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Guidelines to Buying a Fire Pit
Fire pits are rapidly growing in popularity, becoming one of the most sought-after accessories in your backyard. The variety available in the market today is endless, so finding the right one for you and your budget has never been easier.
First of all, before you make any decisions, check with your local authorities regarding the fire regulations in your area. Operational requirements may include restrictions on the type of fire feature, construction materials, dimensions and location, as well as what can be burned. Make sure you are aware of this before you spend your hard earned money or start working!
Fire pits can be as simple or elaborate as you want or can afford. Whether you want to create an attractive landscape design feature or recreate the campfire experience of childhood memories. Maybe you want to enjoy your outdoor area when the nights get too cold, after all, there’s nothing like the warmth of a fire to provide a cozy gathering space with a roaring flame.
Two key decisions are whether to build a permanent fire pit or buy a portable one and whether to burn wood or gas. Choosing the style, material and size of a fire pit may seem straightforward but taking into account small issues such as functionality, convenience, maintenance and safety will ensure you get the right fire fit for you. The pros and cons are listed below to help you achieve this and avoid any pitfalls! (Sorry, just couldn’t resist!)
Choosing the right location for your fire pit and safety.
Safety should be your main concern when figuring out where to locate your fire pit. Your local code may have specific criteria so make sure you are fully aware of the details!
Generally speaking, they should be placed away from trees, shrubs or any other flammable materials, structures, buildings or walls. Debris or organic material that can catch fire easily, such as leaves, pine needles, dry grass, must be cleared from an area at least 10 feet from the fire pit.
Both permanent and portable fire pits should be placed above a fire-resistant surface only. A layer of gravel or concrete around the fire pit will help prevent the fire from accidentally spreading.
Keeping the fire pit out of the flow of traffic and raising the fire pit off the ground will make it harder for anyone to accidentally walk or fall on you.
Choose a location for the fire pit that minimizes the impact of smoke on neighboring properties or your property or belongings. If this is a problem, switch to gas burning fire pits as they do not emit smoke.
If children are a factor, include a barrier such as a low wall around the pit to ensure they are kept a safe distance from the flames. Some portable fire pits are designed with a protective glass or Pyrex shield. It also helps limit the effect of wind on the flame.
Always use safety screens for wood burning pits. They come in various shapes and sizes and help contain sparks and flying embers. Some models are sold with them, however if you are building a fire pit be sure to include a screen in the design.
The materials used in the fire pit should be carefully considered. Porous stone, untreated river rocks and even cinder blocks should not be used in fire pits. They may explode if placed near extreme heat. Standard building bricks will crack over time and need to be replaced. Pits should be lined with fire rated material such as firebricks or thick steel rings to prevent these fires. Use fire rated mortar. Adhesives are not advised as they can emit unhealthy fumes when heated.
Wood vs Gas Burning
Convenience – The advantage of gas is that you can have an instant flame without any effort. No preparation is required and best of all there is nothing to clean up afterwards. Burning gas does not produce smoke so it is ideal for places where this may be a problem. Unless your fire pit has gas lines you’ll need to replace the gas tanks when they’re empty, but if you’re burning wood, you’ll need a supply of logs. You have to start the fire before you can light it, keep it burning, put it out and finally clean the ashes. More work perhaps, but for some people, the smell of burning wood, the sound of a crackling fire, and the memories it evokes more than make up for it.
Safety – Gas burning pits do not produce sparks or flying embers and have a flame that you can control. When you close the gas fire pit at the end of the evening, you know the fire is completely out. Wood burning fires need a little more care and attention before you can sleep with peace of mind. Many gas burning models come with a glass or Pyrex shield. This safety feature not only helps protect people gathering around the flame by creating a barrier, but also reduces the effect of wind on the flame. For wood-burning fire pits, use a safety screen to minimize sparks and embers and use only dry wood.
Maintenance – It depends on the material it is made of and the fuel it uses. Gas fire burners and valves must be cleaned regularly to prevent obstructions and dirt accumulation due to insect nests. Although this is easy to do, it is often advisable to have them inspected by a professional. A well-built wood-burning fire pit requires little maintenance other than emptying the ash. If you use it for cooking, it may require additional cleaning to remove grease and residue. Some metal fire pits will require further maintenance to keep them rust-free and looking their best. It is a good idea to use a weather resistant cover to increase longevity.
