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You work hard, and you can finally build the outdoor space of your dreams. Good for you! As you consider different options, fire pits and pergolas are likely both pieces you have considered for your backyard, but can you put a fire pit under a pergola?
Great question. It is doable, but there are some considerations worth thinking through.
Can You Build Fire Pits Under Pergolas?
Pergolas are traditionally built from wood, which generally works better as fuel for a fire pit than as a covering over fire features, so you are wise to research whether this is something you should consider.
After all, pergolas and fire pits are excellent additions to a backyard! Why not combine the two and create a fire pit pergola?! We like the way you think, but we want to avoid any fire hazards, and we are sure you would prefer not to create a fire hazard either.
5 Things To Consider
The good news is that there are ways to enjoy a fire pit pergola safely. Many homeowners have found a way to make it happen, and we are confident that with the proper preparation, you will find a way to do the same. Here are five things to consider.
1. What Is The Pergola Made Of?
The reality is that not all pergolas are created equal, and you obviously want to avoid any material or pergola setup that may easily catch fire. Fortunately, pergolas have evolved quite a bit in recent years, and some options will enable you to enjoy your backyard fire feature with friends and family safely.
Painted Wood & Vinyl
Traditional pergolas are made from wood. If you have a picturesque image of a white pergola floating through your head, there is a good chance that such a pergola would have been made from wood in the past.
Unfortunately, painted wood may peel or start to change colors if it is exposed to too much heat, so you have to be careful about putting a fire pit under a pergola.
Still, it can be done so long as your pergola does not create an enclosed area. A fire pit may work fine if your pergola has plenty of clearance and good air circulation.
Vinyl pergolas present a different set of challenges. Like the wood, vinyl pergolas may become discolored near a fire, but more importantly, vinyl can warp if exposed to too much direct heat.
So whether you have a propane fire pit or a wood fire pit, we recommend avoiding vinyl pergolas if you intend to add a fire pit. A wooden pergola will work much better if you have proper clearance and air circulation.
Powder-Coated Aluminum Pergolas
If you have the money and you are considering a pergola from scratch, we recommend that you consider installing an aluminum pergola with powder-coating. There are a couple of reasons that this just makes sense.
First of all, the aluminum is less susceptible to heat damage, but it will also be much easier to wipe off soot accumulation and generally keep the structure clean and safe.
Outdoor structures can add a fantastic vibe to your home. Many homeowners dream of relaxing in a perfectly manicured outdoor living space. While there are many advantages to considering a fire pit under a pergola, safety should be your foremost priority.
Fortunately, a little forethought goes a long way.
2. What Type Of Fire Pit Is Best?
Once you’ve decided to place a fire pit under a pergola, the next big decision is what type of fire pit might be best. While some people prefer gas fire pits, others prefer wood burning fire pits. For the most part, this comes down to preference, but there are a few things you need to consider.
Wood Burning Fire Pits
Wood-burning fire pits are popular for their authenticity. It’s not the same roasting marshmallows and hot dogs on a gas fire pit. Sure, a gas fire pit will work just fine, but the overall experience is not the same. For some, this might be fine, but many people will prefer wood fire pits.
If you fall into a camp that prefers a wood fire pit, we recommend choosing a smokeless fire pit. Traditional fire pits will work if the pergola has proper air circulation, but a conventional fire pit is more likely to result in soot marks.
Smokeless Wood Burning Fire Pit?
The most popular smokeless fire pits are Breeo and Solo Stove. Both brands feature double-wall construction, vent holes at the unit’s base, and air holes at the top of the burn chamber. Fresh air is pulled into the bottom of the unit and heated as it rises through the double walls.
As air escapes from the air holes on top of the burn chamber, the heat creates secondary combustion that burns off the smoke. For this reason, it is essential to keep your stack of logs below the air holes when utilizing a smokeless fire pit.
Some fire pits, such asSolo Stoves, also feature a grate that allows ash to fall away from the fire into an ash pan. When ash burns, it tends to result in smoke, so this feature also reduces the overall amount of smoke.
This is great for a few reasons. First, when using a fire pit under a pergola, you have to show restraint. You can’t overload the fire, or you are just asking for trouble. The smokeless fire pit works best when keeping the fire lower than the air holes in the burn chamber. So not only do you need to demonstrate restraint, but this reduces smoke that might harm a pergola.
Gas Burning Fire Pits
While wood fire pits offer a certain amount of authenticity, gas fire pits are much easier to use and much easier to control the size of the flame. For this reason, we recommend that you seriously consider a gas fire pit, even though we prefer wood fire pits in general.
A natural gas fire pit may be a little harder to install as it may involve utility work, but fortunately, propane fire pits and propane tanks are easy to find. On the other hand, if you are designing a new house or backyard from scratch, a built-in fire pit with a natural gas line would be very convenient.
A gas fire pit is often sold with fire pit glass, which adds a sophisticated and refined vibe. Fire pit glass is usually available in multiple colors, so you can even color coordinate.
If radiant heat is your main concern, there isn’t much difference between a gas fire pit and a wood-burning fire pit.
3. City Ordinances & Regulations
This next one is a must: Be sure to review the fire pit rules for your city or your local jurisdiction. Your decision should start and stop there.
Most cities have safety regulations that require fire pits and other fire features to be a certain number of feet from any structures. Check to see if there are exceptions for pergolas. It may also depend on whether your pergola is next to your primary building structure or isolated.
Regardless, you want to enjoy your backyard safely, and open fire is something you have to take seriously.
