How to Child Proof A Fireplace

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Fire isn’t exactly the safest play thing, even for adults. So, when it comes to having an open hearth in your home, you may want to think twice about letting your child near it. If you’re looking at ways to babyproof a fireplace, you have some options.

There are several different ways to go about child proofing a fireplace. How to childproof a fireplace depends on the type of fireplace you have and how much money you want to invest on your child proofing solution.

One of the simplest ways to baby proof your fireplace is to get a baby gate. It really doesn’t matter what type of fireplace you have. You can place a fireplace screen in front of it to block access to the fireplace as well as any tools you have.

Just be sure you fence off the entire fireplace and avoid stand alone fireplace screens that your child could easily pull down.

It may ruin the ambiance, but it’s a big relief. However, if you want something a bit more creative or with a bit more aesthetic appeal, you may want to try one of these other tactics instead.

Here’s what you will need to baby proof a fireplace. Not all of these are required. You can use them together or choose one over another if you think it will work better for your situation.

This tutorial is less of a step-by-step instructional guide (although that’s part of it), but instead, provides several different ways you can accomplish your goals safely and effectively.

  • Baby gate
  • Corner and edge protectors
  • A soft rug
  • A play yard
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Smoke detector
  • Interlocking play mats
  • Toys and books
  • Tools and materials for DIY projects

1. Keep your baby away

While not always possible, the best way to child proof anything in your home is to keep your baby away from it. Babies are naturally curious, and if they’ve reached the stage where they’re exploring a lot, you have a challenge on your hands.

You can go about keeping your baby away from the fireplace in several ways, from keeping the doors to the living room shut all the time to putting up a gate. You could also decide never to use the fireplace, which would eliminate the danger of fire near your baby.

None of these solutions is particularly ideal, but they would work if you needed them to.

However, there are other parts of your fireplace that are just as dangerous, even if there’s no fire present. The doors and the hearth can pose a threat to your curious baby, too. You’ll want to evaluate these risks closely to decide if additional measures need to be taken.

2. Test it

If you get down on your baby’s level, you’ll discover things from a point of view you never thought of before. It seems like baby proofing a fireplace would be easy, but that’s not always the case.

You’ll be surprised by what you find when you get down on the floor. Your baby, your pets, and most likely your spouse will look at you like you’re crazy, but this step can offer some awesome insight into the world of your baby.

In fact, when you get ready to baby proof anything in your home, do this. Trust me.

Alright, so you’re on their level and you’re discovering some things you wouldn’t have thought of when you were up higher. That’s great. You’ll still probably miss some things. Babies have this ability to find ways to get to the things they want…at all costs.

But, you tried, and you’re closer than you would have been otherwise.

Now, at least, you’ve gotten to know your fireplace up close and personal, and you have a better idea of what it’s going to take to keep your kid away from the things that could cause them harm.

mom making a list

3. Make a list

Lists are your friend. They help keep you better organized, because, let’s face it. As a mom, you already have enough on your mind. You’re not going to remember everything you discovered in step #2.

Track the things you think could pose the biggest threat to your child and then shop around for tools that will help prevent them. You may already have things around the house you can use, saving you time and money. If not, there are things you can buy.

4. Set up a baby gate

So, you’ve determined that the best way to keep your baby away is to set up a baby gate. It sounds easy, but you have some decisions to make. What kind of a baby gate are you going to use? You have a few options.

  •  A 5-panel gate isn’t really a baby gate at all. It’s a metal gate product that enables you to place it wherever you need it and adjust it accordingly. You can set it up in the middle of the room and put your child inside of it to keep them safe and contained, or you can set it up from wall to wall in front of the fireplace so they have free reign except for that side of the room. The door auto locks, it’s lightweight, it’s a flexible solution for any room, and it’s large enough to cover a big space.
  • A long, adjustable gate accomplishes pretty much the same thing. You can buy them with more panels to accommodate your needs, but it’s still pretty easy to move around wherever you need it to do. It’s a great solution for an open floor plan without any doorways to put a traditional baby gate.
  • A traditional baby gate allows you to block off the living room if you have a doorway where you can put it. You don’t need anything very big; you just need enough strength and secure compression to thwart your baby. After all, they’ll probably try to pull up on it.
  • A fireplace screen could be an option, but you have to be really careful with an option like this. It’s free standing, so if your baby tries to pull up on it, it could cause just as much injury as the fireplace itself. Yes, they’re pretty, but no, they’re not very effective.

5. Don’t use it

Sometimes the best solution for babyproofing your fireplace is simply not to use it at all. While it’s not ideal for some people, this stage won’t last forever. Eventually your child will outgrow this stage of needing to be protected from the fireplace, and then you can begin using it again.

In the meantime, there are some other things you can do to detract from the fireplace and make it a little less interesting to your baby.

  • Place toys in front of it. A play kitchen is a great toy to put in front of the fireplace because it’s tall. It’s likely large enough to cover most of it. Plus, with accessories, it will block the fireplace and distract your child with something else they love to do. An art easel is also great for the same reason.
  • Mount a chalkboard over your fireplace. This is a great way to give your child an excuse to draw on the wall. It temporarily covers up the fireplace, so you can take it down when your child gets older, and it completely restricts access.

