Fire pits and outdoor decks go hand in hand like warm mugs of tea on rainy evenings. After all, what better way to use all that open space than hanging out with friends and family, huddled around the warmth of a nice fire? Except it’s not quite as simple as that. Before even choosing a fire pit, it’s mandatory to check if your city or municipality’s ordinances allow for open fire pits in the first place. Some prohibit wood-burning fires, open flames within 20 feet of residences, or installing a fire pit on a wooden deck in the first place.
And these are precautionary measures for good reason. Wood, naturally, is extremely flammable, and careless handling of fire pits – especially those fueled by wood, which spit out embers and sparks – can be fire hazards waiting to happen. Nonetheless, if you are invested enough – and of course have managed to clear any and all requirements for owning a fire pit – there are a handful of options to make it less of an ordeal.
Crawford Outdoor Square Liquid Propane Fire Pit
Tasteful, pre-assembled and portable, this fire-pit will likely meld seamlessly into the scenery of any open deck, without the added hassle of extra planning and construction. Add to this the fact that it is fueled with liquid propane, and it easily wins our spot for Star Pick. Propane is one of the best options for fire pit fuel, since it lets you manage the size and intensity of the flames so they don’t get out of hand, the flames just warm enough to keep you and your company cozy.
Apart from its charming, somewhat rustic appearance, the pit comes with magnesium oxide and steel to both enhance the warmth of the fire, and insulate it to keep it from spreading. Lava rocks are also included in the package, to evenly distribute the heat and act as kindling, and disguise the gas-ring for a more natural effect.
STAR BUDGET PICK
Endless Summer LP Gas Table Top Fireplace
If you’re a bit queasy about the prospect of lighting gas-rings under beds of lava rock, this is an even simpler, yet equally effective option. This portable fire pit comes with an in-built electronic control panel to light, adjust and maintain the flames, negating the need to build your own fire for any inexperienced fire-bugs.
This does not deter the effect, though – the propane tank fueling the system and the control panel are both cleverly camouflaged within the faux stone base, pulling off the appearance of a perfectly natural slate fireplace. Accompanied by black fire glass, which both acts as a screen to keep the fire contained as well as artfully refracting the light to make it seem brighter, this fire-pit is a great trade-off between effort and outcome.
Endless Summer LP Gas Outdoor Firebowl
It may look lightweight with its wicker-case appearance, but is certainly anything but. Though less bulky than our two top picks – making it an ideal pit for smaller decks or patio areas – this fire pit is still a tough contender, hiding a propane tank and electronic ignition panel within its decorative steel base.
Contradicting the somewhat casual appearance the faux wicker detail gives it, the metal base gives the whole structure adequate stability, while lava rocks and the multi-spark ignition technology make for sweat-free use and handling. While smaller in stature, this pit can still amp out up to 30,000 BTUs, easily warming up its perimeter, and is charming enough to serve as a great visual centerpiece to tie your deck’s appearance together.
Bond Portable Bronze Propane Campfire Fire Pit
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If sturdiness and looks aren’t the top entries in your checklist for the ideal fire pit, this might be just what you are looking for. Miniature, portable and lightweight, this is not only a great pit to put away indoors and break out for pleasant evenings spent on the deck, but are great for carrying with you on camping, road or beach trips. One of the best things about this almost stove-like fire pit is that the portability and compactness doesn’t come at the cost of shirking safety.
The steel frame and lockable lid keep the fire in check, whilst a tank tray keeps the external propane tank stable. The pit also comes with pumice stones, porous rocks which can hold flammable liquid while also insulating heat, and a 10-foot gas hose and regulator to light quick, manageable flames on the go. Size is clearly not a detriment for this fire-pit either – a little reminiscent of a decorative, cast-iron lantern, it can muster up to 50,000 BTUs, so you won’t have to worry about being cold with this handy guy around.
Choosing the Best Fire Pit for Wooden Decks
When it comes to open flames, safety always comes first. While there are extra precautions one can take to crank up a wood-fueled fire-pit, we highly recommend opting for a gas or propane-fueled pit instead. Without the risk of flying sparks catching on nearby foliage or the panels of your deck and the constant need for supervision, you are more likely to simply bask in the warmth of your fire pit. Wood-fires are also a lot more difficult to control – propane or gas-fuelled pits are much easier to outfit with regulators, for the added precaution of keeping flames from getting too high or erratic.
Nonetheless, one can never be too safe. Even with spark and ember-free fuel sources, fire pits equipped with additional safety features like fire glass, sturdy bases and insulating materials to keep the fire contained are instant pluses where wooden decks are concerned. We also recommend portable fire pits to fixed ones – pits built into decks can undermine the structural stability of decks, and require tons of careful planning and professional know-how.
Lastly, before getting anywhere near your fire pit – assuming of course you have had it approved by local authorities – make sure you are fully aware of how to operate it. Most fire pits should come with manuals; ensure you’re familiar with them before attempting to operate them, rather than risking any unfortunate fire incidents by improvising.