Fireplace Screen

Does A Wood Burning Fireplace Need A Screen?

In Wood Burning Fireplacesby James O'KellyLeave a Comment

Many fires in open fireplaces can be found guarded behind a screen, but does a wood burning fireplace need to have a screen?

A screen is an important safety feature when having a fire in a wood burning fireplace, helping to prevent anything being thrown from the fire into the room.

I have a metal mesh screen that I use every time I have a fire in my living room fireplace, but how large should fireplace screen be, should a fireplace screen cover the entire opening, and does the screen get hot and block heat?

Does A Wood Burning Fireplace Need A Screen?

A fireplace screen is needed to help prevent any hot embers from spitting out into the room, which is particularly important when the fireplace located is near wooden floor or carpet.

A fireplace screen can be typically found as a wire mesh, surrounded by a sturdy frame, which can be placed on the hearth of a fireplace. (For more information about fireplace hearths click here.)

There are no regulations stating that a screen is a requirement when having a fire in a wood burning fireplace, but it’s another layer of safety to you, your family and your house when having a fire in your home.

However, the Chimney Safety Institute Of America (CSIA) recommends as one of their safety tips when burning wood in your home:

‘Use a metal mesh or screen in front of the fireplace to catch flying sparks that could ignite or burn holes in the carpet or flooring.’

Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)

Before the likes of central heating, fireplaces were used as the main source of heat for a home, and the screens were purely functional, helping to stop the embers from spitting out into the room and to prevent people sitting near the fire from getting too hot.

The development of wood burning stoves helped to improve the efficiency and heat output when burning wood in a home, and so fireplace screens started to become more of a decorative feature.

I bought a wire mesh screen for my living room fireplace soon after moving into my current house, and the screen is an important safety feature for the fireplace because we have a wooden floor just beyond the hearth.

Fireplace Screen Protecting Wood Floor
A fireplace screen helps protect both the wooden floor and rug in our living room

I chose my fireplace screen based on looks as well as its functionality, so that it would suit the décor of my home. We like a modern feel to a home and so I chose a screen that was black and curved to suit the modern look of the living room. The screen provides a centerpiece to the room whether the fireplace is being used or not.

Fireplace Screen
The black fireplace screen fits in with the black fireplace surround and hearth

We also got two kittens a few months after moving into our home, and it helps to prevent any ash from being spread around the house when they’re being curious!

What Is The Purpose Of A Fireplace Screen?

The purpose of a fireplace screen is to:

  • Stop any sparks from flying into the room from a spitting fire.
  • Prevent any hot embers coming into the room as a result of a downdraft.
  • Help prevent young children and pets from getting near the fire, or from getting in the fireplace when it’s not being used.
  • Safeguard any surrounding combustible materials such as the floor, carpet or furniture.
  • Allow you to get closer to the fire while still being in a safer environment.
  • Help the fireplace fit in with the décor of the home.
  • Provide a barrier between the room and the fireplace to help keep any mess out of sight.
  • Help hide the sight of the fireplace firebox.

How Large Should A Fireplace Screen Be?

A fireplace screen should cover as much of the fireplace opening as possible, while also not being larger than the size of the fireplace hearth on which it stands on.

A fireplace screen should cover the entire opening of the fireplace to ensure that there are no gaps to allow hot embers to pass through.

A fireplace screen needs to be large enough to cover the firebox, prevent hot embers from flying out into the room, and to prevent young children or pets from getting near the flames.

Do Fireplace Screens Get Hot?

Fireplace screens are made from a fire-resistant and non-combustible materials, and so do not typically get hot unless placed unnecessarily close to the fire.

However, as all combinations of wood burning fireplaces and screens are different, it’s always important to feel near the fireplace screens before touching to ensure that it’s cool enough to handle.

My fireplace screen is made from steel and is located about a foot away from the fireplace grate. The screen never gets too hot, and allows me to put more logs on the fire without the need to wear a glove to move the screen.

Do Fireplace Screens Block Heat

Depending on the size of the mesh in the screen, a small percentage of the heat from the fire will be blocked by the screen.

Wood burning fireplaces are very inefficient, and much of the heat generated by the fire is lost up the chimney. As a result, feeling the heat from a wood burning fireplace requires you to sit close to the fire. A screen is therefore essential for safety reasons, and the amount of heat blocked by the screen will be minimal.

Fireplace Screen Mesh
A close up of the wire mesh on our fireplace screen

Fireplace Screen Vs Glass Doors

Fireplace screens are different to wood burning fireplace doors.

Fireplace screen aren’t attached to wood burning fireplaces, while glass doors are attached to a fireplace. Screens are a safety feature that help to prevent hot embers from a fire from getting into the room, while glass doors help to prevent air loss from a home when the fireplace isn’t in use. Fireplace screen do not prevent loss of warm air from a home.

It’s recommended that glass doors on a fireplace are left open during a fire, and so a screen is required in conjunction with glass doors for safety purposes.

More information about glass fireplace doors can be found here.

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