Many of us understand the basics of childproofing our homes. We know to lock up potentially poisonous chemicals and to keep electrical outlets covered. Perhaps we’ve even ridded our homes of candles, and switched to exclusively using the backburner of our stoves (where our children are less likely to reach for a piping hot pot). But even the most vigilant among us may not realize that the heavy pieces of furniture filling our homes can be just as dangerous as the cleaning products hiding underneath our sinks.
Every 20 minutes, someone in the U.S. is injured due to an appliance, TV or piece of furniture falling over, according to Consumer Reports. It’s for this reason that anchoring your furniture to prevent tip-overs is one of the most fundamental steps you can take in rendering your home a little safer.
Tip-overs happen for a number of reasons, but they’re often the result of people using furniture in a way it wasn’t intended to be used. “The center of gravity of a piece of furniture can change,” Colleen Driscoll, Executive Director of the International Association for Child Safety, Inc. (IAFCS), tells SheKnows. “If you have a dresser where drawers can be opened — and someone leans or climbs on those drawers — that piece of furniture can become risky.” Driscoll notes that placing things on top of pieces of furniture can also cause problems. Heavy TVs can leave a piece of furniture less stable, and placing coveted items (like remote controls) on top of furniture can tempt children to do a little climbing, which could in turn cause that piece of furniture to fall over.
The good news? Anchoring your furniture is a fairly straightforward endeavor. Experts have made it easy to figure out which pieces of furniture need anchoring (spoiler alert: it’s basically all of them), and they’ve offered clear instructions on how to properly affix furniture to the wall. If you find yourself confused, you shouldn’t worry. There are tons of IAFCS-approved professional childproofers out there who can come to your house and do the furniture anchoring for you.
Consider anchoring furniture in every room of your home.
When many people go to anchor their furniture, they focus solely on the furniture that’s in their child’s bedroom or playroom. But unless those are the only two rooms in which your child ever spends time, you need to expand your scope. Take a look around your kitchen, dining room and living room — even consider your own bedroom.
“Sometimes children are quick, and they might go in a room where they don’t normally spend time,” Driscoll says. “Some things can happen so quickly that even if you are supervising a child — even if you are nearby them — you can’t necessarily prevent a piece of furniture from tipping over.”
Pay attention to basements and attics too, if you have them, Debra Holtzman, national child safety expert and author of The Safe Baby, tells SheKnows. These are rooms where you might be storing heavy furniture and old appliances, and where you might not have mounted or stored things as carefully.
Don’t assume that because a piece of furniture is heavy, it won’t fall over.
“You might think that a large, heavy piece of furniture is less of a risk,” Driscoll says. “That because the movers had such a hard time moving a heavy piece of furniture, there’s no way it can shift.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
“We want people to have an open mind that all furniture can be a risk,” Driscoll says. Actions like leaning and climbing can destabilize an otherwise sturdy piece of furniture, so it’s worth viewing every piece of furniture as a potential hazard when deciding what needs to be anchored.
“Go through the entire house, and look at all of your furniture,” Driscoll says. Bookcases, dressers, armoires and cabinets are all worthwhile candidates for anchoring — so is any piece of furniture holding a TV. Consider, too, whether a piece of furniture has drawers, shelves or doors. These elements can invite climbing and leaning, making them more susceptible to falling over if not anchored or locked up properly.
Pay attention to what you’re placing on top of TVs, pieces of furniture, and other appliances.
“Avoid placing items — such as toys or the remote control — on top of furniture or TVs,” Holtzman says. Doing so can tempt a child to climb until they can reach that item, which can cause that piece of furniture or that TV to fall over. If you want to further reduce the risk of climbing or leaning, Holtzman recommends locking drawers and cabinet doors. This eliminates both the child’s desire to climb and the ability to do so.
Even if you’re not stowing away something as heavily used as a remote control, consider what you’re placing where. “To keep the center of gravity low, place heavier items on lower shelves [when possible],” Holtzman says. Avoid stacking heavy appliances (like speakers in the living room) on top of furniture. And if you decide to do so anyway, make sure that both the appliance and the piece of furniture are properly anchored.
Make sure you’re anchoring your furniture properly—and don’t be afraid to ask professionals for help.
How you anchor your furniture matters. Affixing a piece of furniture to some drywall isn’t nearly as stable as anchoring it into a stud in your wall. (In fact, Driscoll says, the former should be staunchly avoided. It doesn’t work. Your screw will not stay in that drywall.)
And it’s not just the part of your wall you’re anchoring into that you need to consider. “Sometimes, people anchor into thin piece of wood on the back of the furniture, and not into the solid wood part on top,” Driscoll says. This thin wood isn’t nearly as sturdy, so it offers your anchor much less stability than the more solid wood would.
Pay attention to the tools you’re using, too, Driscoll cautions. Some pieces of furniture may come with an anchoring kit, but the screws provided may not be long enough to reach a stud in your wall. This is especially the case with older homes, where the masonry can be more complicated, Driscoll says. If this happens to you, consider visiting your local hardware store to find anchor bolts that are long enough. And consider favoring heavier-duty metal bolts over lighter-weight plastic ones.
If the thought of finding studs in your wall or making sure you have adequately long screws sounds daunting, don’t worry. There are plenty of professional childproofers out there who you can hire to do this work for you. “It can be hard to go through every single installation scenario,” Driscoll says. And good professionals can help you not only with anchoring, but also with discerning what needs to be anchored.
Routinely conduct home safety checks to make sure everything remains properly anchored and child-proofed.
“It’s always a good idea to assess your home and check safety devices that have been installed—similar to what you’d do with a smoke detector,” Driscoll says. “Just because it’s installed one day doesn’t mean it’s always going to be fine.”
Though there’s no rule of thumb for how frequently you should conduct these regular safety checks, you should conduct them. And you can come up with a routine that works for you. Consider checking all your furniture the next time you buy new furniture or move around old furniture. Or, integrate a full safety check into the safety routine you already have; check on all your furniture the next time you go to check on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
The most important part of any routine is actually sticking to it. So be sure to settle into a rhythm that works for you. And remember, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or confused, reach out to a professional. There’s no shame in asking someone for help.
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