When you bought that beautiful home as a childless couple, you were thrilled about the many romantic evenings you would spend snuggled up together by a gently crackling fireplace.
But then you had a baby and suddenly instead of marshmallows and soft jazz, you’re envisioning bruises, bumps, and painful burns. The central fixture of your home is now a danger zone for a curious crawler or toddler.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 65% of injuries sustained from a fireplace are children under the age of 5. Most of the injuries are cuts and bruises from the hearth and 5% are burns.
Follow these tips to keep your little one safe around the fireplace and avoid becoming another statistic.
Baby Proof Your Fireplace By Using a Baby Gate
It’s only natural that a curious baby or toddler will want to get a closer look at the fireplace, even when a fire isn’t burning.
The long, dark hole of the chimney used to fascinate me as a child, and when a fire was burning the temptation to see what would happen if I put a banana peel or my latest McDonald’s toy in the fire was only hindered by my mother’s watchful eye.
Not to mention the danger of popping embers and intense heat from our wood-burning fire.
A gate is an absolute necessity for any family with a fireplace in the home. Even if your older child understands the danger associated with a fireplace, children can easily fall and hurt themselves on the brick or stone hearth or come dangerously close the flame.
Whatever the age of your children, get a gate that will completely surround your fireplace and hearth, making sure to allow ample space for any popping embers.
The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that children remain at least three feet from anything that can get hot, so choose a gate with enough length to create a generous distance between the fireplace and your children.
Be sure that the gate will mount to the wall to prevent little ones from knocking it over. You’ll also need a gate with an easy-open door so that you can tend to the fire. But not too easy.
You’d be surprised how quickly a toddler can learn to open complicated doors and latches.
North States 3-in-1 Superyard
This safety gate by North States comes in three different styles to match your home décor: black steel, white steel, or wood.
The gate can be configured as a free-standing play yard or, using the included hardware mounts, mounted to the wall around your fire place.
Remember, you’ll need to keep three feet of distance between the flame and your baby so if the basic 151 inches is not long enough, you can purchase separate extensions to personalize your barrier.
The panels connect at “pivot points” so you can adjust the shape of the barrier, in addition to the length, and it will work on any flooring without scratching.
It’s certainly one of the more expensive gates, but it is my top pick for versatility and style.
Regalo Super Wide Adjustable Gate
This adjustable wall-mounted gate or play yard comes with a generous 191 inches made up of eight panels that can be removed or added to configure the shape and space that you need. When it’s not in use, it folds easily for storage.
One reviewer said that it isn’t ideal for hardwood floors and you can’t purchase individual panels if you need an extension, but if you’re looking for a safety gate on a budget, this one is less than half the price of the North States gate and is likely to meet your needs given the large size.
KidCo Auto Close Hearth Gate
While this is certainly the most expensive of the three, it is also the most customizable and a parent favorite. This highly-rated gate has the option of additional extensions in 9 or 24-inch panels for a perfect fit.
The door is fitted with a magnet that will automatically close and lock the gate if you forget to close it after tending to the fire.
Unlike the other gates mentioned, however, it can’t be used as a free-standing play yard without adding extra pieces, though it is long enough for a six-foot hearth.
Remember, a gate may help prevent burns and injuries but it is up to you, the adult, to supervise your children when there is a fire burning. Never leave a child unattended, even for a moment, in a room with a burning fire.
Children are quick and curious and no matter how “child safe” a lock might be, there will always be “that child” who figures it out.
It only takes a moment for an accident to happen, so be vigilant.
Buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Whether you have a gas log fireplace or a wood-burning fireplace, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should have both smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your house on every level of the home.
Be sure to test them monthly and change the batteries yearly. Fireplaces aren’t the only source of risk for carbon monoxide, either.
Your furnace, water heater, dryer, oven, stove, car, BBQ grill, or a portable generator can also produce the dangerous gas so you’ll need a carbon monoxide detector even if your fireplace is not in use.
Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, so you won’t know it’s there until it’s too late – unless you have a detector. If your detector does sound the alarm, leave your home immediately and call 911.
