Outdoor Fireplace Safety Tips

An outdoor fireplace can make a wonderful focal point of your backyard or patio. However, these features are also potential safety hazards. Take time to make sure your fireplace has certain basic safety features and attributes to not only make it safer, but more enjoyable.

Size Matters

Fireboxes must be large enough to easily hold several logs of standard (18-inch) logs. Cutting more logs or finding fuel to fit your firebox gets tiresome and expensive, and it also poses risk if the logs hang out of the firebox.

While fireplaces with 360-degree access can be appealing, they also tend to be lightweight and liable to tip over. Try to get a fireplace with a wide base, strong legs and heavy firebox. Aluminum fireboxes have the durability of cast iron, but don't stain the way cast iron does.

Safety and Convenience Features

  • Size of Firebox - If you must cut or get specialty lengths of wood for the box, your cost goes up.
  • Weight - If you'll be moving the firebox, choose a lightweight model.
  • Firebox Thickness - Thin sheet metal often wears through, allowing a fire to fall out of the bottom of the firebox. Choose a thicker material.
  • Lid - Get a model with a lid to put in place to keep ashes and debris from splashing up on your deck or patio whenever it rains.
  • Fuel Shutoffs - If purchasing a gas or propane fireplace, make sure you get one with easy fuel shutoffs, electric ignition and good venting.
  • Vents and Screens - Make sure to select a fireplace model with smoke vents, screens, mesh and wrap-around grating to keep embers from flying and starting a fire.

Safety Tips When Using an Outdoor Fireplace

  • Never leave a fire burning unattended, even if it is screened. Embers can still escape and start a fire outside the fireplace.
  • Use a fire pad under your portable fireplace if you don't have a stone, brick or concrete slab foundation to set it on.
  • Keep at least 2 buckets of water or a working hose and/or sand and a fire extinguisher near the fireplace in case of emergency.
  • Use smoke vents on fireplaces to direct smoke and embers upward rather than outward.
  • Keep people, pets and structures at least 3 feet away from any side of the fireplace.
  • Never set any fireplace on a bare wooden deck.
  • Don't overstock the firebox. Add fuel only as needed. Don't cram in logs and fuel.
  • Make sure your fireplace is stable and level.
  • Keep extra fuel stacked and stored at least 20 feet away from your fireplace.
  • Maintain and clean the fireplace regularly. Unmaintained fireboxes will rust, making them dangerous and liable to collapse under a burning fire.
  • Once a firebox begins to show signs of heavy rust it is no longer safe to use. Replace the firebox or the entire fireplace if you must.
  • Don't burn trash, plastics or pressure-treated lumber in fireplaces of any kind. Such objects release toxic gases.
  • Locate your fireplace at least 100 feet away from structures and buildings.
  • Locate your fireplace away from overhanging limbs, leaves and electrical wiring.
  • When using a propane or gas fireplace, make sure you have plenty of air, and good venting, even outside.