Childproofing Windows

Parent Q&A

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  • I would be grateful for some advice about old windows. We live in a 1908 Berkeley home with original wooden window frames and glass. Some of the ropes inside the frames that pull the windows up and down have broken but most still work. The glass is fragile and breaks easily. We've replaced a couple of panes that cracked in an earthquake with similar old glass. Here's the thing. Now we have a toddler! With a good throwing arm. We have plantation shutters on the inside of the windows and this provides a lot of protection, but still, it seems to me that it's likely that at some point a wooden toy hurled at an unprotected window is going to break it. Question 1 is safety related: is it reasonable to keep the old windows and glass (which for the sake of character we like, with the plantation shutters) or does the presence of the toddler mean we really should replace them? Question 2 is housing related. We are going to have the house painted soon, and there will be a lot of prep needed. If we replace the windows, do we look for a painter/contractor who can do all of it - replace windows and paint, or are those really separate jobs? Does anyone have any wisdom about old windows and kids to share? Any advice from a home-owner's perspective about old windows, new windows, and painting? Thank you!

    If you decide to buy new windows expect to wait about 5 months for them to arrive. Window plus installation cost would likely be $2-3k per window.

    I have a recommendation for painting and windows, but I have to dig up his contact information. Reach out if you would like that. 

    When my children were toddlers we lived in a 1961 constructed house with floor-to-ceiling single plated windows.  These windows were throughout the house but especially concerned me along the stairwell and in the master bedroom.  I forever feared that while my boys roughhoused someone would fall against the windows particularly hard and the glass would shatter - dangerously!  We placed safety film on the inside of all windows to limit the risk, but it did not eliminate it.  While we changed some glass doors and windows, the cost of changing all floor-to-ceiling windows was prohibitive.  That cost contributed to our decision to move even though we had to forgo our Bay view.  It does not sound like you have floor-to-ceiling windows so it may be enough to put safety film on the inside of the glass.  The film would limit your risk and cut UV rays and, to a limited extent, help the house stay cooler.  The film does darken the glass and it is a pain to install.

    Your bigger issue with a toddler is painting a 1908 house which is sure to have been painted with lead paint at some point.  You will definitely want to get painters experienced in dealing with lead paint mitigation.  Most likely they will recommend “encapsulating” the paint rather than scraping or stripping it off.  If you change out the windows you will be disturbing the lead paint even more and may need more extensive mitigation. Good luck.

    I have ahouse o similar vintage and now eight-yer-old grandtwins who lived me when they were three, and now visit from ttime to time. There used to be an outfit in Oakland, Wooden Windows, that could tune-out, repair sashes and ropes, and/or replace old windows. They are now defunct. I repaired the ropes on many of the windows myself. Not so hard for a handy-ma'am. One of the twins tipped backwards on a kitchen stool, fell into a kitchen window, and broke it. She did not go through the window. I had the glass replaced with safety glass by Berkeley Glass company, now moved to El Cerrito. An issue of concern is the low sills of the windows. When they are open from the bottom a toddler could easily fall out. I only open them from the top when the kids are present.

    Of course window replacement companies would love your business, but it is expensive, and probably unnecessary. Whey not identify the problem windows and at-risk windows, and have a skilled handy man tune them up to open and close property.

    Windows and paint are definitely separate things, and (quality) windows are NOT cheap - so be forewarned. The rest of your post made me laugh. You must be raising some MLB player there - we raised our kids in several old houses with the same type of windows and never a crack. We had a rule, no throwing in the house - that's what outside is for. Hope that helps!

    We managed with the original windows throughout our child's time at home. This wasn't a problem for us.

    With respect to question 1, we also have old, single pane windows that we wanted to keep. Our babyproofer suggested that there are great films that can apply to help contain the glass should they break (similar to the smash ‘n grab films you can get for your car). We haven’t done that yet but worth a shot if you’re worried about safety.

  • Does anyone have experience with window guards for French windows? We live on the second floor and have huge French windows that are very low to the ground. our son is 1 years old and about ready to walk. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    I have seen those slide thingies with stops that you crank down, but they're not necessarily out of reach for a toddler.  (I'm thinking more when yours is two or three.  Seems like there should be some that come with a lock, although you might have to carve out room in the bottom of the window sash for it to close and seal properly.  Possible low tech solution:  what about a door chain lock?   Mount it up high where only adults can reach.  Would not really be unsightly and would be relatively easy to remove and patch when kiddo gets old enough.  You could also just remove the handle after opening the window for a couple of inches.  I doubt that a toddler would be strong enough to force it open against the resistance of the hardware, but I think a chain or two might be the simplest.  Cheers, About The Same