First Alert Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector
I’m all about convenience and simplicity. This battery-powered alarm does double-duty: it detects both smoke and carbon monoxide.
If the alarm goes off, the indicator lights show you if there is smoke or carbon monoxide and you can install it yourself, without an electrician. This alarm will last for seven years.
Worried you’ll forget to replace it? Don’t worry – it has an “end of life” chirp that will remind you when it’s time for a new one.
Kidde Carbon Monoxide Alarm
If you already have a smoke detector, this is your basic CO detector for a basic price.
There’s no need to spend extra money on something fancy if all you are looking for is a simple alarm.
This detector runs on 3 AAA batteries so be sure to check the batteries monthly and change them yearly.
First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector with 10-Year Battery and Temperature Display
If you’re looking for something basic and hassle-free, this detector comes with a built-in 10-year battery, so there’s no need to worry about changing batteries from year to year.
The digital display will show you any CO concentration as well as the temperature inside the house.
Instead of installing this one on a wall or ceiling, it sits on a table top and can be moved from room to room (though ideally you would have one in each room) or you can take it with you when you travel.
How to Baby-Proof A Fireplace Hearth
Even if your fireplace is only for decoration, the majority of children’s injuries around a fireplace are bruises or lacerations from falling on the hearth, not the fire.
Unsteady toddlers trip and fall easily and the hard corners and rough brick or stone of the fireplace can cause bruises and cuts.
Older children can quickly become rowdy and before you know it a simple game of “Thumb Wars” has turned into an all-out wrestling match and somebody will inevitably get hurt (or is that just my kids?).
So, if you don’t need a gate to keep little ones away from the flame but are still looking for some extra protection from those sharp corners, look no further.
If your hearth is completely flush with the floor a small rug that matches your décor will do the trick. However, most hearths have at least a slightly raised edge that will leave quite a goose egg on your toddler’s forehead. Consider a safety bumper like this from Roving Cove.
Roving Cove’s award-winning safety edge and corner cushion comes in brown, black, or white and includes 18 feet of high-density cushion and eight corner pieces. Just measure, cut, and tape onto the edges of your hearth and then add the corner pieces for a neat and clean finish.
Stepped hearths are more common than flat hearths and are a greater danger to unsteady toddlers. But with a little creativity you can baby-proof your hearth without sacrificing on style. Try one of these DIY methods to baby-proof your hearth:
Turn your hearth into a decorative bench or a cozy reading nook by adding a bench cushion and some decorative pillows.
If you’re really feeling the vibe, make some hot cocoa and snuggle up under a blanket with a crackling fireplace video inside your unused fireplace.
You can get the same atmosphere but without the danger of a real fire.
Interlocking Foam Mats
Consider baby-proofing your hearth with interlocking foam mats.
Instead of the brightly-colored alphabet mats commonly found in baby stores, choose some with a more sophisticated look like these wood-grained mats in 8 variations, or these colored mats.
Just use a sturdy double-sided tape to keep them in place and you can easily remove them for cleaning or if you decide you want to use your fireplace again.
If you still want to use your fireplace from time to time without removing the padding, consider a hearth pad like one from KidKusion.
It attaches to your hearth with double-sided tape and can be used with a burning fire.
DIY (Do it Yourself)
Do it yourself, from start to finish. If you possess the tools and skills, make your hearth your own by creating your own custom seating area.
This really is the best way to baby proof your hearth while keeping your own style and décor, though not everybody has the time or energy to build it yourself.
The possibilities are endless, and you’re limited only by your own creativity.
Wrapping Up Baby Proofing a Fireplace
Remember, when it comes to your baby, safety is a priority.
Be sure to always use a gate around a burning fireplace and remember that any glass or metal near the fireplace will remain hot even after the fire is no longer burning.
Use a carbon monoxide detector (and have at least one on every floor of your home regardless of if you use your fireplace or not).
If you’re not burning a fire, you can skip the gate but be sure to protect against bumps and bruises around the hearth.
Once your little one’s safety is taken care of, mix up some hot cocoa and turn on your favorite movie.
You can still enjoy those romantic evenings around the fireplace…after baby’s bedtime, of course.