Fireplace Screen

Fireplace Screens (A Complete Guide)

In Wood Burning Fireplaces by James O'KellyLeave a Comment

Fireplace screens can be an essential part of any traditional open fireplace.

Fireplace screens help to provide a safety barrier to your home from an open fire, as well as helping to keep young children and pets out.

We have a wood burning fireplace in our living room and have always had a fireplace screen in front, either during fires or when the fireplace isn’t in use.

We’ve therefore put together this complete guide to fireplace screens to explain what they are, what they do and whether you need one.

Fireplace screens are an essential tool for any open fireplace.

See our recommended fireplace screen in another article here, or you can view a list of the best selling fireplace screens available right now.

What Is A Fireplace Screen?

A fireplace screen is an object that is designed to sit in front of an open fireplace within, or just in front of, the fireplace opening in order to provide a safety barrier between the room and the fireplace.

As all fireplaces are designed differently, a fireplace screen can come in varying sizes, shapes and designs.

We have a fireplace screen that always sits in front of our living room open fireplace.

Fireplace Screen
The screen we use for our living room open fireplace

We went with a more modern and sleeker looking fireplace screen that helped it fit in with the modern décor of our home.

A fireplace screen will stand up on front of the opening of your fireplace by itself. A screen doesn’t need to be tied to or lean up against any other part of the fireplace.

A fireplace screen can typically be added or removed as you need. Simply lifting a screen out of the way of the fireplace opening will give you access to the fireplace, and the screen can be replaced once you’re done.

Screens will sit on the hearth of the fireplace, which the area located at the base of an open fireplace that sticks out into the room. See our guide on fireplace hearths for more information.

What Is A Fireplace Screen Used For?

The purpose of a fireplace screen is to:

  • Help provide a barrier between the opening of a fireplace and the room.
  • Help prevent any hot embers potentially being spat out from an open fire from coming into the room past the end of the hearth.
  • Keep young children and/or pets out of the fireplace, both when it’s in use and when it’s not.
  • Make a fireplace look more attractive and decorative.
  • Help keep a dirty or run-down fireplace, or one that has leftover ashes, out of view.

What Are Fireplace Screens Made Of?

Fireplace screens are typically made either entirely of metal or a combination of metal and glass.

As fireplace screens need to be located near to an open fire they can’t be made from anything that would be affected by the heat of the fire, such as plastic.

Our own fireplace screen is made entirely from steel, but finished in black.

Fireplace Screen
Our fireplace screen is of a steel construction painted black

Fireplace screens are therefore usually made from a form of metal, but may contain glass panels if they have been used in the design of the screen.

Do You Need A Fireplace Screen (Are They Necessary)?

The requirement for a fireplace screen can depend on the local and national guidelines, but screens are still an essential tool for any fireplace for safety purposes.

Open fires in a home can be sometime be temperamental and may spit out small bits of hot ash or embers into the room.

A fireplace hearth provides a form of safety barrier to your home, ensuring that there is an area of non-combustible material that sticks out into the room to help prevent the majority of any hot embers from coming into contact with any combustible floor materials such as wood or carpet.

A fireplace screen helps provide further protection against having open fires, where any hot embers that would make their way past the end of the hearth can be stopped.

A screen helps to prevent hot embers from getting past the hearth onto combustible materials, in our case being wooden flooding.

For more information see our dedicated article on whether a wood burning fireplace needs a screen.

Do Fireplace Screens Block Smoke?

Fireplaces screens aren’t typically able to block smoke. Smoke coming into the room from an open fireplace shouldn’t be dealt with by using a fireplace screen.

Fireplace screens are designed to help keep any hot embers from coming into contact with any combustible materials located outside the fireplace and beyond the hearth.

A fireplace screen doesn’t provide a tight seal around the opening of a traditional wood burning fireplace, and so a screen should not be used to help prevent smoke from coming into the room. If a screen were to block the entire opening of a fireplace it could prevent fresh air from getting to the fire and lead to struggling and smoldering fires, as well as block the heat and view of the fire.

As a result, screens are typically made of or with a mesh-like material or pattern to allow both air to the fire and heat to the room.

As an example, our fireplace screen is curved and has numerous holes throughout.

Screen commonly consist of a mesh like wire design and won’t be able to block smoke from coming out of the fireplace

Our screen will be able to block any larger hot embers if spat out from our fires but won’t be able to stop any smoke from coming out of the fireplace.

If smoke is coming into the room from the fireplace it can be a problem with the draft and the chimney. See our article on why your open fireplace is smoking for more information.

