The ideal place for your house fire pit is on solid ground or a cement patio. Fire pits on decks are not ideal, but if you’re determined, you might be able to add one to yours. Of course, you should double-check with the local city or Country Codes to be certain. There are also other factors to consider for it to work.
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Local city or county codes
Many laws prohibit the use of open flames on a wood deck or within 20 to 30 feet of your home. If they are permitted, rules will be in place to govern the use of open flames, including information about fire pits on decks.
Consult your insurer about how installing a fire pit on your home deck may affect your insurance prices. Many insurers require notification if you plan to install a fire pit in areas prone to wildfires.
Choosing the best fire pit for your deck
If the City or County Code approves, you can choose which type of fire pit to install on your house deck. A gas-powered fire pit will pose the least amount of fire risk. Sparks from a correctly placed gas fire pit do not ignite close by surfaces. Look for gas fire pits that will fit in with your existing decor.
Pick common seasoned hardwoods such as black locust, oak, and hickory for a fire pit on a deck to reduce sparking. Avoid softwoods such as pine, fir, and spruce. A wood-burning fire pit should not be installed on decking made of wood, composite, or vinyl materials unless the manufacturer and city code is allowed and placed on top of a non-combustible base.
Sparks and embers can fly out, drop on the deck, and even start a fire if a non-combustible base is not used. Pits also emit radiant heat, which causes the pit to become extremely hot. This heat has the potential to transfer to the deck surface and ignite a fire.
Concerns about fire pits on decks
A wood fire pit on a deck increases the risk of sparks and flying embers igniting neighboring surfaces. Even after you’ve extinguished the fire pit, an unnoticed spark landing on dry leaf bits stuck between deck boards or hanging to the roof can start a massive wildfire. Many fire pits are placed low to the ground, generating enough radiant heat to damage the deck surface beneath.
Another major consideration is whether your deck is strong enough to hold the fire pit, especially if you make a custom gas-fitted pit. If you’re doing the work yourself and are unsure, consult with a local contractor before starting construction. Look for someone who specializes in fire pit design. You may need to contact a structural engineer depending on the complexity of your plan.
How hot does a fire pit get?
A wood-burning fire pit may reach 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius) (Source: sciencing.com).
This temperature is for a bonfire, similar to a fire pit, except it is usually elevated above the ground.
The only exception is fire pits, where the “floor” of the fire pit is the ground (fire pit rings, for example), which is irrelevant for this article.
Wood burning fire pits on decking
First, create a no-burn zone beneath and around the fire pit to use a wood-burning fire pit on a combustible deck. Place wood-burning fire pits away from flammable items such as furniture, railings, or plants. Install flame-resistant surfaces to keep the fire pit in place and capture sparks.
Using your deck
When installing a fire pit on your home’s deck, think about placement and seating. Think about the chairs you’ll put around the fire pit. If you use your deck as a dining area, place your fire pit nearby, but not in the outdoor dining area.
Allow enough space for chairs to be moved around, and for people to move freely behind them. You may need to increase the size of your deck. Plan for an extra 6 feet of space on each side of the deck fire pit for every access, whether you use a built-in or freestanding portable fire pit.
If the fire pit is even a small distance from the patio’s dining area, make a walkway leading to it that is brightly lit. Consider employing a fire pit design that integrates materials from the deck area to link the spaces architecturally. A fire pit on the deck can also give an appealing view from within. Keep that inside view in mind when incorporating a fire pit into your outdoor living space.
Check the prevailing winds before deciding on a final place for your fire pit. You don’t want your guests to be engulfed in smoke from your wood fire. Even gas fire pits benefit from a wind check before setting to avoid a lost pocket in one area. If you have a crosswind on your deck, you may need to build a windbreak around the fire pit.
Fire pits on wood deck
The following issues arise when using fire pits on wood decks:
- Fire damage.
- Destruction or weakening of decking and supporting structure.
- Cosmetic damage from scorching due to wood-on-metal contact or fire pit contents spilling onto the deck for whatever reason.
Fire pits on composite decks
- Typically made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), wood fibers, polypropylene, hardwood flour, and other plastics.
- Advantages over wood include increased durability and resistance to rotting and discoloration.
- Compared to wood, walking on bare feet can be uncomfortable.
- Similar to those for a wood deck, there is a risk of warping and melting in extreme heat conditions.
- Polypropylene can start to melt at 320 degrees Fahrenheit and PVC at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fire pits on vinyl decks
Vinyl decking is a combustible material made of plastic and chlorine, often known as PVC. Vinyl also expands readily and is prone to cracking when exposed to high temperatures.
