Fire pits are a great way to make your deck feel like an outdoor living room. Fire pits also work well as the centerpiece of your patio or backyard so that you can enjoy more time outside with friends and family, even on chilly nights in the fall and winter.
The open space under a pergola makes an ideal gathering space around a warm fire for friends and family on a deck. Except Pergolas design and fire fuel type may limit the use of fire pit under a pergola.
Continue reading to discover when and how to use a fire pit under a pergola on your deck. We will discuss what types of fire pits will work best in these areas and some safety precautions to use when installing them.
Why is a Pergola an Ideal Shelter for a Fire Pit?
Venting, Venting, Venting.
I will say it one more time, venting.
Pergola’s open roof is ideal for air circulation drawing smoke away from those enjoying the beauty and warmth of the fire.
While still providing the feeling of being sheltered. Something we all enjoy. The presence of a roof over our head, will often move us to relax more and enliven conversations.
Pergolas do this while still keeping us safe by removing smoke from the fire. Which is essential to enjoying a backyard fire. The last thing you want to do is be choking on smoke all evening or worse.
But before setting up a fire pit under your deck pergola or even your patio there are a few more questions we need to answer.
Can I Put a Fire Pit Under a Pergola?
Well, that depends.
Oh, I hate “depend” answers.
Give me a clear straightforward answer.
Can I enjoy a fire pit under my Pergola?
A wood-burning fire pit? Probably no.
Gas or propane fire pit or table? Possibly, the chances are much better.
Can You Put a Wood Fire Pit Under a Pergola?
This depends on the height of the fire and pergola.
As a minimum, you want 10’ (3m) clearance between fire and combustible material.
But often as much as 21’ (6.3m) clearance between the fire pit and overhead material.
Most pergolas are built from wood, often cedar. But Trex and some other composite decking companies sell Pergolas made with low maintenance composite. This changes nothing for clearance from fire but is a nice option to shade your deck. Completing the look without adding work to maintain your deck.
But back to our point.
To safely enjoy a wood-burning fire pit under your pergola the rafters will need to be a minimum of 10’ (3m) high. More likely higher as this is clearance from the flame height not the base of the fire.
Many fire pits being between 12-18” (300-450mm) matching the height of your patio furniture. Slightly higher doubles as a shelf for warm drinks. A nice feature as you gather with friends.
Except 18” + 120” (ten feet) gets us to a pergola ceiling of 11’ 6” (3.45m). Making a very high pergola height. Losing the cozy feel of sitting under a pergola. Plus during sunny afternoons providing very little shade from the burning sun.
And not to nitpick. But aesthetically that is too tall. American Home Design puts the average pergola height at between 8’ and 12’. Which is the ideal.
So, if your pergola is 12’ (3.6m) high or your going to build a tall pergola on your deck or in your backyard maybe. Check with your local building codes but you may be able to enjoy a wood-burning fire pit on your deck.
Anything lower and you will be better off considering changing fire pits. There are many good gas and propane fire pits that have some clear advantages for use under pergolas.
Can You Use a Gas Fire Pit Under a Pergola?
The height of the Pergola and fire pit is still essential for safe use. But gas fire pits have 3 advantages over wood-burning fire pits. In particular for use under a pergola.
The first is clearance.
“84 inches of overhang clearance for fire pits up to 200,000 BTU”
Hearth Product controls advise we can have an overhead as close as 7’ (2.1m) to a gas fire pit.
Yes, the qualifier is BTU produced by the fire pit. But most are less than 200 000 BTU, with most producing only 50 000 BTU. Decreasing the chance of accidental fire.
Outdoorrooms.com reduces it even lower for a gas fire table of only 6’ (1.8m). Note most fire tables produce less than 50 000 BTU. Which is the reason for less clearance.
Outland Fire Table is only 23” (585mm) from the deck producing 35 000 BTU. Allowing you to enjoy a fire under a 9’ (2.7m).
