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Testing the Effects of Fire Pit Heat on Decking

Virtually every manufacturer of fire pits and every manufacturer of decking will tell you the same thing: Don't use a fire pit on a deck. It is good and simple advice for obvious reasons. However the reality is not so simple.
To understand what happens when you use a fire pit on deck, I concluded that the best way to get answers was to build a test deck and see for myself. I am not aware of any certified lab tests that have been conducted by the companies that do that sort of thing. I don't think a lab could get real answers. There are dozens of different kinds of fire pits and many different kinds of decking. There are also many variables, such as how close to the deck is the fire chamber, how long does the fire burn, what kind of wood is burned, etc.
I built a table-height test deck 5 ft. x 5 ft. and bought different kinds of decking, mostly pressure treated wood. I did not screw boards down so that I could change them around for different tests. I purchased some fire pits and did a bunch of burns to see the results.
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Since I was working alone, I made a utility table next to the test deck so that I could keep a heavy fire pit like the Breeo on it and be able to slide onto or off the test deck without having to pick it up off the ground. In my feeble old age there would be no way I could lift the Breeo.
There are some fire pits and/or circumstances that make it possible to use a fire pit on a deck, and I will get into those in later posts. In the meantime, here is a look at what can go wrong.
Everyone knows that heat rises. A fire will burn whatever is close above it (or roast a marshmallow). However, heat also radiates, and a fire can radiate a lot of heat to whatever is close below it.

For the three tests shown below, I chose two fire pits that are known to burn hotter underneath than many other fire pits. This gave me dramatic results to prove the point. All fire pits can cause damage, but for many, the damage will be less dramatic.
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Fire Pit on a deck of traditional pressure treated wood. Read More
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Fire Pit on a selection of composite and PVC decking samples. Read More.
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Fire Pit on a tiles to see how well tiles can protect your decking. Read More