A fire pit is the perfect complement to an outdoor dinner party with friends, and a great heat source for your family to enjoy the backyard during the colder season. While you may have made the decision that you want a fire pit – you may not know where to start, and digging into your backyard without a plan is not a good way to begin.

Here are seven things that will help you select the best kind of pit for your home, and use it safely.

1. Basic Considerations

Three important things you should consider when purchasing a fire pit:

  • Portable or permanent installation: If you’re looking for a fire that you can move around or one that’s less expensive, portable is the way to go.
  • Gas or wood burning: You can build or purchase models that is either gas or wood burning, so it boils down to personal preference and whether you have proper ventilation to burn wood.
  • Material: The material you choose will affect the quality and design of your fire pit. Consider rust resistance, heat retention and design when choosing a fire pit.

Deck - Patio

2. Check for Regulations

Believe it or not, most communities have regulations when it comes to fire pits. There may be restrictions or zoning regulations in your area, so check with the police department or city authorities before purchasing a fire pit.

3. Location, Location, Location

It’s important to strategically plan the location for your pit. First, it should be at least ten feet from your house, and allow for about a six foot diameter for guests to sit safely around the pit. If your home has a view, you may also want to consider placing the fire pit where the view can be enjoyed.

You’ll also want to take into consideration the fire pit’s orientation in respect to the wind. No one will be able to enjoy the inviting warmth of the heat if smoke and embers are blowing in their face, or if the wind is sending smoke towards an outdoor table.

Fire pit - Fireplace

4. Set on Fire-Safe Surfaces

In addition to identifying the perfect location, be sure to place or build your fire pit on a neutral surface such as gravel, brick or stone. Placing a it on a wood deck or lawn runs the risk of catching fire from drifting embers and sparks.

5. Wood and Stone Choice Matters

Since pits are great for families and friends to gather around, be selective about your choice of wood or stone. Cherry wood not only smells amazing, but it does not spark like pine and other softer woods. In addition, don’t use pressed woods because they emit toxins.

For gas fire pits, use lava rocks or fire glass. Never use stones or river rocks you’ve collected outdoors on your own because they can contain water which, when heated, will cause the rock to explode.

Fire rock - Fire glass

6. Old Fashioned Fires

When it comes to wood burning pits, light your fire the old fashioned way with a piece of newspaper and kindling. Don’t use flammable liquids because they can flair and send off harmful toxins.

7. Exercise Caution

Just by taking a few extra precautions when you first get your fire pit, you can spend more time simply enjoying the comforting blaze. Most fire pits come equipped with screens to help minimize ash and sparks, but if yours did not, be sure to purchase one in order to protect anyone enjoying the fire.

You will also need to properly maintain your pit as it gets more use. If you have a permanent fire pit, make sure that there is a secure drainage system to keep it dry. For both permanent and portable fire pits, purchase a cover to protect it from the elements and increase the longevity of your fire pit. Throughout its lifetime you’ll want to check for any loose hardware, regularly remove debris and ashes, and clean it regularly with a metal brush, soap and water.

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About the Author:

Pro.com is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.