Posted on: 24.11.2022 Posted by: Редакция Comments: 0

While it’s important to decorate a home to be comfortable and fashionable, safety takes priority. With so many incidents related to heating devices occurring each year, it makes sense to exercise extra caution when organizing a space with a radiator. Is it safe to place something like a sofa near these devices?

You can place a sofa in front of a radiator, but you need to ensure it is at least 30 cm away. It’s important to follow this distance so that heat can circulate effectively throughout the room, and your furniture is protected from heat damage caused by the radiator.

The rest of this article will explore why it’s safe to place a sofa fairly close to radiators, how radiators affect furniture, and how to best decorate around these devices.

Why You Can Place a Sofa in Front of Radiators

In a room with limited space, positioning a sofa in front of a radiator may be the only option. This is especially true for historic homes, as smaller floor plans may require more creative decor. Even when renovating a historic home, HGTV experts recommend keeping the original radiators as they provide quality heating and better match the house’s historical environment.

Fortunately for both historic and modern homeowners, radiators are a fairly safe heating option. Dr. James Gallagher, director of the Burn Center at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, stated in a New York Times article that he has never heard of a death caused by a radiator. Erik Gitli, a master plumber also interviewed in the article, shared this view.

Of course, with any device that emits heat, the natural reaction is to worry that it poses a fire hazard. Let’s take a closer look at the two most common types of home radiators and why they are unlikely to ignite a fire even if a sofa is nearby.

Common Types of Home Radiators

While there are many different heating devices that can be classified as radiators, including portable electric heaters, the two main types used in homes are steam radiators and hot water radiators.

Hot Water Radiators

This is the simplest and most common type of home heating radiator. The radiator heats the room by moving hot water through a metal container using a pump, gravity, or convection flow. Once the water cools down, it sinks to the bottom of the device and drains away.

Steam Radiators

Steam radiators work almost the same way as hot water radiators, except they use hot steam instead of hot water. The steam generates its own pressure, which is why it was initially the more popular type of radiator. According to American Home Shield, it’s also particularly effective for heating large, tall buildings like skyscrapers.

Since radiators typically use either hot water or steam to function, there is no fire involved. Though, as with any device, safety risks need to be considered, you don’t have to worry about a fire spontaneously igniting from a radiator.

General Best Practices

While radiators are quite low-maintenance, there are a few things you should do to ensure they’re both safe for you and functioning at their full potential.


In addition to following the aforementioned one-foot rule, consider these precautions:

  • Do not touch the radiator with bare hands once it’s turned on. The heat of the water or steam can cause burns.
  • Have the radiator checked before turning it on for the season.
  • The Department of Energy suggests draining trapped air from hot water radiators once or twice per season.


Keeping a sofa or other furniture one foot away from a radiator serves not only for safety purposes. As radiators heat a room by circulating hot air through it, if a piece of furniture blocks that airflow, the room won’t warm up. Wooden furniture also tends to absorb heat, which defeats the purpose of the radiator operating. As long as there’s enough distance between the furniture and the radiator, the room should warm up fairly quickly.

Similarly, make sure your radiator is clean so that warm air can flow through it. Accumulated dirt or dust can prevent hot air from inside the radiator from entering the room. A simple wipe with a damp cloth every two weeks should be enough to remove accumulated dirt.

Effects of Radiators on Different Materials

While you don’t have to worry about a sofa causing a fire if it’s too close to a radiator, it’s crucial that you maintain that one-foot distance to ensure the integrity of your furniture. The heat from a radiator can affect almost any type of furniture.

  • Leather – Prolonged exposure to heat dries out leather and causes it to weather faster than normal. According to The Spruce, this can eventually lead to the leather cracking and even peeling.
  • Wood – Wood is less affected by heat and more affected by moisture, explains the Architectural Woodwork Institute. Increased humidity can cause wood to swell, move, and warp. Since radiators generate heat through hot water or steam, moisture certainly plays a role.
  • Upholstery – While home textiles are often covered with flame-resistant fabrics, it’s still not ideal for upholstery to be exposed to constant heat. It can distort the fabric and cause fading. If only specific areas are exposed to heat, it can result in uneven patterns.

Fortunately, these negative effects can be avoided by placing furniture at least 30 cm away from the radiator, or even more if the item is an antique. Many design sites also suggest lining the back of the furniture with a foam board to absorb the heat.

Decorating with Radiators

If you’re unable to position your sofa a full foot away from your radiator, don’t worry. There are still plenty of other ways to hide or disguise this sometimes unsightly device.

Painting the Radiator

The easiest way to camouflage a radiator is by simply painting it. There are several ways you can incorporate this into your overall room design:

  • Paint it the same color as your walls. Using the same finish will make it blend in at first glance.
  • Choose a complementary color that matches the wall color.
  • Get artistic and paint with a pattern or ombre design.

Covering the Radiator

Radiator covers are another easy way to style a radiator. They come in dozens of different materials like metal and bamboo to match the decor of any room. This easy-to-install patterned Estink radiator cover adds a stylish touch to a living space while also providing additional space for books, photos, and more.

Make the Radiator Match Your Space

If you want to maximize space, consider transforming your radiator into another functional piece of furniture.

  • Build a shelf above the radiator to store books and other items.
  • Work with professionals to create a custom mudroom bench designed around the radiator.
  • Construct a faux fireplace around the radiator.

Final Thoughts

Radiators don’t have to be an obstacle to creating a beautiful space. As long as sofas and other furniture are kept one foot away from these heating devices, there is little to no risk of a fire. This distance also ensures that the furniture will look good for years to come. With a few creative design hacks, radiators can even add a fun decorative element to a room.

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