The fireplace is one of the most obvious dangers when thinking of places that need to be baby-proofed.
Even if your fireplace is closed, the intense heat is very dangerous to the curious toddler, and the flickering of the fire only draws them toward it.
The best way to baby-proof the fireplace is to keep it completely sealed off so they can’t even get close to it.
The Easiest Solution: A Baby Gate
The most simple way to baby-proof your fireplace is with a gate. Ideally, you want one that attaches securely to the walls with screws; this will make completely sure that it’s secured. A free-standing gate is just not safe; it’s very easy for them to grab onto it and make it topple over.
You should also make sure that the gate makes it easy to access the fireplace, ideally with a retractable or swing-out gate. Any good gate of this type will be impossible for a toddler to open, although you have to be careful as they get older, because you might be surprised at how tricky they can be!
My recommendation is a 3-in-1 baby gate (click here to check price), in either metal or wood, whichever you feel fits your home better. You can add and subtract pieces to it to make it fit perfectly to your fireplace, and it’s hardware-mountable, which is crucial.
In the warmer months, this gate can be used elsewhere, such as near stairs or other areas you don’t want them getting into.
For larger fireplaces, the KidCo AutoClose HearthGate (click here to see) is my recommendation. It’s a heavy-duty steel gate that hardware mounts to any surface. It functions a lot like the 3-in-1 gate, and you can add and subtract pieces as you need them, so it can span practically any distance or area.
It has a magnetic latch door that auto-closes, which is handy. The gate itself couldn’t be easier to install, and even I could do it. And I’m terrible with these kinds of things.
For more information, I have a full guide on baby gates, which is recommended reading.
Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Threat
Not everyone thinks about the carbon monoxide gas that fires produce when they’re baby-proofing. If your fireplace is ventilated properly and has no blockages, this is usually not a problem, but things can go very wrong quickly if something does end up blocking it. According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention, there are an average of 430 deaths per year due to carbon monoxide in the United States alone, and that’s not even counting the cases of poisoning that didn’t result in death.
Make sure to check and clear your fireplace vents regularly. Almost all cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are due to vents being clogged and not working properly.
If you have a fireplace, I strongly suggest getting a carbon monoxide detector. They’re inexpensive, and the small cost is nothing to ensure that you have no incidents with carbon monoxide. Please just get one; they’re well worth it.
My suggestion is the Kidde KN-COPP-B-LPM (click here to see it) which is a battery-operated detector, so you don’t need a power outlet near the fireplace in order for it to work properly. It takes 3 AA batteries which are included, it’s easy-to-read and works well. Just get it!
How to Baby Proof a Hearth
A fireplace hearth is the brick or stone ledge that extends out from the fireplace, meant to stop embers from jumping out from the fireplace when its in use. Hearths are either made flush with the floor, or raised. The raised hearths are a definite hazard to your baby; with sharp corners and edges, they are dangerous if your child falls onto them and need to be baby-proofed just like tables do.
The easiest and quickest solution is to use a gate, such as the ones mentioned earlier in this guide. However, if that’s not an option for you, there are some other solutions you might be interested in.
If you have a flat hearth, it’s easily baby-proofed. All you need is to put a soft mat on it, and bingo, you’re done. Just make sure not to use it when the fireplace is in use, which is a fire hazard.
Now we’re talking! If you’re not going to use a gate, you need to pad it somehow. There are pre-made hearth pads that you can buy, but I’m not a huge fan of them. Personally, I like Roving Cove (see it here) corner guards instead. It comes in a roll (with corner pieces) and consists of soft but dense foam material that has a sticky side on the back, and you can use it to for any edges.
You just roll it out the length of the hearth, cut it with a knife, and stick it. The corner pieces go on the corners, and you’re done!
What I really like about this stuff is that you can use it anywhere else you want padding, like tables or other furniture. It comes in 3 different colors, so you can match it to whatever the decor of your house is. It’s a great, cheap solution!
The DIY Solution
A neat DIY solution I really like is to make your own hearth padding out of inter-connectable baby mats. Not only is this a cheap, fun solution, but it looks great, too. Unfortunately, when it comes to most baby-proofing products, the look is an afterthought. This is when making your own baby-proofing stuff comes into play!
What you do is get some interlocking floor pads and lay them out to match the hearth. You’ll probably have to cut off the edges of the pads because they won’t match up exactly, so just use a good knife (but be careful!)
It doesn’t take long to do it, and it works great! The only downside to this method is that the tricky toddler will figure out how to take the mats apart. In this case, you might consider supergluing some of the mats together so they can’t get it apart.
You have a lot of options here: you can go for colorful, kiddy mats, or use more neutral mats to fit in with the rest of your decor. Pretty much any of the mats listed here will work, so just take your pick.
The final piece of the puzzle are fireplace doors. Not all fireplaces have doors, and this isn’t going to be a solution if you’re using it (a gate is better; what they can’t touch can’t burn them) but you won’t want them getting inside. Those doors get hot, and they can remain hot for a long time after the fire is out.
Another hazard, even if the door isn’t hot, tiny fingers can get easily pinched between them. Yep, those doors can hurt bad, even during the summer months. You might not need a gate up, but you need to keep them secured shut.
The easiest solution here is a cable tie, which are cheap and easy to use. These ones are cheap and long enough that they should work for almost any situation.
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