Fire pits on concrete deck
Poured stone pavers or concrete slabs provide excellent deck surfaces. Because stone and concrete are non-combustible and will not catch fire, they are the perfect deck surface for a fire pit.
Accidents can and do occur despite all safety precautions. Always keep a water container, a fully charged fire extinguisher, and a hose accessible in an emergency. If an ember falls onto a combustible deck, extinguish it right away. Sparks can cause damage to the surface of composite decks and detract from their look.
What to put under a deck fire pit
Based on our discussions thus far, the major solution to the risk of fire pit heat or ember damage to decking is to install some barrier.
There are many do-it-yourself and store-bought solutions, and they don’t have to be expensive. Regardless of your decking style, the return on investment will be worthwhile.
DIY fire pit pad
This fire pit barrier option is probably the cheapest, but it isn’t any less effective. If you have new pavers hanging around your garage or shed, that’s even better.
After deciding on a location for the fire pit on your deck, position the pavers in a grid pattern to give a base to hold all legs or the entire fire pit base. It is, nevertheless, planned.
Use caution to avoid scratching the surface when laying pavers on a composite deck.
Make the paver grid broad enough to provide an edge around the fire pit’s feet or base if it’s accidentally bumped and one of the legs is no longer supported by the fire pit. This reduces the possibility of the fire pit toppling over or rolling off the barrier.
A fire pit pad that protects deck surfaces from temperatures reaching 1400 degrees Fahrenheit is available for purchase.
Fire pit screen
If your fire pit has a screen, keep it closed as much as possible while burning to reduce the risk of jumping sparks.
All-metal fire pit barrier
- A heat shield made of metal for the fire pit.
- 26-inch x 26-inch – roughly 4 inches off the ground.
- Little wiggle room for a normal portable fire pit’s legs or base to go, but over the edge if prodded.
- Risk of fire pit toppling if one of its legs goes over the edges.
A metal fire pit heat screen is another good option. These heat shields are undoubtedly the safest bet for deck protection, but there is one major drawback that I don’t like.
I can tell that these heat shields are only available in 26” x 26” sizes. Looking at the image, you can observe that the heat shield deck of the ground has been reduced by around 4”. My issue is that if everyone isn’t careful, the portable fire pit might easily be knocked off the platform.
It’s not my idea of a fun time to have fire pit contents poured on your feet or, worse, your deck. In the future, I’ll keep an eye out for a bigger model.
On the other hand, I believe that a fire pit with a round base (rather than one with legs), such as those from the Solo Stove or Flame Genie model family, would function well on this obstacle.
These fire pit models’ bases maintain 360° contact with any surface, providing higher resistance to tipping. These are just my thoughts.
Heat-resistant fire pit mat
- Relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and easy-to-store option.
- Available in various shapes and sizes, which should provide sufficient coverage for the most portable fire pits.
- Typically made of PVC, fire-resistant fabric, or rubber material.
- Typically available in 24×36-inch diameter layouts for circular mats and 30×42 inches, 30×48 inches, 36×48 inches, and 48×48 inches for rectangular mats. Before buying, read the reviews.
A heat-resistant fire pit mat is another barrier option for using a fire pit on decks. This is a low-cost, lightweight, and easy-to-store solution.
These mats are available in various shapes and sizes and should cover the majority of portable fire pits.
Typically, firepit mats are composed of fire-resistant fabric, PVC, or rubber. They are usually available in diameters ranging from 24” to 36” for circular mats and 36” x 48”,” 30” x 48,” and 30” x 42 for rectangular mats.
I recommend PVC or rubber because they offer superior performance and durability over time. There are many pricey, flimsy options, particularly the circular variety, so please check the reviews before purchasing.
Another consideration is the clearance between the deck and the fire pit basin. Some mat manufacturers state that they will not work as intended if their products are placed too close to a heat source.
Insulated fire pit barrier
These fire pit barriers are available in both square (12″ x 12″, 16″ x 16″, 24″ x 24″, and 36″ x 36″) and octagonal (30″ diameter) forms.
The barrier consists of a vented metal tray raised about half an inch off the ground by five rubber/plastic “feet.” The tray is made of heat-resistant natural and synthetic fibers, and it will hold the fire pit.
These are not the most visually appealing fire pit barrier solutions available, but the reviews are typically positive. When looking for deck protection, the Trex endorsement should be considered.
Unlike the previously mentioned all-metal platform option, there are various sizes available to accommodate most sizes and types of fire pits, with extra space on the perimeter to permit some unintentional/intentional movement of the fire pit without the tip-over risk.
