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Archive-name: misc-kids/babyproofing/hearths
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                        Childproofing a Hearth

From: Harry Jenter,  U.S. Geological Survey, Reston VA 

Thanks to everyone that responded to my original request for hearth
child-proofing.  Here is a collection of the responses that I
received.  They're grouped loosely into three categories:

            1) physical modifications to the hearth
            2) teaching the child to avoid hearths
            3) erecting a barrier or placing pads on the hearth

I've editted them a little to reduce space.


From: (Mike Fields)

What we did for our hearth that has worked out very well was to get some of
those steel angle sheet rock corners (light wt. steel angle iron equiv about
1-1/4 X 1-1/4 inches) and glue polyfoam pipe insulation with a 90 degree
wedge cut out of it to the angle.  We then screwed the angle to the hearth
after drilling small holes with a masonary bit.  Works great! and the 
advantage of using the steel angle instead of gluing directly to the hearth
is that when the kids get older etc, it is easy to remove, leaving only the
small mounting holes.  Of course, you have to watch for them trying to eat
the stuff when they are teething (as well as anything else they can wrap
their gums around!!)  We also used the foam insulation on the aquarium
stand that I welded up (80 gallon tank ) for the front room.  The 
pipe insulation comes in 6 foot lengths (I think) and is only a couple
of dollars per length.  It is avail in a number of sizes, although the
most common one seems to be for 1/2 or 3/4 inch pipe.  This has an outside
diameter of about 2 inches.  It is available in off-white, brown, gray
and perhaps some other colors.

hope that saves someone's head/teeth!!


From: tigger@satyr.Sylvan.COM (Grace Sylvan)

There is a company that advertises in _Mothering_ magazine.

Protect your Child from dangerous fireplace hearths.
Starts at $39.95, custom built 6 colors. Call 404-717-0088
Baby Bumpers, Inc. 479 Loma St. Liburn GA  30247

Disclaimer: I have not ordered one, and I don't represent the company,
just passing on info that I remembered seeing


From: (Monica Fortner)

What we did was cover some sheets of 1/2 inch cork with clear contact
paper and then fasten that to the fireplace with Liquid Nails.  The
cork was about the same color as our brick, so it looked ok.  It has
held up for 3 years.  My biggest concern is when we want to sell the
house, we may have trouble removing the Liquid Nail spots.


From: (Diane Segelhorst)

I forget where I read this idea.  It may have been on, and
the originator will mail you a response as well.  Just in case (s)he
doesn't, I'll try to summarize what I remember.

Take some of that metal or plastic outside corner strip.  It is about
3/4" by 3/4".  With small cement or brick anchors, or burred nails,
attach this to the brick corner of the hearth.  Use as few nails as
will hold it securely.  Then take the foam pipe insulators that you can
get at a hardware store.  Cut out one quarter of the insulator, and
glue it to the metal stripping.  This provides a nice cushioned
corner.  When you are ready to remove it, all you will be left with is
the few small nail holes you used to hold the metal stripping in

I'll _try_ to do an ascii sketch, but who knows if it will help you
understand what I mean!

                   /    \
        Foam Pipe /     __\
         Cover   |     |  ______  Metal Corner stuff
                  \    | |  ________________________
                   \___| |  |
                         |  |      Brick Hearth

EDITORIAL NOTE: I received a phone call from Mike Fields who described
      this solution in great detail.  He may have been the original
      poster mentioned above.  Thanks, Mike.  --Harry


From: lauraf@notavax.Jpl.Nasa.Gov (Laura Floom)

If you cant baby proof it, then the best thing to do is to teach him
how to climb up and down safely. I have some cement steps in my front
and back yard, and that's what we did.


