So you’ve got an awesome portable fire pit. And you’re planning the party of the decade. Or maybe you just want to enjoy some time outside with the family. Either way, you find yourself debating what it would take to use your fire pit on your back lawn.
There are serious consequences to consider. Namely, the possibility of an unsightly brown spot where the extreme heat of your fire pit destroyed a portion of your lawn. Is it avoidable? Is it okay to use a fire pit on grass? Is there a way to protect your grass from the heat of your fire pit? In this article, we’ll answer all these questions and more!
Let’s start with a simple one:
Is it okay to put a fire pit on grass?
The answer is yes. Unless, of course, your grass is brown and dry. You generally don’t want to put a fire pit near anything that is likely to catch fire.
Nice green grass holds plenty of moisture and won’t light on fire easily. Plus, there are some steps you can take to protect your grass for the upwards of 1,000-degree heat your fire pit may give off.
How Extreme Heat Affects Grass
Normally when we talk about heat stress on the grass, we’re talking about hot, dry summers. When the ambient temperature rises and the grass doesn’t get enough water, it can turn a gray or dark green color before turning to the dreaded brown. The same can be said for unprotected grass under a fire pit.
However, hot weather takes a toll on the grass slowly, whereas a fire pit can cause extensive damage in just a few hours. So, before deciding to put a fire pit on your grass— protected or not— you should make sure your lawn is healthy enough to handle it. Even if you take the proper precautions, unhealthy grass can succumb to the limited stress you’ll put on it with your fire pit and protective layer.
A couple of signs that your grass is stressed include:
- Footprints remain on your lawn hours after being walked on.
- The tips of the grass are curling or turning brown.
- If you push a screwdriver into your lawn and it doesn’t go easily.
- If sections of your lawn can be lifted up like a blanket or carpet.
The signs above could mean a variety of different things, like a bug infestation, lack of water, or surface-feeding insects.
If your lawn shows any of these signs, you may want to consider placing your fire pit somewhere else until you can restore health to your grass.
Choosing the Right Spot
If you’re confident that your lawn can handle the limited stress from your fire pit, it’s time to find a spot to put it. There are a couple of things to take into account to ensure the safety of you and your guests.
- Choose a spot away from any structures – At minimum, you should place your fire pit 10-feet away from your house or any other structures like sheds or playground equipment. If you can, make it 20-feet for enhanced safety.
- Look up – Make sure there are no low-hanging branches, power lines, awnings, or anything else above the spot.
- Level up – Make sure the spot you choose is level. The last thing you want is a tilting fire pit that can be knocked over if bumped. If that happens, the lawn may be the least of your worries.
How to Protect Your Grass from a Fire Pit
Once you’ve chosen a spot that fits your criteria, it’s time to decide on the type of barrier you want to use. You’ve got some options here.
Note: Before you place any kind of barrier on your grass, it’s a good idea to wet the area down with a garden hose. If you have a nozzle with a spray function, use it. You don’t want the area to be slippery or sodden, but a nice wetting of the grass can help protect it from the pressure of the barrier you use and the bit of heat that may still get through.
Pavers or Bricks
One of the more popular options for protecting your grass from a fire pit is pavers or bricks. People often have extras of these stacked somewhere around their yard, which makes for one less errand, which is always a plus.
If not, you can buy them pretty cheap at your local hardware or garden supply store.
Whatever you use as a protective barrier, make sure it’s big enough to create a cushion around your fire pit’s legs. Generally, you want a 6 to 12-inch cushion. Because, if the fire pit’s legs are right up against the edge of the pavers, all it takes is a little bump to topple the pit.
Pre-Made Fire Pit Protectors
There are a few options on the market for pre-made lawn, deck, and patio fire protectors. I’ve included a few of the better ones.
I like this one because it stands on legs, which will drastically decrease the pressure on your grass. Most of the other options available will flatten your grass and it will take several days to bounce back and look normal again.
There is one major drawback to this one: its size. At 26” by 26” it will work well for smaller fire pits. But larger fire pits either won’t fit on it or will not provide enough room for error between the legs of the fire pit and the edges of the protective stand.
This is made out of a reflective material that can protect your lawn, patio, or deck. It comes in two different sizes, so you can choose appropriately. It reflects up to 1300-degrees Fahrenheit but you must have at least two inches of clearance between the heat source and the surface you’re trying to protect. Luckily, most fire pits are more than two inches off the ground.
Things to Avoid
When you’re focused on protecting the grass, it can be easy to forget about the risks that come along with having a fire pit.
Wood as a Barrier
You may be tempted to use that old piece of particle board as a protective barrier, but it’s not a good idea. Not only will wood not protect your grass well, but it can also catch fire itself. Even if it’s treated wood. The chemicals can heat up and release toxins into the air. No one wants that!
