Have you ever had a few beers while sitting around the fire pit to keep warm while wearing knee pants, and realized your legs were getting way too hot? I definitely have. So how far should your chair be from an outdoor fire pit that’s in full burn?
For a wood-burning fire pit, which burns hotter than a gas model, make sure the edge of your chair is at least 30 inches away from the edge of the fire pit. For a gas fire pit, your chair can be a little closer at approximately 24 inches.
To give you some peace of mind about fire pit safety in your outdoor space, in this article we’ll look in detail at how far your seat should be from the fire pit, how much space is needed around one in general – and what type of chairs are a good idea around your fire pit. We also consider the relative merits of sunken fire pits with built-in seating…
How Far Should Seating Be From a Fire Pit? (Planning it Out)
For a wood-burning fire pit, most experts say for a safe distance you should plan on the edge of your lounge chairs being 30 inches away from the edge of the fire pit. For a gas fire pit, you can be closer, around 24 inches to give yourself enough room.
Wood-burning fire pits burn hotter than gas ones. With a gas fire pit, you can sit closer in. Not only that, but a gas fire pit burns steadily – no giant flare-ups or dying coals. With gas, you don’t need space to move your chair around for the perfect heat, because you are already there. Here’s a reference for gas fire pit safe distances.
You can place gas pits under a roof – if the roof is at least 6 feet above the pit to give enough space. Gas fire pits can sit on wooden decks or on pergolas safely. Gas fire pit spaces can be more intimate than wood-burning ones.
A wood-burning backyard fire pit is more like a campfire. There’s really nothing to compare to a dancing flame, the smell of wood burning, and the crackling sound a fire makes.
But with a wood fire pit, you need more room. You may want to move chairs around, depending on the heat of the fire and the direction of the smoke.
A good rule of thumb is to allow 7 feet of space from the edge of a wood-burning fire pit to the edge of the patio. In that 7 feet, one person can be sitting in a deep seating type cushioned chair.
They can have their feet up on the edge of the fire pit (when it’s burning low). Another person can walk comfortably behind their chair in the remaining 2 feet of patio.
The best fire pit seating options account for just one or for many fire-gazers. Consider a fire pit with several cozy chairs but a bench too. If you have a large party, guests will naturally gather around the fire pit. With a bench or two, you can make social areas and have space for them all.
There are rounded benches to go with round fire pits. You can build in benches. Benches are also great for setting down those frozen Margaritas or plates of BBQ from the outdoor kitchen.
Another way to accommodate large or small parties is with an outdoor sofa and chairs. Be careful, though, long sofas and outdoor daybeds don’t always go with round fire pits – too cold! If you are going to use your existing lawn furniture, consider the shape of the fire pit that will keep everyone toasty.
If you are in the fire pit design and patio planning phase, consider working backwards. First, pick the center of the future fire pit in your yard. Mark where you think it will go – round, square or rectangular, mark the outline. Then gather the outdoor furniture you want around it.
Plan for the chairs or sofa to be 30 inches away from a wood-burning pit or 24 inches from a gas one. Walking space should be 24 inches. This could be a large open space, so how big a patio will you need?
A big difference between gas fire pits and wood-burning ones is fire safety. With a wood fire and a little breeze, you can have blowing embers. Try to design a fire pit patio to allow for blowing embers and always take into account possible wind direction when planning your fire pit area. Use fireproof patio materials like cement, pavers or stone around your fire feature.
How Much Room Should You Leave Around a Fire Pit?
A wood-burning fire pit will need more space. Allow 14 to 18 feet from the center of the fire pit to the edge of the patio. For a gas fire pit, allow 7 feet.
For wood-burning fire pits and wood fires, you need room to scoot chairs around and to avoid walking too close to the fire. A way to plan for this is to measure from the center of the fire pit. Measured this way, most patio experts recommend a diameter from 14 feet to 18 feet in diameter. Remember, it’s always better to have too much space from the focal point, not too little.
