A backyard fire pit is the perfect way to bring a taste of the great outdoors to everyday hangouts. But what if you want to enjoy a cozy flame while it’s raining out?
It’s completely safe to install a fire pit under your outdoor structure, like a gazebo or pergola, or even under a covered patio, depending on the roof material. However, you shouldn’t start any kind of flame under a fabric canopy, which can easily melt or catch fire itself.
Make sure that the structure’s roof is vented or high enough to allow heat to escape and to avoid discoloration and that the pit is far enough away from its surroundings to avoid burning anything you don’t want to burn.
Also, a fire mat or heat shield is a good investment if you’ll be putting a fire pit on your patio or another surface that could get scorched by intense heat.
Using a Fire Pit Under a Gazebo
Can you put a fire pit under a gazebo, and is it safe?
Yes, in most cases you can put a fire pit underneath a gazebo with minimal risk. An enclosed area is a dangerous place for a fire pit, but a gazebo doesn’t have sides.
This means the heat and smoke can disperse as they would if you were completely exposed to the elements.
Having a fire pit under a gazebo is completely safe as long as the roof isn’t unusually low. An extra-safe option would be to use a gazebo model with a chimney or vent at the top, specifically designed for fire pits.
Keep in mind that gas fire pits require less head room than wood-burning pits, as they don’t throw off smoke, and their flame can be more easily controlled.
Also, always follow normal fire safety techniques. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, make sure nothing outside the fire pit can catch on fire, and never leave a fire unsupervised.
Can you use a chiminea under a gazebo?
Here is where things get dicier. Some chimineas can be much taller than a fire pit. Also, wood burning chimineas can throw smoke and heat higher than a fire pit, which is built to warm people on the sides.
To avoid the risk of fire and discoloration, make sure about 10 feet of space separates the top of your chiminea and the roof of the gazebo.
Using a Fire Pit Under a Pergola
Can you put a fire pit under a pergola and is it safe?
Yes, a fire pit under a pergola is safe as long as the roof is not made out of canvas or fabric. As with the gazebo, make sure the roof is high enough to avoid being scorched.
A fire pit under a pergola is even safer than a fire pit under a gazebo, as the roof has holes in it, allowing the heat and smoke to pass through.
How close can a fire pit be to a pergola?
Fire pits can go inside pergolas without any issues. Just make sure the roof is high enough to accommodate one.
Check with your fire pit’s manual or contact the supplier to be sure, but a good rule of thumb is 10 feet of space between the fire pit and the roof.
Can you use a chiminea under a pergola?
As with a gazebo, be careful when using a chiminea under a pergola. The higher smokestacks on some models can direct heat too close to the roof.
If the roof is made of wood, this could cause discoloration or, worst case, a fire.
Using a Fire Pit on a Patio
Can you put a fire pit on a patio and is it safe?
You can safely put a fire pit on an outdoor patio as long as it’s protected from the bottom of the fire pit, which can get hot.
Patios are simply outdoor spaces, so follow normal fire safety guidelines and you’ll be good to go.
Is it safe to have a fire pit under a covered patio?
Yes, it’s safe to put a fire pit under your covered patio if the roof is high enough. The same rules apply here as for gazebos.
Just make sure the covering is not made of fabric and that there is at least 10 feet of headroom above the fire pit and open space on every side.
Otherwise, you risk the space filling up with smoke and depriving nearby people of oxygen.
What can I put under my fire pit to protect my patio?
You can use a concrete slab, a pit mat or heat shield, or a fire ring with a built-in protector on the bottom.
All these products can be bought from home supply stores. They come in many sizes, so you can pick the one that best suits your needs.
If your patio is already concrete, it won’t catch fire. However, it could get scorched or otherwise damaged from a fire pit’s heat.
If your patio is made from flammable material like wood, make sure your heat shield is rated to protect it from the hot underside of the pit.
How big should a patio be for a fire pit?
For gas fire pits, make sure there’s at least four to six feet of space around it in every direction, so people can enjoy the fire without getting too warm.
For wood-burning fire pits, it’s a good idea to double that number to 8 to 12 feet in each direction, due to the risk of burning embers.
This is also why a fire screen is a solid plan for a wood-burning pit.
Using a Fire Pit Under a Canopy
Can you use a fire pit or a propane fire under a canopy?
No, you should not put any kind of fire pit under a canopy.
A canopy made from fabric will melt if it gets too hot, so putting a fire underneath it is a recipe for disaster. Unless your canopy is made of metal, keep fires far away from it.
Can you put a canopy over a gas fire pit?
You should never put a canopy over a gas fire pit. Regardless of the style of fire pit, you shouldn’t put it under a fabric top—unless you have a tolerance for severe burns from melting plastic-based canopy material.
Fire Pit Precautions - Safety Guide
- Check with your local government’s regulations before you buy a fire pit. Some, like my native Toronto, allow fire pits in the city only in specific circumstances. You don’t want to get in trouble with a bylaw officer while you’re toasting marshmallows.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within reach.
- Supervise children near the fire pit.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Even if it’s just embers, make sure it’s cool to the touch before you leave.
- Keep the fire pit well away from your home, as well as plants, branches, trees, or anything else that might, you know, catch on fire.
- A propane or natural gas fire pit is safer, as there’s no chance of flying embers. However, if you burn wood, use a screen over the top to block hot debris.
- Make sure you have proper ventilation for smoke and gas.
How much overhead clearance do you need for a fire pit?
A good rule of thumb is 10 feet. Unless you’re building a bonfire, that will allow the fire’s heat to dissipate before it reaches the top of the gazebo.
How far away should the fire pit be from the house?
As long as the fire pit is a few feet away from your house, you should be fine. Keep it far enough away that there’s no chance it will scorch the outside of the house.
How much space do you need around a fire pit?
A good guideline for gas-burning fire pits is to leave four to six feet of space in any direction around it.
For wood-burning fire pits, double that to about 8 to 12 feet because of the increased danger from embers.
This will ensure the fire pit doesn’t burn anything surrounding it—including you and your guests.
Putting a fire pit under your backyard gazebo or pergola can be the finishing touch for an ultra-cozy backyard. Whether it’s telling scary stories with your kids or sipping a glass of wine with the one you love, there’s something about doing it in front of a roaring fire.
Just make sure there’s enough room between the top of the fire pit and the roof of the structure.
Also, never put any kind of fire close to a fabric canopy. Just like tents, those things can go up in flames very quickly.
Keep in mind that wood-burning fire pits are more dangerous than gas pits because of the risk of sparks and embers. Use a fire screen if your fire pit uses wood.
Follow these safety guidelines to keep everyone safe, and you’ll be able to enjoy your fire pit for years to come.
Jack Hauen is a freelance writer and backpacking aficionado. When he's not writing, he can often be found in the Algonquin backcountry, wheezing through a portage that looked smaller on the map.