Is there anything better than getting a nice roaring fire going in your fire pit, then inviting friends and family over to have a few drinks, toast marshmallows, and talk and laugh well into the night? There’s just something about gathering around a fire, feeling its heat on your face, and watching the flames dance and crackle. 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 might seem dangerous to put a fire pit on a deck made of — well, the same stuff you’re putting inside the fire pit to burn! But it actually is possible to use a fire pit on a wooden deck. The key is to take certain safety precautions. Read on to learn how to safely spark a flame even on a deck made of wood.
How to Safely Use a Fire Pit on a Wooden Deck
It bears repeating that when you are using your fire pit — on a wooden deck, in the yard, or anywhere — it should never be left unattended. Make sure that there’s a fire extinguisher within easy reach, as well, and let all your family members and friends know where it is. That way, you’ll be able to nip a potential blaze in the bud.
1. 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 can and do pop and crackle, and could send an ember 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. So sweep up and make sure there’s a nice, big clear area around the pit.
2. Move Away from the House
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.
Of course, the risk of your home catching on fire is a very real one. Even setting that aside, however, fire pits give off an awful lot of heat. That heat can damage your siding, leading to unsightly exterior or costly repairs.
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, it’s best not to have the fire pit at all. Donate it to a friend with a house in the ‘burbs and do your marshmallow roasting at his place from now on.
3. Use Pavers Underneath the Fire Pit
For similar reasons, never place a fire pit directly on a wooden deck. The heat created by this flaming cauldron can scorch, singe, or burn the deck. That, in turn, can result in an ugly appearance or even structural weakness.
There are specially made fire pit mats, which are made to withstand the extremely high temperatures a pit can reach. Or simply arrange pavers or bricks in the area where your fire pit will be placed. These will protect the deck from being damaged by high temperatures.
4. Leave the Lighter Fluid Alone
We all know that one guy who loves to squirt lighter fluid onto an open fire just to watch the flames erupt. Don’t be that guy.
Using any kind of accelerant or fuel to help your fire start faster or burn higher is downright foolhardy. Lighter fluid should only ever be used for charcoal briquettes in your grill.
All you need to build a fire is tinder, kindling, logs, and matches. Newspaper can help the tinder and kindling catch, but be certain that any superfluous copies of the Times are kept far away from the fire pit.
5. Dispose of Ashes Properly
Wait until the fire pit and its contents have cooled thoroughly — we’re talking 24 hours or so — and then 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 if the ashes are blown out of the pit onto your deck!
Plus, those ashes can be put to use! Bet you didn’t know that wood ashes are great for helping your tomatoes grow, de-skunking your dog, and a bunch of other purposes!
6. Keep Water on Hand
While you should absolutely have a fire extinguisher nearby, as we mentioned earlier, there’s good reason to have a source of water handy, too. 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. You can even keep rainwater for the purpose.
Why water? It’s easier to use than a fire extinguisher, for one. And because a fire extinguisher should be refilled or recharged after every use, it’s not ideal to use it if water is on hand and will effectively douse the fire.
However, don’t hesitate to use a fire extinguisher if you need to!
Final Fire Pit Thoughts
If you thought that a wood surface and a cauldron full of flames weren’t compatible, we hope that this article has taught you the truth! It can be perfectly safe to use a fire pit on a wooden deck. You just need to use a little common sense and take a few simple safety precautions.
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