Many folks love to accent their outdoor spaces, like a composite deck, with a fire pit or table to add comforting warmth as the nights become cooler. However, you should be a bit wary about mixing open flames with your favourite outdoor hangout spot.
Fire tables are totally safe to use on a composite deck though it will depend on size, location, and design. Most composite decking is fire retardent but will begin to soften at high temperatures. Fire tables must be a safe distance from any structure and should be elevated off the floor.
Taking the time to understand how to properly use a fire table on a composite deck is crucial for many reasons, the foremost being you don’t want to burn your house down! Keep reading to find out the best way to safely enjoy a fire on your deck and what options for fireplaces are right for you.
What To Know About Using Fire Tables On Composite Decks
Fire tables are generally safe to use on composite decks. Composite decks, unlike treated wood, are fire retardants, meaning they offer natural protection against warping and catching on fire.
I have done some research about which composite decking is more fire-resistant. Sneak peek PVC decking has a better rating than most composite decking for fire. But even among composite decking, some have better ratings than others.
But this doesn’t mean they are heat resistant.
Composite decking like Trex will begin to soften at temperatures above 170 degrees and begin to fully melt at 250 degrees. An average outdoor fireplace can reach an internal temperature of 800 degrees, with about 200-400 degrees heat being spread throughout the area. So obviously, you will want to take precautions with which fire source you use and how you use it:
- If you want a fire table for your deck, think about buying one that has a raised heating element. This will ensure that the hottest part of your fire table does not come in direct contact with the deck, preventing it from melting.
- Consider installing a thermal barrier between your deck and the fireplace. There are cheap and effective options that will insulate your fireplace and restrict the emitted amount of heat. For recommended thermal barriers go to Essential Elements You Need Under a Fire Pit. Where I discuss fire pit mats and how to protect your decking from a fire pit.
- Make sure your fireplace is positioned away from any structures, like your house or a garage. While melting your deck is a hassle, burning your house down would be a catastrophe! Think about the placement of your fire table and ensure that it is in a safe area free from flammable objects.
- Get a fire table with a small flame source. While having a six-foot-high flame on your backyard fire may be invigorating, it’s also a great way to cause serious damage if something goes wrong. Most propane fire tables only allow for a flame to rise a few inches, which is ideal for use on a deck because it limits your risk exposure.
If you follow these guidelines and use a measured amount of caution with your deck fireplace, you can easily enjoy the benefits of a nice open fire on your composite deck.
What Kinds of Fire Tables Can Be Used on a Composite Deck?
An outdoor fireplace can really become the center of the party. They are not only useful for keeping you warm during a chilly evening, but they offer an excellent spot for socializing and bringing people together.
Don’t know why but the stories always get better around a campfire. The songs more enticing. Some of my best childhood memories are around a campfire.
There are a few different options for having a friendly fire at home:
- Wood-burning fire table
- Gas-powered fire table
- Wood-burning fire pit
All three options offer different pros and cons. Some options are safer than others, while some offer more heat or are more cost-effective. The best option for you really depends on what you’re looking for and the space you have available.
Wood-burning fire tables and fire pits are both going to use wood as a source of heat. This offers a fair amount of control over how hot, and large you want your fire to grow. Wood burning options are going to be hotter than gas-powered and are usually cheaper depending on the cost of wood in your area.
The problem with wood-burning fires is that they are liable to spark or shoot off embers if the wood is dry. This is a problem if you are on a deck because those sparks and embers can cause your deck to melt, or worse, catch your home or garage on fire.
I love the sound of crackling wood in the fire. But that cracking throw ambers and is the biggest reason I don’t recommend wood fire on a composite deck. A glowing coal on your composite decking is going to leave a mark or worse.
A mat under fire table will help to protect teh decking from the heat of the fire.
The best mat for wood fires I have found is DeckProtect. It will not help for sparks flying from the fire pit but will protect the decking from the heat of a wood fire under the bowl. For propane fire pits there are less costly alternatives.
To read more about essentials under a fire pit on a composite deck, click the link.
Sparks and exploding flying coals can be minimzed with a spark screen.
Even better is a propane fire table which has no dangerous sparks and easier controlled flames. Which is why my first choice on a compoiste deck is always a propane fire table dispite my love of wood fires.
Gas-powered fire table on the other hand are safe on a composite or wood deck.
If you love fire and your deck. Think gas or propane fire table or pit.
Since the heat is coming from a controlled source, it is much easier to have a safe fire and not have to worry about it spreading uncontrollably. Also they don’t throw sparks.
The only downside is that gas-powered fire tables tend to give off less heat than their wood-burning counterparts.
Are Gas Powered Fire Tables Safe to Use on a Deck?
There are a number of beautiful and safe gas-powered fire tables on the market. They are a popular choice for people who want to elevate their deck or backyards to be more cozy and welcoming.
Gas-powered fire tables are absolutely safe to use on a deck. Certain features make these fire tables a better and safer than their wood-burning brethren:
- Gas fire tables do not emit sparks or embers. These small emissions from a wood-burning fire can get trapped in the nooks and crannies of your home, which makes them a huge risk for causing a fire.
- Gas fire tables do not emit smoke. We all know the feeling of being around a campfire and how annoying it can be to get smoke in your eye or suffer a coughing fit from inhaling a mouthful of smoke. No need to fret about this with gas fire tables, as they burn without producing almost any smoke.
- Gas fire tables have a steady, fixed heat source. Wood-burning fire pits can be unpredictable. If too much fuel is added, the fire can grow rapidly and change the amount and position of the heat, melting composite decks or causing damage to your home’s siding. With gas-powered fires, the heat source is constant and always in the same position. This allows you the peace of mind of knowing your fire won’t spiral out of control, as well as knowing it is a safe distance from both your home and the deck.
- Gas fire tables require less maintenance. Unlike wood-burning fire pits, which require cleaning for safe use, gas fire tables are relatively low maintenance. As long as your propane tank or other gas source is properly filled, these fire tables are mostly set it and forget it. Shovelling out ashes from a firepit always makes a mess. Which then requires the deck to be clean.
There are a few downsides to gas fire tables.
Unfortunately, you cannot cook food on gas fire tables, as they are built to be decorative and will not stand up well to things like grease and food residue. But they often include a drink ledge. For your drinks while enjoying the warmth of the flames.
Also, they tend to give off less total heat but usually provide more than enough heat to keep you and your friends warm.
An outdoor fire is the preferred gathering spot for many homeowners, and it’s even better if you can combine that beautiful deck of yours with the cozy vibes of a fire table. Just make sure you are taking the proper precautions so that your lovely night in doesn’t turn into a smoky, melty mess.
Remember that composite decks can melt at temperatures above 170 degrees. You should make sure your fireplace is thermally insulated and positioned in such a way as to reduce direct contact with your deck. Use a gas-powered fire table if possible, and never leave the fire unattended. Then the only thing left to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself.