Anyone that owns a wood-burning fireplace should have a fireplace screen. Especially if you have carpet nearby or have children or pets that need to be protected from the errant embers escaping from the fire. Decorative fireplace screens are only necessary when you're actually burning a fire in a wood-burning fireplace. The screen neither serves a purpose, other than for decoration when there is no fire, nor does it protect from a gas-burning log, which typically does not have embers, sparks, or ash billowing from it.
Additionally, a fire screen can prevent ash from being tracked all over the home by curious pets who would like to climb into the fireplace to investigate.
There is a wide selection of manufacturers in the fireplace screens industry.
Pilgrim — Pilgrim has been in business for over 60 years and is currently the nation's best-selling manufacturer of screens. Pilgrim products are heavily built, with sturdy welds and smooth seams. Their fireplace screens are available in a wide variety of colors and styles. These screens are so well-built that the manufacturer proudly offers a lifetime warranty.
Cascade — Cascade is a top manufacturer of hanging mesh (coil mesh) screens. They offer an abundant variety of factory-cut sizes, plus the ability to custom produce specialty panels and finishes as needed. Cascade products are manufactured in Tualatin, Oregon, and the company exports its products globally.
Uniflame — Originally starting in propane distribution, this manufacturer naturally progressed into hearth accessories and fire pits. Offering a broad range of inexpensive but sturdily built fireplace screens, Uniflame has just the selection of products for a more frugal customer not wanting to spend a bundle.
Minuteman — Minuteman is a strong mid-to- high-end manufacturer of screens. Minuteman produces everything from single panel freestanding screens, multi-panel models, to highly decorative faux screens. Based in Massachusetts, this manufacturer has been a staple for hearth accessories for decades.
Types of Fireplace Screens
Fireplace screens serve as excellent fireplace covers and come in a wide variety of sizes and materials. Manufacturers usually make screens that consist of anywhere from one to five panels, some folding while others come fixed and inflexible.
Finishes and Styles
The finishes available are even more broad, including copper, bronze, brass, wrought iron, and steel, just to name the most popular options. They also come in a range of styles suitable for both modern contemporary homes, traditional colonial homes, and just about everything in between. You can find the perfect complement to your home décor.
Single Panel vs. Multi-Panel Screens
Multi-panel fireplace screens utilize individual framed screen panels connected by full-length steel pins. The screen mesh is usually held in place within the frame of each panel. These screens are popular because you have the freedom to vary the length of the width significantly. When shopping for this type of screen, the width references the side-to-side measurement of the screen if laid flat on the floor.
Generally, your fireplace opening should be six inches narrower than the advertised width of the fireplace screen. This allows enough wiggle room for the angle of the panels to ensure the screen remains upright. Some multi-panel screens are even available with spreader bars. These bars lock the screen panels in place, preventing children and pets from knocking the screen down accidentally.
Single panel screens with doors are becoming the most popular type of screen for many consumers. This style features a perimeter frame and an internal frame built around one or two operable doors. The screen features stabilizers at the base that will hold the screen flat against the face of the fireplace. The screen itself can remain in position at all times, allowing you to freely open the doors while tending to the fire.
Most models have included door handles and magnetic clasps to hold the doors shut. If you have toddlers in the home, we highly recommend you to anchor the screen to the fireplace with hook and loop adhesive strips. These screens should be ordered large enough so that there is at least an inch of overlap on all sides of the fireplace, with three inches being preferred.
A hanging mesh screen is a standard screen in manufactured fireplaces and even some masonry fireplaces as well. The screen consists of coiled steel wire woven into individual panels. The woven panels typically have rings along one edge and are designed to hang from a small rod similar to a shower curtain hanging from a shower rod.
The screen panels slide back and forth along the rod as needed, much like a shower curtain. While this type of screen is a low cost, there is no rigid barrier like free-standing screens. For this reason, you should not rely upon these types of mesh screens to keep children or pets out of the fireplace or stop a rolling firelog from escaping from a fireplace grate. When ordering, look for screen panels that are 20 to 30% wider than the actual fireplace opening. This ensures that the screen has the proper draped look when fully closed.
Single panel solid screens are similar to single panel screens with doors, but instead, there is only a perimeter frame with a single field of mesh screening. The screens are purposely lightweight and easy to move for easy access to the fire.
Rumford style screens are a style of hearth that has an opening that is nearly square. These screens consist of a tall perimeter frame and a curved front frame, creating a screen that curves into the room from the fireplace, such as this Pilgrim Rumford Screen.
