Do shorter days and crisp fall air have you excited to take to the great outdoors? Imagine hosting outside gatherings on your deck around a toasty fire, comfortably stargazing at night, or staying warm while watching your favorite football team on your outdoor television. All are possible with the addition of a fire pit or fireplace on your deck.

Fireplaces and pits are popular deck add-ons. They enhance your space’s charm and functionality, helping you and your guests enjoy more outdoor time throughout the year and despite the weather. With all kinds of designs, shapes, and sizes, there are many options to transform your deck into a fun, inviting, warmer space.

However, adding a fireplace or pit is not as cut and dry as it seems. Naturally, including elements of high heat and fire increases safety concerns. You’ll need to ensure the function and safety of your chosen heating source, plus safeguard yourself and your loved ones because there’s nothing fun about an unsafe deck. As your Colorado custom decking company, we want you to keep the following three things in mind when planning for your fireplace or fire pit.

Fireplace Safety on Your Deck: Three Things to Keep in Mind

(the blowup/Unsplash)

Choose Your Heating Source, But Not THIS One.

We never recommend a live fire on a deck–there’s too much that could go up in smoke (if you catch our drift). A floating ember or gust of wind could quickly start a fire in places you don’t want. As most decks are attached to houses, you don’t want to compromise your home or family.

Even if you take the utmost precautions to tame the flames of live fire, its radiant heat gets hot enough to melt vinyl planks. And with continued use, it could scorch and burn through your composite or wood planks. Worst of all, that radiant heat can set close-by dry leaves, needles, bark, or anything else highly flammable, ablaze without a spark or flame ever touching them.

Lastly, with our climate’s dry weather and our state’s history of forest fires, it could be downright illegal to have a live fire in your backyard. It’s best to play it safe and look for other options.

What do we recommend, then? We favor gas or electric fireplaces. Just be sure to read all manufacturer’s materials to confirm that they are approved for outdoor use. Outdoor exposure requires a specialized, outdoor-tested, and certified heating source that can withstand elements like dust, dirt, debris, rain, and snow.

A gas or electric fireplace is just as grand and eye-catching as a live fire but without as many safety hazards–there are no sparks, ash, or embers to worry about, and the radiant heat isn’t as high as live fire.

Check your local housing ordinance’s fire codes and your HOA’s rules to determine if an outdoor gas fireplace or pit is okay. In some areas, even gas is a no-no. Then, look for a certified, outdoor-approved gas or electric fireplace that suits the space requirements you’re trying to heat.

Find the Best Place to Put It

Where you’ll put your fireplace or pit is just as important as the type. You’ll want plenty of space so that it doesn’t get in the way of the flow of foot traffic and natural pathways. People, children, and pets can walk across your deck without accidentally touching your heating source’s hot surfaces.

Also, keep overhead spaces in mind. Roofs, awnings, plants, and tree branches must be considered to determine the safety of rising heat. Give your deck installation experts a call to help you evaluate and plan around your overhead spaces when planning for your fire pit or fireplace.

A Heavy Load

The magnitude of your dream fireplace or pit could be a weighty issue. The load your deck can support and the weight your fireplace will add can’t be overlooked.

Stone and brick surroundings and bases are obviously heavier materials that can significantly increase the load your deck will have to bear. Supports, propane, and other elements further add to the overall heft. With the addition of a fireplace or pit, chances are good the number of people your deck has to hold will increase, too.

Weaknesses and degradations to planks and your deck’s foundation will need to be identified and reinforced or a lighter fireplace option chosen. Once again, give your custom deck installers a call to help you assess the integrity of your deck and the amount of weight it can safely support.

Create the Deck of Your Dreams

A fireplace is great for small gatherings held on your deck but should not compromise your deck’s safety. If your deck doesn’t have the right amount of clearance space that your heating source requires or cannot bear the additional load, then your deck is not suitable for a fireplace or fire pit. Call the Denver deck pros at SRI Decks to consider options for upgrading your deck’s square footage.