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I have a propane stove whose knobs are at the exact height of my elderly mother's wheelchair handles. I kept finding the knobs in a semi-on position and have figured out the source is definitely the chair.

If I remove the knobs and push them back on whenever we use the stove, would this cause damage to the stove?

I cannot be the only person with this problem, but Googling it has failed to produce an answer to the problem. I do not want to trust to "checking the knobs frequently" because several in this house (including me) cannot smell gas or propane.

enter image description here

Knob removed

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    "You cannot be the only person" ... absolutely! You don't need a wheelchair to have this problem. FWIW, I don't understand why it has not become a mandatory safety feature of every new gas range to have a master control with warning light. At least, for ranges with front controls. – jay613 Jun 21 at 19:27
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    You might want to look at replacement knobs that are more cylindrical, or flatter, such that a casual bump isn't likely to generate a torque. Mouser is one online source of way too many knobs for electronic applications. – HABO Jun 21 at 19:32
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    Put a chair mat or thick rug in front of the stove to raise the height of a chair in front of it. You can also likely rotate the stove's feet to lower it slightly; they are attached to screws to allow leveling. With any luck those two measure will allow the knobs to "limbo" under the handle. Also, and you might not want to do this, but it looks like you could bend the chair's handle ever so slightly up without hurting function, maybe with a "cheater bar" or long screwdriver. You can also replace the knob with a clothespin, which is ugly but functional. – dandavis Jun 21 at 21:47
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    You might also consider picking up a gas detector, if folks in the house cannot smell gas. They're like ~$20-30, and might give some extra safety and peace of mind. – Brad Jun 22 at 3:00
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    Just a comment, as this is not your case I guess, but other gas stoves can avoid this problem entirely if they have the safety gas valves with thermocouples. Basically if the fire is not lit, the gas is automatically shut off regardless of the knob position. Plus, to start the fire you do not just turn the knob, you have also to push it. So basically unless someone keeps the chair against the knob to keep it pushed and forces release of the gas it is impossible to saturate the environment with gas. Just hitting the knobs and turning them occasionally would not do anything meaningful. – BlueCoder Jun 23 at 4:17

10 Answers 10

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No inherent problem doing that. I remove gas knobs frequently to clean. But I think a better solution might be to mount a hinged cover across the front of the stove. That would provide protection while making usage easier. If the front is steel, you could even put on a magnetic cover, so no screws or glue needed.

Note that if knobs do get damaged, particularly the D-shaped piece in the center, generic replacements are available. You don't need an exact model replacement, just something where the overall size (diameter) is correct and the center piece is the correct size. Unlike the old days with broken TV knobs, you really don't want to use pliers to turn your gas cooktop on/off.

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    Don't put them in the dishwasher...the paint will come off and they'll look like crap. :( – Steve Wellens Jun 22 at 4:41
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    @SteveWellens Paint? They seem to be solid pieces of white plastic, not painted. Unless you mean that little mark at the top? But that doesn't look like it's too prone to being washed off. A dishwasher might be overkill of course, but I doubt it's going to damage them too much compared to hand-washing. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 23 at 13:21
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    @DarrelHoffman (a) I suspect Steve Wellens speaks from experience; (b) the knobs vary quite a bit. The ones that are hard white molded plastic will likely do fine (except the markings for Hi/Low/Off/etc. may come off over time). But the ones that look like metal but are actually plastic with a thin metal coating (or similar) can have the finish wear off, and faster with a dishwasher than by hand. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Jun 23 at 14:04
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    Right, I'm sure there are painted metal ones, or metal-coated plastic, but as far as I can tell, the ones in the OP's photos are just plastic. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 23 at 15:03
  • @DarrelHoffman in the photo they look like they have a red spot on them. That's paint, and will eventually come off – Chris H Jun 24 at 8:39
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As an alternative, you could try a protective cover (usually sold as child proofing, something like this).

enter image description here

We installed a similar product with a toddler in the house and they seemed like they'd take some punishment.