Leaving the Pit for Too Long
You also want to avoid leaving the pit and protective gear in place for longer than necessary. You want the grass underneath to be able to breathe and soak up those sun rays again as soon as possible. So, wait until the fire pit is fully cooled, move it, and then promptly move whatever protective barrier you decided to use.
Stacking Firewood On the Grass
Keeping your firewood away from the fire pit is always a good idea. Not only does it cause a tripping hazard, but a stray ember can cause problems in nearby wood. But, another reason not to stack your firewood on the grass is because it’s an easily avoidable way to keep your lawn healthy.
The more stuff that you set on the grass, the more likely the grass will become unhealthy. So keep the firewood off the grass. What’re a few extra steps to get some firewood, anyway?
Helping Your Grass Recover Afterward
There are a couple of things you can do to help your grass fully recover from the night’s festivities.
- Keep off the grass – I know this sounds funny, but it’s true. Until the grass looks healthy again, keep foot traffic to a minimum.
- Water and seed – Make sure to keep the affected area well hydrated afterward. If you need to, spread some seeds in the really bad areas.
- Rake up the grass – Gently rake up the flattened grass. It will help oxygen, sunlight, and nutrients get where they need to go. You can also do this with a leaf blower if you have one.
How to Keep You and Your Grass Safe
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how to keep you, your guests, and your grass safe while using a fire pit. After all, protecting our grass is important, but protecting our loved ones is even more so.
Don’t Use Accelerants
It may be tempting to light your fire with lighter fluid or other accelerants, but I’d advise against it. First of all, chemical accelerants tend to be toxic and foul-smelling.
Second, they can get out of hand quickly. Using too much or spilling lighter fluid can spell disaster. Instead, you can use the old fashioned paper-and-kindling method for lighting your fire. Or you can use natural fire starters, like these Grill Trade Tumbleweed Starters.
Have an Extinguisher at Hand
Any time you have a fire going in your fire pit, it’s good to have some way to extinguish flames at hand. There are a couple of methods for doing this. Choose one that works best for you.
- Garden Hose – All the better if you have a nozzle so you can turn on the hose and have it ready to go in case you need it. Plus, a spray setting is best for putting out fires. A single powerful stream of water is liable to knock embers and coals around, making them harder to extinguish.
- Sand, Gravel, or Dirt – You can smother a fire by pouring sand or something similar on it. Simply fill a large-ish bucket with whatever you have around and you’ll be ready to put out the fire! If you use dirt, make sure it doesn’t have wood chips, crushed leaves, or other flammable items mixed in.
- An Actual Fire Extinguisher – Hopefully you have one of these in your kitchen for emergencies. If not, you can get one here.
Keep Seating Back
Another safety tip concerns seating. Start off the night by setting the seats around the fire pit back a good 5 feet at least. You may not be able to keep people from moving a little closer (especially if it’s a little chilly out) but most people will likely keep the seats where they are.
When your guests are at a safe distance, there’s less risk of burns on clothing, hair, and skin.
Use Quality Wood
It’s a good idea to consider what kind of wood you want to use in your fire pit. Some types of wood tend to pop and crack more than others, which can send embers sailing out of the fire pit. The best wood for fire pits tends to be oak, fir, and maple. Chestnut and cherry woods tend to spark a lot. If you do have trouble with sparks, you can get a spark screen for your fire pit.
You’ll probably want to avoid any treated wood. This includes construction wood, as it’s typically treated with something and may have nails, screws, or other objects inside. The fewer chemicals you burn, the less you breathe in, so stick with untreated wood that’s been seasoned for at least 6-months.
Take it Easy on the Alcohol
It’s worth noting that if you’re in charge of the fire, you may want to take it easy on the booze. Our reaction time slows significantly when we’re inebriated and a fire problem requires swift action. Plus, we tend to get a little carried away with the fire when we start ‘feeling it’. If your loved ones are depending on you to be responsible for the fire pit, act accordingly!
Never Leave A Fire Unattended
On the same token as the tip above, responsibility for a fire is only complete when there’s someone around to be responsible. If you have to leave the fire, make sure that there’s another adult around that can look after it and make sure any kiddos don’t fall in it or knock it over.
If there isn’t anyone around to look after the fire, you should put it out before leaving it. You can do this with a lid for your fire pit, sand, water, or an actual fire extinguisher. But make sure it’s completely out before you leave it alone!
There you have it! Everything you need to know about using a fire pit on grass without regretting it later. Keep the grass nice and wet and remove the fire pit and protective layer as soon as you safely can. Follow best fire pit safety tips so you and everyone around can have a good time and enjoy being outside around a fire!