Is it time to begin the task of babyproofing? Have you already had a nightmare involving your fireplace and newly crawling infant? It may seem obvious, but babyproofing your fireplace is a big deal.
When you start thinking about babyproofing, your fireplace probably came to mind first. It’s a significant hazard to curious infants, but also a big part of your home. How do you successfully babyproof it without ruining the whole aesthetic of your living room?
How to Babyproof the Fireplace
Keeping your little one far away from not only the fire, but the doors and hearth are important parts of babyproofing. You need to consider every aspect of the fireplace as a potential risk and address each one separately.
I’ve broken down every aspect of fireplace safety below. You can get started by following these quick and simple steps to keeping your little one safe.
1. Get on Their Level and Test It
Babyproofing something as clearly dangerous as a fireplace might seem easily done, 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 simply 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 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 and 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. Forgetfulness as a mom was my biggest enemy, personally, so I had my phone full of notes and sticky papers all over the house. Organization was clearly my second biggest enemy.
Write down or track what you think could be potentially harmful to your child and keep those areas in mind when you’re 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 I’ll keep it short. The less chance your crawling or walking baby has of getting to the fireplace, the less threat. Duh, right?
You can do this in a few ways. Some parents don’t want to even think about messing with the fireplace, so instead they keep the door to the living room closed at all times. This isn’t always practical, so most opt for a baby gate.
Baby gates can be used to block off the fireplace itself or keep your child confined to a different part of the room or house. Which method you choose to use is entirely up to the way your home is laid out 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 off things from your list now.
If anything remains that you think needs some attention, read on. I’ve broken down every possible part of a fireplace that could cause harm and will explain below 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’re going to spend a minute here looking at different types of baby gates and their best uses. Most fireplaces can be securely restricted with a high-quality gate alone, so it’s worth investing in a good product.
1. 5-Paneled Gate
One gate I think is really incredible and offers a lot for “just a gate” is the Lovinland 5-paneled metal gate. These are great for restricting the entire fireplace or for containing your child in a little playpen-like enclosure. They’re lightweight, auto-locking, and big enough to cover the whole of your fireplace.
2. Super Long Adjustable Gate
Another great gate similar to the Lovinland gate is this extra long gate by Regalo. It has more panels, it’s a breeze to adjust and move around, and it’s really great for big, open doorways and entrances. I love a home that feels open and breezy, but it makes babyproofing hard without a gate like this.
3. Tall Doorway Gate
If you’re not wanting to block off access to the fireplace entirely and you instead want to opt for blocking 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. My personal favorite is the beige gate by Summer Infant.
If you worry about your walls or the sturdiness of your gates, a wall protector can go a long way in giving some extra support. They are designed to fit most baby gates, but check the product information and your gate of choice to be sure of a perfect fit.
How to Babyproof the Hearth
Even bigger kids can have trouble avoiding accidents on the hearth. I always felt like it made a great stage as a kid, and since my childhood home had a hearth that was a rough, rocky surface, I lost track of how many times I scraped my knees giving an impromptu fireplace performance.
In hindsight, that fireplace wasn’t very well protected, and I wouldn’t want my kids to be doing 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. Getting the sides of your hearth safely covered and softened will prevent head injuries if your little one takes a whack on the side.
You have a few options here, but I like long tubing guards best. There are also 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 a Soft Surface All Around
If you have a flat hearth that isn’t raised from the ground, just slide a rug over it. No problem, right? Well, for other types of hearths, it is a little more complicated than that.
Some people have gotten creative with making DIY couches, play areas, or other visual focal points out of soft, safe materials. If you’re getting crafty, consider this your next project!
Now, if you’re like me, you may be a little less “hands-on” and more “fix it quick and easy.” Throw some pillows on the top of the hearth, or even a soft mat. Just be sure to move them first if you plan on lighting a fire later.
3. Don’t Allow Access
As always, restricting access to the risk is the easiest solution of all. 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 as a little one? That’s one of the most horrible feelings, even in adulthood, and kids do not react well to it happening. Pinched skin can result in cuts, bruises, or puncture wounds.
Any time you have something like that on your baby, you’ll be dealing with lots of tears and potentially an infected owie. Plus, fireplace doors get really hot, so you have a burn risk to top it all off (source)! 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, go ahead and give your doors a shake and run your hands over them. Anything feel dangerous? Make a note of it.
2. Restrict Access
Again, just keep your child away from the doors. Baby gates can do this easily, or you can get a fireplace lock. Fireplace locks aren’t the best option, since it won’t prevent your child from getting burned on the hot glass during or after use.
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, and we don’t want that (source).
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’ve chosen against a baby gate and went for other methods.
How to Babyproof a 3-Sided Fireplace
Some homes have a beautiful feature in them called a peninsula fireplace. These are versions of the fixture that extend further into the room and show three sides. They’re gorgeous and a great focal point, but a lot harder to babyproof.
Sadly, there aren’t many options for babyproofing a fireplace like this. The design that makes it so stunning is precisely what makes it such a risk, so you’re really just left with restriction using a baby gate.
If it’s a particularly large fireplace, consider linking together more panels for extra coverage. You can also use some of the safety tips for babyproofing the doors and hearth, too, to keep it even safer.
Prevent a Carbon Monoxide Threat
So, one issue that is commonly forgotten is carbon monoxide. This is a toxic gas that fire produces and it can be even more harmful to your child than a bump or scrape. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about this one too much as long as you maintain standard fireplace safety habits.
Since this is such an overlooked part of babyproofing, we’re going to spend a little longer 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 come out and give it a thorough run over 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 you’re 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 one also works to reduce the risk of a fire happening outside of its designated area. Anything close by the fire can potentially ignite, so be careful. If you went for a DIY approach to babyproofing your hearth, avoid using your fireplace.
4. Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector
In my opinion, every home with a fireplace should have one of these.
These work like fire alarms and will let you know immediately if something is wrong. Plus, they’re affordable, low-maintenance, and unobtrusive.
My suggestion for a carbon monoxide detector is the battery-operated one by Kiddle. It looks nice, works great, and it really cuts down on worrying. Yeah, I’m a bit of an alarmist, 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 generally staying tidy around this part of your house will keep your family safe. Staying proactive in the security of your home when it comes to your little one is a hard job, but it pays off.
Feeling Babyproof Confident Yet?
Hopefully, you’ve learned a few new things about babyproofing your fireplace and feel well-prepared to address each hazardous spot. You never know what could be a disaster until it happens, so be prepared for a few minor incidents along the way as you navigate your babyproofing journey.