Updated: June 2016
Whether you're picturing roasting marshmallows with the kids or a relaxing night with friends, it's easy to see the appeal of a backyard fire pit. According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, fire pits and fireplaces are the most requested outdoor design element. There's more to consider, though, than whether you want to purchase something small or build your own structure. From safety to whether it will affect your homeowners insurance, you may want to consider a few things before you start warming yourself by the fire.
If you're not sure whether you need to disclose a fire pit on your property, or you want to know if having one may necessitate changes to your homeowners policy, it's best to to talk to your insurance agent. It's a good idea to discuss the fire pit you've purchased, installed or are planning for and then review your homeowners insurance policy's coverage to help you determine if any changes are necessary.
You may want to increase your coverage limits, which is the maximum amount your insurer will pay for covered claims. If you spend the time and money to design and build a backyard fire pit, particularly one that increases the value of your property, you'll want to be sure your homeowners insurance cover limits are high enough to help pay for repairs or replacement if your structure is damaged by a covered peril.
It may also be a good idea to review your current policy's liability coverage. This coverage may help protect you if you are found legally responsible for a guest's injuries after getting too close to the flames or damage to someone else's property should sparks ignite a neighbor's garage.
Any potential effects to your homeowners insurance may be determined by whether your fire pit is portable or a permanent structure. A small fire pit that can be easily moved will likely be considered personal property under most homeowners policies, and if it's damaged by a covered peril, you'll likely find homeowners insurance will help protect it. If you have a larger stone or cement fire pit or fire place that is permanently installed in your yard, it may be considered an unattached structure and fall under your policy's other structures coverage.
Of course, you probably don't expect your fire pit to lead to an insurance claim, and you may be able to help prevent that situation by following some basic safety guidelines. HGTV suggests placing chairs away from the fire and making sure a fire extinguisher and fire blanket are nearby. At the end of the night, follow the manufacturer's instructions for putting out the fire properly.
Before you buy a portable fire pit or start designing your own backyard fireplace, it's important to make sure you've considered more than just enjoying some time by the fire. A local agent can help you review your insurance coverages so you can make any desired adjustments. Then you can enjoy nights by the fire with a little more peace of mind.