From: dlin@weber.UCSD.EDU (Diane Lin)

We have a similar situation--brick fireplace which is never used, but
it's one of the only Off-Limits areas we have in our place left :-).
We just instituted a simple rule:  the fireplace hearth was
off-limits.  So, when Dylan started making his way over there, we would
say (very calmly and in a normal voice) "off-limits."  Then, we would
pick him up and transport him to a safer area, and try to distract him
with something fun to play with.  He would keep testing (at 10 months,
so will your son, I imagine) but after being faced with the same, exact
reaction from us, he soon tired of the test.  We wanted to save using
"no" for really serious things, like life or limb-threatening
situations.  BTW, he started crawling over to the fireplace at about 7
months, and now, at 15 months, he rarely even looks that way, because
he knows what will happen--consistency is all important in the early
limits placing, IMHO.  We don't make it fun for him to go to the
off-limits areas (no swooping in the air, for instance), but will make
it more fun for him to avoid that area. 

Friends of ours took a different tack--they surrounded the hearth
with big pillows in case their sons took a fall.  Well,
unfortunately, that worked only for a little while, until the kids
were big enough to push the pillows out of the way.  And, it didn't
help the kids learn that *all* fireplace hearths should be
off-limits.  When we visit other houses, Dylan automatically avoids
the hearth areas.  Maybe he just doesn't have a fascination with
bricks :-)


From: (Lynette Atwood)

I have the same problem at home.  For our first child we had to cut a
large cardboard box (I believe it was a windshield box) and tape it
around the hearth.  It looked tacky as hell but saved our little
monster's head.  With this new baby (9 months old) we planned ahead.
We had my brother-in-law (who works for a plexiglass manufacturing
company) make a shield which goes around the three sides of the hearth
and is about 24 inches high.  All corners are rounded off and the top
has a small (4 inch) shelf which faces in towards the fireplace to
prevent cuts.  The plexiglass doesn't distract from the rest of the


From: (Chris Phillips)

We never use our fireplace. So I covered the whole lower part with
cardboard (leftover from moving boxes). It is still somewhat hard, but
at least is not as bad as brick or stone. It also helps a little to have
the bends in the cardboard a bit away from the corners they cover. You
would have to take it away when you had a fire (it could catch fire).


From: Craig Seidel <>

If you don't mind UGLY, I've heard of people finding a box the same
size as their fireplace.  I covered mine with plywood until we could
teach our child to keep away.


From: author@sgml.HQ.Ileaf.COM (Betsy Mandrus x2331)

We had this problem so my husband built a fence around the hearth and
covered it with some inexpensive but tough carpetting.



We have a free-standing fireplace in the middle of our living room (we
didn't design the layout!).  It's our primary source of heat, and we
have a 3yr old and a 19 mo old, so we need pretty good child-proofing.
We use a big child-gate -- I think they're also called portable
playyards.  It's one of those accordian things made out of panels; each
panel about 3 ft long, 18 ft long total.  We wrap it all the way

I bought it at a garage sale for $5.  I've seen them in stores
(ToysRUs, baby stores) and catalogs for alot more -- about $60-$70.

The other similar situtation we had was with the coffee table -- we
decided it's an essential piece of furniture, but it's also the source
of alot of bumps.  When my son was learning to walk, I made a pad out
of foam rubber covered with cloth.  It wrapped all the way around the
table and fastened with velcro.  Unfortunately we took it off when he
seemed steady on his feet, and didn't put it back on for the 2nd child
until AFTER she ran into it with enough force to require 4 stitches.
The pad isn't pretty, but neither were the stitches!


From: nola@cats.UCSC.EDU

When our oldest daughter was that age she was fascinated with the
hearth (a raised brick platform) also.  We stopped having fires,
obviously, so we weren't worried about the flammability of a hearth
pad.  We used an ensolite foam pad, the kind backpackers used to use
and held it down with duct tape.  It was pretty apparent to anyone who
entered our living room that there was a toddler in the house!  But of
all the tumbles she took that launched her into the hearth she never
got so much as a bruise.  Gradually the hearth lost its appeal, we
removed the foam pad, started having fires again, and found new things
to worry about.  But I will always remember the time I walked into the
living room just as she was climbing onto the hearth and she looked
over her shoulder at me and said "no-no. Hot!", laughed, and continued
climbing up onto the hearth.