Most deep seating type chairs are 36 inches deep. For safety, allow for 2 feet for walking around chairs. If you like to put your feet up on the edge of the fire pit, that distance is around 30 inches. If you allow for two feet behind the chair to walk around, the total distance from the edge of the fire pit to the edge of the patio is 7.5 feet.
For a gas-burning fire pit or gas fires, the math is easier. You shouldn’t sit closer than 2 feet. Most deep seating type chairs measure 36 inches deep. Then, add 2 feet behind the chair for safe walking space. In total, that’s 7 feet. A patio with a gas-burning fire pit is much smaller.
How Many Chairs Can You Have Around a Fire Pit?
For a wood-burning fire pit, you can have between two and six large chairs. For a gas fire pit, two to four chairs are perfect.
What Type of Chairs Are Good Around a Fire Pit?
Whatever chairs are most comfortable for you in your outdoor living space. A fire pit is for relaxing around, so your chairs should be comfortable for hours – and hours – and hours.
Choose your favorite – traditional Adirondack chairs, deep seating, outdoor sofas, outdoor daybeds, sectionals, sling chairs, resin wicker, rocking chairs, hanging egg chairs, gliders, or zero gravity chairs. If you like rustic, pull up some tree stumps.
Whatever your seating preference, make them comfortable and give yourself plenty of room. Then, consider fire safety. With fire pits, fire safety should always be a concern. Steel and aluminum chairs without cushions are the most fire resistant. And they may be the most comfortable for you. But many people will prefer cushioned seating.
Soft, cushioned chairs are not going to be fireproof. Some fabrics, like Sunbrella, are flame-resistant. However, you can treat your comfy cushioned chairs with a fire retardant.
To be fire resistant, a fabric must withstand heat. Fire resistant (FR) fabric is difficult to catch on fire, but when it does it burns so slowly, the fire will self-extinguish/
Fire retardant means that the fabric has been treated with a chemical to give them fire-resistant qualities.
The bottom line is, unless you prefer metal fire pit chairs, you need to be vigilant about the embers from a wood-burning fire. Never leave a fire pit unattended. Always have a fire blanket, bucket of sand, bucket of water, small spray bottle of water or a fire extinguisher handy. If embers land on a cushioned chair, be ready to douse them. Teach your kids to stop, drop and roll. This is the best way to stay safe.
Are Built-in Benches a Good Idea Around Fire Pits? (Especially Sunken Ones)
Built-in benches are a great addition for fire pits. Benches expand seating exponentially and add to your pit aesthetic.
By adding a bench, you can add eye-level design elements that accentuate your pit style. If you are a minimalist, then use the same materials – like cement – for the fire pit, patio, and bench. If your pit style is rustic, consider mixing stone and wood.
For a traditional look, you can add molded aluminum benches. Soften the look of the bench with some pillows and garden flowers.
Bench placement around a fire pit can be tricky. Too close and you’ll be too hot and too far away and what’s the point? The rule of thumb distance from the edge of the fire pit is no closer than three feet but no farther than four feet.
Sunken fire pits are trendy but practical, too. By sinking your fire pit, you can avoid breezes blowing your fire around. Sunken fire pits are also good for cool climates – one with high walls will keep heat in.
Check out these fabulous sunken fire pits that are a great option in outdoor areas.
So to keep safe just remember, for a wood-burning fire pit, make sure the edge of your chair is at least 30 inches away from the edge of the fire pit. For a gas fire pit or fire pit table, you can be closer in at approximately 24 inches.
For a wood-burning fire pit – which gets hottest – allow around 14 to 18 feet from the center of the fire pit to the edge of the patio. For a gas fire pit, allow at least 7 feet to be safe.
And if you’re in any doubt about the local regulations when it comes to fires and fire pits in your backyard, then you can always check any questions you have with your regional fire officer.
In that context, and to finish – here’s a great video from a professional fire officer about keeping safe with your fire pit…