6. Lock the doors

If you are going to use your fireplace, it’s always a good idea to keep the doors lock when it’s not in use. Locking the doors will keep your child out so they can’t mess with anything inside, whether that includes wood, ash, fake logs, gas valves, or vents. They could hurt themselves, but they could also break the fireplace.

kid in front of fireplace

7. Babyproof a flat hearth

Perhaps you’ve already taken care of some of the preliminary risks, but there are some more you need to address. Or maybe the baby gate idea just isn’t for you. If that’s the case, you may need to implement some other methods for babyproofing your fireplace area, and the hearth is one of them.

If you have a fireplace with a hearth, even bigger kids have a hard time avoiding accidents. Kids fall, like, all the time. Every few minutes. Seriously. If your hearth is made of brick or stone (and most are, in order to catch stray ash from the fire), then you’re going to want to tackle that.

There are several ways to do this but remember that some of these methods will require removing if you ever decide to make a fire, so they don’t catch fire.

  • Put a rug over it. If your hearth is flush against the rest of the floor, you can simply slide a rug over it that’s big enough to cover the whole thing. This offers a soft landing spot for your child if they fall, although it could increase the likelihood of tripping, so be aware of that.
  • Create a fun DIY project. If you’re into home improvement and you’ve been dying for something to do, you can cover your hearth with something that is actually safe for your child to play with. Make a soft bench or couch that they can sit on, craft a bookshelf that they can easily get to, or make a toy bin for additional storage.

8. Babyproof a stepped hearth

If your hearth is elevated, you are right to be concerned about your child running into it, tripping over it, or falling and hitting their head. There are a few different ways you can babyproof a hearth like this to keep your child safe.

  • Use corner and edge protectors for a raised hearth. If you’re worried that your child might fall and crack their head on it, you can buy corner and edge protectors made for baby proofing or you can use rubber tubing that you might find at the hardware store.
  • Get a soft cover. You can make cushions if you’re crafty or buy them if you’re not. You can also buy hearth cushions if you look in the right places.
  • Invest in some floor mats. There are several different kinds. These mats come in a variety of colors or textures, like wood or numbers and letters, and you can interlock them around the hearth to provide a softer barrier.
  • Build a DIY project. You can do the same for a raised hearth as you can for a flat hearth. Build a bench, a bookshelf, or a toy bin to go around it to keep your child at bay.

9. Hide tools

If you have a set of tools for a wood burning fireplace, make sure you take care of those, too. If you’re blocking access to the fireplace with a baby gate, make sure the tools are on the other side of the gate.

If you’re using some other method to protect your baby from the fireplace, ensure that you’ve stored the tools some place safe. You can place them in a cabinet you’ve already child proofed or you can place them up high enough so that your child can’t reach them.

10. Get a carbon monoxide detector

Fire and personal injury aren’t the only things you need to worry about when keeping your child safe from a fireplace. If you’re operating a fireplace in your home, you need to make sure it’s equipped with a carbon monoxide detector.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a wood or a gas burning fireplace. Both give off carbon monoxide. With proper ventilation, you can ensure that your fireplace is safe.

However, sometimes vents get blocked. There are thousands of carbon monoxide exposure cases in children every year, leading to headache, nausea, vomiting, fainting, and death.

11. Open a window

Some fireplaces don’t have vents. This is more common in older homes. If you have a wood burning stove in your home or your fireplace is not vented, always open a window when using your fireplace. It’s the most basic safety measure you can take to protect your baby and your family from the dangers of the fireplace.

12. Clean your fireplace regularly

Cleaning goes a long way to preventing carbon monoxide exposure. You can learn how to clean a fireplace yourself, but depending on the configuration of your fireplace, it can be a tricky and a messy job.

Your best bet is to have it professionally cleaned. A chimney sweep company will come out and clean your entire fireplace, including your chimney and all of your vents and flues. It’s well worth the cost to make sure smoke doesn’t back up into your home, causing irreparable smoke damage to carpet, furniture, walls, and much more.

It’s recommended that you have your fireplace cleaned twice a year. You should have it cleaned once before winter, so you can ensure it’s clean before you use it, and once after you’re done using it for the season.

13. Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

You’ve probably heard that you’re supposed to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year. That’s a pretty good idea. You’d hate to find out that your smoke detectors aren’t working, especially if there’s a fire.

If you use your fireplace regularly, this is even more important for protecting your family. However, one thing you may not think about doing is testing your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working.

Just because you’re replacing the batteries regularly doesn’t mean they’re always fully operational, especially if they’re old or outdated.

Testing your smoke alarm is as easy as pressing the test button on the outside of the unit. You’ll experience an ear-piercing noise, especially if you’re standing next to it, but that’s certainly the point.

Testing your carbon monoxide detectors will require doing the same thing. Just press the test button and wait for the beep. Sometimes your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector will be contained in the same unit, which is even better and easier for you to maintain.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, baby proofing a fireplace is a lot more complicated than just following a few simple steps. However, it’s all worth it to keep your little one safe. You wouldn’t want to risk a tumble, a burn, or something much worse.

Start with the basics, from keeping your child away from the fireplace entirely, and then move to the most complicated steps, like ensuring your entire family is protected from the effects of fire or smoke in your home.

Sarah is a full-time freelance writer and mother of 4. She loves Jesus, cars, and coffee.