When it’s cold outside, there aren’t too many things better than sitting around a fireplace.
Especially when it’s snowing outside.
But that fireplace can make any parent a nervous wreck if they have babies and toddlers close by. Not only can the fire inside pose a hazard if you’re not careful, but embers can also fly out and gases that aren’t exhausting properly can be fatal.
Don’t worry too much though, because this post will help keep you up to speed with everything you need to do to keep you and your family safe this winter.
Baby Proofing Fireplace Doors
The good news is that many gas fireplaces have glass doors. So you likely won’t have to install one.
While they look good, they can still pose as hazards to your baby beyond the ones mentioned a second ago.
First, glass doors get incredibly hot. They are withstanding all of the heat that’s coming from the fire. Plus, the doors retain the heat for sometimes hours after you turn off the heat.
If your fireplace gets so hot that it can burn you or your baby, the best bet is to put up some sort of barrier around the fireplace. We’ll talk about this in the next section.
The other problem with glass doors is that it’s easy to get pinched. This is a huge problem with bi-fold fireplace doors.
If you’re not using your fireplace, say during the summer, you might think that it’s fine for your baby to go over and play near the fireplace. Other than the toxins from last winter’s fires, there’s also the possibility to get pinched by the door.
The best way to help with this is to add a fireplace door lock.
It’s simple but incredibly effective. These door locks are basically just two metal bars that you put on the top and bottom of the fireplace door handles.
Fireplace Door Locks
For use on fireplace doors with horizontal handles only
Requires a Screwdriver to be installed or removed
Must be removed in order to use the fireplace
Easy to Install
Mounts over the handles
Fireplace door locks can give you peace of mind when you want to make sure your fireplace doors aren’t going to pinch your baby. And you want to make sure your little one stays out of the firebox.
If you have a wood burning fireplace or stove, you should place your gate farther back from the hearth so that it protects your kids from the open fire popping embers and sparks.
If you have a gas fireplace, you can place your gate closer. Just make sure your baby can reach his or her arms through to touch the glass. More than 200 children get third-degree burns from hot fireplace surfaces every year.
Baby Proof Gate
Regardless of the type of fireplace you have (wood or gas) the easiest and best way to baby proof your fireplace is to just put up a fireproof gate.
Whatever you do, just avoid freestanding fireplace screens because a baby can easily pull these down on top of themselves. Or they could lean on it and fall towards the fireplace.
These are the best two methods to help keep your baby away:
- Place your kid in a fenced off play area in the same room
- Fence off the entire fireplace through the use of a fireplace screen or fence.
Both options are effective at protecting your family from the fireplace.
A Play Yard
A play yard is a pen that keeps your baby in a single place.
A play yard can be made of plastic or some sort of metal. Regardless of what it’s made of, it will have bars that will allow an unrestricted view of your baby.
The play yard will not only keep your child safe from the fireplace, but it will also keep your kid from walking around the rest of the room too.
If you choose to go with a play yard, you don’t need to cover the fireplace. But that means you will need to be diligent about making sure your baby is away from the fire when you want to use it.
If you fail to put your child in the play yard, he or she can still be at risk of burns from the fireplace.
A fireplace screen is exactly as it sounds.
It’s a fence that stretches around the perimeter of your fireplace and hearth. Luckily it’s not like a window screen. These are actually pretty sturdy.
You need to make sure that your screen can be secured to the wall and then actually secure it to the wall.
If you do this, you’ll still need to supervise your kid in the room. While the fireplace screen will do a good job keeping your baby away from the fire, it doesn’t do much to protect from ashes flying out.
Plus it’s only a single-use tool. Meaning it’s only good for one thing.
Your kid will be free to roam around everywhere else.
3-in-1 Metal Gate
My favorite method is the 3-in-1 metal gate. It’s sort of a combination of the screen and the play yard.
Not only can the 3-in-1 metal gate be used as a gate for the fireplace, but it can also be used to fence off the other sections of your home that you don’t want your baby to have access to (i.e. stairs).
You can use the 3-in-1 metal gate throughout the winter and even in the Summer. Pack it up and take it to the in-laws for the weekend. Take it to the park if you’d like.
If the metal one doesn’t fit your taste, you can even buy a wooden one.
If you have a flat hearth, the good news is that it’s easy to baby proof.
