Child Safety

How To Childproof Radiators To Prevent Winter Burns

Don't let your kid get burned.

Originally Published: 
A child touching a radiator, frowning.
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When the weather is getting colder, it’s high time to crank up your radiator. But a hot radiator can really burn kids who don’t know better than to touch it. So this winter, get caught up on all the ways to protect your child with these radiator childproofing ideas to prevent radiator burn.

According to data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, burns make up 2% of all nonfatal childhood injuries that require emergency department care. Of the kids who see an emergency doctor due to scalding, contact burns, fire, etc., the majority were are between 1 and 4 years of age. So, basically the age of not knowing any better. It’s one of the best reasons to hide your radiator.

Preventing Radiator Burns

Much like fireplaces, there is really only one way to make sure your kid doesn’t get burned by your radiator. The key is to not let them get near enough to touch it. With that in mind, there are many ways to create a barrier between your kid’s grubby fingers and the freakishly hot metal accordion skulking in your living room.

Creating a radiator refuge can range wildly in price and aesthetic merit. Just know that the prettier you want it, the more money or effort it will require. Below are some fine options from cheap and easy to hard and expensive.

Cheapest, Easiest, Ugliest: Pet Playpen

One of the more brilliant suggestions from a reader of Apartment Therapy is to treat your kid like an animal. No, not by tying them up in a corner far away from the radiator, but by purchasing a barrier made for pets. Most pet supply stores will sell modular exercise pens that come in a series of joined sections. They vary in height and length, but are generally inexpensive and can be easily modified to create space between your kid and the heat. Just make sure you secure the pen to the wall at the ends so your kid can’t pull it over.

Cheap, Easy, Less Ugly: Freestanding Fireplace Screen

You can easily score a fireplace screen online or in antique stores. The prices here will vary, but will be generally affordable compared to other options. The bonus for theses screens is that they can be downright beautiful to look at. Caution is key again here. Make sure a kid can’t pull the screen over. That’s a serious concern when considering iron is the material of choice for most fireplace screens.

Affordable, Harder, Attractive: DIY Childproof Radiator Cover or Ikea Hack

If you’ve got mad drill skills, you can whip yourself up a custom radiator cover to keep your kid out. The upside is that the cover will be as pretty as you’re capable of making it (or your partner demands). The downside is that it will take some time to put together and will likely cause some loss of heating efficiency.

Your cost will be completely dependent on the materials you choose. Good old MDF will be cheap. Ethically sourced, salvaged, exotic Ecuadorian hardwoods, not so much.

The DIY masters at This Old House have some fine plans. Or you could try your hand at a damn fine Ikea hack to make it cheaper.

Expensive, Easy, Good Looking: Pre-made Child Proof Radiator Covers

You can pick up a pre-made, or even custom built, radiator cover if you’re feeling particularly flush with cash (or super lazy). Pre-made covers can run well above $150, but at least you’ll get it done and will be from worrying about radiator burns. If you’re going custom, it can get even pricier with measuring, design, and install. But the nice thing is, it will look like it absolutely belongs, and not like a shop class went on a bender in your family room.

A Note On Heat Pipes

Sometimes radiator are accompanied by “charming” exposed steam pipes running through your home or apartment. There are methods for dealing with this as well. Among the best ideas are splitting a length of bamboo, or wrapping it in a decorative rope from top to bottom.

In the end, one of the best ways to keep your kid safe is to teach them about stuff that can burn them. And, you know, keep an eye on them. Finally, if your kid does get a radiator burn, make sure you have a first aid kit ready to roll.

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