Fire Pits Pros & Cons

fire pits
There are few things more inviting on a cold evening than a warm fire and friends to share it with.  Fire pits are becoming more popular all the time.  In fact, I just read one statistic indicating fire pits are now the #1 requested design feature for outdoor patios and living spaces.  Built in fire pits or fireplaces create a real focal point to your space and are a great place for families to gather, roast some marshmallows and drink a cup of hot chocolate.  
Built in fire pits are designed with safety in mind; away from the main house structure, placed on level and well prepared surface and integrated into the overall look of the patio space.  For those who may have built a patio before the fire pit craze began, there are also a lot of free standing models that you can purchase from local home & garden centers or online.  When installed properly, a free standing pit can provide all the same great things as a built in but they do present fire safety issues that must be considered.
fire pits
Circular pit on curved patio
Before building or purchasing a fire pit I recommend checking your local city ordinances or home owners associations to ensure there are no restrictions on their use.  For those of you with only wood or composite decks and no patio area, I DO NOT suggest ever using a free standing fire pit.  I’ve seen ads for new products like fire resistant mats or tiles that say they are safe to use on a deck but the heat generated from a fire pit is intense, especially at the bottom, closest to your deck surface.  Wood will combust and composite materials will discolor or even melt.  It’s just not worth ruining your deck or siding.  
For existing patios make sure you place the fire pit on a stable and level surface at least 15-20’ from the house.  Ensure proper clearance around and under the pit.  A good rule of thumb is at least 3’ around the pit and 4-6” beneath it.  Once lit, use the screen, flying embers can land anywhere and you don’t want your wood pile to go up in flames.  Always have a bucket of water or hose within arm’s reach and never leave a fire pit unattended.  Before calling it a night, ensure the fire is completely out – douse it with the bucket of water.  It may make a little more mess but not extinguishing embers is one of the primary causes of a fire reigniting and spreading without the homeowner’s knowledge.
fire pits
Integrated rectangle pit with seating area
With proper precautions you can enjoy a fire pit year round.  Next time roast a marshmallow for me and enjoy the glow on a winter’s night!
      – Mike