In a previous post, we answered the question Can I put an outdoor kitchen on my deck? The answer to that was basically maybe, depending on your deck!
This week we’ll be looking at whether you can safely install a fire pit on your deck.
We’re going to say at the outset that it’s much better to have your fire pit solidly situated on the ground or on a cement patio. But we understand that in especially small backyards, you may not have many options. So is it OK to place a fire pit on a deck if that’s your only choice?
Let’s take a look at the factors to consider before installing a fire pit on your deck:
What does my area’s fire code allow?
Wildfires are no joke, and there’s a good chance your local government (or even homeowner’s association) has restrictions on backyard open flames. Some areas forbid fire pits from being placed on decks or too close to homes. Check local codes first before making any decisions.
What material is my deck made of?
We’ll address the obvious concern: wood is a flammable material. Not only can it ignite if stray sparks land on it, but the constant heat output from a fire pit can dry the wood out over time, making it even more flammable. (This risk is why UOK doesn’t construct outdoor kitchens with wood.)
Yes, you can purchase a sealer that is flame-retardant, but you’ll have to remember to keep up with re-applications. If you decided to go this route, you will have to be extremely careful, and even then you won’t cut out all risk.
If your deck is made of aluminum or steel, the risk of fire is generally lower. If it’s built out of a composite or a synthetic material, do your research to make sure that it will not be damaged by heat.
How close will the fire pit be to my house?
Many decks are built to be convenient to your home—and by convenient, we mean uncomfortably close for an open flame. You’ll want to keep the fire pit at least 10 feet away from walls, railings, roof overhangs, overhead branches, and décor.
Remember, sparks can travel some distance, and when the weather’s dry, you don’t want a brush fire on your hands! Even with a gas-fueled fire pit, we’re going to vote no on any open flame closer than 10 feet to your home or shrubbery.
Will I be using a fire screen and paver stones?
We’ll answer this question for you—yes. Don’t place a fire pit directly on your deck’s surface, but rather place it on (level!) paver stones, or on a specialty fire pit pad. And a fire screen over the flame is essential keeping in most (but not all) sparks contained.
Is my deck level?
A fire pit—especially a bowl-shaped design—on an uneven surface is a recipe for disaster. The last thing you want is for a flaming log to be tipped over onto your deck or, worse, on a guest’s feet! Make sure your deck surface isn’t warped, leaning, or otherwise uneven before placing down the base for your fire pit.
Do I have a fire extinguisher close by?
Again, the answer to this must be yes. Especially with your home and other property close by, you’ll want to have a way to put out the fire immediately if things get out of control. For a wood fire pit, you’ll also want a bucket of water within easy reach so that you can extinguish all embers completely when you’re done.
How much weight can my deck handle?
Granted, this question is more important if you’re looking to install an outdoor kitchen or large appliance on your deck. A simple metal fire pit isn’t likely to cause problems, but a heavier model built with stone could weigh several hundred pounds.
If your deck was built recently by a contractor, check the documentation they gave you to see what the recommended weight is. You can also get a professional to asses the structural soundness of your deck.
We hope this information is helpful! For more about fire pit safety, check out these blog posts:
- 7 outdoor fireplace, fire pit, and fire table safety tips
- Proactive fire pit maintenance tips
- Avoid burning these dangerous items in your fire pit
- 5 things to consider before building a custom fire pit
And if you’d like an expert opinion, the designers at Unlimited Outdoor Kitchen would be happy to help! Give us a call at 888-7-GRILL-IT, or contact us online.