How to Childproof a Wood Stove

First, let me say that I don’t think there’s a way to 100% childproof a wood stove. That said, here’s how we’ve managed to make ours as safe as possible.

Our wood stove is remarkably efficient and heats our entry incredibly well. It arguably is a necessity in an area like ours that has a lot of power outages (we had power out for a total of two weeks last year, for example, and being able to heat at least a portion of our house this way was key).

But, like any good wood stove, it gets hot. Extremely hot. ‘An instant read cooking thermometer held to the exterior measures 210 degrees when on’ level of hot.

This made me extremely paranoid about our kids near it. They’re two and four, and when I first set this up, were one and three.

When my son was first born we paid WAY too much to have a ‘childproofing expert’ come and childproof our apartment at the time (which was on the third and fourth floors, had a roof deck, and was generally child un-friendly). His first words were “childproofing doesn’t matter if you aren’t watching your kids and enforcing safety rules.”

Wise, wise man. The advice that childproofing is an illusion without supervision was the only part of that day that made me feel I hadn’t been completely ripped off.

So, my first step to childproofing a wood stove has been rigid enforcement of our “fire rules.” As Mr. Childproofing said, this is absolutely the most important thing, and immeasurably more effective than the gate setup. Let’s be honest, no matter what your childproofing, as kids get older if they want to get past a gate, they will.

Our fire rules are “no running when there’s a fire on, no touching the stove, no walking on the bricks.” Whenever the stove is burning we remind them of these rules, which is much more effective now that they’re older and can better understand. As you can see we have a brick perimeter around the stove, and they know they shouldn’t even put a toe on it. They very quickly picked up on these rules with a lot of positive reinforcement (“good job avoiding the bricks!”) and more negative reinforcement than I’d have liked (instant time-out for stepping on the bricks or reaching a hand between the bars).

Like pretty much everything child-behavior related, up-front investment of time and eagle-eyed enforcement pays big dividends down the road.

So, ultimately, as with all childproofing, this gate is a failsafe. Sometimes, our kids forget that they aren’t supposed to run in the house. Sometimes, toddlers slip and fall over for (very literally) no reason at all. Sometimes, one shoves the other out of nowhere. And despite it all, sometimes they forget the fire rules. Plus, sometimes they have friends over who do not know or respect the fire rules. This gate provides us some peace of mind in case of any of these type of toddler shenanigans.

I went through a few different gates trying to find something that works that wasn’t hideously ugly and that didn’t clutter our entry too much. As you can see from its listing photo above, this gate is meant to be attached to walls. That’s great if you actually HAVE walls, but like most people with a wood stove, we have brick surrounding the stove so it doesn’t burn our house down. However, this does work as a freestanding unit. You can customize its shape, because each of the joints lock into place at the angle you want. This is very nice for us, because we can customize such that we can put logs inside the gate, away from toddler fingers, and even though our wood stove sits asymmetrically in its brick surround, we can still extend the gate around the chimney. Plus, at the end of the season, we can pop the joint locks, fold the whole thing up and store it.

Even freestanding, because we have each end touching the brick, it would take some serious work to knock this setup over. And though (luckily) we haven’t yet seen how it reacts to a sprinting toddler, I think it would knock a toddler back enough that they wouldn’t careen into the stove, which is really the main goal of the thing. It wouldn’t do much to stop an older kid running around (who might go over the top of the bars), but again, this is why enforcing the rules from toddlerhood is so necessary. If you’re dealing with a toddler who is making an effort to get through, a big enough child would be able to lift the end and move it aside. That’s a whole other level of childproofing, though, because then you’re dealing not just with an inattentive toddler, but a kid on a mission.

Nothing beats a kid on a mission!