Firepit on deck

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Old 04-09-14, 02:07 PM
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Firepit on deck

Hey all,

I have a question about a built in firepit on a deck... im planning on building a deck this summer and I wanted to have a built in firepit on it. Ive don't some research and from what I gather a firepit must be free-standing and not touching the deck. This is both for fire hazard and weight limits. However this is just info gathered online and im not sure if its not do-able so I thought i'd ask... The only wood on the deck would be the framing itself... im planning on doing brick all around (skirting) and put down backerboard and tiling the floor... is there a way to build the firepit into the deck or do I have to start from the ground up? Any help is appreciated!!
 
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Old 04-09-14, 02:53 PM
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Welcome to the forums! For weight considerations, sadly you must start from the ground, if you are using a stone framed unit. Check, too with your insurance company to see it would affect your fire rating.
 
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Old 04-09-14, 03:07 PM
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Thanks for warm welcome! Ive always visited the site but never posted... I feared that I must start from the ground, but better to knolw now so I can encorporate it into my plans. Ive never built a pit before, what is the most effective way to go vertical (+6ft)? Does the footing need to be put below the frost line? Thanks!
 
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Old 04-09-14, 06:09 PM
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I would seriously consider a gas fire feature and not a wood burning fire pit. There is a long list of negatives against a fire pit, next to the house, in a deck and all for something that will probably be used a dozen times the first year and half that the second. A gas feature would be convenient so hopefully used more often and would not require the heavy construction and is safer.
 
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Old 04-09-14, 06:49 PM
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Im guessing a gas firepit wouldn't require hardcore fireproofing as it wouldnt get as hot (because you don't have hot wood/embers sitting at the bottom). Could a gas pit be built into the deck?
Regarding your comment about us not using the pit, I actually have one of those cheepo home depot metal pits that we use in the driveway all the time... we like to cook over a wood fire. I don't know what it is about a wood fire but I just like to sit around one.
 
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Old 04-09-14, 07:16 PM
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As already suggested, talk to your homeowners insurance agent first, before doing anything else. If the agent's carrier doesn't drop you, the hike in annual premiums may make your fire-pit-on-a-wood-framed-deck idea a very expensive one. A wood-framed deck will burn, whether from a gas-fired or wood-fired heat source. And if the deck is attached to or even just close to the house, the house will burn.

Also, installing ceramic tile on a wood-framed deck isn't likely to work very well. Most decks deflect too much under load, which will cause your tile grout to crack and displace, and may even result in the tiles themselves cracking.
 
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Old 04-10-14, 04:11 AM
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installing ceramic tile on a wood-framed deck isn't likely to work very well
I agree! You'd really have to build an extra stout deck for tile to even have a chance, even then, moisture from below can be an issue. If you are dead set on tile, I'd suggest a concrete slab instead of a deck. That would also alleviate some of the fire hazard concerns.
 
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Old 04-10-14, 06:35 AM
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Hmm didnt think the deck would deflect that much under load... backerboard on top of the wood structure wouldnt provide the rigidity required for tile to work? With backerboard you are spreading the force of the object/person over a much larger surface area...
The concrete slab you are refering too would have to be ground level correct? My house is on a grade which runs left to right so that means i would have to grade the whole area and essentially make a patio (which my wife and i dont want). We want something level with the bay door...
Ive seen so many built in fire pits on decks i didnt think it'd be such an issue.
 
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Old 04-10-14, 09:36 AM
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You can build it up to pour a higher slab but that is more work/money. Cement board has very little structural value. I'm not a tile guy but I suspect for tile to work well you'd need to have bigger joists and plywood [possibly 2 layers] then the cement board. Being outside I'd suspect you'd have to use PT plywood. I've never seen any exterior tile over wood that held up well.
 
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Old 04-10-14, 10:27 AM
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Building up the ground 6-7 ft sounds very expensive and labor intensive... is that the only option if it comes to having an elevated surface that can sustain tile?
 
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Old 04-10-14, 10:39 AM
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Sell the house, and buy one with a flatter back yard.

But even doing that, in your harsh winter climate, don't expect exterior ceramic tile to weather very well. Even if grout lines are meticulously sealed and maintained, you can expect things to not withstand the movement caused by frost heave, without some distress.
 
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Old 04-10-14, 10:54 AM
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Sell the house, and buy one with a flatter back yard.

That seems a bit drastic dont you think?

If you buy PEI5 tiles that are frostproof i dont think the tiles would have issues... however im not familiar with deck structure deflectcion and frost heave... i thought this would be a simple project but every step of the way im uncovering more and more issues....
 
