Fire pits are fast becoming one of the trendiest backyard accessories. Not only do they add a certain amount of style to your outdoor space, but they also give you the opportunity to relax outside late into the night.
However, for some people, the idea of owning a fire pit comes with certain complications. This is particularly true if you live in an apartment, and the only outdoor space you have available is a balcony.
But can you have a balcony fire pit? We’ll look into this much-asked question below.
We’ll also take a look at some of the legal issues you need to know about, the types of fire pits available, and answer any other burning questions you may have about putting a fire pit on a balcony.
Can You Have A Fire Pit On A Balcony?
In a rush? Let’s cut straight to the chase. You can have a fire pit on a balcony.
However, there are certain things you’ll need to check before you rush out and buy one. These include state laws, local laws, homeowner’s association covenants, rental agreements, and building rules.
It’s essential that you check all of these before setting up a fire pit on your balcony. If you don’t, you may find that you’re in breach of certain contracts or, even worse, you could be breaking the law! This can result in prosecution and an expensive fine.
Another thing that you need to check is whether there are any structural restrictions that would stop you from safely putting a fire pit on your balcony.
These include such things as available floor space and the amount of overhead clearance. Put simply, you want to make sure there is enough room around your fire pit to gather safely, and that it isn’t going to set fire to anything overhead.
Checking Laws, Homeowners Association Covenants, & Building Rules
The answer above explains whether or not you can have a balcony fire pit in the simplest terms. Now, let’s take a more detailed look at some of the things you need to check before you rush out and choose the best fire pit for your balcony.
Start by checking both state and local laws. This is easy enough to do with a quick online search, or by visiting this page. You may have to do a bit of research to find what you’re looking for specifically, but it’s definitely worth doing in order to make sure you’re abiding by the law.
It’s also a good idea to contact a local attorney who will be able to tell you whether or not your building allows you to put a fire pit on a balcony.
This does come with the added expense of billable hours, but this will work out much cheaper than being fined for illegally putting a fire pit on your balcony!
Once you’ve checked local and state laws and you’re certain that you’re allowed to put a fire pit on your balcony, the next thing you need to do is check with the HOA and your building’s management company.
Even if you live in an area that allows balcony fire pits, there may be rules in place that prevent you from installing one in your building. Checking this is a little easier than state and local laws, and it can usually be done with a simple phone call.
However, one thing that you need to be aware of is that there are several organizations that are petitioning for the restricted use of fire pits on balconies.
This included the CAU (Community Underwriters of America), who are currently recommending that Homeowners Association Committees prohibit the use of any kind of fire pit on balconies.
If your Homeowners Association Covenant has followed this advice, you may find that you’re unable to put a fire pit on your balcony, even if it’s legal to do so in your state.
If any of these things seem confusing and you aren’t 100% certain about any of them, it’s a good idea to contact your local fire department for clarification. You can also contact the company that manages your property, although you may find that you get a less detailed answer.
The International Fire Code
Another thing that you need to be aware of is that many areas in the United States are following the advice outlined by the International Fire Code (IFC) when it comes to installing open-flame devices on balconiesLP-gas. This includes fire pits, chimeneas, and barbecue grills.
Currently, the IFC is in use across 42 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Roco, and the U.S Virgin Islands. But what exactly is the International Fire Code?
In their own words, the International Fire Code (IFC) is a “comprehensive fire code that establishes minimum regulations for fire prevention and fire protection systems using prescriptive and performance-related provisions. It is founded on broad-based principles that make possible the use of new materials and new system designs”.
Seems pretty confusing, doesn’t it? Allow us to simplify things for you. What the above means is that the IFC is a set of basic guidelines that have the potential to impact your ability to use a fire pit on a balcony.
However, they only impact it if the local fire regulations in your area are guided by the International Fire Code.
This is something that you’ll be able to check with your local fire station, although you’re quite likely to find out while researching local laws, state laws, HOA covenants, and building rules.
What Are The IFC’S Rules On Balcony Fire Pits?
If you find that your area is guided by the International Fire Code, it’s quite unlikely that you’re able to put a fire pit on your balcony. This is because the following IFC rule will be in place:
- “No fire pits, grills, or open-flame devices can be used on a balcony within 10 feet of a combustible structure”
However, there are some exceptions to this rule which, if applicable, can put you back in the game and may mean that you’re able to have a balcony fire pit. These exceptions are:
- The balcony is attached to a one (single-family home) or two-family dwelling (such as a duplex). Any building larger than this (such as an apartment or condo) will not be allowed a balcony fire pit.
