Kelly Ripa recently posted a picture on Instagram.  She told her story describing how she and Mark were relaxing in front of a warm fire; they were lucky to have a fireplace in their New York City townhouse.

All of a sudden, they heard what sounded like an explosion as shattered glass came flying out into their living room. The glass in the fireplace doors had overheated as the fire burned and broken apart into tiny pieces.

What a terrifying experience! But it’s one that can be avoided with a little bit of knowledge about what fireplace doors really do.

What is the Purpose of Fireplace Doors Anyways?

Should fireplace glass doors be open or closed? Plus, a little information on tempered glass.

Sal Finocchiaro, owner of NYC Fireplaces in Queens, says that glass fireplace doors should always be open when the fire is burning.

Fireplace glass doors are installed mainly to stop drafts from coming down the chimney into the home and to add aesthetic value.  Some people think the glass used in fireplace doors can withstand any high temperature a fire can dish out, but that’s simply not true.

If you shut your fireplace doors, you create a heat trap.  All the heat of the fire builds up inside the firebox.  Fireplace doors can’t withstand those extremely high temperatures.

Despite this fact, many fireplace door manufacturers market their doors using somewhat deceptive pictures.  The pictures are almost always of the doors closed in front of a roaring fire, which is usually photoshopped in.

bronze fireplace doors shut in front of a roaring fire

These images are more aesthetically appealing than doors with no fire.  However, they can confuse homeowners who read “don’t close the doors while burning” while looking at the doors they just bought, closed in front of a burning fire.

Larry Stevens, owner of M&M Tempering in Georgia, says tempered glass is stronger and safer than regular glass.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely heat-proof.

Fireplace doors do improve the safety of your fireplace when used properly.  They can be shut on the embers once all the flames have died out to keep ashes and sparks inside the fire while allowing the smoke to escape up the flue.

Luckily for homeowners like Kelly and Mark, if tempered glass does break, it fractures into small, relatively harmless fragments.  Since there are no jagged edges or sharp shards, the chance of injury is greatly decreased.

Kelly describes her experience in her own hilarious way on “Live with Kelly and Ryan” declaring that it’s a miracle no one was hurt.  Kelly says that Mark was sitting on the couch as she laid curled up on the floor close to the fireplace trying to keep warm.  She turned away from the fireplace for a moment when all of a sudden the glass fireplace doors exploded and glass shot out into the room.

Both Kelly and Mark screamed as they tried to figure out what to do and ran around the room in panic mode.  In the end, Mark grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the fire while their teenage sons in the other room continued eating their sushi dinner, unfazed by all the commotion.

The worst part of the experience, according to Kelly?  Not that her doors were broken.  Or the carpet caught on fire. Or that glass went flying all over the room.  But that her beloved Madonna concert t-shirt got five burn holes in it!

So what can we learn from Kelly?  First of all, always keep your fireplace doors open while the fire is burning.  When the flames die down and there are just embers left, the doors can be closed to keep an errant spark from popping out onto your floor.

And secondly, just to be on the safe side, never ever wear your favorite concert t-shirt if you’re planning to sit by a fire.

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