Outdoor firepits have become increasingly popular backyard features thanks to their cozy ambience and versatility for cooking, warmth, and gatherings with friends. However, safely incorporating fire on top of a flammable wooden deck requires careful consideration and precaution.
By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to enhance your outdoor living space with a gorgeous firepit without putting your deck at risk.
Choosing the Right Firepit
Not all fire pits are created equal when it comes to deck use. As you evaluate options, prioritize these key features:
- Stable, sturdy base that won’t easily tip and holds significant weight
- Mesh screens or grates to allow airflow while containing sparks and embers
- Spark arrestor screen with small holes to contain flaming debris
- Weight rating that avoids exceeding your deck’s load capacity
In terms of firepit types, gas firepits involve less open flame exposure for the deck itself while still providing ambience and warmth. For more traditional fire exposure, heavy-duty steel or stone wood-burning firepit models tend to be safest.
Fire Pit Styles
|Gas (LP or Natural Gas)
|– Concealed heat source poses less deck fire risk – Needs access to fuel line underneath deck
|– Exposed flames increase risk if coals or sparks escape – Look for contained models (built-in, chiminea, etc.)
|– Lightweight increases chance of tipping – Must be moved off deck when not in use
|– Highest cost – Constructed safely into deck
Preparing the Deck Surface
Your wooden deck construction plays a major role in firepit safety and outcomes. Fire-retardant tropical hardwoods like ipe and massaranduba or pressure-treated decking provide higher heat resistance compared to highly flammable softwoods.
Adding Protective Barriers
Even with resilient decking, we recommend installing additional protection between the firepit itself and your deck boards:
- DIY hearth pads or deck protectors to shield from direct heat/embers
- Ceramic tiles, concrete pavers, or solid metal sheets
- Built-in custom fireproof receptacles
For gas firepit models, properly running line tubing underneath your deck is crucial–ensure local codes and manufacturer guidelines are followed.
Following Safety Best Practices
Once you have a protected foundation for housing your firepit, adherence to stringent safety precautions is paramount for avoiding deck disasters.
Picking the Right Placement
Your deck firepit’s location should:
- Allow 10+ feet clearance from exterior walls, beams, posts, and other built structures
- Avoid proximity to trees/branches hanging over the deck itself
- Prevent exposure to or blockage of exits, pathways, and stairways leading on and off the deck
Exercising Caution During Use
When enjoying a flaming firepit, keep safety top of mind:
- Never use accelerants like gasoline or lighter fluid which heighten risk
- Carefully contain and maintain fires to a manageable size
- Don’t allow burning wood, debris or substantial heat to extend beyond the firepit borders
- Exercise extreme caution handling fires and supervise children actively
Monitoring temperatures is also wise–once the deck surface exceeds 175degF, the risk of ignition rises substantially.
Ongoing Maintenance and Precautions
With continued use, firepits can increase wear and structural fatigue on decking. That’s why consistent inspection and upkeep is non-negotiable.
- Routinely clean ash and soot off deck boards before buildup becomes unmanageable
- Watch closely for signs of damage like scorches or cracks
- Make any necessary repairs immediately to protect integrity
- Consider re-staining or sealing sections near high heat exposure
During periods of dryness, drought, or high winds, refrain from use to avoid chances of flying embers igniting the surrounding environment.
If firepit deck integration still seems too risky, safer alternatives do exist:
- Construct a permanent firepit on a non-flammable patio or paved area beside your deck
- Purchase a freestanding portable model to place on the lawn when wanted
- Build a custom fireplace incorporated into garden landscaping off the deck
Adding firepits to wooden decks can be done with the right precautions. By following the recommendations in this guide, you can enjoy backyard flames safely and prevent avoidable catastrophe.