Aesthetics – Fire pits of any type are an attractive addition to any backyard or patio. Gas fireplaces are great if you’re leaning towards a more contemporary look. You can cover the burner with lava rocks, treated river rocks, fireplace logs, or fire glass. Fire glass comes in an amazing array of colors, it can provide an effect that takes your fire pit to a spectacular level.
Environmental Impact – Fire pits may be magical but that doesn’t negate the fact that they are used more for pleasure than necessity. So if their environmental impact is important to you, choose natural gas and propane because they are cleaner burning. After all, there is no doubt that wood smoke is a pollutant.
Forever Vs. Portable.
Portable fire pits offer the most flexibility and versatility and come in a variety of sizes, shapes, materials and can meet almost any budget requirement. They range from small portable campfires to full-sized outdoor dining fire tables you can take with you on vacation. They can be fueled by burning wood, natural gas, propane or gel. The advantage of their permanence is that you can replace them whenever you need or want. If you are moving house, you can take them with you.
Camping Fire Pit – Not only can you set one of these up in the back yard when you feel like having a campfire, you can actually pack it up and take it with you on your camping trip. Collapsible legs and a carrying case make it very easy. Don’t forget to bring a safety screen to contain flying sparks.
Chimenia – These are perfect for patios or small spaces. They have the advantage of a chimney that channels smoke and away from guests. More traditional types open on one side only, ideal for patio edges. More modern designs can provide 360º heat, though purists won’t call this a chimera.
Fire Bowl – The term fire bowl covers a wide variety of designs and can be made from different fire resistant materials. They are not always round, they come in different shapes. Some are designed on stands or have legs to raise them off the ground. Others can simply be embedded into the ground or structure, or placed atop a plinth or pedestal for maximum impact. Many models also come with cooking grates so you can use them for grilling.
Fire Tables – These are tables and fire pits. They combine the qualities of two of the most favored social centers of the home. The warmth of the fireside where the burning flames and the dining table around which families and friends gather to enjoy food, chat, laughter, gossip etc. Coffee table fire pits make a centerpiece for your outdoor seating/shelter. The place is the perfect hang out spot. Some fire dining tables can even come with cooking appliances for the ultimate entertaining experience.
Outdoor Grilling – Using a fire pit for cooking can be easily achieved by placing a grate on top. However there are fire pits available that are designed to meet more ambitious cooking needs and still provide the great qualities of a fire pit for all to enjoy.
Permanent fire pits are fixed structures, either built in place using long-lasting materials such as brick and mortar, rock and stone, or are so heavy that moving them is not an option. You have the advantage of being able to design them to blend in with your existing patio or deck, even matching existing materials. The only limit to this is your own imagination.
If you don’t have the budget or construction skills for elaborate projects, buying a pre-designed permanent fire pit kit that you can put together yourself is an easy option.
If that’s more to your liking, buy a ready-made fire pit.
Simple and inexpensive wood-burning fire pits can be built in the ground using the classic method found in campsites and parks today. It’s as simple as 123.
1-To dig a hole in the ground.
2-Add gravel and sand for drainage and provide a level base.
3-Line it with a metal ring to contain the flame and help concentrate the heat.
Some local authorities only allow above ground fire pits, so please check first!! Do not leave a layer of gravel and sand as root fire is a concern. If the fire pit is not sitting directly on rock, some local authorities insist on a base of 25 cm!
If you decide to burn gas, you can either run gas lines to the fire pit or incorporate a propane tank into the design, preferably hidden. We strongly recommend using a certified technician when connecting natural gas or propane to any fire feature. Gas fire pit kits come in all shapes and sizes. You can purchase a burner kit to incorporate into your design or a complete design ready for you to apply the finish of your choice.
To use safely:
There are some common sense rules for safely enjoying your fire pit.
Never leave a fire unattended.
Do not use in windy conditions.
Use a safety screen to help keep flying embers and sparks down.
Make strict rules for children and make sure they follow them.
Do not leave children unsupervised in the area.
Watch out for friends who have a few too many, they’ll need just as much supervision as the kids!
Have a bucket of water, sand or a fire extinguisher handy.
Always ensure that the fire is completely extinguished before going to bed.
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