Radiators- Childproofing and Safety

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Now that we are in September, those of us less inclined to the cold chill, have started our heat. That means steaming hot radiators and floor-to-ceiling scalding hot pipes. How do you child proof them and do you really need to? The short answers are: many ways, and definitely yes, yes! (We covered how to childproof your pipes earlier in the month here).

First: Is your landlord required to provide radiator covers?

Answer: The uncovered radiator does not, however, constitute the type of hazardous condition of which actual or constructive notice would expose a landlord to common-law liability…Thus, notwithstanding the tenant’s complaints in this case, it was not the landlord’s duty to provide a cover for the radiator. (Legal jargon aside- “no”.)

Second: Can you teach a child not to touch a radiator? From my research, I would say that a child under 5 years can be at risk of touching, falling into or playing near a radiator and it is best to guard your radiator in some way for children of those ages. The support for this conclusion is below, but just a note of forewarning: this part is really unpleasant and I don’t want anyone to get terribly upset, so if you are squeamish, SKIP the rest of this paragraph. This information is from the CDC. From September 1991 through April 1994, a total of 10 children were treated in one pediatric clinic in Chicago for burns resulting from contact with home radiators. The children ranged in age from 7 months to 5 years; six were aged less than 2 years, and six were boys. One was a 16-month-old child who touched an exposed steam radiator pipe, resulting in severe burns to the palm of her hand that required a skin graft. The other was a 7-month-old infant who fell out of bed and became wedged between the bed and the radiator, resulting in multiple burns to her left hand, left arm, left ear, and left side of the head that required treatment in a burn unit. Two other children (aged 10 months and 31 months) also were burned when they became trapped between a bed and a steam radiator.

Here are some ways to childproof your radiators.

Do an “Ikea Hack” like this person.

Edward's cover is made from a discarded hol storage cube and a lack wall shelf.

Make your own. Instructions on how to do this from “This Old House” are here. (They claim it’s a 6 hour project of easy to moderate difficulty.) Here is a post about TOH’s DIY instructions on Apartment Therapy.

Instructions from "This Old House" don't seem too too hard.

Put a child’s safety gate around the radiator- look specifically at hearth gates.

This isn't a radiator, but you get the idea of how the hearth gate works.

Go to your local hardware store: a lot of them supply inexpensive radiator covers. Pintchik in Prospect Heights is one. (Brownstoner readers commented on some local makers here too)

A simple metal radiator cover that hardware stores like Pintchik sell.

You can try fabric radiator covers. Unfortunately, the only ones that seem to be available are from the UK and Italy. As our dollar is super weak, this isn’t so great for us, but they do tend to run around $45. Rad Pads are the best known in the UK and you can get them here .  A reader found this other fantastic option at Safe Tots. (Psst…..last year Rad Pads wrote me and said if A Child Grows readers ordered a Rad Pad that they would provide free shipping,  you might ask them if they will do that deal again this year for you. Worth a try!)

A Safe Tots fabric radiator cover

If you are looking for a more permanent solution for your radiators- there are plenty of places to look, some of them are local and some of them online. I am not recommending any of these- just listing them.

I love this cover- and couch! From Fichman (listed below)

    If anyone else has come up with a solution that has worked for them, please list it in the comments section at the end of this post.

    The Shutter Shack:
    They have custom molded steel designs that seem to be the most recommended by people from interior designers to apartment dwellers.  I have heard a few people say they have been happy with the Shutter Shack.
    TomKat Fine Woodworking
    These are custom made radiator covers in a variety of styles- including Mission style with various moldings. I found them through This Old House.
    The Wooden Radiator Company
    This Chicago company builds custom radiator cabinets in wood or metal. I found them through This Old House.
    Stanley Radiator Enclosures
    These are metal radiator covers that come in stock sizes or custom sizes. In Jackson Heights.
    Wolf Radiator Enclosures
    They have a ton of designs in wood
    David Vincent Woodwork
    These look exceptionally nice.
    Cabinet Shop
    309 7th Ave
    Brooklyn, NY 11215 (Park Slope)
    (718) 832-9884

    I love these designs- and they start at $185..really?

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    1. Are the wood ones a fire hazard? Also, I imagine the metal ones get hot too?

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    4. I have a small family run business where we fabricate great custom radiator covers. Not only do we have a nice looking product, but our prices start at about $90.00. We have a custom ordering system that allows you to see pricing as you choose the options for your cover. Please visit http://www.jayscustom.com for more details.

    5. I think radiator covers are a Must! But you can’t make it obligatory, would be to hard to get a low like that.
      I think for UK, Europe and a lot of US regions that uses radiators, covers are a good solutions. For example I’m from Canada, so their not so popular over here, I’ve barely seen a few of them in my life, in most of the houses we use electricity so we have baseboards heaters that are already protected by a stock cover and a big percentage of private houses uses air heating.
      Personally I adore them, most important they are SAFE for your children’s, the make the space much more nicer, they give an extra storage space. And some of us think the help propagate the heat in to the room.

    6. This should be a law- a one year old girl in NY just died after being trapped between the bed and radiator. Very sad.

    7. Thanks Anne- great to have a local resource.

    8. Try Warren in Brooklyn for custom radiator covers. He measures, makes and fits them for a pretty good price. Basic cover is about $150.


    9. Oh Katie- how absolutely horrible.
      I read a story a bit similar where a girl (5 years old), fell and put her hands on the radiator to pull herself up as a reaction and had 2nd degree burns too. So, even at her age, they can be a hazard as a prop.

      I’m so sorry and hope you and he recovered okay.

    10. Just wanted to share our experience on this topic. My son was just over a year old when we were visiting friends here in Brooklyn. We don’t have radiator heat in our home, so they were kind of off our radar and my son did not know what they are. He put his hands on a radiator to steady himself while he bent to pick something up and ended up with second degree burns on both hands. It was difficult to see burns on my baby’s hands. The radiator wasn’t hot if you just touched it briefly, but it was very hot if you kept your hand there for several seconds. Even if your own kids know not to touch your radiators, its a good idea to cover them. Accidents happen, unfortunately!


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