As anyone learns before grammar school age, fire and wood don't mix--unless you want a bigger fire. If you want to enjoy both the warm, crackling glow of an outdoor fire pit and the beauty and texture of a wooden deck, explore some suggestions that will allow these two options to safely mix, whether you're looking for a modest flame or a roaring bonfire.
Raised Metal Cage Pit
For a simple, hassle-free and attractive fire pit option, purchase a metal fire pit on legs. These pits feature a large, shallow metal bowl wherein a fire is made and burns. The bowl is elevated on legs that hold it about a foot above the ground, making the pit ideal for a level wood surface. These pits are also highly portable, come in a variety of styles and are easily extinguished using their large, metal lids.
For a more permanent, less portable but still easy-to-install fire pit, choose a ceramic or metal fire pit with a shape inspired by an old-fashioned pot bellied stove, also known as a chiminea. Like the broader, bowl-shaped pits, these stoves are elevated on legs that keep the fire and heat elevated while a tall chimney releases heat and smoke above. A disadvantage of this design is that you can't seat guests all around the fire, but the quantity of smoke blowing at eye level is greatly reduced.
Cut-away Stone Pit
For a fire pit experience that's closer to that of a large, round bonfire, build a large, round stone fire pit into a portion of the deck that's cut away. For safety as well as aesthetic value, the cylindrical, well-like shape encasing the fire pit is made thick enough to keep the fire from affecting the wood. These pits can be made of natural stone, bricks, poured concrete or a combination of these things.
Floor Level Pit
For a floor level fire on a wooden deck, the actual fire pit will generally be contained inside the circle of cutaway wood with plenty of space around it for safety, which allows you to use a fire pit design that would otherwise be unsafe on a wooden deck, such as an artisan fire bowl. Cover the inside of the cutaway portion with stone, concrete or metal to create a fire-resistant patch in your wooden deck, making it safe to use any fire pit designed for decks of these materials.