Before you move on to learning how to baby proof a gas fireplace, you should first figure out the kind of fireplace you are using. The reason this is important is because both fireplaces have different designs and parts to it. Therefore, depending on which type of fireplace you baby proof, the methods will be completely different.
Generally, there are two types of fireplace if you don’t include the electric “hologram” version. One is the traditional fireplace which burns wood. The other type is a pure gas fireplace that only burns gas.
The Upgraded Traditional Fireplace
In the past, a fireplace only burns wood, and you have to start it up yourself with whatever kindling and tinder you have available. Nowadays, you start it up with gas. There are gas inserts under the pile of firewood in which you can use to start up your fireplace. However, one thing I have to clarify is this. Even though you can start a fireplace with gas, if you are still burning wood, then it is a still considered a traditional wood fireplace. It is not considered a gas fireplace. I will explain why this is important later.
The Real Gas Fireplace
A real gas fireplace burns only gas, which is usually methane gas. In other words, it is kind of like your stove except for the fact that you get these logs made of ceramic there to decorate it.
Another difference between a gas fireplace and a stove is that the fire is made to have a slight incomplete combustion so that you get that nice campfire look, rather than the powerful blue flame you use to cook your macaroni with. A gas fireplace is slightly more popular than wood fireplace nowadays because their heat production efficiency is around 80%. On the other hand, simply burning wood is only 15% efficient.
Why Is It Important To Know The Difference Between Wood and Gas Fireplace?
A gas fireplace and a wood fireplace has different areas in which you need to baby proof. For example, a wood fireplace has a hearth, but a gas fireplace doesn’t have one. The reason is because gas fireplaces don’t need a hearth. More on wood fireplace later if you are interested. For now, let’s get started on baby proofing a gas fireplace.
Techniques To Detect Gas Leaks
First thing you should think about is to check for gas leaks. If you let gas fill up the whole house, you can literally make the whole house explode with a single spark. There’s a technique my father used to teach me to detect gas leaks. I call it the soap test. Get a spray bottle, fill it up with water, then add a few drops of liquid dish washing soap to it. Gently swirl the soapy water without shaking it. You want to create as little bubbles as possible.
Now spray your ceramic logs and gas lines with it. If you see any bubbles growing bigger then you know there’s a gas leak. If you suspect a gas leak, you should call a professional to fix it. This should all be done when the fireplace is off and cooled down.
Watch Out For Residue and Soot
The next thing you should think about is cleaning up your gas fireplace. Gas fireplaces are much cleaner and efficient than wood fireplaces. However, over time, residues and small amounts of soot will clog up and block the normal flow of gas.
When that happens, gas will be burned inefficiently and form more soot and carbon monoxide. Soot and carbon monoxide can both cause damage to the body. Soot can cause lung problems if breathed in large quantities.
Carbon monoxide can block oxygen absorption. Normally, when carbon monoxide gets produced in small amounts, it gets vented out. However, things get dangerous when you fireplace produces more carbon monoxide than the vents can release all at once.
The Dangers Of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is toxic, tasteless and has absolutely no smell. In fact, a lot of gases don’t have any smell. Gas leaks normally have a smell of rotten eggs because gas companies intentionally mixed it in so people living near gas leaks can be aware of it.
However, gas companies can not mix a smell into the carbon monoxide your fireplace makes. That is because it is a byproduct formed from your neglect of your fireplace. When carbon monoxide hits you, you wouldn’t even realize it until you faint and you end up on the floor.
I have a friend who went to the emergency room because her house had high levels of carbon monoxide that caused her to have a seizure. This is why you should take this seriously, because carbon monoxide can block your body from absorbing oxygen resulting in brain damage and death.
Also, install an extra carbon monoxide detector (smoke alarm) right next to your fireplace. Make sure the batteries are good, and the smoke alarm is not too old. In theory, smoke alarms have to be thrown out every ten years so keep that in mind also.
How To Clean Your Fireplace To Prevent Clogging
As mentioned earlier, as your fireplace build up residue and soot, the chances of carbon monoxide build up increases rapidly which can literally kill everyone in the house, not just your baby.
To prevent that, you should clean up your fireplace every six months if you haven’t formed that kind of habit yet. Get a vacuum cleaner that has an hose extension and suck out any stuff you see on your ceramic logs or anywhere in the fireplace.
If there are some sticky stuff that can’t be sucked out, then get a soft plastic brush and scrub it out. Of course, do all this maintenance work when the fireplace is off and cooled down. Of course, this mostly applies to a vented fireplace (outside air comes into feed the fireplace, and toxic air flow outside)
Theoretically, if you have a ventless fireplace (which is not common yet), you shouldn’t have any soot problems. If you do, immediately call a professional to check it out, because something is wrong with your fireplace, and you have no way of venting your toxic gases.
If you have a new vented fireplace, it would produce soot but only in small amounts compared to a traditional wood fireplace (more on that later). If you see a lot of soot, smell rotten eggs, the flame’s color somehow feels “wrong”, and your smoke alarm detector keeps ringing, sometimes it can be because the ceramic logs are not placed correctly. When that happens, the gas coming out of the burners are blocked and burned inefficiently (which produces more carbon monoxide also) so remember to place your logs in the correct position.
Another reason for soot formation is because of lack of proper air flow, or oxygen flow in other words. Check your chimney to make sure nothing is blocking it (like snow and leaves for example). If necessary, you can also re-adjust the airflow settings.
