You are the proud owner of your very own fireplace. Whether it came with the house, or you had one installed, a fireplace can bring a room together, add an element of romance, and provide snuggly warmth during those bitter winter months.
Now it's time to ask yourself some questions. Is my fireplace a potential danger? Should I worry about my kids near it? How can I keep sparking embers and shifting logs from escaping the fireplace, keeping the flaming pieces inside the chimney. All good questions. One good answer: Choosing the perfect fireplace screen to meet your needs.
What is a fireplace screen?
Quite simply, a fireplace screen is a protective barrier between you and the contents of your fireplace. It keeps the flaming bits separated from the rest of the room, ensuring an accidental house fire isn't a concern. They are typically made of heavy materials, can be a single piece or many, and are a multitude of sizes.
Do I need a fireplace screen?
Conventional wisdom would definitely lean toward "yes." Not only is it great for protecting your home from the unexpected, it is also a sound investment when children or pets run freely in the spaces where a fireplace resides. Accidents happen. Kids can be wild, without concern for the consequences of their actions. They might throw things in the fire that are dangerous. They might fall during horseplay. But unlike a broken lamp, having a tumble into an open fire can have devastating effects, physically and mentally, that they will carry their entire life. Installing a sturdy fireplace screen helps you protect them from themselves.
They can also transform your fireplace into a conversation starter, and bring the room together if your decorating scheme can use a little help in the area of the fireplace. There is an abundance of options, from stained glass to monogrammed to a hearth fender, your fireplace screen options are nearly endless. It would behove any interior decorator to enhance the look of the room with a fireplace screen that compliments their creative effort.
What are the material options in fireplace screens?
Deciding to take the plunge into the world of fireplace screen selection is an important step. It is an investment that will last for a very long time, largely due to the materials fireplace screens are made of.
The most common materials for fireplace screens are:
- Metal: Steel, iron or brass
- A combination of metal and glass
Glass as a material is not the most common choice in fireplace screens, but it is making a resurgence, as it seems some buyers want an unobstructed view of the fire, but still have the safety and security of a protective barrier.
Usually, the glass fireplace curtain is a single, curved piece of glass that bends toward the hearth, giving off a sleek, clean, and sophisticated look perfect for contemporary interiors. They are lighter than metal screens. However, dirt shows quickly on glass screens, which requires regular cleaning.
For a more obstructive but substantially more ornate option, the introduction of a stained glass fireplace screen will give a classical aire to a Victorian-styled or vintage setting. The fire licks behind the colored glass, painting the space with technicolored dancing figures. It is largely metal, but with ornate glass strewn within. A beautiful addition to any hearth.
Metal is sturdy, reliable and easy to clean. It doesn't show dirt as much as glass, so doesn't call for frequent cleaning. It is much heavier, though. Also, metal screen frames come with a protective mesh that has its own host of pros and cons.
On the one hand, it creates a cozy, traditional fireplace setting. The downside is, however, that it may dent under heavy impact, which tends to be hard to repair. Let alone tiny particles of ash can easily filter through the mesh and dust the room.
For the heavier, most common, and most versatile option in sizes and decorative allure, the extensive line of metal fireplace screens is only limited by your imagination.
Free standing: These screens have a door with a latch, that can be opened for easy access to add wood, fireplace maintenance, and the occasional cleaning.
Paneled: From a single panel that is designed to sit flush against the hearth, to a hinged, multi-paneled unit that curves out from hearth to allow minimal safe access, these offer a sleek appeal. They can have between 3 and 5 panels.
Ornate: These units showcase curved lines and an artistic flair that enhances vintage, rustic, traditional and oriental-styles interiors. They can be a multitude of creative ideas, from swirls, to leaves, to a multi-paneled unit that looks like a wrought-iron gate.
Personalized: Basically, you can monogram your screen.
Bowed: A single curved metal screen with a heavy micromesh within. It works well as a spark guard.
Spark guard: Just like the bowed fireplace screen, the spark guard fits cleanly against the hearth, preventing sparks from getting out of the safety of the fireplace area and into places they shouldn't. It is curved in at the sides and top, with a flat front.
Spark guard curtains: A commonly used fireplace screen choice in older homes, these are exactly what they sound like; curtains to prevent sparks. They are composed of metal rings, woven together tight, and hanged from an inset track at the mouth of the hearth. They can expand and retract with the ease of window curtains, and can be latched when closed.
How to determine the right size for a fireplace screen?
To determine the right size for a fireplace screen, measure your fireplace opening, then add 10-12 inches to the width, and 3-5 inches to the height. That's the least you need to get to be sufficiently protected.
What are my safety concerns with a fireplace screen?
As a blanket policy, anything near or involving fire or fire safety must be respected. For one thing, because they are composed of metal, metal conducts heat when near a heat source, so depending on your screen's proximity to the fire within the hearth, it can potentially get very hot. If for any reason you must move the fireplace screen, either adjusting it to stoke the fire or add wood, or removing it completely to clean out your fireplace, it is wise to make sure it is cool to the touch, or that you use appropriate gloves.
Also, children should never play near a fireplace. Fireplace screens are usually heavy, but some models made of lighter steel, like brass, are not. They are more ornate, and therefore, not designed with efficient safety concerns in mind.