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    I've always been bothered that gas stoves generally have the controls in the front, right at child eye-level and within easy reach, given the obvious risk of both fire and gas inhalation. Electric ranges usually have them on the back panel where it's harder for kids to reach, and that makes so much more sense to me (even though the fire risk is lower and the gas leaks non-existent). I get that you don't want to have to reach over flames to turn them off - maybe a side mounted control panel on the counter is best? – Darrel Hoffman Jun 22 at 19:23
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    Putting knobs on the back panel of a gas stove doesn't make sense as a design: you'd have to reach over open flame to access them. As someone who has seen more than one person's floppy sleeve catch fire this way (including my own!), I'm quite certain that is not a design we should be encouraging. @DarrelHoffman – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jun 23 at 2:45
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Yeah, that's why I suggested the side-mounted controls instead. But the front just seems like a bad idea all around if there's children (or apparently also wheelchair-bound seniors) around. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 23 at 13:18
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    @DarrelHoffman Having knobs "within easy reach" is a safety feature. You want to make turning off the flame as easy as physically possible. A knob anywhere on the back or side could be difficult to reach safely if (for instance) there's a raging grease fire in a pan on the burner next to the controls. I've even heard a story about a small child who prevented a house fire after his parent collapsed making dinner, kid called 911, and the dispatcher talked him through shutting off the stove. – bta Jun 23 at 23:09
  • @DarrelHoffman I've seen the top-facing panel off to the side that you describe, but I imagine it's not common because of the extra space it uses. Some stoves compromise by putting the controls on a bevel between the top and front surfaces, which makes them fairly hard to access except from above. – hobbs Jun 24 at 4:06
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We talked to a physical therapist about bending the handles of the wheelchair up or down, the physical therapist had a better answer. Slipping 2 short 1" PVC pipes with a 90° angle over the wheelchair handles so that the handle to the oven blocked the wheelchair from scraping against the knobs.

Below the knobs is the oven door handle that sticks out farther than the knobs. It looks like a white decorative bar in the photograph.

Hubby is picking up the pipes today, but below is a picture of what the therapist recommended.

Physical Therapist's answer

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    Honestly, I'd just bend the handles up half an inch rather than mess about with an L shaped length of pipe that's just another thing that can fall off (or rotate 90+ degrees so the plastic no longer points toward the floor) and restore the original problem – Caius Jard Jun 24 at 13:06
  • I just examined the front feet on our 30 year-old GE electric slide in range. Your range looks like it is a "freestanding" range (does not overlap the counter and has finished sides). On one side of our range one front foot is almost at the lowest setting! The mfgrs of these ranges don't seem to have provided the correct downward limit for adjustment. If I had to adjust it lower, I would remove that foot entirely and level the range with the other three feet. Does your range have a broiler on the bottom or a pot drawer? – Jim Stewart Jun 24 at 19:44
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I've had ranges where I removed the knobs weekly for cleaning but not where I've removed them many times per day. They may wear out. And then she'll just hit the shafts and break those.

You could make or buy wooden blocks or wedges (eg door stops) and screw them to the front of the counter on both sides of the stove. They would deflect the chair away from the stove. She would have to be alert to hitting those, so she doesn't then turn back and hit the knobs. You could bridge those blocks with a wooden bar across the front of the knobs. This would prevent her from hitting them but would make it a bit harder to control the gas.

You could buy a range with rear or top controls.

You could install a master valve on the wall behind the stove or perhaps in the side of the cabinet next to the stove, and get into the habit of turning that off when it's not in use. The valve could even be electric, like the controller for a fireplace, so that turning it on and off would be the flip of a switch and you could have a green light to show it's off. You would get into the habit of always watching for that light except when someone is using the stove.

You could bend those chair handles upwards or inwards just a little, so they won't be so perfectly positioned to turn the knobs.

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    Mom could not reach rear-control knobs. Additionally, she would have to move the pots and reach over hot-burning burners to turn the stove off. But I like your idea of bending the wheelchair handles down. I am going to look into that. – Bookaholic Jun 21 at 20:40
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I would be less worried about causing an issue by removal/insertion and would be more worried about the damage caused by the wheelchair running into it.