- The balcony is equipped with an automatic sprinkler system or similar.
The reason for these exceptions is to reduce the risk of a potential fire breaking out to a smaller number of people in smaller buildings.
Put simply, it means that if your balcony fire pit got out of control and set fire to the surrounding area, it would be much easier to contain and extinguish.
The main takeaway here is that if you live in a single-occupant home, two-person dwelling, or if you have an automatic sprinkler system installed, you’ll still be able to put a fire pit on your balcony even if there are IFC rules in place.
However, these rules only apply if you’re planning on installing a wood-burning fire pit. If you’d prefer a gas-powered balcony fire pit, things start to become a little more complicated.
To begin with, IFC rules state that “no LP- gas containers that exceed 1lb of gas capacity are allowed within 10 feet of a combustible structure”.
In most cases, this will make it quite difficult to install a gas-powered fire pit on a balcony as you’re unlikely to be able to set it up at least 10-feet away from the main building.
There are, however, some exceptions to this rule:
- You may install an LP-gas container that exceeds 1lb of gas capacity within 10 feet of the building if the balcony is attached to a one (single-family) home or a two-family dwelling. Anything larger than this including apartment buildings and condos need to follow the 10-feet distance rule.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who does fall into the exceptions with this rule, your best bet would be to choose a 1lb propane bottle to fuel your fire pit. This will allow you to meet the 1lb gas capacity and, even though it may seem small for a fire pit, you’ll still get around 1.5-2 hours of burn time from a single tank. Of course, this depends on the size of your fire pit and how high or low you set the flame.
You’ll also need a 1lb propane bottle adaptor to establish a safe and secure connection to your fire pit’s regulator. These are relatively inexpensive and can be found both online and in your local hardware store.
Finally, the last thing that you may be restricted by when it comes to the IFC’s rules is the type of material that your balcony is made from.
If it’s a wooden balcony, it’s a complete no-go. However, if it’s a concrete balcony and you fall into any of the exceptions above, you should be fine to install a fire pit.
Common Laws, Rules, & Regulations That May Impact Balcony Fire Pit Use
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the common laws, rules, and regulations that may impact balcony fire pit use. However, before we do, it’s important to note that you still need to research your local area and state laws properly.
The information outlined below is simply a snapshot of some of the issues you may encounter. These include:
- A ban on any flame-producing device being used on a balcony
- A ban on fire pits of any kind being used on a balcony
- A ban on wood-burning fire pits but the allowance of gas-powered fire pits under certain conditions
The two most important points to pay attention to here are a ban on any flame-producing device being used on a balcony (including chimeneas and barbecue grills) and a ban on fire pits of any kind being used on a balcony.
This means that there are no exceptions at all. You can’t have a wood-burning or gas-powered fire pit on your balcony. In fact, you can’t have any open-flame device or fire pit of any kind at all.
This rule will most likely be in place if your building is considered an “at-risk structure”. This basically means that the building is old and, while still suitable for occupancy, was not built with modern fire safety regulations in place.
By prohibiting the use of fire pits of any kind, both the building and its occupants are kept safe.
Another reason this rule may be in place is that there are local conditions that are considered “at-risk”.
This is mostly in rural areas and includes surrounding woodland where a wildfire could easily start if a wayward ember from a fire pit found its way over on a dry day.
But what about the third point listed above? The reason why some municipalities allow gas-powered fire pits on a balcony but not wood-burning fire pits is because they are considered safer.
Gas-powered fire pits don’t tend to create sparks or embers and, as such, there is less risk of the fire extending beyond the fire pit itself. Of course, the authorization to use them remains on a case-by-case basis.
But, if you want to increase your chances of installing a fire pit on your balcony, it’s best to choose a gas-powered option.
Again, it’s important to reiterate that you must check with your local authorities, Homeowners Association, and building rules for up-to-date information and guidance.
Every state and its containing areas will have its own rules. By researching thoroughly and abiding by them, you’ll be keeping yourself out of trouble!
What Is The Best Fire Pit For A Balcony?
You’ve done your research and you’re 100% certain that you’re allowed to install a fire pit on your balcony. Now you need to think about the best fire pit for your balcony.
This may seem like a fairly straightforward task and you’ve probably already seen one that you like the look of. But, there are some things you need to consider before you purchase!
One of the most important things you need to think about is what type of fuel your fire pit is going to use.
You’re most likely going to be restricted with this as you’ll need to follow your local area’s regulations. However, if you do have the freedom of choice, we’d recommend going for a propane-fuelled fire pit.
The main reason for this is because it’s safer and cleaner than a wood-burning fire pit.
