Are Fire Pits Safe on Patios? Using them Correctly
Boom!!! Is a sound you don’t want to hear when you have a fire pit on your patio. Yes, a fire pit is secure and safe on the patio if you use it properly. You must be wondering, what is the proper way to use a fire pit on a patio? There are several do’s and don’ts that should be in your mind. Some safety measures are basic like use a fire pit on a patio that has a good ventilation system.
However, there are some types of fire pits that are much safer than others. For example, a natural gas fire pit is safer than a burning-wood fire pit on a patio that has a wooden floor. So before purchasing or constructing a fire pit you must consider the setting of your patio. If your patio has a low ceiling, get a gas fire pit because it does not produce smoke that will discolor the ceiling.
Safety Measures to Keep in Mind
- Fire pit placement area
Place your fire pit on flat ground that is not flammable or combustible. The area must be free of grass and low-hanging plants. Set up a stone slab or heavy brick to make the installation area level. You can also pour a concrete slab base with heat-resistant cement. Make sure the fire pit base is bigger than the edges of the fire pit by twenty inches in all directions.
- Covered patio
A burning wood is the cheapest type of patio fire pit but it is very dangerous on a covered patio especially one that has a low ceiling. This is because the burning-wood fire pits produce floating embers that can reach the ceiling and ignite it into flames.
Use easy to control fire pits on a covered patio like the propane fire pit. However, even if the flames from the gas fire pits are easy to control, make sure your covered patio is open on all sides to allow good air circulation.
- Clearance distance and what to keep away
Give the fire pit a clearance distance of about two feet. But for the burning wood fire pits give it three feet because the floating embers can reach you if you sit close. Do not wear loose-fitting clothes around the fire pit because they can catch on fire. Also, keep combustible materials like magazines away from the fire pit. Flammable materials like the propane tank should be far enough. Also be careful with pets and children.
(For more information on clearance distance click here to read the article)
- Use the correct fuel
Only use fuel that the fire pit was made for. Propane and natural gas fire pits look the same physically but this does not mean you can interchange their fuels. A propane fire pit has more air chambers so if you interchange with natural gas the flame will produce smoke and can explode. Do not use plywood, composite wood and some softwoods like pine and cedar in a burning-wood fire pit. Because these types produce flames that are not stable.
- Safe start a burning-wood fire pit
Use dry wood or commercial fire starter wood to start your burning-wood fire pit. Do not use kerosene or any accelerant fuel to start a wood fire pit because they can cause the fire to get out of control. Use long-stick matches or a lighter because they keep your hands at a safe distance. Make sure you check the direction of the wind to avoid a high flame fire pit.
- An idle fire pit
Put out a wood fire pit or switch off a gas fire pit after use. If you have a gas fire pit, make sure you switch off the gas valve connected to the main gas supply. If you have a burning-wood fire pit, use water or sand to put out the fire and spread the ashes to ensure there is no flying ember. Most people fall asleep and leave the fire pit on. Do not leave a fire pit unattended overnight. It is very dangerous.
- Ventilation and ceiling height
Make sure your patio ceiling is raised high enough to have a fire pit under it. Heat from the pit will reach the ceiling and can cause damage over time and can cause fire if it is very low. Always check the height the manufacturers recommend before you install a fire pit. Your patio must have a good ventilation that allows free flow of air. Open all the windows before you start a fire pit.
Types of Fire Pits
- Burning-wood fire pit
It resembles a campfire on your patio. It adds aesthetics on your patio with the real smoke and crackling of wood. The fire is contained in a bowl and sometimes covered with a screen for safety. Most of them are made with steel but the only difference is the size of the bowl. So the bigger the bowl the higher the amount of heat produced.
There are several types of burning-wood fire pits. These include; stone/brick fire pits, wood burning grill and outdoor fireplace.
- Propane fire pits
This is the best and the safest fire pit on any type of patio. It has beautiful flames rising beneath glass or rock pebbles. It gives a good quality flame that is soft and fresh. It does not produce smoke hence it can be used on a covered patio.
It is easy to start by a simple flip of a switch and to put off by cutting the propane supply. Nowadays some propane fire pits are made with a smart-switch where you can control the fire pit with a remote or a phone.
- Natural gas fire pit
If you have access to a natural gas supply line, you can use a natural gas fire pit. It is similar to a propane fire pit but it has a permanent connection to a natural gas supply line. It is expensive to purchase this fire pit but in the long run, it is cheap because you do not incur the replacement costs like the propane fire pit. Similar to the propane fire pit, this one also can be installed with a smart-switch.
- Gel fuel fire pit
It is a fire pit that uses gel fuel. The gel fuel burns with no smoke but produces little amount of smoke compared to other types of fire pits. It has one big advantage that it is portable and can be placed anywhere you want. Apply the gel fuel on the rocks or faux wood then use a grill lighter or long matches to light up the gel fuel. The pit will go off when all of the gel fuel is consumed.
Yes, fire pits are safe on a patio as long as all of the above precautions are adhered to. Study the setting of your patio before you decide on the type of fire pit you will install. A propane and natural gas fire pits will work on most patio settings, especially a patio that has a covered roof. Maintain a good clearance distance and free flow of air then the fire pit will be safe on your patio.