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Nothing beats relaxing around your fire pit and enjoying a nice, toasty blaze.
Whether it’s a family gathering or a peaceful moment for a private retreat, and whether it’s to roast marshmallows on a summer evening or to warm up on a chilly autumn night, outdoor fire pits are some of the most popular outdoor space features.
If you have a covered deck or patio, you may be tempted to place your fire pit underneath it.
Perhaps you’re seeking protection from the elements, or maybe you just want a more enclosed and cozy feeling.
But can you use a fire pit on a covered deck?
Before you put your pit under any roofed structure, it’s important to be aware of certain safety precautions that must be observed.
Building codes in your locality
Check with the building codes in your area.
These regulations might have particular stipulations regarding the placement of fire pits or their use, or the kinds of materials and design of any structure in which you may put a fire pit.
You may need to obtain a permit or arrange for an inspection from the fire marshal or building department.
Ensure proper ventilation
Never use a fire pit in an entirely or largely enclosed space. This is particularly true if you have a wood-burning pit.
The smoke produced by combustion of solid fuels is toxic and can accumulate quickly to deadly levels in spaces that are not sufficiently ventilated.
Allow for enough air flow around your fire pit by only placing it in locations where there are no walls and where there are adequate openings to allow fresh air in and carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other gases out.
Location of the deck and furnishings
Make sure that the area around the deck is free from flammable items, like plants, furniture, or structures.
Ensure that any furnishings on the deck itself can be used safely around an open flame and avoid anything made of combustible materials.
Again, consult local building codes and regulations because these will often stipulate minimum distance requirements between a fire pit and other structures.
Heat rises, as do flames, which means that the distance from the fire pit to the ceiling is crucial.
If the ceiling is too low for the size fires you burn, the heat will cause significant damage to the ceiling over time, rendering it structurally unsound.
Ceilings that are too low are also fire risks.
Check the minimum height clearance indicated by the fire pit’s manufacturer.
Also check for any requirements about ceiling height in your locality’s building codes and regulations.
If your structure’s ceiling is too low, you should contact a licensed contractor about the possibility of raising it to a sufficient height.
Most decks are constructed with wooden or composite flooring—or, occasionally, vinyl.
These materials are highly combustible and so you should avoid placing a fire pit on or near them.
To be safe, your deck should have a noncombustible surface for its floor.
The best materials are stone, brick, or concrete. While these will radiate any heat that they absorb, they are not going to catch on fire.
Fuel source and burn area
As noted above, wood-burning fire pits produce a thick smoke and large quantities of toxic gases, most dangerously, carbon monoxide.
In a covered area—even one with no walls—these can build up to lethal levels.
Simultaneously, the fire in the fire pit burns by consuming the oxygen around it.
The combination of oxygen depletion with the accumulation of toxic gases and smoke can be lethal.
In addition, wood fires emit embers, sparks, and other burning debris that can easily ignite any flammable materials near the pit.
Similarly, look at the surface area of the top of the pit, where the flames are produced.
The size of this part of the pit—the burn area—is directly proportional to the volume of gas generated by the fire.
The wider the burn area, the higher the quantity of gas thrown off.
If you are going to use a fire pit on a covered deck, the safest option is to use a gas-burning pit with a narrow or limited burn area.
Wood-burning pits with wide burn areas should only be used in open, clear, uncovered spaces.
In most places, the installation of a gas fire pit must be inspected and pre-approved by local authorities, and you may need to hire a contractor for its installation.
Observe all safety precautions
If your covered deck and pit meet all of the safety measures indicated above, there are still other safety precautions that you should observe when using your fire pit:
- Always keep a charged, appropriately sized fire extinguisher on the deck.
- Keep combustible furniture and other deck items away from the fire pit.
- Keep gas grills away from the fire pit.
- Do not allow children or pets near the fire pit.
- Always keep your fire pit clean and in good working order.
- Never leave a fire pit burning unless it is under the supervision of a qualified adult.
If you are wary about putting your fire pit under the roof of your covered deck, consider some of the alternatives for making your deck a cozy, warm space.
Outdoor fireplaces, with chimneys or chimney-pipes vented out the roof, can be installed.
If that option is too expensive, there are also electric -or gas-powered patio heaters that are designed for use on covered decks, either by installation in the walls or roof or as free-standing units.
If you opt for a patio heater, make sure that it is specifically manufactured for use in a roofed structure.
So, can you use a fire pit on a covered deck?
The answer is: yes, if you observe the proper safety precautions, comply with local codes and regulations, and follow the manufacturer’s requirements.
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