Paver safety base
This option is a foldable iron frame (yes, iron) meant to accommodate 9 16” × 16” inch pavers (not included in the package), resulting in a 50 sq in. (3” thick) area on which to construct a fire pit.
That being said, you’ll most likely have it for the rest of your life, and you can personalize the look by selecting paving stones that suit your tastes. If that is important to you, this option seems less of a traditional deck decor than the other options discussed.
Fire pits can be substantial, especially if a stone base is required.
After you’ve reviewed the manufacturer’s specifications and located the perfect fire pit for your deck, you’ll need to see if the deck is strong enough to sustain the extra weight.
To see if your deck can support the weight of a fire pit, follow these steps:
- Determine the weight of the fire pit and any additional accessories required.
- Add it to the weight of your outdoor furniture and the number of persons that will be on the deck at the same time.
- Compare this sum to the maximum weight capacity of your deck.
- If you are unsure about the weight capacity of your deck, you should consult a structural engineer.
The Cove Gas Fire Bowl is an excellent choice for your deck. It’s built of tough, lightweight glass-fiber reinforced concrete and has risers on the bottom for extra clearance from the ground.
How to use a fire pit safely on your wood or composite deck
Many afternoons turn into lengthy evenings, and when the sun sets, nothing beats the atmosphere of a toasty fire to keep the talk and laughs going. But what if you don’t have a big enough yard and your only option for a fire pit is to put it on your deck?
It may look unsafe to place a fire pit on a deck composed of the same materials that will be burned inside the pit! Concerns about composite and wood decks range from simple fire hazards to warping and cosmetic damage.
Wooden decks and composite decks constructed with Trex or TimberTech material are substantial investments, so understanding potential dangers and the knowledge needed to evaluate them will go a long way to helping you protect your new outdoor space.
Take a look at the following guidelines and considerations for good deck fire pit safety:
When using a fire pit on your wooden or composite deck or anyplace else in your yard, never leave it unattended! Even if you take the safety precautions outlined in the article below, you won’t be able to control fluctuating winds or unexpected, unanticipated sparks.
Keep water and a fire extinguisher nearby.
This is already done for many families, at least if the outdoor hose is nearby. If not, keeping a covered tub, bucket, or pitcher full of water near your deck’s fire pit is simple. As a result, everyone enjoying the controlled fire can quickly and easily put out a potentially deadly blaze.
Create a fire pit barrier
Never ever put a fire directly on a composite or wooden deck. The potential costs of using a fire pit on a wood deck range from full-fledged fire damage and the weakening or destruction of the decking and supporting structure to cosmetic damage from scorching.
Similarly, because plastics (polypropylene, PVC, and so on) are widely used in composite decking, the possibility of warping and melting under high-heat circumstances, such as those produced by a fire pit, should be considered. Polypropylene begins melting at 320° F, and PVC melting at 212° F; Trex has publicly stated that its “decking will soften as low as 176 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The chance of your home catching fire is quite high, regardless of how large your outdoor space is. A fire’s heat might damage your siding, resulting in an ugly exterior or pricey repairs.
Never place your fire pit flush against the side of your house, garage, or any other structure. This should go without saying, yet people don’t always consider the implications of starting a fire. They may believe that simply being outside would keep them safe.
Fires should be kept at least 20 feet away from your home.
Clear the deck
Before starting a fire in your fire pit, ensure the surrounding area is clear of debris. Leaves, old newspapers, pine straws, lighter fluid, and other combustible materials should be moved as far away from the fire pit as possible.
Remember that fires crackle, snap, and pop, and embers can readily fly from the fire pit. If the spark drops in a pile of dry leaves or other debris, it has the potential to ignite and spread the fire.
Clean up once cooled
When you and your fire party companions decide to call it a night, put out the fire with the conveniently nearby water. Wait until the fire pit and its contents have completely cooled, which normally takes about 24 hours, and then properly dispose of the ashes by scooping them out of the pit and into a small metal pail or another container.
Leaving the ashes in the pit might cause corrosion over time if the ashes become wet. If the ashes are blown out of the pit onto your deck, it could create a mess (who doesn’t want to avoid cleaning more than they have to?).
- Do: Using a fire pit on a wood deck during calm weather is best. A light breeze is acceptable and will not prevent your fire from catching near valuables.
- Don’t: Never use your fire pit in high winds, especially on a wood deck. Because fire can rapidly spread when windy, your deck, house, and other assets are at risk.
Last update on 2023-09-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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