How to Safely Use a Fire Pit On Your Wood or Composite Deck

The weather is warming up which means we’ll soon be spending warm afternoons spent outside with friends and family. Many time those afternoons turn into long evenings, and when the sun goes down, there’s nothing quite like the ambiance of a toasty fire to keep the conversation and laughs going. But what to do when you don’t have a large enough yard, and the only place to put your fire pit is on your deck?

It may seem dangerous or confusing how to build a fire pit on a deck made of the very materials you’re putting inside the pit to burn! Concerns for both wood and composite decks span from basic fire risk to warping, to cosmetic damage. Wooden decks, and composite decks made with Trex or TimberTech material are a large investment, so having a good understanding of potential risks and what information you need to evaluate them will go a long way in helping you protect your new outdoor space.  

With the proper safety precautions however, you can safely use a fire pit on decking, both wood and composite. So what do you put under a fire pit on your deck, if anything? Take a look below at a few tips and things to consider regarding proper deck fire pit safety:

Stay Alert

The number one rule seems simple, but it’s definitely worth emphasizing. When using a fire pit on your wooden or composite deck, or anywhere in your yard for that matter — never leave it unattended! Even by following all of the safety precautions mentioned in the article below, you can’t control changing winds or sudden, unpredictable sparks.

Keep Water & Fire Extinguisher Close By

Make sure that there’s plenty of water and a fire extinguisher within easy reach, as well, and let all your guests know where it is. For many households, this is already a done deal, at least if the outdoor hose is nearby. If not, it’s easy to keep a covered bucket, tub, or pitcher full of water near the fire pit on your deck. That way, anyone enjoying the contained fire will be able to put out a potentially dangerous blaze quickly and efficiently.

Create a Barrier For your Fire Pit

Never, never, NEVER place a fire pit directly on a wooden or composite deck. Potential expensive issues due to the use of a fire pit on a wood deck range from full-on fire damage and the destruction or weakening of the decking and the supporting structure, to cosmetic damage from scorching. Similarly, plastics (polypropylene, PVC, etc.) are commonly used in composite decking, so the risk of warping and melting under high-heat conditions, like those produced by a fire pit, is something to be aware of as well. Polypropylene can start melting at 320° F and PVC at 212° F; Trex itself has stated publicly that their “decking will soften as low as 176 degrees Fahrenheit.”

What should you put under a fire on your deck? To avoid damage and a potential fire disaster, there are specially made fire pit mats to place underneath, which are made to withstand the extremely high temperatures a pit can reach. For a DIY option, simply arrange pavers or bricks in the area where your fire pit will be placed. Be cautious when placing the pavers on a composite deck to minimize scratching the surface. 

Location, Location, Location

A wooden or composite deck isn’t the only thing that can be damaged by lit fire pit! No matter how big your outdoor space may be, the risk of your home catching on fire is a very real one. The heat produced by a fire can damage your siding, leading to unsightly exterior or costly repairs. Your fire pit should never be flush against the side of your house, garage, or any other structure. This ought to go without saying, but sometimes people don’t think through the potential consequences of starting a fire. They may think that being outdoors is enough to keep them safe.

Keep any fires at least 20 feet away from your home. If your deck is very small, and the fire would be closer than 20 feet, we’re going to be the bearer of bad news — it’s best not to have the fire pit at all.

Clear the Deck

Before lighting a fire in your fire pit, make sure that the surrounding area is free from debris. Leaves, pine straw, old newspapers, lighter fluid, or any other highly flammable material should be relocated as far from the fire pit as possible. 

Remember that fires snap, crackle, and pop, easily sending embers flying from the fire pit. If that ember lands in a pile of dry leaves or other debris, it could ignite, and the fire could spread. Always sweep the deck before an evening of entertaining and make sure there’s a nice, big clear area around the pit.

Clean Up Once Cooled

Once you and your fire party pals decide to pack it in for the night, put out the fire using the water that you have conveniently nearby. Wait until the fire pit and its contents have cooled thoroughly, usually about 24 hours, and dispose of the ashes properly by scooping them out of the pit and into a small metal bucket or another container. Leaving ashes inside the pit can cause corrosion over time if the ashes get wet. It could also lead to a mess (who doesn’t want to avoid cleaning more than they have to?) if the ashes are blown out of the pit onto your deck!

If you don’t have a wood or composite deck, but are dreaming of spring and summer days spent outdoors on a beautifully designed space, we can make your dreams come true! Contact Fence & Deck Connection for a free onsite estimate and visit our website to learn how we can provide the perfect deck for your lifestyle.