What You Need to Know About Installing a Deck Fire Pit

deck fire pitA deck fire pit can create a cozy, welcoming outdoor living space for your friends and family to enjoy. It makes a deck more useful even as the weather starts to cool down in the autumn. Before you install an outdoor fire pit, here’s what you need to know.

Choose a Gas Fire Pit if You Have a Wood Deck

Wood fire pits are a more traditional option, but they can be dangerous. Gas fire pits are a safer option. With wood, the fire pit gets much hotter. It also creates flying embers, which can blow away from the designated area and land on your wood or composite deck. Flying embers and sparks can even land on your roof, awning, or pergola and smolder long after you think you’ve doused the fire. Simply put, a wood fire pit just isn’t safe that close to your home. They are better for a concrete patio or cleared space in your yard than for a wood deck.

If your heart is set on wood, we have some better options for you, such as an outdoor fireplace. However, a gas fire pit can give you the cozy look and feel you really want with the safety you need.

With gas fire pits, you have several beautiful options. Additionally, you can control the heat better and you don’t have to worry about embers or sparks. However, you do still have an open flame that you’ll need to closely monitor, but they are much safer.

There are also propane fire pit options. While propane does have some advantages, such as efficiency, gas tends to be cheaper. You also don’t have to worry about whether you have a full propane tank if you have a gas line installed. Our recommendation is gas, unless you want a highly-portable fire pit.

Always Have a Deck Fire Pit Installed by A Professional

Gas fire pits are safest when you have a professional install them. Here at Structurally Speaking, we can make sure your fire pit is not only safe, but also functional. We have decades of experience with outdoor space design. We’ll make sure that we place your fire pit in an area that makes sense for the way that you’ll use it.

First, if you have an existing outdoor deck, you need to place the fire pit carefully. Even a small fire pit can be very heavy, and a wood or composite deck might sag under the weight. This is especially true if you use paver blocks to create a fire pit enclosure or want a stone fire pit built with heavy materials. Our engineers will always consider safety first, in the composition of your deck surface and your fire pit design.

Additionally, you’ll want your fire pit to be in an area with proper clearance. This means your fire pit should be adequately away from your roof, as well as structures such as pergolas and overhanging tree branches. Every manufacturer has different recommendations, and some cities have rules regarding fire pits as well. We can help you ensure your fire pit is in the right area.

You also want to make sure your outdoor space caters to enjoying the fire pit. We can design a custom deck around the concept of sitting around the fire pit with your family. Your new deck can have built-in seating around the fire pit, room for patio furniture, or other features that complement the fire pit. Instead of being an afterthought, the fire pit can truly become part of your outdoor living space. As you can see, a professional designer will ensure that you have exactly what you want on your deck, by incorporating the appropriate fire pit design.

Alternatives to Fire Pits

Maybe a deck fire pit isn’t actually the best option for your space, especially if you are going to have a wooden deck. Instead, we can look at other options including the following:

  • A Fire Pit Table
  • An Outdoor Fireplace
  • A Chimenea
  • Tiki Torches
  • A Fire Column

We can design your deck to work with any of these options or even multiple fire features.

Fire Pit Tables

Let’s start by talking about a fire pit table. These are extremely easy to use and come in a wide variety of designs. Unlike a normal fire pit, a fire table includes that table element, so you have a place to set food or drinks. They are typically smaller than a fire pit and not really great if you are looking for radiant heat. However, they are perfect for enjoying dinner together outside and even making s’mores.

Outdoor Fireplaces

An outdoor fireplace is great for some extra heat and gives you a cozy ambiance. People will generally sit in front of it instead of around it, so it is a great option for a smaller space. Since there is an enclosure to contain the flames and the smoke rises up through a chimney, you can build a fireplace as part of a covered outdoor space, even if the ceiling is low. Some people enjoy having their own pizza oven, with cast iron grates to provide an additional cooking space without a complete stove.


A chimenea is a small free-standing version of an outdoor fireplace. They direct flames and smoke out through a short vertical chimney. So, they are a safer option especially if your heart is set on wood.

Chimeneas give you a very controlled burn. Not only are they a great fire feature for the sake of ambiance, but you can also use them to cook. They work very well in small spaces, so if you don’t have room for a huge deck, consider a chimenea.


Almost everyone has seen tiki torches! They don’t give you the warmth or function of a fire pit, obviously. However, they can definitely set the mood! If you’re looking for an inexpensive fire feature to give your outdoor parties a fun vibe, we can create some built-in spots for torches as part of your deck design. Keep in mind that torches don’t have to be the party “tiki” variety made to look like bamboo or thatched leaves. There are also outdoor torches that work as heat lamps or have a more elegant look.