My Kenmore range ($600 from 2016) has very little resistance when removing and re-inserting the knobs so I suspect my chance for a gas leak is very minimal. We have small children and for a few months we had removed all knobs and just kept one on the kitchen counter which we would insert on an as-needed basis. If 2 burners were needed then we'd get a second knob so that things could be turned off quickly when the water overboils.

If I were to be frustrated and rip off or jam the knob sideways then I'm sure that could cause issues.

Behind every knob should be a gas regulator screw which I guess could get loosened simply from vibration so you might have to adjust it every so often. Its purpose is to prevent the flame from going out if you hastily flip the burner from high to low.

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Repeatedly removing and reattaching the knobs, especially carelessly, can cause them to wear more quickly where they attach to the stems, which can lead to the knob not pointing to the actual setting. Depending on the design, it could just be a little slack/wiggle in the knob, or it could be entirely pointing at the wrong setting.

Also in the case of the gas burner it isn't so much a problem since you can adjust it by visually looking at the burner and ignoring the knob markings, but for the oven or electric stove it is a real issue. (Or a very old washing machine, where the markings were just taped over and new markings drawn on corresponding to the new orientation of the knob.)

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The reason a bump from the handle turns on your stove is because those knobs have that big flat grip on them. If you install some child safety locks, the flat part of the knobs will be completely shrouded so a bump shouldn't be able to activate the knob. The safety cover just spins in place.

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One danger with removing the knobs is that they roll around on the counter and could end up falling onto the stove surface and catching fire (assuming you only reconnect the knobs you are currently using).

This is from experience.

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Removing the knobs, leaving the stems sticking out is asking for those to get knocked. They may not turn on, but could get damaged so the knobs don't fit any more, or just get knocked, causing a gas leak on the valve itself.

A piece of plastic, perspex, or suchlike, bent to make an L shape, which would slip into the gap between the oven door and the frame above, the full width of the cooker, would cover all the controls, and only need to be slipped out when the cooker was in use.

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As the comment by @dandavis suggests, lowering the range might get the knobs below the ends of the handgrips of the wheelchair. This would also make it easier to use the stove top.

The raised edge around the top of the range is conventionally placed in the same plane as the top of the counter. From your picture it appears that your range is = or > 1" higher than that. The stove top could even be below the counter top, it just would reveal the edge of the counter.

On some ranges the height can be adjusted without pulling out the range. If a range has a storage drawer on the bottom, removing it will allow access to the back feet. But even if you have to pull the range out to adjust the back feet, this should be done.

EDIT

I just examined the front feet on our 30-year-old GE electric slide-in* range. On one side of our range one front foot is almost at the lowest setting! The mfgrs of these ranges don't seem to have provided sufficient downward limit for adjustment.

This is surprising to me and intensely irritating. If I had to adjust it lower, I would remove that foot entirely and level the range with the other three feet. This might give the required extra lowering to get the knobs below the handles. To make this work you might have to put a metal shim under the position with the removed foot. This shim could be designed to prevent scratching of the floor when the range was slid out.

*Your range looks like it is a "freestanding" range (does not overlap the counter and has finished sides).

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  • The boss (me) wants a level cooking surface. – Bookaholic Jun 23 at 9:11
  • All 4 feet are adjustable on our current slide in stove,, and surely this is the case for every stove.. Of course, no one would accept a tilted range top. – Jim Stewart Jun 23 at 17:00
  • Due to uneven floors, this is not an easy adjustment. The stove is already as low as it can go in the front on one side. The floor it is sitting on is about 70 years old. – Bookaholic Jun 24 at 12:06
  • What is the height of the counter from the floor on the side where the stove is as low as it can go in the front? What is the height of the stove there? What is the material of the finished flooring in the kitchen and under the stove? Do you have lower counters than the "standard" 36 inches? This could happen if the flooring was built up in a remodel, but the old base cabinets were kept. Alternatively the cabinets could have been custom built for shorter users. – Jim Stewart Jun 24 at 18:04
  • Just edited my answer. I still favor lowering the range. – Jim Stewart Jun 24 at 20:07

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