30 November 2006

Baby Toolkit: Geek parents write about baby gear

Adrienne and Jim -- the geek parents behind Baby Toolkit -- are frequent commenters on Parent Hacks. If you haven't yet dropped by their site, do!...you'll find good hacks and practical ideas, such as how to babyproof a bannister without breaking the bank.

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Do they have any suggestions about baby proofing a fireplace cheaply? The padded liners at babies r us are upwards of 25 dollars and we have two fireplaces in the house so I'd love a less expensive alternative.

Ah! The fireplace itself, sorry no- I'd get a fireplace screen installed and never let baby see you opening it.
BUT, we put a really, really heavy wool blanket folded across our brick hearth and instead of merely protecting baby's skull, it became a sitting spot when we had a crowd in the room. I'm going to put some bench sized cushions on it next to confirm its new role.

Hi, Kaz-

We've been brainstorming on a couple of ways of doing this actually. We have a fireplace downstairs whose hearth takes up almost the entire west wall. We also have a brick bar (what can I say, the house was built in the 70's, as evidenced the pictures in our baby proofing bi-fold doors hack - http://babytoolkit.blogspot.com/2006/09/babyproofing-hacking-wooden-bi-fold.html) that is in serious need of a solution.

So far we have come up with a couple of ideas, but no real solution or even a working proof of concept yet.

If you are interested, here they are:

* Use MDF, cuz its cheap - about $17 for a large sheet at any big box home improvement store, that you can cut into planks the appropriate size. Use two plants create an L or V shaped construct (depending on how long you want the part that hangs on the front of the hearth to be). This may require some minor noodling to account for corners if you have them (we don't on our hearth). Then cover the MDF with a cushion foam (it should staple and/or glue in place). If you want extra protection on the corner, buy one of those cheap foam swim noodles, cut it appropriately. and run it along the edges. Then cover that with an inexpensive fabric, which you just staple to the non-visible underside of the MDF. Flame retardent would be nice, but you'll probably want to remove these if you have a fire going for fire safety reasons. The nice side effect is that your hearth is now suitable for sitting. We haven't tried this, so not sure if it will work. Also, we haven't figured out how to secure it in place, though I don't think it is 100% necessary for smaller hearths and, in those cases, you may just want to use the MDF to create a slide over wooden cover to the entire hearth and then cover as above.

* Use cheap PVC, usually cheaper from PVC and plumber supply places than your big box home improvement store, to create a standing frame that is high enough to keep your baby or toddler at bay. Then get bulk material, such as in our bannister hack http://babytoolkit.blogspot.com/2006/11/mind-gaps-babyproofing-railing.html, to cover that frame using smaller zip ties to secure it. Then slide in front of or over the hearth. This may require some method of fastening in order to keep it from being easily pulled away by a toddler and such fastener would need to be reusable so that you can pull it away when you want to set a fire. I would suggest putting a wall anchor in the wall (if there is no stud), followed by a large plastic washer, then the middle of a velcro strap (available at most hardware stores... look for the cable management section) and then another smaller washer and finally screw that all together into the wall anchor. Now you can take both ends of the velcro strap, that is affixed to the wall, and wrap it back on itself over the PVC fram in order to secure it into place. When you no longer need this you can remove the wall anchor and spackle and paint hole.

Once we decide on our solution, you can bet it will be on our site.

PS. I checked out your site and I really like it.

Thanks for all the info Jim! I'll try some of your suggestions and check your site for updates.

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