    We don't have french windows but do have floor-to-ceiling single pane windows (very common in east bay apartments built in the '60s) with a middle section that cantilevers out. We purchased guardian angel window guards that screw into the window frame--they are very sturdy and have a safety release (the child won't be able to undo it) in case you need to use the window in the event of a fire. They have a number of sizes, so you should check them out.  If you have to install the bars horizontally (like we did), you might want to think about placing a clear plastic Lexan sheet over it (which you can buy off Amazon in many sizes). Since our windows are so old, we were worried about them breaking if our son tossed a heavy toy.  We also didn't want our son to climb the bars like a ladder, so the lexan sheet prevents that also. If you contact me, I can share pictures. We zip-tied the lexan sheet to the window guard. (we can still access the window in an emergency, as we did not need to cover the window floor to ceiling, only about 25 inches from the floor). 

    Child fence? Or a sheet of plastic?  Try TAP plastics.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Protecting toddlers from window access

Sept 2003

Does anyone have ideas on windowguards or other related products. Our 1 year old will soon be walking and have easy access to bedroom and other windows in our house. Where do you buy these items? Which brands work best? What have you done to protect your child under similar circumstances? Are there other ways to keep children safely away from windows? Thanks in advance for any and all thoughts and comments. Jim

We got these little brass window ''locks'' that you can place at any height you like so that the windows cannot open beyond that height. We set them so that the windows only open about 4-5 inches. We got them at Home Depot but I'm sure almost any hardware store would carry them. If the house needs cooling, we just adjust the locks and open the windows higher after our toddler's asleep. Safe Mama

Safety coating glass windows

April 2002

We have a number of glass windows in our house that are not safety glass. I heard that there might be an alternative to replacing them all that would help with safety as well as energy efficiency by coating them with a clear polymer film. Does anyone know if this is true and, if so, what company might sell or apply them ? boering

Tap Plastics in El Cerrito sells safety and UV film for windows. Both products prevent glass shards from flying in case of breakage, and depending on which product you get they also prevent UV damage and reduce heat gain/loss in a room. Its the same type of product that is used to tint auto windows, and it comes in 36'' and 48'' widths. A 100 ft roll of the 36'' variety was quoted to me as costing $295 so its not cheap and I think installation requires some level of ability as a handyperson.
El Cerrito Store Location 10760 San Pablo Avenue El Cerrito CA 94530 Open: Mon-Fri 8 to 6, Sat 9 to 5. 510.525.3508 (tel)

2nd story windows

March 2003

We are buying a house which has two stories. We currently live in a one-story home. So now I'm very concerned about the safety issues of the upstairs. My daughter's bedroom will have two windows, one fairly wide and one more a regular size. How do we childproof that so she can't fall out? Also, what about fire safety? I've heard about rope ladders or somesuch...? Nervous about the second floor

The Childproofer did great work for us. Marc, the owner, put short chains with a hook on our upstairs windows and on our french door windows downstairs. The chains allow the windows to open just a few inches, but not enough for a child to get through. (It is possible to bypass the chain by unhooking it.) In our son's room, we have three windows above a window seat; the risk seemed especially high so Marc put removable baby gates in each window to allow the air to pass through but to keep the baby inside. We have been extremely happy with the work and highly recommend the Childproofer. The number is (800) 374-2525. Jen F.

Floor-to-ceiling swing-out windows 3/02

March 2002

Can anyone suggest a product or solution to babyproof floor to ceiling windows? The window opens by swinging out, with the latch located half way up the window. Is there a type of screen or net? Where can I find these? Half of the rooms in our home have these windows, which my daughter can pull up to. I am unable to open the windows on these nice days. Suggestions are appreciated! Thank you.

It is a current code that windows that go to the floor (18'' or less from the floor) must be tempered glass. All glass in doors must be tempered. This does not mean unbreakable, but it does mean shatterproof. You can get tempered glass from any glass shop and get it installed. I would start there as any gate, screen etc you could put in front of it (barring plywood perhaps) might still suffer the impact of ball or head and shatter. You can tell if your current glass is tempered as tempered glass is required to have '' identification etched or ceramic fired on the glass'' has a small emblem in the corner of a pane in white ink. Call a window shop that comes to your house if uncertain. Dorrice , MA Architecture

Yes, you can safely open your windows again. Rachel from Safe and Sound Children (great, by the way) sold us wire pieces that are screwed into the window and the frame. When opened, the window only goes a few inches (she measured the right amount per each window). They are great. In case of fire, you can unscrew them quickly. I've seen these used with house alarm systems too in which the alarm only goes off if the window is opened further than the alotted few inches. Jen

I have a living room filled with the same type of floor to ceiling windows that open by swinging out. I bought chains that are commonly found on front doors (deadbolt chains?) and screwed them into each window -- near the top where they can't be reached. Now each window only opens a little bit (enough to let in a nice breeze), but it's much safer. Be sure to use screws not nails when attaching the hardware if you decide to use this technique. Good luck! Sharon

