Propane fire pits are safe to operate if you follow some basic safety practices. If you’re building your own custom propane fire pit or table, you must include important safety considerations in your design. In this article, we’ll discuss the safety of store-bought fire pits and fire tables and DIY custom-built fire features.
Propane is Heavier Than Air
The first and most important thing to know about propane is that it is heavier than air. It flows downward like water and will pool in low places. If not handled properly, propane can potentially cause unwanted fire or explosions.
Store-bought propane fire pits and fire tables are designed with this in mind. They will have adequate ventilation built in and will most likely have an open bottom. This bottomless design allows the gas from any propane leaks that might occur inside the enclosure to fall downward and dissipate out the bottom.
THINK OF propane-like water flowing out of a faucet. It drops downward and will collect into pools of gas.
DIY plans require that at least one side of the feature be left open to ensure gas is properly vented. Typically, they follow the same design as a store-bought feature: the bottom is left out (no floor) and raised a few inches off the ground. This allows you to hide the tank while satisfying safety concerns.
When designing your propane fire pit or fire table, you must also include a minimum of 20 square inches of ventilation in the lowest part of the enclosure (even if it’s bottomless).
For specifics on exactly how to do this, check out our article on fire pit ventilation.
Only Operate Outdoors in a Well-Ventilated Area
You may ask, “Isn’t everywhere outdoors going to be well-ventilated?” Not necessarily.
For example, a fire pit situated in a tight nook created by two sides of a house, a tall fence on one side, thick shrubbery on another, and perhaps some sort of overhead enclosure may not allow for enough fresh air to circulate in the space.
Take a few minutes to read the manual included with your equipment to be sure you are following best safety practices.
Maintain Proper Clearances
And don’t skip the chapter on safe clearances specific to your fire feature or equipment. At a minimum, keep all flammable materials at least 3 feet away from all sides of your fire pit. Maintain a minimum of 8 feet of clearance above your fire feature. This pertains to items like outdoor umbrellas and pergolas.
ALWAYS MAINTAIN a clearance of at least 3 feet on all sides of your fire feature and at least 8 feet above it.
For more information on clearances, see our article Outdoor Gas Fire Pit Clearances and Other Safety Considerations.
If You Smell Gas – Turn it Off!
Use standard safety practices as you would with any other gas appliance. If you smell propane gas, immediately turn off your gas fire pit and contact a licensed gas specialist.
Safety Considerations for Children
Children should never be left unsupervised around an open flame, and a gas fire pit is no exception. And while a flame guard helps deter kids from the flames, it’s no substitute for supervision. Part of your safety protocol should always include an attentive, responsible adult nearby.
Still Not Sure?
Still feeling uneasy at the prospect of using propane for your fire feature? Please feel free to contact us with any of your concerns. We want you to feel 100% confident in the safety of your DIY fire pit or fire table.