All you need to do is buy a soft mat to cover it up!
This mat should provide a soft and safe area to land if your baby trips and falls.
Just remember to always remove the mat when you are using your fireplace. Mats can be combustible, which means they can catch on fire.
You want to always make sure you don’t place any combustible materials around it.
If you have a stepped hearth, that means you need to find a way to soften the corners and the edges.
Hearth pads are a great way to protect your kid from the bumps and bruises that are caused by the hearth. Luckily, they are basically the same foam protectors you use for your coffee table.
Hearth pads are flame retardant so you don’t need to worry about them catching on fire.
The bad side about most hearth pads is that they are attached with double sided tape. So that means they are very easy to remove.
Definitely not a good option if your kid can remove them.
You can also use an adjustable hearth guard that clamps to the edge of your hearth. No adhesives that are easy to remove. No permanent fixtures to your fireplace.
Nice and easy.
For many babies, it’s probably pretty hard to climb up on the hearth. But hard doesn’t mean impossible. If your baby likes the challenge of climbing the hearth, you ought to consider softening the top too.
The best way to make sure the top is soft is to just use a hearth cushion.
It’s basically a giant pillow that lays across the hearth. And it’s flame retardant like the hearth pads, so you know that they won’t catch on fire when you use your fireplace.
Your fireplace is much more dangerous than just being a burn hazard.
In 2009 alone, poison control centers reported more than 3,500 cases of carbon monoxide exposure in children. Carbon monoxide is a gas that you can’t see, smell, taste, or feel. But unsafe levels can cause nausea, headaches, fainting, vomiting, and even death!
Even if you don’t have a fireplace, you should have a carbon monoxide alarm.
Since you won’t know there’s carbon monoxide (they call it the silent killer), you need to have a carbon monoxide detector installed.
It’s really easy. You just plug it into the wall.
Keeping Your Chimney Cleaned
Cleaning and maintaining your fireplace should be done once a year. Keeping your chimney clean will help make sure your fireplace is allowing the gases to exhaust up and out of the chimney.
This way the gases won’t get backed into your home.
If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, you run the risk of having creosote build up in your chimney.
Not only is creosote flammable, but it can also build upon the walls of your chimney liner to hinder the flow of gases.
Beyond creosote, you can easily have animals build nests and leaves can fall in from fall or hard winds.
It’s not too hard to get a clogged chimney.
The good news is that it’s even easier to make sure you have a clean chimney. All you need to do is call a certified chimney company to take a look.
How to Hire, What to Look For
When you’re hiring a chimney company, you should always ask the following questions before allowing them to come into your home:
- Can the company provide references?
- Does the company carry a valid business liability insurance policy?
- Does the company ensure that a certified chimney technician will be on the job?
If they guarantee all three of those, then you are in a good spot. The technicians don’t necessarily need to be certified by the CSIA, but I do recommend putting in a bit more due diligence before accepting a certification that’s not by the CSIA.
This is because certifications are a tricky thing, especially in an unlicensed industry like ours. Any company can craft a list of job-related questions and sell them as an exam and certify those who pass.
I recommend you take a few extra minutes in your research before making your hiring decision to learn more about the certification the company has. Here are a few tips to make sure the certification is reputable:
- Is the word “certified” just part of the business name or is it an earned designation?
- Is the certifying body a for-profit business or non-profit?
- Does the certification need to be maintained and renewed through continuing education as the industry evolves, or is it well enough to be certified through a one-time exam?
- Is the certifying body well-established or are they relatively new to the scene? New doesn’t mean “bad” but you should make sure the requirements for certification are more or at least equally stringent as those of more established certifications
- Is the mission statement of the certifying body focused on educating and protecting homeowners or is it more focused on making it easier to earn a certification?
- Does holding the certification require following a code of ethics?
If you can answer all of these questions, then I think it will be safe to allow the company in your home to work on your chimney.
Please note that If you are hiring a chimney company to install a cap for you, most of the time, they will need to buy the cap themselves. This is primarily for liability and insurance purposes.
Besides, it’s probably cheaper for them to buy a cap at the dealer discount than for you to buy one at retail cost.
It doesn’t matter if you are in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg, or some other city anywhere in the USA — if you have any questions about the safety of hiring a chimney company, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 540-225-2626. I’m happy to help!