Fire Columns

A fire column is kind of like a fire table in that it gives you a raised fire feature experience. Unlike a fire table, fire columns typically do not have the table part that surrounds the fire. They are tall and slim, but still provide an open flame so you can roast your marshmallows.

Most fire columns use propane as a power source. There are some gas-powered fire columns as well. You can also find some columns that use gel fuel, which is a safer alternative to gas. Gel fuel is also use in some fire tables and other fire features.

Fire Feature Regulations

Before you install a fire pit, or have us design a deck with a fire pit, we’ll want to check out local regulations. Every city/county has different fire feature rules and guidelines. Some require a nearby water source, like a hose. You might also need a permit if you will be burning wood. If you are having gas installed, most require a licensed professional to do this work, which is where we come in.

Keep in mind that you may also need to adhere to homeowner’s association rules. Many neighborhoods will not approve a wood burning fire pit if it is open, due to the fire hazard it presents. We can help you navigate all rules and laws in your area.

Additionally, you’ll want to check your homeowner’s insurance before you install a fire pit or any kind of outdoor feature that involves fire. Your insurance may not cover any kind of fire or other heating source, or you may need special insurance. Again, this is something we can help you navigate if you are unsure.

Usually, you’ll have the most issues if you want to install a large wood burning fire pit. We recommend a small fire pit instead, as well as choosing a gas option. It’s safer, while still looking beautiful. You can use a gas fire pit with your wood or composite decking without any problems.

Special Products to Make Your Fire Pit Even Better

We want you to completely love your outdoor fire pit. So, we have a few product recommendations to help make your fire pit more functional!

  • Fire pit guards – we can make these out of a variety of materials, but are most commonly glass. A glass wind guard sits a few inches away from the pit itself. It can help prevent the wind from blowing out the flame. They also prevent a visual barrier to stop people from getting too close to the flame.
  • Heat deflectors – if you intend to use your outdoor deck for as long as possible, invest in a heat deflector. Deflectors look like a little metal roof you put over the flame. It will direct the heat out to people sitting around the fire instead of up into the sky. Deflectors are removable so you can avoid getting overheated in the summer.
  • Lids and covers – fire pits are meant to withstand the elements. However, a lid and cover will help it last longer. It’s like using a protective covering on your outdoor grill. You might not need it, but it certainly extends the life of the grill.

Other fire feature accessories are available depending on the type of fire pit you choose. For example, we recommend a screen if your heart is set on a wood burning fire pit and lava rocks or glass fire stones if you are going with gas.

More Features to Create a Beautiful Deck

An outdoor fire pit is just the start if you want a deck that your friends and family can enjoy all year long. Here at Structurally Speaking, we have experience making your deck dreams a reality. Instead of a basic slab of wood, we’ll design a custom deck that perfectly suits your home and lifestyle. Your backyard can become a retreat and an ideal place for family dining, relaxing, game night or even movie night under the stars!

Here are just a few of the other features we can include in your deck design:

  • Pergolas, which provide shade and are great for climbing plants like ivy
  • Hot tubs for the ultimate luxurious deck experience that you can even enjoy when it is snowing
  • Adequate space for stand-alone seating, which we design thoughtfully so you have a functional outdoor dining space
  • Planters to help you create a garden oasis

We can also help you create a combination deck and sunroom or deck and enclosed porch. This is a great choice if you have a family that loves spending time in indoor/outdoor spaces. Sunrooms and porches make any outdoor space more functional, since they provide protection from the elements and insects.

With today’s restrictions due to Covid-19, families are spending more time at home and need more space for activities. A custom deck can provide that much-needed area for a variety of uses.

If you aren’t sure what you want, don’t worry. Our owner and lead designer, Jim Brennan, will sit down with you during the initial consultation to discuss your needs and ideas. He oversees every project to ensure you get a deck that is exactly right for you. After the consultation, we’ll work on a few different design ideas. At the design presentation, you can give us feedback and we’ll work together to finalize your new deck design. We’ll only start the building process when you are completely happy with the design.

Ready to Get Started?

Your design consultation is completely free! We want you to be 100% sure that Structurally Speaking is the right deck builder for you. To begin, fill out the above form to schedule your consultation. We’ll talk about your budget, wish list, material options, and more.

If you have questions, you can also contact us any time by clicking here or call us at 919-786-4825. We look forward to working with you soon.