Since gas doesn’t create sparks or embers in the same way as wood, you don’t run the risk of the fire spreading outside of its contained space. You also won’t have to deal with wood smoke filling the air.
Of course, there is an argument for wood-burning fire pits and some purists will tell you that it’s the only way to get the real experience of gathering around an open fire.
But, as far as increasing safety and reducing the risk of potential property damage are concerned, propane is the hands-down winner.
The next thing you need to consider is the amount of space you have available on your balcony.
As we explained earlier, certain International Fire Code rules state that you’re only allowed a fire pit on your balcony as long as it is set up at least 10-feet away from any combustible structure.
This means that, even if local rules and HOA covenants allow you to place a fire pit on your balcony, you may still be restricted by available space.
So, before you do anything else, head out onto your balcony with a measuring tape and check that you have 10-feet of clearance on all sides in the area you’re thinking about placing your fire pit.
Once you’ve done that, the next thing you need to consider in terms of space is how much room your fire pit is going to take up. If it completely fills your balcony, you’ll have nowhere to sit and enjoy the warmth!
Likewise, if it’s so large that you have to sit right in front of it, you’ll find yourself getting very hot very quickly!
It’s also important to remember you need to find somewhere to store the fuel for your fire pit. If it’s gas-powered, it’s best to choose a fire pit with built-in gas tank storage. In most cases, this will allow you to store the tank in the fire pit’s base.
While some gas-powered fire pits are designed with an external gas hose, this does create an increased risk of tripping. This certainly isn’t something you want to do when you’re in an enclosed space such as a balcony.
If you’ve opted for a wood-burning fire pit, you’ll need a safe place to store the logs. You’ll also need to make sure they are protected from wet weather while they are in storage, otherwise, you’ll find it incredibly hard to light them!
The functionality of your fire pit is another important thing you’ll need to think about. Obviously, you want it to create fire.
But, when you’re dealing with a limited amount of space, it’s best if you can get something that delivers more than one purpose.
Some fire pits are designed to act as a table when they aren’t in use and will feature a snap-on lid that covers the burning bowl. These are an excellent choice for a couple of reasons.
First of all, they allow you to enjoy a drink on your balcony or dine alfresco without having to take up extra room with a separate table. Simply secure the lid in place and you’ll have a fully functioning dining area.
Secondly, the lid helps to keep the fire pit protected during bad weather and over the winter months. You may still want to purchase a cover, especially if you live in an area that suffers from particularly severe winters, but it’s an excellent way of adding another layer of protection.
Finally, you need to think about how easy it will be to maneuver your fire pit around your balcony as needed. This is important as you’ll want to move it to a more protected area during the winter, and bring it back into pride of place during the warmer seasons.
A fire pit with built-in wheels is by far the best option to go for here. You just need to make sure that there is some kind of brake system in place to stop it from moving around while it’s lit.
Also, while this doesn’t strictly fall under the maneuverability category, it’s very important to check the weight limitations of your balcony. You could cause structural damage or weaken certain supports if you buy a fire pit that’s too heavy for your balcony.
Below, you’ll find a list of our recommended fire pits for a balcony. There’s something for everyone here, and we’ve taken all budgets, styles, and space restrictions into consideration.
This is an excellent choice if you have a smaller balcony and, as long as you’re abiding by IFC and local laws, it will warm up your outdoor space in a short period of time.
This is thanks to its 50,000 BTUs of power. It also features an auto-ignition system, making it easier than ever to get those flames burning!
If you’re looking for a smaller fire pit but you’ve got a little extra room in your budget, the Outland Living 410 Fire Pit Table is a great choice.
The push-button ignition system makes it super easy to light and, since it’s gas-powered, it’s 100% smoke-free.
It’s also made from Ultraviolet Light High-Density Polyethylene. This makes it highly durable and weather-resistant.
Finally, if neither space nor budget is an issue, we’d recommend choosing this 44-inch Fire Pit Table by YeSea.
The incredibly stylish design sees the flames encased in wind-proof glass, with enough space remaining around the edges to rest a drink or some snacks on.
It also operates with 55,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heating power, and it features built-in tank storage.
In the case of “can you have a balcony fire pit?”, the short answer is yes, you can. However, don’t go ahead and buy one without checking local laws, state laws, HOA rules, and building rules first. You’ll also need to check if your area is guided by IFC regulations.
Sure, all of this does take a little extra effort, but it’s essential that you check these things if you want to place a fire pit on your balcony safely and legally. If you don’t, you could find yourself having to pay a very expensive fine.