Toddler-proof my porch?
March 28, 2019 2:39 PM   Subscribe

We live on the third floor of a Chicago apartment, and have a very agile one-year-old. And porch weather is coming!

We love to spend time hanging out on our porch couch, but we want to make sure that if we're out there with the toddler she won't climb up the porch and onto the railing.
Here's the porch in question. Would adding something like this be a good idea? Or other thoughts?
We can throw some money at this and would prefer options that are quick and easy for us.
posted by anotherthink to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Find out if you're allowed to add the latticework all around. If you are, I'd totally do that. Another option might be making sturdy frames for window screening, though it wouldn't be quite as sturdy, if you'd regret the darkening that the lattice would create.

(Where I live, either of those options would be a no-go... in fact, the only thing I can think of that I'd be allowed to do would be not allow said toddler on porch in the first place - and *maybe* to add a second locking mechanism up higher on the door.)
posted by stormyteal at 2:54 PM on March 28, 2019

Can you move that sofa away from the railing, maybe onto the wall with the door? It's very tempting to climb onto it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:02 PM on March 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would have metal grilles. Loadbearing window type grilles of some sort installed professionally not wooden lattices that will break under the impact of an active climbing toddler/child.

Otherwise lock and alarm the porch so it is absolutely a go-to zone and train your child never to go there alone.

I live in an apartment heavy city and every few months there's a story of a curious child left on their own for just a bit who fell out of a window, usually fatally. My extremely active child couldn't be left unsupervised at a friend's flat with adult chest high parapets because she would scale them using furniture. The friend's kid had been taught not to, but your couch set up is so low that isn't a temptation, it's just a crawl.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:09 PM on March 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

the couch is, for a toddler, a handy stepstool. if you're worried about climbing, i think the couch is going to be a key route in the toddler's problem-solving mind.
posted by zippy at 3:31 PM on March 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

You're asking about adding the latticework above the railing? Against the railing? I feel like the lattice work begs a child to climb it, I would not use that.

Looks like online the general recommendation is some kind of netting.
posted by vunder at 3:31 PM on March 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

No to netting. Netting is not strong enough for a hefty cat, let alone a child who climbs. Netting can be torn and will not take weight. The "invisible grilles" which are basically wires held in by magnetic strips marketed are fine for quiet cats but my ex-cousin in law's cat got through them on a high-rise (horrible) and my kid managed to dislodge them on a visit. They take up to maybe 15kg in weight before they give way.

You can install windows and get press-on stickers (3M makes the expensive ones, I got knock-off Korean versions) that immensely, like 95%, cut down on the heat and UV coming in so the light filters in and the porch stays pleasantly cool with an uninterrupted view if you don't like the idea of grilles bisecting your view. You can even get tiny shutters at the top so you get a breeze but it's still too narrow for the kid to crawl through.

I cannot emphasise the terror of watching a small child lean over a high ledge enough. Grilles are mandatory in my country for this reason and people still open them, and it is just - you are asking like "can I take the seatbelts off my car and drive my baby in a cardboard box?"
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:19 PM on March 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure the lattice is not sturdy enough. Arrange it so the furniture backs are against the wall. Are the railing slats close enough so a kid's head can't go through? Also under the railing. Big safety issue. I barricaded part of my deck when my grandson was here because the bottom of the railing was not low enough. My deck is big and we used a baby corral and didn't leave him out there. I also used a canvas cloth because Splinters.

Talk to the city; there are obviously lots of similar porches. There may be someone with expertise. I'd want a 2nd sturdy railing on that porch.
posted by theora55 at 5:52 PM on March 28, 2019

Lived in Chicago in a similar building with a similar porch, had a climbing toddler (now a competitive rock climbing tween, so at least they used it for good). There is almost nothing you can put up there that is both safe and won't make it seem like a jail.

