Your fireplace is a warm and inviting part of your home, especially as the temperature drops. But it’s no place for children to play. The hard hearth and firebox pose unique risks to infants and toddlers – from scrapes to chemicals. Just like any parent will lock a cabinet with cleaning supplies or a toolbox with sharp tools, you need to take steps towards childproofing a fireplace.
We know a thing or two about fireplace safety. Read the tips below to help keep your child protected from the potential dangers of your fireplace.
Protecting the Fireplace
The first step to childproofing your fireplace is to limit the potential risks of the fireplace itself. Children are natural explorers, and a fireplace can be an attractive mystery to young adventurers.
Install a Fireplace Gate
One of the easiest ways to childproof your fireplace is with a fireplace gate. Like baby gates, these will surround the approach to your fireplace and make it impossible for your infant or toddler to get too close.
In addition to blocking access to the firebox itself, a fireplace gate can help keep children a safe distance away. That lowers their chance of harm from leaping sparks, smoke inhalation or excessive heat.
If you have a raised hearth, the gate can also prevent painful bumps or cuts from contact with the hard surface.
Use Padding/Bumpers for Your Hearth
The hearth around your fireplace also presents a safety hazard. The hard surfaces and edges can cut, scrape or bruise children if they stumble or fall into it.
Fortunately, there are several options to soften these surfaces and make them child-friendly. You can find padded cushions that fit most hearths. These simply rest on top. Some are basic cushions, while others have lips that help protect the front edge of the hearth too.
But don’t forget about the corners. Some hearth pads won’t protect these, and they’re often the most dangerous parts of hearth. Corner guards and edge bumpers are popular options to prevent scrapes or cuts. These fill the gaps that some hearth pads won’t cover, and are often available in a variety of colors to blend in with your hearth.
Fireplace Door Lock
Does your fireplace have a lock on the door? If not, you don’t necessarily need to replace it to get one! There are aftermarket locks that can be purchased for both horizontal and vertical door handles. Like other cabinet door locks, they stop curious toddlers from easily opening the door.
Even if you have a gate that blocks access to your fireplace, it’s probably a good idea to install locks if you don’t have them. Your firebox is a health hazard even when it’s not in use: creosote, chemicals or other remnants can be harmful if inhaled or ingested.
These are particularly helpful in the off-season when you won’t need to open your fireplace anyway.
Keep Children Away from Your Fireplace Accessories & Tools
If you own a fireplace, you likely own a collection of fireplace accessories or tools too. Like your hearth, these tools can be sharp and hard – potentially creating a hazard for younger children. A fireplace gate again makes a great solution to this – simply place the gate around your stand and tools.
Fireplace Covers Are Great for the Off-Season
If your fireplace doesn’t have a cover, consider buying one or even making one yourself. These can block the opening in the absence of a door, preventing children from playing inside the fireplace. It’s important that you and your child stay out of the firebox to avoid breathing in the fumes or getting cut in the confined space.
You can put the cover up when the weather gets warm. It won’t be an inconvenience since you can forget about it until next winter.
Fireplace Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know
Know How to Treat Minor Burns
Accidents happen. If your child suffers a minor burn, such as from an ember or spark, it’s important that you know how to treat it. The easiest way to soothe the pain is with cool water, not cold. You can then wrap it in a bandage to help prevent infection.
If you think the burn is more than a minor injury, call your doctor or visit a hospital immediately.
Install a Smoke Detector Nearby
Any active fire produces smoke. Burning wood that hasn’t been properly seasoned can produce quite a lot, in fact. It’s not uncommon for fires with heavy smoke to puff-back into your home. If the smoke from your fireplace isn’t venting properly, it can cause serious harm when inhaled. A nearby smoke detector is the safest way to protect your child and home when this happens.
Professional Inspections Prevent Common Risks
Even the savviest DIY-types shouldn’t try to handle their fireplace on their own. While you may think you can spot every problem, many of them are hidden and need professional tools to identify. The longer these problems go unfixed, the larger your risk. Schedule regular chimney inspections to avoid dangers like chimney fires or collapsing masonry.
Defend Your Home Against Carbon Monoxide
While the visible threats of your fireplace are easiest to predict, there’s a hidden risk that affects hundreds of Americans every year: carbon monoxide.
It’s invisible. It’s odorless. It’s tasteless. But it can cause serious harm – or even death – in just minutes. Make sure to have regular chimney cleanings to prevent build-up of material that could block airflow in your chimney and leak carbon monoxide into your home.
You’ll also want to invest in a good carbon monoxide detector. Install it somewhere that isn’t too far from your fireplace to act as a good early warning in case these deadly gas leaks into your home.
Do You Need to Childproof a Decorative Fireplace?
Even if you don’t use your fireplace, you need to childproof it! The hearth is still a hazard and an unused firebox isn’t a playground. Just like unused fireplaces need to be cleaned, they should be kept safe from your children.
Keep Your Fireplace Safe! Call Doctor Flue!
If you think your fireplace or chimney needs repairs, contact us today! Doctor Flue offers chimney services all the way from Lansing, MI to Findlay, OH and can inspect your chimney and identify any potential risks. We’ll get you set up right away, so you can have peace of mind.
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