The best place for your home fire pit is solidly on the ground or a cement patio. Fire pits on deck are not ideal, but if you’re determined to add one to yours, it may be possible. Of course, you’ll need to check with the local City or Country Codes to make sure. There are also many things you need to consider to make it work.
Table of Contents
Local City Or County Codes
Many codes stipulate that open flames are not permitted on a wood deck and not within 20 to 30 feet of your home. If they are allowed, there will be ordinances in place to dictate the use of open flames, including specifics about fire pits on decks. Check local ordinances regarding open flames in a residential setting. Learn what you need to be legal, so you don’t face fines.
Talk with your insurer about how your insurance premiums might be affected if you put a fire pit on your home deck. In areas prone to wildfires, many insurers require notification if you plan to add a fire pit.
Choosing The Right Fire Pit For Your Deck
If the City or County Code gives the all-clear, you can decide what type of fire pit you’ll use on your home deck. A gas-fueled fire pit will provide the lowest fire risk. A properly installed gas fire pit doesn’t produce sparks that can ignite nearby surfaces. Look for gas fire pits that will work in your home area.
If you’re using a fire burning pit on a deck, choose common seasoned hardwoods like black locust, oak, and hickory to minimize sparking. Steer clear of softwoods like pine, fir, and spruce. It is not safe to place a wood-burning fire pit on decking made of wood, composite, or vinyl materials unless approved by the manufacturer and city code and placed on top of a non-combustible base.
If a non-combustible base is not used, sparks and embers can fly out, land on the deck, and potentially start a fire. Pits also produce radiant heat, making the pit itself very hot. This heat can transfer to the deck surface and start a fire.
Stone or concrete decks are the safest surfaces for any fire pit.
Concerns Related To Fire Pits On Decks
Having a wood fire pit on a deck holds the risk that sparks and flying embers can ignite nearby surfaces. An unnoticed spark landing on dry leaf bits wedged between deck boards or clinging to the roof can be the start of a large blaze, even after you’ve doused the fire pit. Many fire pits sit low to the ground producing enough radiant heat to damage the deck surface beneath.
The other main concern is whether your deck is strong enough to support the fire pit, especially if building a custom gas-fitted pit. If you’re doing the work yourself and you’re not sure, make sure to check with a local contractor before commencing construction. Try to find someone with expertise in fire pit design. Depending on the complexity of your plan, you may need to consult with a structural engineer.
Wood Burning Fire Pits On Decking
If you want to use a wood-burning fire pit on a flammable deck, start by creating a no-burn zone beneath and around the fire pit. Position wood burning fire pits away from furniture, railings, or plants that could catch fire. Install some flame-resistant surface to hold the fire pit and catch sparks.
Using Your Deck
When incorporating a fire pit on your deck at home, you need to consider placement and seating. Consider the chairs you’ll place around the fire pit. If you tend to use your deck as a dining area, place your fire pit nearby, but not in the outdoor dining area. Leave ample room for shuffling chairs around, as well as for people to move freely behind them. You may need to expand your deck size. Plan for an additional 6 feet of space on each side of the deck fire pit for every access, whether using a built-in model or a freestanding portable model fire pit.
If the fire pit is located even a short distance from the patio’s dining area, create a path leading to the pit and make sure it’s well lit. Consider using a fire pit design that incorporates materials from the deck area to architecturally tie the spaces together. A fire pit on the deck can provide an eye-catching view from indoors, too. Take that inside view into account when incorporating your fire pit into your outdoor living space.
Before choosing the final site for your fire pit, check prevailing winds. You don’t want to douse your guests in smoke from your wood fire. Even gas fire pits benefit from a wind check before positioning to avoid a lost pocket in one area. If your deck is in a crosswind, you may need to create a windbreak around the fire pit.
Fire pits on wood deck
Challenges when using fire pits on wood decks include:
- Fire damage.
- Destruction or weakening of decking and the supporting structure.
- Cosmetic damage from scorching due to the metal on wood contact or from fire pit contents spilling onto the deck for one reason or another.
Fire pits on composite decks
- Usually made from a combination of wood fibers, hardwood flour, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and other plastics.
- Advantages over wood include enhanced durability and resistance to rotting and discoloration.
- It can be uncomfortably hot to walk on in bare feet, compared to wood.
Challenges when using fire pits on a composite deck surface include:
- Similar to those for a wood deck.
- Risk of warping and melting under high heat conditions.
- Polypropylene can start melting at 320 degrees Fahrenheit, and PVC at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check specifications from composite decking manufacturers and follow their recommendations. All products are different.
Accessories For Fire Burning
Despite taking all safety precautions, accidents can and do happen. Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher, a container of water and a hose nearby to deal with any mishaps that may occur. If ember lands on a flammable deck, extinguish it immediately. Sparks can damage the surface of composite decks, and marr the appearance.
Fire Pit Pad
You can purchase a fire pit pad designed to protect deck surfaces from temperatures as high as 1400 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can create your own fire pit pad. Select the space on your deck for the fire pit, arrange pavers in a grid configuration to provide a base to support all legs or the whole bottom of the fire pit, and place the pavers very carefully to minimize scratching the surface. Make the paver grid large enough to allow for a little edge around the feet or base of the firepit in case it’s inadvertently bumped, and one of the legs is no longer supported by the fire pit. This will minimize the risk of the fire pit tipping over or sliding off the barrier.
Fire Pit Screen
If your fire pit comes with a screen, keep it closed as much as possible while burning to reduce the chance of jumping sparks.
All-Metal Fire Pit Barrier
- Metal fire pit heat shield.
- 26 inch by 26 inch – off the ground by about 4 inches.
- Little wiggle room for the legs or base of a typical portable fire pit to go, but over the edge, if nudged.
- Risk of fire pit tipping if one of its legs goes over the sides.
Heat Resistant Fire Pit Mat
- Relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to store option.
- Come in a variety of shapes and sizes that should provide adequate coverage for the majority of portable fire pits.
- Typically made of fire-resistant fabric, PVC, or rubber material.
- Commonly available in 24-inch x 36-inch diameter configurations for circular mats and 30 inch by 42 inch, 30 inch by 48 inch, and 36 inch and 48 inch configurations for rectangular mats.
- PVC or rubber has a better record of performance and durability over time. Read reviews before purchasing.
Be aware of the fire pit’s clearance between the deck and the pit bowl. Some mat manufacturers specify their products will not perform as designed if they’re too close to the heat source.