Playground safety rules are generally something like "parallel bars need to be either less than about 3.5" apart (so they can't get anything stuck), or more than 9" apart (so they can go through without getting anything stuck)". So, realistically you could move ALL climbing aides (couches, tables, grill) - and knowing how not-deep Chicago porches are I'm not convinced you could even move them far enough. Or, you could build up that fence at least ~3 feet or so with something difficult to climb and structurally sound. I'm not going to recommend anything specific, but two kinds of solutions would either be narrowly spaced vertical bars (like the existing fence) or properly secured see-through plexiglass/tempered glass with intermediate supports. I haven't looked into netting much, but it would have to be heavy duty playground climbing netting, and even then you're saying "climb me!"

I feel your pain though, spring and summer are PORCH TIME in Chicago. I don't think there's a safe and cheap fix for this though.
posted by true at 5:55 PM on March 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have two children, 2.5 and almost 1 year old. I feel your pain.

I would agree with above posters that moving/removing that sofa would be wise because the little ones love to climb. Sofa surface, onto sofa back, oh look - there's a rail...this is just like steps. My issue with that sort of lattice is that it's designed to resist a bit of tensile strength (grow a plant up it/you may well be able to climb up 3/4 inch timber ) but in shear strength (push it) then I wouldn't trust it to be that strong.

I think moving furniture is the easiest, you could consider adding a second horizontal rail with a repeat of the battens you have below.
posted by multivalent at 6:05 PM on March 28, 2019

I’m a paranoid mother who had one cautious child, where moving the furniture and Constant Vigilence might have worked. And then I have my second who would have figured out a way to scale your porch railing or defeat a lattice right away.

There is a theory that kids will back away from edges but...mine had no depth perception, and I do hear of accidents. The lattice would work on the ground to keep a toddler in where failuredoesnt mean death, but I don’t think I would stake that much need for safety on it.

I know this is a lousy answer but I’d install a serious lock, and only sit out there at night after toddler is abed, for the next year and maybe two.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:13 PM on March 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

Frame it out with 2x4's ~$300 local carpenter, and attach welded wire horse fencing to it...kind of like large mesh screens. ~ $300 at the Depot , or Menards, or Tractor Supply.
posted by lobstah at 7:44 PM on March 28, 2019

I'd make a large sort of enclosure: fencing around the edges going up past human height, with a top/roof/ramada, so that it would be impossible to climb over a "wall".
posted by amtho at 8:56 PM on March 28, 2019

I wonder if a popup gazebo tent might fit in the area of your deck. With the screened sides and solid roof, it would give the appearance of another "room", it would be set back from the actual railings, and you wouldn't sacrifice your view/breeze/light as much as you would with lattice. It would need to be lashed down and the entrance coordinated and sealed with your porch door so there's no gap. Also I don't think you'd be able to use the grill inside.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:35 AM on March 29, 2019

I basically agree with that there is no way to make it safe.

I might consider moving enough stuff that you can roll a highchair or playpen out there depending on the temperment of the child and their previous jailbreaking skills (non-existent hopefully).
posted by typecloud at 8:04 AM on March 29, 2019

Are you trying to make the porch safe enough that the kid can be out there without you (I think this is impossible), or just safe enough that you have an extra minute to grab your kid while you’re out there with them?

I agree that it would be safer if you move the couch away from the railing, but I think you would also need to move the chair, tables, maybe the grill, and really anything that the kid can climb on. Alternately, you could make sure your kid is within an arm’s reach at all times and that you have a hand on the kid while they are on the couch or any other furniture, but that’s not really very relaxing!
posted by insectosaurus at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2019

Hi. I câble tied this kind of bamboo screening to my balcony.

You don’t want lattice or anything with horizontal spaces where hands and feet can go. The bamboo screening is quick and cheap and when they’re older, you can take it down. It comes in different heights. The job would be done in under an hour. You can buy this at Home Depot kind of places.

Nthing moving the furniture away from climb-able areas. Also don’t have pots/stools/side tables etc that they can move.
posted by stellathon at 4:46 PM on March 29, 2019

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