A fire pit provides the perfect excuse for friends and family to gather and spend quality time together. However, before you think about installing one in your front yard, you must first understand what is and isn’t allowed.
Installing a fire pit in your front yard is legal if it adheres to local authorities’ restrictions and regulations. Before installing a front yard fire pit, you must always check which fire pit restrictions and limitations apply to where you live.
While some cities are far stricter than others, general firepit rules apply across the board. Let’s take a look at these in closer detail.
Is It Illegal To Have a Fire Pit in Your Front Yard?
Broadly speaking, it is perfectly legal to have a firepit in your front yard, but there may be certain times when it is prohibited. For example, if there are high winds or an increased risk of wildfire, then your local area may temporarily restrict the use of fire pits until it is safer.
You may also be prohibited from having a fire pit installed if your yard does not meet local safety laws regarding them. These laws include having sufficient open space around the firepit.
To prevent you from landing in hot water, always check with local authorities to see what you can and cannot do.
Fire Pit Location
One of the most critical considerations for front yard fire pits is where you’re going to put it. You absolutely cannot place it wherever you like. For one, a poorly positioned firepit can be incredibly dangerous. You will also likely violate your local law regarding the positioning of fire pits.
The proof of danger is in the statistics. A 2018 NBC report states that fire pit injuries are on the rise. In 2017, 5,300 people were treated for fire pit burns and wounds. More shockingly, a quarter of the victims were aged under five.
To help prevent these accidents from happening, local regulations for the placement of fire pits are strict. The distances differ from city to city, but you can broadly expect the following:
- Position the fire pit away from structures and buildings. In some areas, this is typically between 10 and 30 feet (3.05 and 9.1 m). For example, the city of Houston states it must be 10 feet (3.05 m).
- Ensure the fire pit is away from neighboring borders. In most cases, it’s 10 feet (3.05 m) or more.
- The area must be clear of flammable debris such as fallen leaves, mulch, etc. Local laws set a clear perimeter of between 15 and 25 feet (4.57 and 7.62 m).
- You must remove any low-hanging branches and other foliage from the clear perimeter.
- You must establish a child-free zone around the fire pit itself. For example, the Houston, TX, child-free zone is 3 feet (0.91 m).
- Generally, you need at least 7 feet (2.13 m) between the edge of the fire pit and any seating.
As well as posing a real fire risk, violating these regulations can come with heavy fines. In the Houston example, the penalties are up to $250,000. Therefore, always observe the local law regarding fire pit positioning.
Weather and Seasonal Conditions
With the risk of wildfires growing every year, they are a genuine concern in many states. Many areas have restrictions on when you can burn anything outdoors. This can be during times when:
- The air quality is poor.
- It’s too hot.
- The risk of wildfire is high.
- When the wind reaches speeds of 15 mph (24 kph) or more.
For example, North Carolina categorizes each day’s air quality by color, and you cannot burn outside on their orange, red, or purple days when the quality is terrible. Doing so carries a penalty of $25,000.
Some areas of the US that are particularly high-risk prohibit any type of outdoor burning unless you have obtained a permit to do so. California is one such state that enforces this.
Size and Type of Fire Pit
Choosing or constructing a fire pit that conforms to general safety standards is essential. Fire pits, whether portable or built-in, must have the following features:
- Fire pit sizes are generally restricted to being no larger than a 3-foot (0.91 m) diameter with a 2-foot (0.61 m) maximum height.
- The pit must be lined with non-combustible materials. Concrete, brick, or heavy gauge metal, for example.
- In-built fire pits must be at least 10 inches (25.4 cm) from the base to the surface.
- All types of outdoor fire pits must have enclosed sides that are 6-12 inches (15.24-30.48 cm) high. Again, check local rules to see what the minimum size is.
- You must add a non-combustible border around the perimeter of the fire pit. Sand, gravel, and concrete are all good materials to use.
What Can You Burn?
A fire pit is not an excuse to get rid of all your trash; you certainly cannot burn whatever you want there. There are strict regulations around what you can and cannot burn to ensure the air is kept as clean as possible and that you’re not releasing harmful or toxic pollutants into the environment.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency states you can only burn dry seasoned wood. They also stress that you are not allowed to burn:
- Green or wet wood
- Construction waste
- Yard waste
Operating Your Fire Pit
You must follow safety guidelines when operating your fire pit. Even the safest fires can sometimes grow out of control so ensure you’ve taken all the necessary measures to avoid a disaster from occurring.
- Before lighting the fire, take the time to clear the area of any debris, particularly dry leaves and other combustible materials.
- Once you light the fire, an adult must always be present. You cannot under any circumstances leave the fire pit unattended.
- Keep emergency equipment close at hand, such as an extinguisher and a bucket of sand.
- Some local laws require you to have a mesh screen to control wayward sparks and embers.
- When you put the fire out, ensure it’s properly extinguished. It may remain hot for a long time, so have measures to keep people away from the fire pit until it’s sufficiently cool.
While you must still adhere to local laws and guidelines, a much safer alternative is to have a gas-powered fire pit installed. There is far less risk of sparks and embers flying away and catching fire elsewhere. You can also instantly turn a gas fire pit on and off, so the burn risk is less, as it doesn’t remain hot for hours after you’ve stopped using it.
You also don’t need to worry about finding the correct type of wood to burn, and there are no harmful pollutants released into the air, so you won’t bother your neighbors.
If you like the sound of a gas fire pit, we recommend the Bali Outdoors Gas Firepit Table (available on Amazon.com). It’s super easy to assemble and has a gorgeous black finish. It can also be used as a coffee table when you’re not using it as a firepit!
How To Check Local Restrictions
To find out the fire pit restrictions in your area, head to your town or county website. There is generally a page containing information about lighting outdoor fires. If you can’t find the information online, call them, and someone can update you.
Whatever you do, don’t install a fire pit without checking and hoping for the best. At best, you could receive a heavy fine; at worst, you could start an uncontrollable fire, so just don’t do it.
Fire pits are beautiful additions to all homes and allow you to enjoy your outdoor space for longer during the colder months. As long as you take the time to understand and adhere to local law, you can enjoy your front yard fire pit for years to come.