You Need A Baby Gate
You should definitely install a baby gate. While your fireplace is burning, the doors are required to be open so you really don’t have another option. You have three options you can go for. First option to use a baby gate to block off the fireplace. Second option is to have a playard isolate your baby so that she does not have access to the rest of the room. The third option is to have a sturdy hardware mounted baby gate that blocks off access to the room with the fireplace.
Obviously, the baby gates should be secure and screwed into the wall. The only exception is the baby gate play yard which creates this small play area for your baby. However, the downside to using a playard is that some babies are strong enough to push it around the room. If that is the case, you should chain the play yard so that there is a limit to where you baby can push it.
If you decide to fence off the fireplace, make sure to use a heat resistant type so that your baby doesn’t burn her hands when she touches it.
I highly recommend a fireplace door, if you don’t already have one. You are not supposed to close the fireplace doors when your fireplace is lit whether it is gas type of wood type. However, they are helpful when you turn off the fireplace and you want to conserve the heat in the room.
Not to mention, if your child grows up and become capable of climbing over the baby gate you installed, at least you can zip tie your fireplace door shut during the summer months so she doesn’t mess around with the ceramic logs, or soot. After using your fireplace doors for a while, check regularly for cracks and damages.
Remember To Never Add Anything Into A Gas Fireplace
A gas fireplace is meant to burn only gas. Don’t add wood shaving pellets, or logs in there. You can literally cause a gas explosion. Not to mention, even if there are no immediate explosions, the ash build up will cover the burners and create hazards too like carbon monoxide build up.
An Adult Should Always Be In The Room
No matter how well you babyproof your gas fireplace, and adult should be supervising in the room at all times. Either that, or don’t let your baby in that room and block it off with a sturdy baby gate. If your fireplace has a remote, don’t ever let your baby have access to it even if every adult is in the same room.
Accidents can happen, and sometimes they are unpredictable. It is just like SIDS, sometimes you don’t know what weird way your child can get hurt with. This applies whether you have a gas fireplace or a traditional wood fireplace.
A gas fireplace seems to have a lot of things you have to deal with. However, a traditional wood fireplace has more you have to deal with.
What Problems Does A Traditional Wood Fireplace Have?
In terms of maintenance and baby proofing, a traditional fireplace has a lot more work for you to do. The reason is because there are more parts and residue to it.
The Hearth and How To Deal With It
First of all, a wood burning fireplace has something called a hearth. For those who don’t know what it is, it is a fancy name for the floor in front of the fireplace. Of course, it is not any kind of floor. It is a fire resistant floor. It is usually made of bricks or something similar.
You might be wondering what is the whole purpose of having a hearth in front of the fireplace when that is not the place of action. The reason is simply. Firey sparks jumps out from the fireplace when you burn unseasoned firewood (more on that later). Accurately speaking, it is tiny burning wood particles (embers) shooting out of the fireplace. Obviously, if the flooring in front of the fireplace is a regular carpet, wood tiles, or plastic, those sparks or embers will do major damage or possibly start a house fire, because they normally go unnoticed. This is why a hearth is so important.
Obviously, if you don’t want your baby to trip and fall onto the hard bricky hearth, you should block it off with a baby gate. This is especially true if the hearth is raised off the ground like a little wall. Your baby can possibly climb on top of it and fall off by accident.
If you are tempted to remove the baby gate during the warm seasons, you can consider laying down something soft like pillows, kiddie play tiles or anything soft on it to soften any falls and cover any sharp corners. Just remember to take this stuff away when you start using your fireplace again.
Be Careful About The Wood You Are Using
Watch out for wood that has water pockets in the middle. They can literally explode randomly and spit out embers when you burn them. The reason it does that is because when log burns, the water content and oil content in the wood fights each other. If you ever tried to fry something, and you dumped water inside, you will see exactly what I am talking about it. It can get pretty explosive.
Another problem with burning unseasoned wood (wood with high water content) is that it will create more creosote for your chimneys. Creosote is a black tarry substance that is extremely flammable. It forms because of low temperature burning of firewood.
This is why chimneys should be inspected annually. If creosote build up for too long in the chimney, it can lower the airflow (which results in more carbon monoxide formation). Another danger of creosote is the fact that they are so flammable. If they build up thick enough, then even a house fire can be started. The only thing required to start this burning reaction is to have some wood embers fly upwards, or hot flames fly upwards. This is especially dangerous when softwood gets burned. With the high amounts of resin, they create huge hot flames that can rise high and catch the creosote buildup on fire.
If you want to avoid creosote formation as much as possible, then remember to split your wood and let it dry for one whole year before burning them. There is a myth out there saying that wood with high amounts of resin (usually softwood like fir for example) causes more creosote formation. That is only true when the wood is unseasoned and contain a lot of water content. Well seasoned softwood (low moisture with high resin) often burns hotter and cleaner because the resin burns into clean gas rather readily.
I hope that has helped you baby proof your fireplace whether it is gas or firewood type. In the end, it is all about knowing the right precautions to take. For gas, watch out for gas leaks, and keep it well maintained for clogs in the gas flow and oxygen flow.
For wood, clean out ashes regularly, dry your wood thoroughly, and make sure to cover the hearth with soft materials when you are not using your fireplace. Whether it is gas or wood fireplace, always install a baby gate whether it is used to block the fireplace or block the baby from reaching the fireplace.
If you have any questions, please leave it in the comments section below. Stay warm and hope you enjoy every winter season.