Does A Fireplace Screen Block Heat?

A fireplace may block a small amount of heat but the safety net that it can provide for a home can justify this heat loss.

Fireplace screens are essentially a barrier between an open fire and a room. A fireplace screen can therefore (by the very nature of it being a barrier) block some of the heat being a generated by an open fire.

Although fireplace screens can block some heat, the amount of heat generated by an open fire can be small and so this blocked heat can be insignificant.

Many fireplace screens (like ours) have mesh-like designs that will still allow a lot of heat through, but screens with glass panels instead of mesh or holes may block more heat.

Traditional open fireplaces can be very inefficient. Much of the heat generated by an open fire can be lost up the chimney rather than being used to heat a room or home. As a result, open fireplaces don’t usually produce much heat compared to other type types of fireplaces such as wood burning stoves.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that traditional open fireplaces are primarily used to create the ambience of having a real fire in a home, and so heat output should always be an afterthought when having an open fire.

Do Fireplace Screens Keep The Cold Out?

Fireplace screens aren’t typically designed to keep the cold out. Closing the fireplace damper or using a form of draft stopper will help to keep the cold out and the warm air in. Fireplaces doors can also be installed to help stop cold drafts.

A fireplace screen typically sits in front of the opening of the fireplace. Screens are also usually designed with a form of mesh pattern that allows air to get through it, while still being able to help block any larger bits of hot embers that are spat out from a fire.

Both of these things mean that fireplaces screens won’t typically be able to keep the cold out of your home.

To help keep the cold air within a chimney from coming into your home, close the damper (if it has one) or use a draft stopper to provide a barrier between the air inside and outside of the room.

For more information about fireplace dampers see our dedicated guide here.

Fireplace doors can also be installed into open fireplaces, which can be shut between fires to help keep the warmth inside your home from leaving up the chimney.

Do Fireplace Screens Get Hot?

Fireplace screens used in front of open fireplaces can get reasonably to the touch hot but will depend on how close the screen is to the flames.

Although fireplace screens are typically made from metal, and metal can be a good conductor of heat, a fireplace screen may not actually get that hot because:

  • Open fires don’t typically radiate that much heat compared to other types of fireplaces such as wood stoves.
  • A fireplace screen isn’t part of the fire itself, and its primary purpose is for safety.

For our own open fireplace and fireplace screen it doesn’t really get hot at all during fires.

Our screen is located a fair distance away from any open fires, and we can move the screen away from the fireplace opening without using any gloves.

If in doubt, use a pair of dedicated fireplace or stove gloves when moving a screen during fires.

If a fireplace screen is placed in front of a wood burning stove it may get too hot to touch. Wood stoves are typically far more efficient than open fires and use the body of the stove to help radiate much more heat out into the room. If you’re using a screen in front of your wood stove then expect the screen to get hotter than if used in front of an open fire.

Are Fireplace Screens Safe?

A fireplace screen will provide another level of protection between open fireplaces fires and the room, but no form of protection for your home from a fireplace will ever provide 100% safety.

A fireplace screen is designed to help prevent anything being spat out from an open fire into the room where combustible materials are, and help to keep young children and/or pets away from the flames.

Choosing the right size of fireplace screen for your particular fireplace, along with choosing a good product that doesn’t sacrifice quality for a lower price, will help to provide an increased level of protection to help safeguard you, your family and your home from any open fires.

Do I Need A Fireplace Screen For A Gas Fireplace?

The requirement for a fireplace screen for a gas fireplace can be dependent on the fireplace standards for your particular area of residence.

With gas fireplace fires, gas is being combusted instead of firewood to produce the heat.

Unlike wood burning fires, gas fireplaces don’t leave any defined residue behind when the fuel is burnt and there are no defined solid materials that can be spat out into the room.

A fireplace screen therefore isn’t typically such as requirement for gas fireplaces as it is for open wood burning fireplaces in terms of protecting the combustible materials in your home from hot embers.

However, if you have pets or young children a fireplace screen can be a welcome addition to put in front of your gas fireplace to help keep them away from the flames or hot components.

The American National Standards Institute brought in a safety standard from 2015 that all new glass-fronted gas fireplaces would a protective barrier installed.

This was to help provide better protection against any burns as a result of touching the glass during, or after, operation of a gas fireplace.

Buying A Fireplace Screen

Why Buy A Fireplace Screen

Fireplace screens are an essential purchase for any traditional wood burning fireplace.