We have a similar situation in our home. You can install heavy duty plexiglass across the bottom portion of the windows, or hire one of those babyproofing companies you see advertised in Parent's Press, etc. We found a more asthetically pleasing alternative by buying strong brass chain at the hardware store, and screwing one end into the window frame and the other end into the window border. Therefore, you can only open the windows a few inches and baby can't fall out. You can do this from the inside, but we installed the chain on the outside, so you can't see the chain unless the window is open. Good luck Kim

We lived in a house with windows that swung out and were very close to the floor. I purchased plexiglass, I think it was 1/8 or 3/16'' thick and screwed them across the window opening.

I usually positioned it to be high enough that climbing would not be possible, though my girls never tried. And measured to have it cut it so that there would be air flow through the bottom but not enough space for heads to try and fit through.

I purchased the plexiglass from TAP plastic in El Cerrito where they also cut it to size for me. They will probably drill or cut additional air holes if you'd like.

I used this for the rail at the top of the stairs as well and secured it with plastic ties. Hope this helps. Lapidus family

Low-to-the-ground window

The window in our kids' room is very large, about 93 wide, and starts only 2 feet off the ground. Our kids' mattresses are on the floor now, but we'd like to put them in beds soon. The problem is that they love to jump on the beds (of course) and there isn't anywhere in the room to put the beds that isn't next to the window (one wall is closets, one wall is the window).

Does anyone have suggestions for childproofing that window so our active boys won't jump on the beds and go right out the window? We don't want to use shutters because they block out the light. Right now we have a shade we can't even lower because the kids play with it --they've already ruined the previous shade.

We're thinking of shoji screens (!) because they let in the light and block (we hope) small flying bodies. But is there a simpler, less expensive solution? Thanks in advance! Corliss

We childproofed a smaller window (next to my child's bed) by using a large piece of pexiglass attached to the window frame with velcro straps. This was the brilliant idea of Rachel Murray of Safe-n-Sound Children childproofing service. She cut the pexiglass and installed it. I highly recommend her. Jen

We mounted folding child gates on our large low windows when our son was learning to walk and they're still there 6+ years later. You can mount them inside the window frame and then they don't interfere with shades, etc. They're not beautiful but they're functional. A problem with shoji screens is that even if the frame stands up to your kid, the ricepaper will be assaulted on a daily basis. Fran A friend of mine just showed me what they did - they had a window next to a bed that their children jump on, and they replaced the glass with plexiglass. Suzanne

Have you thought of screwing in some plexiglass on the inside. Might be a bit price to cover the whole window but possibly strips across. Advantage is that you will still be able to see out and have light come in. We did this on a smaller window in our boys room when a 9-yr-old friend broke the window with his body while playing in the top bunk (he was fortunately not injured). Kathleen

Tap Plastics (there's one in El Cerrito) sells an easy to install clear film for windows. It makes the window into safety glass, which is good for protecting rambunctious children and also for earthquake safety.

Just an idea, not speaking from experience, here -- Perhaps you could get a large sheet of thick plexiglass and install it across the lower half of the window? It can have holes drilled in it (perhaps a hardware store or glass supply place would do this for you with the right tools to avoid cracking and ruining your piece) and be screwed to the windowframe. You'd have safety without any loss of light, and if the plexiglass covered the whole window, you'd get the added benefit of effectively double-glazing for insulation, too. Nicole

I saw a window in a kid's room childproofed with clear plastic covering the lower portion of the window. I hear this is often done in NY City. Clear plastic can be bent and molded--you could make a space for your hands to reach down and open & shut the window. Have a contractor take measurements and come up with a design and Tap Plastics in El Cerrito will cut & bend the plastic to that shape. (This is how I child proofed a deck with a railing a child could have used as a ladder). Xanthippe

From: Bob

We bought a plastic laminate film from TAP Plastics for installation on windows. It won't keep windows from getting broken/cracked, but if an accident occurs the glass should be held in place by the film. You can buy it in either clear or tinted.

We found an easy, inexpensive solution to this problem that worked in our house. We have a second story living room with tall windows that opened close to the floor. They had old metal frames (not aluminum, probably iron, I guess).

What I did was to get some plexiglas from TAP plastics cut to a size that would fit half of the window. I attached the plexiglas to the frames with a good silicone glue. The windows could still open and we could get fresh air from the top half of he window. This lasted quite a while even with kids pulling hard on the plexiglas. It seemed pretty safe, because if a child did put all his weight on the plexiglas and actually managed to separate it from the frame, he would fall backwards into the room. We reglued the plexiglass once before we eventually removed it (when we had the windows replaced with a crank open type that seems safer).