The Dos and Don’ts of Fire Pits

October 7, 2021

A fire pit can be a great addition to your backyard and can help create a relaxing atmosphere. This makes them a popular outdoor design element, but it’s important to get them right. Here are some dos and don’ts of fire pits to keep in mind if you are considering one for your custom home design:

6 Dos of Fire Pits

Fire pits are popular ideas for outdoor living spaces. When you think about adding a fire pit to your backyard design, here are a few dos of fire pits to keep in mind:

1. Do Consult With Your Local Fire Department

Before committing to a fire pit, you’ll want to check with your local fire department, community guidelines, HOA, etc. to make sure you are permitted to have one in your community. In addition to letting you know about local regulations, burn bans, etc., your local fire department will also be a good resource in terms of tips and helpful advice.

2. Do Consider Fire Pit Size, Fuel Type, Material, and More

Once you’re set on having a fire pit and you know you are clear to have one, make sure you consider fire pit options, like the size of your fire pit, style, material, fuel type, and more.

You want to make sure the fire pit will be accessible and you’ll also need to determine whether you want a permanent structure for a fire pit or an above-ground option that you can move as needed.

With fuel type, you’ll need to consider whether you want a traditional wood fire pit or something that uses ethanol, propane, or natural gas.

3. Do Place the Fire Pit Far Enough From Your Home

Although fire pits have a reputation for being cozy and fun, they can also be dangerous if fire safety is not taken seriously. It’s important to make sure a fire pit is placed far enough from your home to ensure it does not pose a danger. It’s recommended that fire pits are 10 to 20 feet away from a home or other structures at a minimum to lower the risk of those structures catching fire. 

Having a fire pit nearby is also one of the pool landscaping ideas. If this is something you want near your pool, fire and water combination bowls are popular options. No matter what type of fire pit you go for, it’s important to install it a safe distance from your pool and to follow safety guidelines if installing a bowl as part of your pool design.

4. Do Use a Fire Pit Safety Accessories

There are several fire pit accessories that can help you extend the life of this equipment while also protecting it and everything around it. Making sure you have a fire pad under an above-ground fire pit helps protect the surface it’s on.

In addition, it’s important to use the stand that comes with the fire pit you chose. You can also invest in a fire screen to place over your fire pit to help contain embers and sparks. This can help protect your home, other structures, plants, etc. in your backyard. It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.

5. Do Clear Out Debris

It’s important to clear out debris regularly from your fire pit, even seasonal debris. It may be tempting to burn away seasonal debris inside the fire pit as you light it for the first time of the season, but this is a hazard that can quickly become dangerous.

Embers, especially on windy days with dry conditions, are a danger to homes, plants, other structures, and more. It doesn’t matter whether the embers came from a wildfire or a fire pit; they still pose a threat and can lead to a lot of danger and damage.

In addition, you don’t know everything that has been collecting within that seasonal debris. Unknown substances or items could create spitting, popping, or even an explosion if leaves are hiding different types of trash or materials.

Instead of taking unnecessary risks that could have big negative consequences, it’s better to don a pair of thick gloves and spend some time clearing out debris. This helps you avoid unnecessary risks and also ensures your fire pit is clean and ready for the first burn of the season.

6. Do Check the Weather

Make sure you check the weather and keep an eye on things when you plan to use your fire pit. Windy weather increases the risk of carrying embers beyond the fire pit and onto your home, your other structures, your neighbor’s home or structures, or nearby plants.

Dry conditions can also increase the risk of embers actually starting a fire. So, if conditions are too dry and the weather report is calling for wind, it’s best to forgo the fire pit and save it for a night with better weather.

6 Don’ts of Fire Pits

There are also some common mistakes to avoid with fire pits. Here are a few don’ts of fire pits to keep in mind:

1. Don’t Just Start Digging

If it’s allowed per local regulations, you could make your own fire pit in your backyard. But, you don’t want to just start digging. If you want a more rustic look and an in-ground fire pit, you can have a hole dug and a ring of rocks, but you will still need to check to make sure it is safe to dig before breaking ground.

You also don’t need to dig to create a fire pit. Because they are so popular, there are a ton of fire pit options available, including plenty that are above-ground and even some that are smaller and portable. With so many fire pit options, it’s easy to find one that fits your needs without destroying your landscaping and adds some style too.

2. Don’t Opt for a Permanent Structure if You’re Unsure or Have Limited Space

A built-in fire pit is a permanent structure that can be customized to the look and function you want. At the same time, it’s a permanent structure that takes up space.

If you’re not sure you want a fire pit forever or you have limited space on your deck, your patio, or your backyard, then it’s best not to go for a permanent option. A more portable above-ground option would be a better choice in this case.

3. Don’t Put the Fire Pit Next to Trees or Plants

Fire pits should not be placed too close to a house or other backyard structures; and they should also not be placed too close to trees, shrubs, or other plants. A common mistake is placing a fire pit directly under trees or next to shrubbery and other flammable plant life.

Embers can easily float to plants that are too close or hit low-hanging branches. These can easily catch fire, especially in dry conditions. So, it’s important to be aware and cautious with what surrounds your fire pit.

4. Don’t Forget to Put Down an Additional Layer

Even if your fire pit is on a stand and a pad, you don’t want to light a fire until you have an additional layer inside the fire pit. A couple of inches of sand at the bottom of your fire pit before you light it provides an additional layer between the fire and the surface below and around it. Not only does it provide more protection, but it also helps prolong the effectiveness and life of your fire pit and fire pit accessories.

5. Don’t Keep Firewood Too Close to Your Fire Pit

Although it’s tempting to keep firewood and other flammable materials within easy reach of your fire pit, it’s important that flammable materials like that are not kept too close to it. It may be tempting to have the firewood next to the pit when it is in use, but this just increases the risk of embers landing on flammable items and creating an uncontained fire outside of the pit.

6. Don’t Leave it Burning Unattended

Another common mistake and a big don’t to avoid with fire pits is leaving a fire burning unattended or letting a fire “burn itself out”. Not only are unattended fires, even in a fire pit, highly dangerous, but they are also illegal.

Always make sure someone is monitoring the fire and be sure to extinguish it completely before going inside. If you have a general stop time in mind, you should stop adding wood to the fire about an hour before you plan to go inside.

When you’re ready to head in for the night, you can use water or sand, or both, to extinguish the flames. Then, you can use a poker or another tool to spread the ashes around to make sure no hot spots are left burning.

These are just a few dos and don’ts of fire pits to make sure yours is safe, functional, and looks great. If you’re ready to get started on your custom home, contact Custom Home Group at 717-284-4090. We can help make your dream home a reality!