Some portable fire pits are even lower. Outland Living Firebowl 870 Premium Outdoor Portable Propane Gas Fire Pit is only 11” (280mm) in height. Making it a possibility for an 8’ (2.4m) pergola.
Another advantage of a gas fire pit under a pergola is control. Now, who doesn’t enjoy more control.
Propane fires can easily be reduced in heat and flame height with a turn of a dial. Even more important is the maximum height. With the regulator preventing any flare-ups, unlike a wood fire. Which may flare up with the addition of another log. And once it’s burning there is little you can do except hope and pray nothing else starts on fire. Or dose it with water ruining the whole atmosphere around your fire pit.
But even more important with a fire under a pergola is smoke. Or the lack of.
Propane and gas burn cleaner than wood fires. Producing less smoke. Which is better for your lungs and eyes. Especially when cuddling around a fire.
What Size Should a Pergola be for A Fire Pit?
Wow! Everything is about size for Pergolas and fire pits.
But it is so important that a pergola is big enough for a fire pit. It’s bad enough to have a deck too small for a dining table but is even worse with a fire pit.
A chair too close to a fire pit is an unused chair. No, one wants to be burned while sitting by a fire pit.
“For a wood-burning fire pit, most experts say you should plan on the edge of your chair being 30 inches away from the edge of the fire pit. For a gas fire pit, you can be closer, around 24 inches.”
Take a Yard goes into much more depth in required size but short answer. You need a 7 (2.1m) perimeter around your fire pit to comfortably set up chairs and enjoy your fire pit.
Quick answer is a deck pergola smaller than 16’ wide is too small to enjoy a fire pit.
Really limiting using a fire pit under a pergola. Especially a wood fire pit. A gas fire pit can be enjoyed under a slightly smaller pergola. But still, you will need room to move your chairs.
Pergolas offer a little play in size if open with only four posts holding up the beam and rafters. Allowing you to move your chair from under the pergola and a little further away from the fire. But this is only an option if the deck is larger than the pergola. Most aren’t. The deck often at best being a couple of feet wider than the pergola.
Yes, some pergolas have privacy walls. Increasing intimacy and privacy but should be limited to only 2 sides if using a fire pit under the pergola.
Now that we have established that you need a tall and wide pergola to use a fire pit under it. What about the decking?
Will a Fire Pit Damage Decking Under a Pergola?
Just as clearance is required above the fire pit so is the clearance required under a fire pit. To prevent the decking from being damaged. Fortunately not as much as overhead and there is material you can put under a fire pit to prevent deck damage.
And just like overhead, the fuel type will impact how much protection is required.
For wood fires, DeckProtect is essential. Durable enough to catch burning amber preventing damage on both wood and composite decking. Plus a screened spark. To prevent sparks from shooting out onto the deck.
For a gas fire pit under a pergola, you have a few more options for decking protection. You also don’t need a spark grill. Allowing you to enjoy the dancing flames without a mesh obscure the view.
Is a good option. But only for a gas fire. Wood burns more intensely and needs more protection.
How Close Can a Fire Pit Be to a House?
Fire Pits are an excellent edition on patios and decks alike – however, fire pits should not be installed too close to a house. Because pergolas are typically open or vented, having a fire pit near or inside them is safe.
Fire pits should be no less than ten feet in proximity to houses for safety reasons. When deciding where to place a fire pit, consider a location with no overhanging branches or other structures that could easily catch fire.
Avoid putting fire pits next to trees – this is a recipe for disaster! A more prudent idea would involve installing the pit closer to travel paths to keep people safer when walking by during use.
A fire pit underneath a pergola is an ideal combo. With its slatted roof providing shade and ventilation, pergolas make a safe and convenient place to put a fire pit. With the proper safety precautions, a fire pit can also be used on a deck. Be sure to keep fire pits a distance from your home and any other non-ventilated structures.
The fire pit should ideally be placed on the back of the deck so there’s enough space for chairs around it. And if you can find the room or want to add more seating, consider adding benches