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Today homeowners have plenty of options when deciding to add a fire pit to their luxury outdoor space. There are many choices regarding style, size, features, price and fuel source. How can you begin to choose from the dizzying array of options? In this first of a two-part series, we present what to know about regulations, permits and location before buying a fire pit.

Regulations and Codes

First things first. Before you go shopping for a fire pit, it is important to do your research. Check with your specific city’s list of building codes to determine what restrictions or mandates are in place. Many municipalities regulate where your fire pit can be placed. An official inspection might be required before you can begin using your new fire pit.  

Local and state authorities may also restrict the type of fuel used. Here in San Diego, we always recommend a propane or natural gas model due to wood burning restrictions. These models are smoke-free so you should not run afoul of the law by using them when most needed.

Before buying a fire pit, also consider your homeowners’ association, if applicable. They are likely to have a say in where your fire pit is placed and, if it is visible from the street, its aesthetics.

Construction Permits

Mariposa outdoor fireplace
This Mariposa outdoor fireplace is a larger size, to heat an expansive luxury outdoor living room in style and become the focal point of the area. It may, however require permitting before installation.

Whether or not you need the installation of your fire pit permitted largely depends on the model you choose. Adding a portable, standard-sized model that runs on propane should be fine. However, if you opt for natural gas, extending the line may require a permit and fire official inspection. If you wish to install an outdoor fireplace, some municipalities will require you to obtain a construction permit first and possibly add to the requirements imposed by local or state authorities.

Fire Pit Placement

It is best to install a fire feature on a hard outdoor surface.

While we are discussing safety, let’s consider the location before buying a fire pit. Of course, any fire feature should always be installed in an area that is clear and free of overhanging tree branches, weeds and other sources of natural fuel. It should be placed on a solid ground surface such as bricks, concrete or pool decking. Additional consideration should be given to where you will use the fire pit and how it is fueled; if you are using a natural gas line you may be hampered by availability of a nearby line.

Before buying a fire pit you should also take into account any future renovation projects planned for your outdoor space. Ensure that its location makes sense in the overall scheme of things. Generally, you want to place a fire pit where you already have a seating area – or plan to have one in the future. That seating area should take advantage of the view, both day and night. Do you want to be able to see the fire feature from your home? That also plays into the ideal location. You will want to ensure it is somewhat protected from strong winds, as well.

Before buying a fire pit, consider all these factors as well as several more we will review in the upcoming second part of this series.

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