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Old 04-10-14, 12:15 PM
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Old 04-10-14, 01:15 PM
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Have never used it, but they aren't using tile. Using pavers and natural stone, and no grout. Yeah, keep the house. Adapt, improvise, overcome. Having a firepit in the yard with a sitting area only enhances your ability to entertain in different areas, leaving the deck for cooking, sitting, etc. We aren't able to have one at our rental cabin since we abut the National Forest. Different rules keep us from doing things we want, right?
 
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Old 04-10-14, 02:19 PM
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Building up the ground 6-7 ft sounds very expensive and labor intensive
I didn't realize it was that high I wouldn't want to tackle that either. Have you considered having the firepit in another location where it can be closer to the ground? Like Larry said, keep the deck for one use and have another area dedicated for the firepit and activities that go with it.
 
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Old 04-10-14, 03:53 PM
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Yea ill do the firepit at ground level... nothings been built yet so I can play around with location all I want... in my head the tile was a non-issue and we were in love with the look.... still searching for a solution!!

Im a mechanical engineer working in the auto industry and basically if theres a will there a way is my approach... there is nothing on this earth that cant be done (within the laws of physics of course)... maybe I can invent a new way of doing it and make millions ... in the meantime im open to suggestions... what is the deal with concrete? Can that be poured on an elevated deck? How do you support the extra weight?
 
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Old 04-10-14, 04:35 PM
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Yeah, but it would take special support and concrete pan to pour on. It is done out west a lot. Bridgeman will be in shortly to address that, I am sure.
 
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Old 04-11-14, 10:58 AM
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Can anyone chime in on options for an elevated deck w/ a tile or concrete surface? Greatly appreciated!
 
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Old 04-11-14, 01:32 PM
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As a mechanical engineer, you should be able to use what you learned in your college structural analysis and statics coursework to work up a design yourself. Use a unit weight of 150 PCF for the reinforced concrete, add another 20 PSF for form dead load, and probably another 10 or 15 PSF for the tile, thinset and backer board. Probably a minimum of 3 main beams to carry the deck joists, which would support the form pans. Shallow-ribbed building forms would work, or you could go with bridge SIP forms, and span as much as 12' or 14'. But be prepared to pay a premium for them. Don't skimp on the columns, either, as taller ones will require adequate bracing to prevent buckling under the heavy loads you'll be applying. I suspect your column calculations will require at least 6 x 6 members, and that's what DCA 6 requires as well, for conventional timber decks carrying light loads. You'll just be using a lot more of them than their minimum recommendations.

I hope all the effort and expense required will be worth it to you. I wouldn't be surprised if you wind up spending $60 or $70 per square foot for a deck capable of supporting concrete and tile. Or even $90 if you choose fancy tiles. Also, make sure to go with textured-surface tiles, or you will be slipping and sliding all over the place when they get wet.
 
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Old 04-12-14, 06:06 AM
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I was just looking thru a Raymour and Flannigan circular, and they have an outdoor table with a built in propane firepit.
Maybe you could do something like that instead? Just throwing out another idea that's probably cheaper and safer.
 
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Old 04-13-14, 09:00 AM
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Thanks everyone for all your advice and ideas... ive been looking around some more and I think im going to use composite decking... seems like a cheaper/more durable solution to my issue and they make pretty decent looking planks... I do still have a question:

I was in home depot and saw a brand name composite material (TREX). They also sell framing which is steel, claiming that it wont deflect as much as wood and itll keep the decking straighter, etc... has anyone used this? Is this a better option vs wood or is it a gimmick? Im going to do some research b/c im sure its been asked b4 but figured id toss it up here too.
 
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Old 04-13-14, 03:36 PM
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There are many brands of composite decking and TREX is one of the oldest. I have relatives that have some that's been down over 10 years and I have a small section of ChoiceDek that is going on it's third summer. None are flawless wonder materials. They are different than wood and in many ways better but they do have their drawbacks.

Composites don't splinter and don't warp or cup. Most are not structural so the framing underneath, wood or steel, needs to carry the full load and provide all the support to maintain straightness. Most products are porous to some extent and grease & oil drops are difficult to remove. The one non-porous product I've seen looked really fake and slippery when wet.

My small deck area used planks all from the same production lot, taken from the same bundle. It's the wash down area for my little home brewery so there are some organics and cleaning chemicals. After three years I'm surprised at the difference in color between the deck boards. There's no splinters or splitting but if I hadn't been so careful picking the material I'd swear I had planks from three production lots. There is no difference in the end of the deck where I do most of my wash down versus the other so I think my usage has had no affect.

