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Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas DIY

Outdoor Fire Pit

This outdoor deck and fire pit weren’t planned well. The owner is now forced to rebuild the fire pit and the deck. (C) Copyright 2017 Tim Carter

Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas DIY TIPS

  • Plan seating area to look at great view beyond fire pit
  • Be aware of wind direction - avoid smoke in your face
  • Large fires get hot - be sure seats are far enough away
  • Embers can catch wood decks on fire
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DEAR TIM: A neighbor of mine and his wife got into a big fight about their outdoor deck and fire pit. You couldn’t help but overhear.

The husband thought he was building the deck a good size with the fire pit in the center of the deck. The wife told him it was all wrong.

Long story short, the wife was right and now he’s tearing it all apart.

If you’re going to build an outdoor fire pit can you share some tips so everything goes smoothly? What are the top things to consider, especially if you’re building one that’s going to be part of a wood deck? Ron S., Seymour, IN

DEAR RON: I’ve heard some screaming matches like that in my last neighborhood. One day a nearby wife got so mad at her husband she took a baseball bat to the windshield of his favorite car. I don’t know what the fight was about, but it was uncomfortable to listen to across the street.

My Own Lack Of Foresight

I hate to say this, but I’ve been your neighbor but sans the scream fest. Here’s a true story.

Years ago, when I built the dream Queen Anne Victorian house for my wife, I insisted that my office be on the first floor so subcontractors could come into the house and just turn left into my office. In our previous home, they had to walk through the house.

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The issue is it made the room on the other side of the wall, our family room with a fireplace, too small. My wife drew the plans and she kept saying, “The family room is too small. Hardly any furniture will fit.”

When I objected after the third time she said, “Well, I can guarantee you one day you’ll be remodeling the two rooms and moving the fireplace to the outside wall.

Down Comes The Chimney

I heard those words replayed in my head when I was up on my roof taking the first swing of a 4-pound hammer to start to tear down a 35-foot tall chimney that had to be moved just seven feet sideways. Gentlemen, listen to your wives!

I Love Fire Pits

It just so happens fire pits are a minor hobby of mine. I’ve built several and sat around many.

I have one here at my own home, but I neither built the fire pit nor the home. The idiot who built my current fire pit must have been blind.

What Do You Look At?

Here are a few must-have fir pit ideas you should consider. First and foremost, think about any view beyond the fire pit.

It’s not always going to be pitch dark when a fire is roaring and think about what are you looking at over and beyond the fire. Are you sitting there looking at the ugly brick wall of your garage or family room?

Make it something nice if possible. In my case, believe it or not, my back is turned to the third largest lake in New Hampshire when I sit at my own fire pit. The idiot who built my fire pit has you looking away from the lake.

Smoke In Your Face?

Second, it’s very important to consider any prevailing winds. Some backyards have a particular direction the wind blows. The wind may not blow that direction all the time, but frequently.

You don’t want the seating area around the fire pit to be downwind of the fire as everyone will be rubbing their eyes or getting flying embers into their clothes.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local patio contractors who can build a fire pit for you.

Radiant Heat - Sit Back!

Think about how hot fires get. If you have a roaring fire, you often can’t be any closer than 4 or 5 feet to the edge of the fire or you roast.

This means that the seating area needs to be at least 10 feet deep from the edge of the fire pit so there’s enough room in front of any chairs and room to walk behind the chairs.

Embers Cause Unwanted Fires

I’ll bet if you talk with your local fire department captain she or he will tell you a story about a deck that caught on fire from an ember or leaves under a deck that ignited. It’s very bad when these fires erupt after everyone has left the deck and the fire is in the smoldering stage.

I’d create a masonry hearth around the fire pit that’s at least 18 inches deep. You want no wood or decking within 18 inches of the edge of the fire pit. Your local code may call for a greater distance, so refer to it for guidance.

Ring Of Safety

Think about leaf debris and anything else that’s combustible that could accumulate near or around the fire pit. Keep an 8-foot ring of safety and possibly more.

If you can afford it and are willing to do the work, I’d run a seasonal water line, even if it’s just a great garden hose in an underground large conduit pipe, so you have running water right next to the fire pit in case something goes wrong.

How nice would it be to just turn a valve and have a charged garden hose right there to put out an out-of-control fire.

Fire Pit Diameter

The diameter of the fire pit should be no less than 3 feet and 5 feet is more than enough. Ring it with stone or other fireproof material. The height of the stone should be about 1 foot above the ground level where you stack the wood that will make the fire.

Wood Storage

Plan a spot for wood storage so that it doesn’t take up valuable deck space where a chair might be. You want the wood close enough so it’s not a hassle to retrieve, but not so close that it could catch fire from a rogue ember that wanders from the fire pit.

Build A Test Fire

As crazy as this sounds, it’s always best to build a test fire where you think you’ll have the fire pit. Make the fire as large as you normally might have it.

See how close you can comfortably sit. Use string to outline how much space you want behind the chairs. This simple test will ensure you build the best fire pit and the perfect deck or patio that will surround it.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local patio contractors who can build a fire pit for you.

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