Q. A neighbor and his wife got into a big fight about their outdoor deck and fire pit. I 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. Can you share some tips about building an outdoor fire pit? What are the top things to consider, especially if it’s going to be part of a wood deck?
A.I hate to say this, but I’ve been your neighbor — minus the scream fest.
Here’s a true story. Years ago, when I built a dream 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.
The problem was that it made the room on the other side of the wall, our family room with a fireplace, too small. My wife kept saying: “The family room is too small. Hardly any furniture will fit.” When I insisted on building it my way, she said, “Well, I can guarantee you one day you’ll be remodeling the two rooms and moving the fireplace to the outside wall.”
Those words replayed in my head when I was up on my roof taking the first swing of a 4-pound hammer to tear down a 35-foot tall chimney that had to be moved just seven feet to the side.
Gentlemen, listen to your wives!
It just so happens fire pits are a minor hobby of mine. I’ve built several and sat around many. Here are a few key fire pit ideas to 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, so make the view beyond something nice if possible. Believe it or not, when I sit at my own fire pit my back is turned to the third largest lake in New Hampshire. The idiot who built my fire pit (not me!) has you looking away from the lake.
Second, it’s very important to consider prevailing winds. Some backyards have a particular direction the wind typically blows. (Note: The wind may not blow that direction all the time.) You don’t want the seating area around the fire pit to be downwind of the fire or everyone will be rubbing their eyes or dodging flying embers.
Third, 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 will roast. This means that the seating area needs to be at least 10 feet deep from the…