It may seem obvious, but babyproofing your fireplace is a crucial step in childproofing your home. The fireplace is a significant hazard to curious infants but also a big part of your home.
As fireplaces come in various shapes and sizes, babyproofing may not be as intuitive as you might think. Most baby gates are made to go across doorways and block access to stairs.
We’ve thoroughly explored this subject to find solutions that don’t involve getting rid of the fireplace or holding off on using it until your child is older.
In this article, we’ll show you how to babyproof your fireplace without ruining the whole aesthetic of your living room.
How to Babyproof the Fireplace
Keeping your little one far away from fire and blocking access to your fireplace doors and hearth are essential parts of babyproofing. You need to consider every part of the fireplace as a potential risk and address each piece separately.
We’ve broken down every aspect of fireplace safety below. Start by following these quick and simple steps to keep your little one safe around your fireplace.
1. Get On Their Level and Test It
It should be easy to babyproof something as dangerous as a fireplace, but you’d be surprised how many injuries still happen involving fireplace fixtures — even in babyproofed living rooms. Kids have this crazy ability to find novel ways to risk their lives, don’t they?
So think like a baby, and get on your hands and knees to give your fireplace a once-over. Feel the hearth for any nails or rough, sharp edges, and play with the doors or any openings to identify pinch risks. Get to know your fireplace.
The chances of your child thwarting whatever safeguards you’ve set aren’t high, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Instead of restricting access entirely, make a few smart changes. You could literally save a life.
2. Make a List of Hidden Dangers
Once you’ve gotten up close and personal with your fireplace, probably to some strange looks from the dog, you need to document your findings.
Write down or track what you think could be potentially harmful to your child, and keep those areas in mind when shopping for babyproofing tools. A lot of what I used on my fireplace was left over from babyproofing other areas, so having your list handy can be a great way to save time and money.
3. Restrict Access to the Fireplace
This one is a no-brainer, so we’ll keep it short. The less chance your walking or crawling baby has of getting to the fireplace, the less threat it contains.
You can prevent access to the fireplace in a few ways. Some parents don’t even want to think about messing with the fireplace, so instead, they keep the living room door closed at all times. This solution isn’t always practical, so many opt for a baby gate or fireplace screens.
You can use baby gates to block off the fireplace or keep your child confined to a different part of the room or house. Which method you choose to use will depend on the layout of your home and what is practical for you.
4. Identify Remaining Risks and Address Them
Did restricting access to the fireplace take care of some of the risks you identified? Great! You can start crossing things off your list now.
If anything remains that you think needs attention, read on. We’ve broken down every possible fireplace part that could cause harm and will explain how to address the risks.
Three Great Baby Gates for Fireplaces
Since baby gates are the simplest and most obvious solution to babyproofing a fireplace, we will spend a minute looking at different types of baby gates and their best uses. Most fireplaces can be securely restricted with a high-quality gate alone, so investing in a good product is worth it.
1. Multi-Panel Gate
Our favorite style of fireplace baby gate, which offers a lot for “just a gate,” is the multi-paneled metal gate.
These gates are great for either restricting the entire fireplace or containing your child in a little playpen-like enclosure. They’re lightweight, auto-locking, and big enough to block access to your entire fireplace.
2. Super-Long Adjustable Gate
Another great fireplace access-blocker is the super-long adjustable gate. It generally has more panels than the standard multi-panel gate. It’s a breeze to adjust and move around, and it’s great for big, open doorways and entrances.
We love a home that feels open and breezy, but it makes babyproofing hard — unless you have a gate like this.
3. Tall Doorway Gate
If you don’t want to block off access to the fireplace entirely and would rather block off the living room, you don’t need anything big or fancy. A strong, secure compression gate that fits your entrance and is tall enough to keep out curious intruders will do the trick.
If you worry about damaging your walls or the sturdiness of your gates, a wall protector can go a long way toward giving some extra support. They are designed to fit most baby gates, but check the product information and your gate of choice to ensure a perfect fit.
How to Babyproof the Hearth
Even bigger kids can have accidents on the hearth. When I was a kid, I always felt like it made a great stage. Since my childhood home had a hearth that was a rough, rocky surface, I lost track of how many times I scraped my knees when giving an impromptu fireplace performance.
In hindsight, that fireplace wasn’t very well protected, and I wouldn’t want my kids to do what I did. This is how I knew right away I needed to sort something out when it came to my hearth. Here are some protective measures you can take.
1. Soften the Edges
Infants fall. A lot. Like, every few minutes.
Any hard, sharp, or rough surface is a risk to their soft, adorable little heads. Covering and softening the sides of your hearth will prevent head injuries if your little one stumbles while crawling or toddling around.
