Home » Can I Have A Fire Pit In My Backyard? (Here Are The Facts)

Can I Have A Fire Pit In My Backyard? (Here Are The Facts)

When it comes to a focal point in your yard that brings families together, nothing beats a fire pit. Fire pits are one of the most sought-after outdoor features but few homeowners think about whether or not it is even legal. If you’re considering adding a fire pit to your home, the good news is, you can likely have one.

Fire pits are almost always allowed in suburban backyards. Nearly all cities and counties in the US allow recreational fires in residential backyards as long as local ordinances and fire department rules are followed. Even in dry states, backyard fire pits are often permitted as long as there are no current burn bans in place.

We’ll go over some common legal requirements and good practices when adding a fire pit to your backyard below. That way you can have a beautiful fire pit that will be fun for your family and raise the value of your home.

Is it legal to have a fire pit in a backyard

Yes, it is legal in most places to have a fire pit in your backyard as long as you follow local regulations. Local laws can be more restrictive the more densely populated an area is or if it is an exceptionally dry location.

Most laws concerning fire pits are decided on at the local level. You should always research the laws in your county and city before setting up a new fire pit. A good place to start is Googling your local regulations or you can often call your local fire department which should know.

Your Home Owners’ Association may also have rules for fire pits that you may have to follow even if your city allows them (sorry).

There are a few examples of more restrictive areas though.

Massachusetts is a more restrictive state but you are still allowed to have fire pits. The fire has to be small, placed on a non-combustible surface and the area cleared of dry debris. In many areas, they also require that there be someone 18 or older attending the fire at all times.

In New Jersey, you are required to get a permit before you can use a backyard fire pit. It is free, but you have to tell them where the fire will be to make sure it complies with their other regulations.

In New York City, it is illegal to use fire pits, chimneys, and portable patio fires. This makes sense if you consider the fact that New York City is so densely populated. The smoke would be an irritant to neighbors who live very close by and would likely linger in the city. The potential damage an out-of-control fire could cause is also very large.

What are the rules for a fire pit

Here is a list of common rules and regulations for using a backyard fire pit. Your local area likely has some or all of these rules in place.

  • No more than 3 feet in diameter.
  • No more that 2 feet high.
  • Fires should be constantly attended to.
  • A fire extinguisher, hose or bucket of water should be immediately available for extinguishing the fire.
  • Fire pits should not be placed on combustible material. Stone, concrete or bare dirt is best.
  • Fires should be more than 25 feet from any combustible structures.
  • Fires should be at least 10 feet from your property line.
  • You cannot burn trash including painted wood, particle board, rubber, plastic, etc.
  • Many places restrict burning yard waste and brush.
  • Many places restrict burning paper or cardboard because of the smoke.
  • Some places require that the person attending the fire be 18 or older.

Even if these rules are not in place in your town, these are all good rules to follow. They are designed to keep your neighbors happy and keep you and your property safe.

Where do I put a fire pit

Fire pit placement is one of the first things you should consider before you even buy a new fire pit. Proper placement of a fire pit will help you prevent potential disasters down the road.

Fire pits need to be placed on a flat and level surface. A lot of people like building stone patios around their fire pits, but you can go simple and just place the pit on gravel or dirt if you’re on a budget. If you live in a hilly area, it may require you to put in a little more work to dig out the spot or build up a flat space.

If all you have is a lawn and you don’t want to tear it up, you can also just put a portable fire pit on your grass. They make fireproof mats that you can put down and then put the fire pit on top of that. That way the grass isn’t damaged by the heat. The mats are inexpensive and can be ordered on Amazon for less than $20.

You should place the fire pit in an open area at least 15 feet away from any structure such as a home, deck, or shed. 15 feet should probably be the minimum as there are a lot of places that require 25 feet of distance.

Where should you not put a fire pit

Fire pits should not be placed anywhere there is a risk of starting a larger fire. They should also not be placed where the smoke will blow into your home or become a nuisance to your neighbors.

