Every year, around 8,000 children in the U.S. suffer from fireplace-related injuries. The most dangerous part of your fire is your hearth, which is a trip hazard with hard edges and pointy corners. The next biggest risk is the fire itself, which can cause painful burns to exploring toddlers.
Fortunately, these disasters are easy to prevent in your own home with safety gates, hearth bumpers, and carbon monoxide alarms. These are all easy to set up and can help you relax in front of your cozy fireplace in peace.
1. Identify the Hazards
Get down to your baby’s level and note all the things they could grab, trap their fingers in, or knock into.
2. Install a Safety Gate
Use a fireplace safety gate to keep your baby away from anything hot. Aim for 90 cm from the fire.
3. Pad the Hearth
Pad your hearth with foam to prevent nasty bumps.
4. Lock Fireplace Doors
Trapping a finger in a fireplace door hurts. If you have doors, lock them with a fireplace lock if you light the fire, or use a zip tie if you don’t.
5. Remove Fireplace Tools
Fireplace tools are usually heavy and pointy. Keep them far inside your fireplace gate or lock them safely away in an inaccessible cupboard.
6. Check Ventilation
Frequently check your chimney for blockages, or hire a professional to do the job. Poor ventilation could cause smoke or carbon monoxide to flood your room.
7. Install a Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Carbon monoxide is tasteless, odorless, and deadly. Install an alarm in any room with a fire to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
How to Child Proof Different Types of Fireplace
The best way to baby-proof a fireplace depends on what type you have and whether or not you use it.
A fireplace safety gate is the best way to protect your baby from an open fire or stove. Don’t use a standard baby gate for the job. Choose one designed for fireplaces. It should anchor to the wall on both sides and have a gate in front of the fire.
Important: Install your safety gate at least 75 cm away from a wood-burning stove or gas fireplace and 90 cm away from an open fire. This distance means your baby won’t be able to reach the fire, and no sparks or embers will be able to reach them.
If you want to remove the risk of flying embers altogether, you can install a glass fireplace door. Remember, these get hot, so you’ll still need the safety gate. They can also trap little fingers, so lock them whenever your baby can get near.
While accidents involving open fires are falling, burns from glass-fronted gas fires are on the rise. They look safe, but the glass can reach 390oF in just 5 minutes.
It’s now essential that all gas fires are fitted with a glass safety screen. If yours doesn’t have one, they can be custom-made and installed quickly. Look up gas fire safety screens to find a supplier in your area.
You may still need a gate to keep your little one away from the switches, though.
Electric fires are much less risky than wood or gas and might not need much baby proofing at all. The flames aren’t real, so the glass shouldn’t get hot. However, there are still a few things to think about.
- Check the Glass and Heat Vents
The glass should be touch-safe, but the vents that blow out the heat can get very hot. Hold your hand close to them to see if they pose a burn risk to your baby.
- Use the Timer
Most electric fireplaces have a timer. Using it will reduce the risk of overheating if you forget to turn your fireplace off.
- Never Use an Extension Cord
Extension cords can become fire hazards. So, plug your electric fireplace into a wall socket instead.
- Keep Your Baby Away
Just because they’re unlikely to get burnt doesn’t mean letting your baby play near an electric fire is a good idea. They might hit the glass, pull it off its bracket, or worse, stuff things into the vents. Wall mount the fireplace at least 4 ft from the floor or use a baby gate to remove the risk.
Hearths are hard, raised, and usually have sharp corners. If your child can get near them, you’ll need to pad them to prevent bumps and cuts.
If you plan to use your fireplace, the safety gate will probably cover the hearth too. So you don’t need to do anything else. However, if your setup means the hearth is accessible, you should pad the edges with purpose-made fireplace hearth bumpers. These are flame-retardant and won’t melt.
If you don’t light your fire, though, there are more options:
- Hearth Pad
A hearth pad is a cushion of foam cut to cover your whole hearth. You can buy them made-to-measure; some are even printed to look like tiles. Of course, if you fancy some DIY baby proofing, you could just cut your hearth shape out of a 2” foam sheet.
- Pool Noodle
For an easy baby-proofing DIY, cut a pool noodle lengthways and stick it to your hearth with double-sided tape.
- Interlocking Foam Tiles
Use the tiles you’ve already got to build a bumper around your hearth. Cut them to fit with a sharp knife and stick them down with double-sided tape.
- Hearth Bench
If you have a stepped hearth, turn it into a bench seat. Cozy and childproof! Simply cut a foam pad to fit the whole hearth and cover it with fabric. You could sew it if you’re handy or use hot glue if you’re in a rush.
Remember – Only use these DIY ideas if you don’t light your fire.
Marble Fireplace Hearth
The easiest way to baby-proof a marble fireplace is with a safety gate, as there’s no risk of damaging the stone.
However, if you don’t light your fire and want something less intrusive, hearth bumpers or pads are a great alternative.
Be careful what you use to stick them on with, though. You can remove most tapes from marble with a razor blade and some white spirit or rubbing alcohol. But test it first.
You can remove your fireplace baby proofing when your child is around 4 or 5 years old. However, make sure your child knows and understands the danger. Leave it up a little longer if they don’t seem to grasp the risk or are still having frequent bumps and falls.
No, freestanding fire screens aren’t safe for children. Your baby could pull it on to themselves or push it into the fire.
If you don’t like looking at your safety gate, you can remove it when the fire has cooled. But check thoroughly. Glass-front gas fireplaces can take 30 minutes to reach a safe temperature, and wood fires could harbor burning embers until the next day.