Reasons to buy a fireplace screen include:

  • Help protect the combustible materials located in the room, such as wood flooring, carpet or furniture, from coming into contact with any hot embers spat out by a wood fire.
  • Help keep young children or pets out of a fireplace, either when the fireplace is in use or not.
  • A purchase than can fit in with and compliment the décor of your home.
  • Provide a barrier between the fireplace and the room, and to help keep any mess such as ash hidden away from view.

How Tall Are Fireplace Screens?

As all open fireplaces are of different shapes and sizes, fireplace screens can also come in a range of heights and widths.

For the best protection, you’ll want to find a fireplace screen that overlaps the top opening of your fireplace by at least 1 inch.

How To Measure For A Fireplace Screen

A fireplace screen should be the right size for an open fireplace so that it helps to provide the best protection possible between fires and the room.

A screen that is too small for the size of the fireplace may not provide as much protection as one that covers the whole fireplace opening.

To measure for a fireplace screen:

  • Take a tape measure (or any other form of measuring device) to measure the opening to the fireplace.
  • Measure the height and the width of the fireplace opening.
  • You may also need to measure the depth of the hearth to ensure that the screen has sufficient space to stand on (more important if your new screen is curved like ours).

What Size Fireplace Screen Do I Need?

The right size fireplace screen will be one that helps to cover the opening of your traditional open fireplace.

The more of the opening that can be covered, the better, but the recommended size for a fireplace screen is one that is 1” wider and higher than your fireplace opening, meaning that you’ll need to find a screen that is at least 1 inch higher and 2 inches wider.

If you have a tall fireplace opening (where the right height screen isn’t available) then simply choose a fireplace screen that will offer the best protection from open fires for your home.

Where To A Buy Fireplace Screens

Fireplace screens can be bought from many local and online retailers.

You can view the list of the best selling fireplace screens here.

You can also check out the fireplace screen we recommended right here, along with all our other recommended essential gear for fireplaces and stoves.

How To Install A Fireplace Screen

A fireplace screen can be very easy to install. Take your fireplace screen and simply place it in front of your fireplace.

A fireplace screen should be standing on the hearth if possible.

A screen should also be placed as far up against the opening of a fireplace as possible.

If the screen is too far away from the fireplace it won’t be able to provide as much protection. A screen also doesn’t need to be pushed far into the firebox so that it’s almost touching the fire.

Fireplace Screen
Place a fireplace screen as close up against the opening of a fireplace as possible

How To Clean A Fireplace Screen

Can You Clean A Fireplace Screen?

Fireplace screens are typically made from metal, while some can contain glass, and so can typically be cleaned with any common household cleaning products.

What To Clean A Fireplace Screen With?

A fireplace screen can typically be cleaned using any normal household cleaning products such as:

  • Brushes
  • Soap and warm water
  • Kitchen spray
  • Vinegar
  • Oven cleaner

A vacuum will help to get any ashes or dust off the screen before giving it a clean.

If your fireplace screen has a glass panel and has started to blacken due to the fires, you can try using a form of stove or fireplace glass cleaner.

We use a form of dedicated glass cleaner for our wood stoves and would probably work just as well for glass fireplace screens.

You can find our recommended fireplace/stove glass cleaner here.

How To Paint A Fireplace Screen

As most fireplace screens are made from metal they can typically be painted.

We’ve touched up our own black-painted steel fireplace screen on a few occasions.

We simply used the same heat-resistant paint that we used to touch up the black paint on our open fireplace surround.

Look for a paint that is able to withstand the heat from fires

Spray paints will typically work best as they won’t leave any brush marks.

Fireplace Screen Alternatives

Fireplace screens are the ideal product to use with open fireplaces to help provide a safety barrier between your fireplace and the room.

However, you can typically find many options for having doors fitted to an open fireplace, that will not only provide a barrier like a screen but also help keep warm air inside your home, and cold air from the chimney out

Other types of fireplaces can be installed within an open fireplace that don’t typically require the use of a screen. These other types of fireplaces include:

  • Wood burning inserts
  • Electric fireplace inserts
  • Wood burning stoves or multi fuel stoves

Wood burning inserts will typically come with vents and glass doors that can be opened or closed, reducing the need for a fireplace screen unless you need to have fires with the doors open.

Wood burning stoves can also be installed within existing open fireplaces and may negate the need for a fireplace screen entirely because the fire is kept behind closed doors.

We personally don’t use a fireplace screen with either our wood burning stove or multi fuel stove.

Further Reading

Fireplace & Stove Essential Tools

Parts of A Fireplace Explained

How An Open Fireplace Works

Open Fireplace Tips For Efficiency & Heat Output

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