Insurance and Homeowners Associations
Starting with your city ordinances makes sense, but you should also consider your insurance and homeowners association requirements. There may be fire pit rules you haven’t even considered. These rules are in place to help you safely enjoy your open space, even if it may seem cumbersome at times. Better safe than sorry.
4. Is Your Pergola Tall Enough?
While this might seem like an obvious consideration, let’s state the obvious. The taller your pergola is, the safer it will be when near a fire pit. Many experts recommend a clearance of at least 10 feet. Anything shorter than that won’t give any smoke proper room to escape.
The taller ceiling clearance also puts the pergola ceiling further away from the heat source, which should help avoid any associated damage, but this brings up another point previously mentioned.
Personal restraint is one of the most critical factors for ensuring safety near fires. You can’t build massive fires under a pergola or near any other structures. Your fire should be well managed and supervised, and it should reflect restraint.
5. Is There Proper Ventilation?
The pergola’s height will impact whether there is proper ventilation, but they aren’t the same consideration. While many pergolas have open slats on top, not all ceilings on pergolas are entirely open. Modern pergolas have a fixed roof, making ventilation even more important.
Fixed Roof Or Split Roof?
Modern pergolas come in many varieties. Some pergolas have a full roof, which will reduce proper ventilation, while many pergolas will have a split roof. A split roof is obviously better for air ventilation, but everything is a matter of perspective.
If your pergola has a tall roof and is away from your other home structures, it may be perfectly fine to have a full roof, so long as you are meeting all regulations. Still, a split roof pergola is better in most situations.
You may consider installing a two-zone pergola with half a full roof and half a split roof. This wouldn’t work very well for a smaller pergola, but this may be the perfect solution if you are installing a large pergola.
The fixed roof will provide shade when you need it, but when nighttime rolls around, you can enjoy the warm fire under the split roof portion of the pergola.
Safety Tips & Tricks
Safety is the priority, so there are other factors that you may consider. Of course, if you’ve made it this far, we are confident you are an informed decision-maker and will develop the perfect plan to enjoy your fire pit under a pergola.
Consider Using Fire Screen
Using a spark screen is a smart way to ensure that no flying embers result in a surprise. You can always take the spark screen off to add logs (to wood-burning fire pits) or roast marshmallows and hot dogs.
I’ve personally had flying embers land on my leg, leaving a small hole in my pants. Flying embers should be taken seriously, but fortunately, many fire pits are sold with a fire screen available as an optional add-on.
Place Portable Fire Pits On Steady Surface
If you install a built-in fire pit, I assume your construction crew will ensure that the fire pit is installed on a level surface. On the other hand, if you have a movable fire pit to add to an existing pergola, this may be a more serious consideration.
Your fire pit must sit on a level surface to prevent the fire pit from sliding. If your fire pit were to slide, it could burn anyone or anything nearby, and it is more likely that fire could unexpectedly escape the burn chamber.
What about a wooden deck? If you put a heat shield under your fire pit, it could technically sit on a wooden deck, but a wooden deck or patio is most often next to your home. The problem may not be whether your fire pit sits on a wooden deck. The concern is likely whether it is too close to structures and whether this is permissible by local regulations or by your insurance and homeowners association.
Keep Fire Extinguisher Nearby Structures
As much as we plan on avoiding bad situations, the reality is that things happen. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. We recommend doing this anytime you start a fire. Remember that having a fire extinguisher nearby is no excuse for making poor decisions.
Plan well to avoid mishaps, but have the extinguisher nearby as a backup.
Never Leave Fire Pit Unattended
And if you follow all of these steps, you should still never leave a fire pit unattended. Fires often have their own mind, and a quick gust of wind can be disastrous.
To add to this, never leave kids unattended next to a fire pit. Accidents happen with full-grown adults, and they can certainly occur with kids.
Clear Overhanging Branches
If you build your pergola near trees, ensure that any nearby limbs are appropriately trimmed. Limbs tend to hang in unexpected ways. Keeping limbs away from your fire pit is a wise idea.
Clearing any overhanging limbs will also reduce the number of leaves accumulating around your fire during the fall season. Leaves can be quite the natural fire starter, so keeping leaves away from your fire pit is best.
Avoid Soot Accumulation
The last tip is that soot accumulation can be unsightly, but it can also be problematic in its own right. Look, there is a reason that chimneys need to be cleaned. Your pergola should have better air circulation than a chimney, but you still don’t want soot to build up. And at the end of the day, keeping the soot cleaned up will result in a more relaxing vibe.
Pizza Ovens & Grills Under Pergolas
While we have focused on fire pits, there are other appliances that you may consider putting under a pergola. Many apply the same principles, whether you are interested in adding a backyard pizza oven or a grill.
The first thing that you need to do is determine what is permissible by regulation, insurance, and homeowners association requirements.
Create The Perfect Outdoor Space
If you choose to add a fire pit under a pergola, we sincerely hope that you can create the perfect outdoor living space, with lots of shade and a nice view of the yard. We love a good wood-burning fire pit. It is hard to beat that authentic experience.
Brands like Breeo and Solo Stove make smokeless fire pits that will improve your overall experience. While Solo Stove products are among the most popular on the market, theBreeo Luxeve fire pit is a luxury smokeless fire pit surrounded by a ring of fire pit glass.
While Breeo focuses on building the world’s best wood-burning fire pit, Solo Stove has ventured into grills and pizza ovens. Ooni makes the widely known backyard pizza oven, but Solo Stove’s pizza oven is innovative and handsome.
If you already have a pergola, we hope you have room for a new fire pit or pizza oven. If you are still in the process of designing your pergola, consider making room for both. Add on an outdoor mini-fridge, and we are talking about the stuff that dreams are made of.
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