It might surprise you to discover that you can put a fire pit on decking. The key is ensuring that your deck is properly treated to resist fire, you have a safe location for it, and you use an effective barrier to prevent further damage.
Your main worries when it comes to using a fire pit on decking should be around the risk of cosmetic, structural, and catastrophic damage. Read on to learn how you can set up your wood burning fire pit to reduce these risks and give yourself some more peace of mind.
Different Deck Types and Fire Pits
When it comes to decks there are two main materials for construction.
Wood is more straightforward, and it is what most people think of when considering decks.
In recent years, however, composite wood is used often for decking. This is a combination of material such as:
- Wood fibers
- Wood flour
While wood decking is cheaper, composite decking tends to be most durable. There are different things to consider when it comes to each material and fire pits.
Wood is a popular material for decking because it is traditional, has a low cost, and is easy to work with. Unfortunately, it also runs a higher risk for fire damage such as:
- Weakening of structure
Using wood that has been treated with a fire retardant is essential to preserving the integrity of the deck.
Because composite material contains plastic there is an added concern for warping when fire comes into play. Different types of composite have different levels of resistance, so checking with the manufacturer is essential to discovering the limits of your deck.
Some will recommend against putting a fire pit on the deck unless a specific coating, such as DeckProtect, was added during the manufacturing process.
Otherwise, composite holds heat better than wood and runs a slightly lower risk of catching on fire. It is still essential to watch for warping and use a barrier to limit heat damage to other items (or people) on the deck.
The Best Location for a Fire Pit
Putting your fire pit in a safe location is essential to the safety of your deck and any standing structures. Because most people have their deck right up against their home it can be difficult to find a good area to put a fire pit.
The general rule is that your fire pit should be at least 20 feet away from any standing structure. This prevents damage to the siding on homes, garages, and sheds. This may also veto your ideas of putting a fire pit on your deck, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Fire pits should also be clear of any overhanging trees or structures. This may require trimming of trees or a change of plans regarding draperies, tarps, or gazebos.
Using a Barrier to Protect Your Deck
Even with a deck that is properly treated with fire-retardant, using a barrier is essential to limiting damage and risk.
The three most common methods for creating a barrier between a fire pit and your deck are:
- Paving slabs
- Specialized fire pit mats
- Sheets of metal
The type you choose depends largely on personal preference.
Paving slabs are a better choice for wood decks than composite because they can scratch up composite decking easier.
If you are using leftover slabs make sure you have enough to cover the entire size of the pit. They should also lay completely flat and level on the deck so there is no instability with the fire pit. Even a slight wobble can lead to devastation.
Fire Pit Mats
If you want to go a more straightforward route there are affordable mats that are specifically designed for fire pits. These are usually made from PVS and/or rubber, and they serve as a quick and effective way to create a barrier between the pit and your deck.
If you plan on storing your fire pit at certain times of the year or want something lightweight and easy to move around then opting for a fire pit mat would work best for you. These fold up well and come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit your needs.
If you have a sheet of metal laying around then it might be your best solution for an immediate barrier. Metal is fantastic at resisting fire, but it also heats up easily if it is too close to the pit.
Furthermore, a sheet of metal may not be stable depending on how your deck is built. It works well in a pinch, but finding a better long-term solution would be best.
Additional Fire Pit Tips to Keep Your Deck Safe
On top of using the right decking materials and creating a barrier, here are two more tips to keep your fire pit a place of safety and relaxation on your deck.
Keep Something Close to Extinguish Sparks or Flames
This might be as simple as a fire extinguisher or a nearby garden hose, but anyone who will be near the fire pit should know where it is.
The idea is to have something that could effectively stop a fire before it starts to blaze. Obviously, prevention is key, but the only way to plan for everything is to have a backup plan.
Keep the Area Clean
Clearing the deck of anything flammable is essential for fire safety. As a fire burns you are bound to have crackling or popping that throws off embers. If these embers land on things like leaves, paper, or lighter fluid they could quickly evolve into a fire.
Beyond that, cleaning up the pit when it has a chance to cool down (usually 24 hours after the fire is out) prevents corrosion of the metal and reduces any mess created by the ash.
While putting a fire pit on decking is not a bad idea, there are many things to take into consideration before taking the plunge. There is not much wiggle room for what is considered safe and what is too risky, so sticking to the suggestions in this article is essential to a laid-back night by your fire pit.