It can be tempting to put a fire pit on your deck or a patio near your house. That way it is closer to the kitchen and the action inside if you’re entertaining, but this is never recommended. The large majority of decks are made with flammable materials and a deck is too close to the rest of the house. You should never place a fire pit on a wooden deck.

If you are going to ignore the advice to never put a fire pit on a wood deck, you should get one of the fireproof mats I mentioned earlier. You should also pick a fire pit that has a spark screen you can place over it so that sparks do not leave the pit.

Never place a fire pit underneath a tree. Your fire pit should be at least 10 to 25 feet away from trees and bushes. Sparks and embers can rise high into the air from a wood-burning fire. If you have tree limbs above your fire pit, they can catch fire and quickly spiral out of control.

It’s also not recommended to put a fire pit under a pergola or a pavilion made of combustible materials.

What can I burn in my outdoor fire pit

You have two main options to use as fuel for your fire pit. You can burn wood or gas (usually propane).

Wood-burning fire pits are the more traditional option. They are often cheaper and easier to build or install. For many people, burning wood is going to be a better experience since the fire changes as the wood burns. Plus, there is a different smell and the coals are mesmerizing to watch.

There are a few cons to a wood-burning pit compared to a gas pit:

  • Need a place to store wood and keep it dry
  • Harder to clean
  • Takes longer to stop the fire
  • Worse for the air quality
  • More sparks and fire hazard risks

The type of wood you burn matters too. You should only burn clean, dry wood. Dirty or wet wood not only burns poorly, but it also produces a lot more smoke that can be an irritant to some people and a nuisance to neighbors.

If you are worried about wood smoke, there are several awesome fire pits that are specially designed to virtually eliminate all smoke. Check out my smokeless fire pit article to learn which ones really work and are worth the money.

A gas fire pit is also a good choice for many people. Gas burns cleaner than wood and it is easier to control. To turn a gas fire pit on or off, you only need to press a button. Gas also doesn’t send sparks into the air. Gas fire pits are great for creating ambiance and having a fire in a place where you have even more control over it. You may even be allowed to have a gas fire pit in places where you couldn’t have a wood-burning fire pit.

Some cons to a gas fire pit compared to a wood fire pit are these:

  • The fire itself is not as engaging or fun
  • Gas fire pits need to be made by a professional
  • Fuel tanks are heavy and need to be replaced with frequent use
  • More expensive
  • Very safe when built well, but can be very unsafe if built poorly or damaged

Whichever type of fire pit you decide to use, you can get the benefits of a fun outdoor feature and added value to your home.

There are things you should not burn. You should never burn trash, plastic, rubber, painted wood, or old paper. These are bad for the environment and contain carcinogens that will be released into the air around you. Almost every city in America prohibits burning trash.

Should I make my own fire pit or buy one

This is a great question! Fire pits come in all different shapes and sizes. The pit can be a simple steel or concrete pit or it can be an elaborate piece of your landscaping made of stone.

One of the first things to consider when deciding whether to make a fire pit or buy one is how much space you have in your backyard. Fire pits are an amazing addition to any backyard, but if you have limited space you may not want to dedicate all of it to your fire pit. In that case, a portable steel or copper pit that you can bring out or put away might make more sense.

One of the benefits of building a permanent space for your fire pit is that it can increase the value of your home. If you make a good-looking, permanent fire pit, you could recoup 60%-70% of the building costs when you sell your home. A permanent fire pit will generally look nicer than a portable fire pit as well.

If you’re going for a very simple design, you can make a fire pit out of stone, brick, or cinderblock. If you’re making your own, you can buy a steel ring from Amazon to go on the inside of your pit and then build up the stone around the ring. Using the steel ring will help your fire pit to last longer by keeping the stone from getting dried out and brittle.

If you are wanting to build a fire pit as a DIY project, you are probably better off building a wood-burning fire pit. These are much simpler to make and have a lower risk if you do it wrong. You should leave installing a gas fire pit to a professional.