You have a few options for doing this, but we like long tubing guards best. You can also purchase protectors that go only on corners, which are great for wooden hearths. Put these on the sharp edges, and you’re all set.
2. Make it an All-Around Soft Surface
If you have a flat hearth that isn’t raised from the ground, you can slide a rug over it. No problem, right? Well, for other hearth styles, it is a little more complicated than that.
Some people get creative and make DIY couches, play areas, or other visual focal points of soft, safe materials. If you’re crafty, consider this your next project! However, if you plan on using your fireplace, you’ll have to remove any flammable materials to prevent them from catching fire. This solution only really works if your fireplace is inactive.
If you’re like me, you may be a little less “hands-on” and more “fix it quick and easy.” Throw some pillows or a soft mat on the top of the hearth. Just be sure to move them first if you plan on lighting a fire.
3. Don’t Allow Access
As always, restricting access to the risk is the easiest solution. If you’re using a baby gate, you probably have this covered already. Even so, it wouldn’t hurt to go the extra mile in babyproofing, especially if you have extra materials for something fun and safe.
How to Babyproof the Fireplace Doors
Did you ever get your skin pinched in a door when you were young? It’s a terrible feeling — even for adults — and kids do not react well to it happening. Pinched skin can result in cuts, bruises, or puncture wounds. Plus, fireplace doors get hot, so you have a burn risk to top it all off (1).
Here are some workarounds to ensure this doesn’t happen to your child.
1. Test Out Your Fireplace Doors
If you did a good job exploring your fireplace, this part is already done. Good job!
If not, give your doors a shake, and run your hands over them. Anything feel dangerous? Make a note of it.
2. Restrict Access
Baby gates can help you keep your child away from your fireplace doors, or you can get a fireplace lock. Fireplace locks aren’t the best option since they don’t prevent your child from getting burned on the hot glass during or after use.
But if you won’t be lighting a fire in your fireplace and you’d like to prevent your little one from playing with the doors, a fireplace lock should do the trick. However, they’re only usable on doors with horizontal handles.
You should always have your fireplace doors shut when not in use. When there is a fire crackling, keep them open and your child far away. Closing the doors on a live fire can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning (2).
3. Frequently Check for Door Temperature After Using the Fireplace
After you’re done using the fireplace, pay attention to when the doors cool off. By checking them from time to time, you can know when to allow access if you don’t have a baby gate in place.
How to Babyproof a 3-Sided Fireplace
Peninsula fireplaces are very modern and beautiful. They are generally a narrow fixture that extends further into the room and shows three sides of the fireplace. They make a gorgeous focal point, but they’re a lot harder to babyproof.
Sadly, there aren’t many options for babyproofing a peninsula fireplace. The stunning extended design is precisely what makes it such a risk, so your only option is to restrict access by using a baby gate.
Consider linking more panels together for extra coverage if you have a particularly large fireplace. And check out our safety tips for babyproofing the doors and hearth to keep your fireplace even safer.
Prevent a Carbon Monoxide Threat
Carbon monoxide is one issue people tend to forget when babyproofing their fireplace. This is a toxic gas that fire produces, and it can be much more harmful to your child than a bump or scrape. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about this one too much if you maintain standard fireplace safety habits.
Since this is such an overlooked part of babyproofing, we will spend a little more time on this one. The solutions aren’t always as obvious for this area of your fireplace as others, so it’s understandable if you have no idea how to get started.
1. Check the Ventilation
Poor ventilation will increase the chances of carbon monoxide getting to your baby. Give the whole chute a check-up. If it’s been a while, you may need a chimney cleaner to check it thoroughly to be safe.
It’s easy for the chimney to get blocked by dirt or weather drainage, and this is where the risk becomes real. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a horrible experience and can even cause death in severe cases.
2. Clear Your Fireplace Vents
When checking the ventilation, make sure you’re also giving it a good clean as you work. A chimney sweep will take care of this for you, or you can learn how to clean your fireplace and chimney on your own.
3. Clear Any Blockages Before Use
This step also reduces the risk of a fire happening outside its designated area. Anything close to the fire can potentially ignite, so be careful. If you went for a DIY approach to babyproofing your hearth, don’t use your fireplace.
4. Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Every home with a fireplace should have one of these.
Carbon monoxide detectors work like fire alarms and will let you know immediately if something is wrong. Plus, they’re affordable, low-maintenance, and unobtrusive.
We love the simplicity of a multi-purpose detector. These will alert you if they detect smoke or carbon monoxide. They look nice, work great, and cut down on worrying. We may be alarmists, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
5. Perform Regular Maintenance Checks on Your Fireplace
Maintaining your fireplace, replacing and testing your carbon monoxide detector, and keeping this area of your house tidy will protect your family. It can be hard to stay proactive about fireplace security when you have a little one, but the effort pays off.