Monday, June 20, 2011

How to Baby Proof Your Fireplace Hearth

How can you really baby PROOF anything? I'm already struggling between letting Elyse learn and not letting her hurt herself. Last week she was having a ball swinging a wooden puzzle above her head and down to her lap. Up and down it went and I just knew she was going to bonk herself. I watched her wondering - do I take it from her and make her mad? Or do I just let her go and if she hits her head it will be one of her many lessons in learning to be more careful. It wasn't a real heavy puzzle, so I chose the latter, ended up with a crying baby crawling into my lap and me wondering if I'd made the wrong choice.

Choices like these are how I feel about baby proofing. There is such a range of how to "baby proof" your home. Our goal is similar to the day with the puzzle. Our "baby proofing" is going to be more like "baby resistant". We're working on safety covers on outlets, getting chemicals up high, securing bookcases to the wall and moving out the sharp-edged coffee table, replacing it with a leather storage ottoman. Floor lamps are staying and so are some of the knick-knacks. Here we will work on the word "No", "Stop" or "Not for Elyse" and see how we do!

The biggest safety concern in our home is our fireplace. It is a slate fireplace with a beautiful slate tile hearth. Lovely as it is - it is incredibly dangerous for an on-the-go babester making her way around the room. We talked a lot about the hearth and how to make it safer even before Elyse was born. We discussed gates, pillows, foam, bumpers, guards, but none of the ideas really sounded ideal. Then, Bill came up with the idea to build it into a bench. It is genius really - and I'm so happy with how it turned out!

From Fireplace Hearth to a Bench

1"x2" and 1"x3" Furring Strips
Wood Glue
2" Foam
Vinyl (or your favorite fabric)
Staple Gun & Staples
Felt Floor Pads (optional)

Build a frame to encase your hearth. We used 1”x2” and 1”x3” furring strips to form the frame. This wood is extremly lightweight and easy to use. Use glue to piece together and then screw the ends and corners to ensure it is secure. Use a hand sander to round the edges and corners to make sure there are no sharp edges.
Here is a closer look at the underneath of one of the sides of the bench.

We went to our local foam outlet and purchased 2” foam. Cut the foam and attach with glue and finish with staples. We chose vinyl to cover our bench, but you could use oilcloth, leather or faux - or any time of washable surface. Baby is going to be attracted to this, so you'll want something easy to clean. Based on the price and selection we went with vinyl in a grey color that closely matches the slate on the fireplace. It blends in beautifully.
Another look underneath.

Wrap the fabric tightly onto the foam and fold the edges like a package - securing it with glue. Attach felt pads to the bottom to keep the floor from getting scratched (if you have hardwood like we do).
Here is the bench pulled away from the hearth - really easy to remove.

I am so proud of Bill. He did an amazing job! It is comfortable enough to sit on as a bench for extra seating, keeps us from gasping when the baby goes near the fireplace and looks great! Much better than ugly baby gates and because it is built-to-fit it is a much better (and cheaper option) than what you will find on-line.
Just a quick slide onto the hearth and you are set!

Let us know if you give this a try. We'd love to see what you come up with!


Stephanie said...

That is AMAZING!! We bought the Prince Lionheart foam bumpers for ours after E was born. It has lasted thru (almost) two kids and we have had no injuries as of yet (of course, now I just jinxed it, didn't I?). But it stays there.. not too much of an eyesore but it doesn't look the best. And Doug is not looking forward to getting the adhesive off the stone when it finally does come off!

What a great idea.. Go Bill!!

Anonymous said...

Great idea! My wife and I have three kids under 12 and have dealt with this issue for some time. We bought a Jack-Mat. This is a custom made hearth seat similar to what you have here. They custom built it to fit my hearth and I was able to pick a fire retardant fabric to match our decor. We have had it for several years now and it is good as new. The cool part of it is that it adds very comfortable seating as well in our small family room. Check it out.


Amanda said...

Thank you. We are moving into a place with a fireplace like this and I was trying to find a way to soften it for when my littlest one starts to crawl and this is perfect!!

Gene said...

This is great! We are just now looking for something for a 13' fireplace, so this might be the perfect, inexpensive solution. If I do it, I'll link back and post a pic :)

Stephanie Bishop said...

We are buying a home and moved in the first week of August. I found this website when I was looking for some way to cover the entire bottom area of the fireplace instead of just the corners. I am so thankful everytime one of my little boys (3 & 1 yr old) fall against it. Even rolling on the floor and bumping into it, it is all covered. I love that it adds extra seating to our small family room. We have 6 in our family and to add company on top of that, we now have plenty of seating. I am so thankful for finding this site. This has literally been a lifesaver with as many times as my 1 year old has hit his head on the hearth.

Anonymous said...

We have an L shaped hearth that is about 12 inches off the ground in our tiled kitchen. We used 3/4" maple plywood to created 2 separate benches for each side (that only have one end each as they connect at the crease). We found 2" foam on eBay custom cut for $3.48/yd (about $97 total) and ordered some vinyl on eBay for 5 yards for about $37). The maple board was $47. So, our option probably wasn't cheaper, but none of the online options would have worked for us because we wanted to enclose the bottom too - thanks so much for sharing the idea and giving us the inspiration to custom make our benches and keep baby safer!


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