Protecting Your Wood Deck
Families everywhere enjoy a wooden deck as a convenient place to breathe some fresh air, watch a sunset, or enjoy an outdoor meal. A deck offers easy access to the amenities of your home while still providing an enjoyable outdoor space. Increasingly, homeowners are using portable fire pits on their decks. For safety and protection of your property, it’s critical that you practice fire pit deck safety and learn how to protect your wood deck.
Decks are constructed with traditional wood lumber or composite decking. Here’s a little information on each.
- Wood A tried and true building material, wood, when properly designed and finished, makes a beautiful, sturdy deck. However, no matter how eye-catching it is, it’s still wood and will burn if you aren’t careful.
- Composite Decking This durable, long lasting product is comprised of recycled wood and plastic, both combustible materials that will burn or weaken when exposed to heat for extended periods of time.
Make Safety Your First Priority when Placing a Fire Pit on A Deck
There’s a lot of debate about the safety of placing a fire pit on a wood deck, and many people advocate finding a suitable location in your yard. If you make the choice to put a portable fire pit on your deck, be smart and take any precautions you can to keep from risking your family’s safety.
- Never burn a fire on a windy day.
- Always tend a fire. Never leave it, even for a minute.
- Ensure that your community allows outdoor fires or if there are restricted burn days.
- Chimineas are not quite as open for watching a fire, but they will direct smoke and heat up and away from your deck and home.
- Fire extinguisher
- Bucket of water or garden hose without a nozzle (water under pressure will just push the embers off the deck or into a corner, but won’t necessarily extinguish)
- Heavy gloves
How to Safely Use a Portable Fire Pit on A Wood Deck
Step 1 – Select a Safe Location
Choose a location that is at least several feet away from your house, walls, railings, roofs or overhangs, tree limbs, blinds, shades, and the like. If any area of your deck is sheltered from the wind, consider that as a location for your fire pit.
Step 2 – Prepare the Area
Take the time to ensure your deck is safe for a fire by following these guidelines.
- Make sure all of your safety equipment is nearby in the event something goes wrong.
- Move deck furniture, umbrellas, and other stored items out of the way.
- Remove trip hazards such as floor mats, extension cords, or dog leashes.
- Some natural gas powered fire pits connect directly to your home’s gas supply. If you have one, ensure that it’s routed safely where no one will trip over it.
- Store extra wood at a safe distance so wayward sparks won’t cause it to unintentionally ignite.
Step 3 – Use a Fire Pit Pad to Protect Your Deck
Never set your fire pit directly onto a wooden or composite deck. Fire pit pads protect your wood deck from heat, embers, and ash and come in a variety of styles and materials; stone, stone composite, metal, screen mesh, and tile. Most pads are small, but by placing several of them together, you will be prepared for flying embers or a fire pit that tips over.
Place your portable fire pit in the center of the pad for the best effect. Remember that hot embers can easily fall between the spaces in wood decking. A good way to combat this is to lay down a couple of fire resistant hearth rugs to further widen deck protection.
Feel free to build your own fire resistant pad by placing bricks, interlocking paving stones, or cinder blocks where you want to put your fire pit. You can even make it permanent by using mortar to hold them all together. Another method is to adhere heat resistant tiles to a large piece of plywood to place beneath your fire pit.
Step 4 – Place Your Portable Fire Pit over the Pad
Fire pit pads are not a silver bullet when it comes to protecting your deck. Do not place the fire pit directly onto the pad. Instead, use the stand it came with, if it has one. If not, improvise a stand with cinder blocks to get the fire pit a few inches off the ground. Avoid direct heat to your deck as much as possible.
Ensure the fire pit is stable with no wobble or uneven lean to it or the stand beneath it.
Step 5 – Light the Fire
Place a couple inches of sand in the bottom of the fire pan as an additional layer of insulation between the hot coals and your deck.
Step 6 – Place a spark screen over the top if you have one. If not, get one here, otherwise do not use the fire pit.
Step 7 – Consider Alternatives to Wood Burning Fire Pits
Gas or propane is the best option, no sparks, no mess.
A good alternative is the gas can in a campfire because of the many features it has.
- Its small size and portability allow you to take it anywhere.
- It puts off plenty of heat for cooking (64,000 BTUs)
- It’s the only patio fire pit with zero clearance—you can set it right on the deck and light it up.
- It has an adjustable flame.
- Its hose and RV attachment make connection to a fuel source easy.
Step 8 – Ensure the Fire is Completely Out
Never leave a fire this close to your home burning or unattended for any length of time.
After your evening of fun, let the fire burn completely out and then use water or sand to completely cool it. See “How to Put out a Fire in a Fire Pit” for detailed instructions.
Fire Pit Deck Safety is Nothing to Take Lightly
Although you’ll be having a good time relaxing on your deck, roasting marshmallows, and enjoying the radiant glow of a crackling fire, safety is still your first consideration. Nobody wants to damage their home because they didn’t know how to protect a wood deck. No matter how loosened up your leisure time makes you, never forget the rules.