Decorative Fireplace Screens
Decorative fireplace screens, those without mesh and very large openings are not meant to be used with a wood fire, as they cannot prevent sparks or embers from flying out of the fireplace. They work best with inoperable wood burning fireplaces or with gas fireplaces. They provide an artistic aesthetic while breaking up the dark opening of a fireplace that is not in use.
When to Use a Fireplace Screen
Note: Any time a customer has an operable wood burning fireplace, they need to have a fireplace screen. There is no instance of a fire that does not pose a risk to a home, and this risk is increased when burning softwoods or damp fuel logs.
Softwoods and damp fuel logs have a tendency to pop and crack as pockets of moisture sizzle in the flames, sending hot embers flying in unpredictable directions. A fire screen is the only barrier stopping these embers. So, we recommend leaving a screen in place at all times if pets or children are in the home, as embers can stay hot for up to 24 hours after a fire has "burned out". It's also good prevention against ash being tracked through the house by an inquisitive cat or dog.
While screens of this style are optional for gas fireplaces, direct vent gas fireplaces are required to be sold with barriers, a type of safety screen that covers the glass surface. These screens usually attach to the face of the fireplace to provide additional protection for your loved ones or animals from hot surfaces.
Other Important Fire Screen Components and Considerations
There are some elements that you want to look for when picking out your fireplace screen. You want to be sure the legs of the screen are thick and sturdy. This prevents the screen from tipping over. Also, look for gaps between the fire screen and any part of the frame the screen is attached to. These gaps could allow sparks to get through and cause a fire.
Are the side panels hinged? Having these panels hinged allows you to position the frame differently depending on your needs. Some screens don't have side panels and are designed to sit flush against the fireplace.
While you can use glass fireplace doors during the operation of a fireplace, it is recommended to leave them open for the first 15 minutes of the burn. Doing so allows the glass to warm gradually and prevent shattering from thermal shock. Flying embers and sparks won't have any effect on the glass doors, but a strong enough impact from a firelog could possibly break one of the glass panes. However, if you are using a grate and not overloading the fireplace with wood, you shouldn't have that problem.
Glass doors have large enough gaps between the panes for the fire to receive enough oxygen, and sealed glass doors will have an air control flap that can be opened to allow oxygen to feed the fire.
Some screens have handles. Handles are a very useful feature, allowing you to move the screen out of the way easily when you need to tend to the fire. Consider this, especially if you're looking at a screen that does not have hinged doors to access the fireplace.
You will want your fireplace screen to be a little larger than your fireplace, though the exact measurements will depend on the type of screen you select. Multi-panel fireplace screens should be the height of the fireplace opening, ideally. They should also have enough width to cover each side of the fireplace by three inches on either side. And, they should allow the center panel to stand out from the fireplace by at least eight inches so that the screen doesn't tip over.
On single panel screens, there should be at least one inch of coverage on the top and both sides, with three inches being ideal. Hanging mesh screens should be ½ " shorter than the height of the screen rod attached to the fireplace floor. The width should be 20 to 30 percent greater than the fireplace opening width. With hanging screens, take care to verify if the hanging rings are included in the height of the screen panel. The rings can be ½" to 1" tall, and if they aren't included in the mesh height, the mesh panel curtain could drag to the floor.
Fire Screen Installation
Fireplace screens with doors and those without doors are typically very easy to install, as almost all screens simply sit in front of the fireplace. This does not mean that there won't be a little assembly, but not all screens will require assembly.
Fireplace screens benefit from online shopping and easy shipping. This way, both the heavier screens and the ones made of glass can arrive directly to your home without having to pay extra for weight or special handling.
If the screen is not very heavy, it will come as a parcel shipment. This does not mean that the screen can't be damaged during shipment. You just want to have to schedule a delivery for your new fireplace screen if avoidable. Upon delivery, you will want to inspect your screen for shipping damage as soon as you open the packaging. Report any damages to the manufacturer immediately for replacement and to adhere to limited warranty restrictions.
Fireplace screens can last for many years when they are well maintained. A simple cleaning each season can help to eliminate build-up and keep your fireplace screen looking its best for many years to come.
Get a Fireplace Cover in Time for Winter!
Here at eFireplaceStore we have a wide selection of fireplace screens for any homeowner's budget, style, and size needs. If you ever need a little advice while shopping for your new fireplace screen, our NFI Certified technicians are always available to help!
How close to the front of the opening should the freestanding screen be located? Will the footprint of some models affect how close you can get? I have a recessed fire pit so I want good ember protection, especially on the bottom.
Yes, the feet/base of the screen will dictate how close to the opening of the fireplace the screen can be placed.
Submitted by:Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on December 9, 2019