---
Steel framing is a totally separate issue and another can of worms altogether. I have never used it on a composite deck and don't know if the difficulty of use and potential for corrosion outweigh any benefits (and my wife has to beg me to make something out of wood and not welded steel). Personally I'd go for a heavy, pressure treated construction and use stainless steel fasteners.
 
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Old 04-14-14, 12:45 PM
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Thank you for your suggestions/advice. I really appreciate it. Thought the composite stuff would be a bit tougher, trex says they have a 25 year color warranty. Ill keep researching... going to submit my plan to the city in 3 weeks so need to make my decision soon!
 
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Old 04-14-14, 03:15 PM
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You have to read what they mean by color warranty. A certain amount of fading is spec'd in and not covered but even fading is usually not much of a problem. It's when it's uneven that it can become quite obvious.

Still, given the problems with composite products I would still pick it over most woods and especially pressure treated... but there is still the cost to consider. Composite decking can be 3-4x the cost of wood. Because of it's expense I would not consider fasteners other than stainless steel which further increases the cost. It's trivial in the grand scheme but it's still shocking to see what stainless hardware costs and because of it's softness it can require extra installation labor to pre-drill holes.
 
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Old 04-14-14, 07:00 PM
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Im willing to spend the extra money to get a superior product... we spend a lot of time outside so I definitely don't want to compromise. What other problems, if any have you experienced with your composite deck material? Can you suggest a retailer with low prices?

Im not sure what you're talking about with the stainless steel fasteners... the fasteners for the structure will be out of sight and they make hidden fastener clips for the composite wood so none of the fasteners would be visible... corrosion to the point of failure is not really an issue, so why the concern? Maybe im missing something.
 
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Old 04-14-14, 11:58 PM
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So are you planning on installing ceramic tile on top of composite decking? You were earlier pretty convinced that ceramic tile was going to be in your deck's future. Or did the prospect of designing a deck support structure strong enough to support concrete scare you off?

And regarding fasteners--stainless steel is soft, but expensive. Very easy to "cam out" the heads unless extreme care is taken to apply firm pressure on the drill while installing. Once that happens, you'll just have to throw the screw away as a lost cause and start over, slightly off-setting the intended location. Trouble with that is the intended hidden clips have pre-drilled holes, so you'll have to somehow remove a screw having a stripped-out head. Or scrap the clip and try again with another one, in an adjacent location.
 
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Old 04-15-14, 07:01 AM
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No, i will not be installing tile on top of the composite. I couldnt really find a deck that was succesfully built with tile and has low maintenance. I dont want to re-grout every year, especially if im spending so much money on the inital cost. I was going to go the concrete route after the tile was ruled out, however i saw a trex display at my local hardware store and it was well put together and has the desired low maintenace that im looking for. The concrete would be a pain in the ass to build and dont think i could tackle it myself because i have no experience with concrete... i could probably pour it myself but not sure if i could get that nice smooth finish that concrete needs to look good...
I still dont see the advantage of using SS fasteners over galvanized steel screws? Everything you listed above is a disadvantage.
 
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Old 04-15-14, 09:02 AM
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i could probably pour it myself but not sure if i could get that nice smooth finish that concrete needs to look good..
While it isn't rocket science, it's a lot harder than it looks! One of the big problems with diy concrete work is you get so wore out placing the concrete you're apt to put too little effort into the finishing.
 
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Old 04-15-14, 10:55 AM
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Yea doing all that work and having it come out ****ty would really ruin my day... im going the composite route and leave the concrete stuff to the pro's.
 
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Old 04-16-14, 12:56 PM
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Anyone know where the best place it to buy composite decking material in bulk for a good price?
 
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Old 04-18-14, 03:39 PM
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So returning to the existing firepit issue (called insurance and I can have one, very common here). Anyways Ive been looking around and have seen firepits on elevated decks that aren't built from ground up so I was thinking this.... put backerboard down on the deck and use this as a base for the decorative brick and then place a metal fire pit which I can buy at lowes into the enclosure... i would make it so that the pit is supported by the brick and not contacting the backerboard... does this sound like a good idea?
 
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Old 04-20-14, 11:00 AM
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Anyone got any input on the firepit?
 
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Old 04-24-14, 01:26 PM
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That is almost exactly the design I have in mind for my fire pit. Backerboard, with concrete landscaping blocks to construct a ring, and then one of those fire pit bowls to set inside of it (don't forget the lid to contain any flying sparks).
 
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