Outdoor fire pits can be great places for summer barbecues and late night holiday parties. If you have kids, pets, and elderly relatives around on occasion, then you should know that fire pits can be dangerous. In fact, around 5,600 people in the United States are injured every year by gas, wood, and propane fires. These statistics include injuries from outdoor fire pits. While burns do happen, there are things you can do to make sure your new fire pit is safe. Making sure your pit is placed on solid ground is the first thing you should do.
Start With A Solid Foundation
Before you purchase or build your fire pit, you should build a solid structure for it to sit on. The best surfaces are ones that are fire resistant, heavy, and able to retain an even and level surface over an extended period of time. Surfaces like stone, brick, ceramic, and concrete are good choices. Not only will these things remain structurally sound under high levels of heat, but they also will not buckle or collapse under temperature extremes.
Brick and concrete are often used as heat shields and foundations for fire pits because they are inexpensive. If you want a more permanent shield, then opt for a concrete one. If you want to move or demolish the pit at some point, then create a brick structure. Purchase firebricks or refractory bricks for the shield since they can withstand higher levels of heat than traditional bricks without cracking. Keep in mind that you should purchase full-sized firebricks for the pit. Splits are often sold at fireplace supply stores and are typically placed on the bottom of fireplaces and stoves. Splits are half the thickness of traditional bricks and not ideal for fire pit constructions. If you have trouble finding full-sized refractory bricks, then go to your local masonry store instead of a general home or heating supplier.
If you decide to go with the firebricks, then you will need to use refractory cement as well when placing the bricks next to one another. This material is resistant to heat like the firebricks.
Find The Best Spot
Once you consider the material you want to create your fire shield or pit foundation, you want to locate the perfect area on your property to secure the shield. The best spot is one that is level and relatively dry. Find an area on your property that is level but high enough on your land that water will not interfere with the structure. If water pools nearby when it rains or if an area of the property floods, then look for another space for the pit. Wet ground can cause your pit foundation to sink or shift over time. If the majority of your property is typically wet, then dig a large six foot by six foot area where you want to place the pit. Add two to four inches of crushed gravel to the area to let water drain away from the space.
Also, your fire pit area should be 10, 15, or even 20 feet from your home. It should be far away from trees as well as any large brush or weeds. Also, make sure the pit is placed on the side of your property where the tree line or the house will block some of the strongest winds from the flames. This is important if you live in a windy area.
If you do not know which side of the property is windy, then contact or go to the website of the National Water and Climate Center. This organization has wind data for each state as well as different regions within each state. The data indicates the direction, speed, and frequency of prevailing winds in your area. With a compass, you can use this information to determine where the wind is less likely to reach your fire pit. For example, if eastern winds are strongest and blow across the side of your house, then place your pit on the western side of your house. For more information, visit a site like http://www.alpinefireplaces.com.