My husband and I just locked down a totally sweet rental! It’s exactly the size and space we need, in our dream neighborhood, with all sorts of cool 1960s period details that we can’t wait to love.
The only problem? There are baseboard heating units EVERYWHERE, and as lifelong book hoarders (we’re both English teachers) with small children, we have no idea how to fit all our bookshelves, furniture, and kid’s toys and playthings safely up against the walls.
What are your creative work-arounds for rooms filled with baseboard heating units? -SarahKat
When it comes to safety and little kids hands, maybe some baseboard covers could help? But as far as pushing up furniture against the wall… let’s talk about it.
Baseboard heater safety: let’s talk furniture arrangement with baseboard heating units
First you need to figure out what kind of baseboard hear you have. If they’re water heat they’re pretty safe, you can place furniture over/in front of them without a large risk of fire (although doing it to too many will compromise their ability to work and raise your heat costs considerably). If they’re electric you’ve got more issues, they usually need 18″ clearance in front and 24″ above to not start fires. However, you’re more likely to be able to disable/turn off an individual electric than you are a water (water is usually a loop system, shut one off and you shut off the whole loop).
Also figure out how long you’re going to be there and how much effort you want to go to. There are places you can google that can show you how to build short platforms on pipes to raise your bookshelves up above the heaters without taking away tons of their airflow.
In my experience, baseboard heaters never get hot to the touch (warm, maybe but no where near hot enough to hurt little hands). I’ve pressed all kinds of furniture up against it. I would secure the bookshelves to the wall with a tether though. You could also go the route of wall shelves rather than bookcases.
Just a thought about the furniture aspect; if you have cheaper bookshelves the back panel tends to be a thin ply. You could cut that out to open up the bottom shelf if you have to push the furniture up to the wall there. Not a perfect solution but a small work around.
Or you could build bookshelves onto the wall instead of having the big bulky shelves that rest on the floor.
Where I am from, electric and steam heat are both relatively common, but would result in VERY different ways you would need to work around them, like someone stated above.
Hopefully they are not on every wall, as I don’t think that conforms to most codes (and would look pretty weird, honestly). Mounted shelves are always a good bet when dealing with baseboarded walls as it keeps air flow. A small one on the ground here or there will not do too much damage to the air flow, and thus ability to heat, in your space.
For furniture, the best thing I’ve been able to figure out is to go through part of cold season and see how good the heat is. If you find your rooms are inconsistent, plant your furniture placements around the needs of the room. I’ve found that some rooms will heat better than others with baseboards — in one room, you’ll want to cover them a little to prevent a sauna and in others you’ll want to keep them open because being freezing is just no fun, either.
Worst case scenario is you go to your local hardware store and get some wood cut to put on the floor in front. It will literally stop you from pushing all the way to the wall, and, if you’re a “move it til it stops” kind of person, will still get that hard stop at the legs on the furniture meet the planking. If you are concerned about fire hazard, you could use any hard substance that lays flat and gives you the gap.
You can cut them to size of the particular piece of furniture to keep it less noticeable, if you’re self-conscious about the look of it, as well. And, in later incarnations, you could turn them into shelving if/when your housing situation changes.
If you’re looking to place furniture against the walls with heaters, I recommend NOT putting them directly against. If you can keep 4 or more inches between the heater and the furniture, that’s probably best. Not only from an air flow and heating standpoint, but a cleaning standpoint.
Dust bunnies, hair, and little kids toys get so easily stuck in baseboard heaters. You’ll want room to maneuver a vacuum attachment. If you have small pets, you will want space to pull them out of the tight crevices they inevitably find themselves getting into.
And in my own experience, if you ever get any sort of bugs, you won’t want to pull all your furniture away from the walls to get rid of them. I live in a basement apartment that has steam heat. I have gotten ants and spiders that crawl in on the water line. Both of which are infestations that need to be gone Right Away. Having that extra space allows me to clean up messes, capture bugs, sweep away nests, and put down ant traps or other pesticides.