From: Laurie Hafner <>

We purchased 6 bedsize pillows (inexpensive ones) and my husband's
grandmother made covers for them to match the colors in our living
room.  We prop the pillows up against the fireplace.  They have
provided an excellent barrier to the bricks.  We have not had any
accidents so far - thank goodness.  We have a 28 mo old and a 14 mo old
- both boys who are very rough and tumble with each other.  When we use
the fireplace, we remove the pillows and are always right there to make
sure they don't get burned or bumped.


From: Jean Jasinski <>

We bought a 2 inch thick piece of foam the length of the hearth and
covered it with a blanket.  The foam extends over the front edge which
is also draped by the blanket so if they hit the top edge, they don't
catch the edge of the hearth.  We also put some corner guards on the
corners.  It doesn't look the fanciest, but I am more concerned with my
kids' safety.


From: hardend@LONEX.RL.AF.MIL (Debbie D. Harden)

We, too, have an "evil" hearth.  For awhile, a thick blanket draped
over the hearth worked well.  Then James learned how to pull it off.

We received a mail-order cat. called "Perfectly Safe."  In it they have
hearth bumpers you can purchase, but you have to call for a $
estimate.  If you're interested, I can bring it in tomorrow and e-mail
you their number.


From: hardend@LONEX.RL.AF.MIL (Debbie D. Harden)

The company is called "Perfectly Safe."  Their customer service number
is 1-800-837-KIDS, Monday - Friday, 0900-1700.

They show a similar shield for coffee tables that costs $44.95 to fit
tables 93" - 192" around.  The hearth guard is pictured on page 22 of
their catalogue.  If they ask for a number on the mailing label (to see
which catalogue you're talking about) it's FA170.
Harry L. Jenter              
U.S. Geological Survey                 COM: (703) 648-5890 FTS: 959-5890
Mailstop 430, National Center          "Sometimes you're the bug.
Reston, Virginia 22092                   Sometimes you're the windshield."


>From Thu Jul  2 13:20:10 1992

re: childproofing a woodstove
These are used widely in New Zealand. Studies have shown that
children rarely touch woodstoves deliberately, as they are usually
deterred by the heat. ( Adults are the main culprits, as their faces
are generally too far above the stove to feel the heat )

most cases of burns in children are caused by them tripping and falling
against the stove. Skin will stick to the glass doors and cause terrible 

The best safeguard against this is a wrought iron ( or sometimes 
aluminium ) "cage"  around the stove. Even a couple of inches
from the stove is effective, as the cage prevents contact with
the stove. Although the cage may get hot from radiation, it will not
cause burns.

Vertical bars twelve inches apart are effective. Here, the cages
are made at reasonable cost by people who make gates, fences, pool 
enclosures, etc. Many are made by D.I.Y .


From:  Susan Raymond, University of Michigan

I have a source for babyproofing a hearth that I would like to mention.

In the last paragraph a man from New Zealand mentions putting a wrought iron
cage around a wood stove and that many local craftsman make these.  I had a
hard time finding one here in the US.  (Although it would seem logical to
sell these at wood stove stores.)

The following catalog carries a wrought iron cage at a reasonable price.  For
about $60 plus shipping and handling:

Plow & Hearth
P.O. Box 5000
Madison, Virginia 22727-1500

24 hr ordering 1-800-627-1712
toll-free fax: 1-800-843-2509
Customer assistance: 1-800-866-6072


From: Tom McBrine

We have a fairly large hearth on our fireplace (8' long, 2 1/2' deep and
at least 8" high). What we did was build a wood cap which incased the
hearth on 3 sides, padded it with 1" styrofoam, and covered it with
contact paper in a color that matched the rug in the room. Due to it's
weight, there's no need to anchor it down. It ain't going anywhere!

You can't have fires, but it has really saved our kids from serious
injury. Just the other day our oldest, Jenny (2 1/2 yrs), tripped on a toy
and when she fell her forehead struck the front corner of the padded
hearth. She cried from the impact, but there wasn't a scratch on her.
This is a good example of why I feel teaching a child to avoid the hearth
isn't good enough. Accidents do happen!


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