1. GAS VS WOOD BURNING FIRE PITS
Gas fire pits are generally safe to use on combustible decks, if installed properly by an NFI Certified professional, but you need to check the manufacturer requirements and your city’s code before putting any type of fire pit on top of your deck.
It is not safe to place a wood burning fire pit on top of a wooden, composite, or vinyl deck unless it has been okayed by the manufacturer and city code, and is 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.
Fire pits also produce radiant heat, making the pit itself very hot. This heat can transfer to the deck surface and start a fire.
2. COMMON DECK SURFACES
Wood decking is highly combustible. Some gas fire pits are approved for installation on a wood deck, but most wood burning fire pits are not, unless preapproved and the proper cautionary measures have been taken.
Composite decks are made from a combination of wood, wood particles, plastic, and recycled materials, and are considered combustible.
Vinyl decking is made from plastic and chlorine, also known as PVC, a combustible material. Vinyl also expands easily and is likely to crack when exposed to excessive heat.
Poured concrete slabs or stone pavers are great durable surfaces for decks. Concrete and stone are non-combustible materials and will not catch fire, making them the best deck surface for a fire pit.
3. CHECK FIRE PIT INSTALLATION MANUAL
When shopping for a fire pit, always consult the installation manual to make sure the fire pit will be a good fit for your space.
Manufacturers publish important clearance and installation requirements in these manuals, so it is important to read them before making a purchase (most manuals can be found on the item pages of our website).
On the “Minimum Clearances” page of this manual, it says:
“Clearance Below Unit” is 0 inches and “Floor must be a hard, level surface. Combustible materials permitted.”
Both requirements verify that this gas fire pit table is perfectly safe to use on a combustible deck, whether it is wood, composite, or vinyl.
4. WEIGHT REQUIREMENTS
Fire pits can be heavy, especially if they require a stone base.
Once you have checked the manufacturer requirements and found the right fire pit for your deck, you may need to find out if the deck is strong enough to support the added weight.
Follow these steps to determine if your deck can handle the weight of your fire pit:
- Find out the weight of the fire pit and any additional accessories needed
- Add this to the weight of your outdoor furniture and maximum amount of people who will be on the deck at once
- Compare this total to the maximum weight your deck can handle
- If you are unsure of your deck’s weight capacity, you will need to consult a structural engineer
5. RESEARCH YOUR LOCATION
Next, you will need to make sure the fire pit is placed a safe distance from your home and will not come into contact with walls, overhangs, low-hanging tree branches, plants, or anything that can catch fire easily.
In most cases, a fire pit should be kept 20-25 feet away from a house or combustible structure, and typically needs a minimum of 3 feet on each side and 6 feet above.
Again, every fire pit is different, so you will need to check the manufacturer requirements before placing a fire pit on, around, or under any combustible surfaces, structures, or materials.
6. ACCESSORIES FOR SAFE BURNING
There are a few accessories available that can make your fire pit safer. These include screens and spark guards, covers, and pads or bases.
Screens and spark guards
Typically made of steel and mesh, screens are used to keep sparks, embers, and ash from flying out of a wood burning fire pit. Shop Screens and spark guards >
Metal or stone covers
When not in use, covers prevent fire pits from sustaining unnecessary damage and provide protection from the elements. In some cases, covers are required to validate the manufacturer’s warranty. Shop Metal and stone covers >
Pads and bases
Bases can be made from stone, pavers, or metal and are placed underneath a fire pit to protect the surface below from radiant heat transfer and flying sparks or embers. Shop pads and bases >
Before purchasing a fire pit for your deck, research your city’s code and regulations, find out the maximum weight requirement of your deck, and if you will need a base.
Once you have this figured out, pick out a few fire pits you like and check the installation manuals and manufacturer requirements to make sure they are a good fit for your deck’s surface and outdoor space.
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