough to stop a child from climbing over. Even once it's childproof, you should always watch carefully when you little one is playing on the balcony. You never know what kind of escape scheme he's going to come up with.

Doors and Windows

The best way to childproof your balcony is to keep your tot from wandering out onto it. Even before he's 2, your wily rugrat can figure out how to flip a lever on a sliding glass door and push it open. To stop this from happening, invest in a childproof door lock. These attach to the sliding door and need to be pulled down before the door will open. They are out of reach of curious fingers, so your little one will stay safely inside. But don't forget about the windows. If you have a window that looks out over the balcony, you'll want to lock it up. It should never open more than 4 inches, according to the Children's Hospital at Westmead. This will stop a child from sliding through. Even with screens in place, kids can push their way out and tumble onto the balcony.

Objects

Scrape, scrape, scrape. That's the sound of your chair being pushed across the floor again, straight to the sink so your toddler can wash his own hands. If this sounds familiar, then you know the exact same thing is going to happen on the balcony. Any objects that are light enough to be pushed will end up at the railing where your tot can get a better view. Once he's up on a chair or pot, he can easily fall right over the railing. It's best to keep the balcony bare, or at least limit it to heavy objects, to avoid any child-style redecorating.

Deck Guards

A deck guard will add some extra protection to your railing. These range from something as simple as childproof netting that hooks around the balcony to full plastic railings. You can install these railings above your existing railing or in front of them, whichever is easiest and gives you enough height. Remember, you want a railing that is at least 3 feet high.

Replacement

Some railings are just beyond help. If you've tried all the above tips and it just doesn't seem safe, you might want to replace the railing altogether. This is also necessarily with old railings or railings that don't meet building standards. If you have low railings that also have horizontal bars in them, you'll probably want to replace them. No matter what you do, they will be unsafe. They have a built-in ladder! It's impossible to keep kids from climbing it. So unless you want to stay off your balcony permanently, replacement might be the best option.

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