Benefits of a backyard fire feature


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A fire pit can add warmth and interest to a backyard patio and allow you to enjoy the great outdoors year-round.

"If you are installing a fire pit you really need to check with your homeowners association first because you certainly don't want to get sideways with their rules. Also check local regulations. You want to know what the fire code is for having that fire pit," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Hicks says you also don't want to forget to check with your insurance agent about your homeowners insurance. You want to make sure you fire pit is covered under your policy.

No matter the size, shape or materials you choose, one thing all fire pits have in common is that they contain fire, which must be controlled. To enjoy your new fire pit safely, make sure you follow these tips.

Angie's List Tips: Fire Pit Safety Considerations

  • Never place a fire pit under tree canopies. Heat rises far above the pit, so if tree limbs grow near the pit, prune them away so there's no chance of setting the trees on fire.
  • Keep the fire inside the burn area. The bigger the fire, the greater the potential of it getting out of control.
  • Never use gasoline to start a fire. Gasoline fumes can build up and cause an explosion!
  • Keep your distance. Make sure your pit is always at least 10 feet or farther from a structure or flammable material.
  • Have a source of water close by and ready to use. Fire can get out of control quickly, and it may spread out of control while you run for the hose, so have it next to the pit and ready to go before you light the fire.
  • Put out the fire properly. Don't just pour a little water on it and go to bed. A hot fire can smolder for hours and restart while you're asleep or away. Monitor the pit until the fire is completely out before walking away.

Angie's List: How to Build a Fire Pit

  • Get the go-ahead. Again, you don't want to spark any harsh feelings between you and your HOA. Make sure to learn the rules and regulations before you break ground.
  • Pick the perfect place. An ideal location is flat, a safe distance away from the home, not near low-lying tree limbs and close to your stockpile of wood. Before you determine a final spot, spend a couple of days observing the movement of the wind. You don't want to blow smoke signals toward your home or a neighbor's home.
  • Decide how wide. The recommended total width or diameter for a fire pit is between 3 and 4 feet. Once you decide how large you want it, place a stake in the middle of the area. Then, tie a string that is half the size of the diameter to the stake. Hold the string taut, walk slowly around the stake in a circle and mark the perimeter with paint.
  • Dig deep and send in the sand. Once you mark your circle, dig out the area. You'll want to excavate down about 8 inches toward the Earth's core. Then, place about 2 inches of sand in the hole, and pack it down until it is level. But, before you dig, call 811. You don't want to risk hitting any underground lines, pipes or cables.
  • Stack up the stones. To ensure a level structure, make sure the bottom ring of stones lay flat on the ground. If you need to make adjustments, pound the stones in place with a rubber mallet. Stagger the additional layers of stone on top of the first, and use masonry adhesive to bond them together. Leave small, sporadic gaps between the stones so the fire can breathe.
  • Fill it up. After constructing the circular wall, fill the bottom surface of the pit with about 4 inches of crushed stone. Make sure to use noncombustible stone so it doesn't explode when exposed to heat.
  • Wait two nights, then light. Before you enjoy your first fire, you need to give the masonry adhesive time to dry. After two days, feel free to create a blaze that would make a caveman blush.