Wooden Decks, Braais and Firepits

Stunning outdoor deck area

There can be little doubt that summer is the season when Cape Town comes alive. Blessed with a lovely climate and an exquisite natural environment, the best part of a Cape Town summer is the time one gets to spend outside.

Although there is a plethora of outdoor activities one can engage in during the summer in Cape Town, spending time outdoors does not necessarily need to involve physical activity…  Adding a customized outdoor living area to your property will create the perfect place in which to fully exploit the benefits of the season. Nothing says summer like a braai with mates and family.

Putting a fire pit or Braai on a wooden deck can be stressful and dangerous, especially if you don’t know the proper dos and don’ts.

Fire pits are an excellent way to relax and unwind during a cool evening, but if you want to place it on a wood deck, then you need to keep a few things in mind.

You may be asking yourself is it even safe to put a fire pit on a wood deck? How do I prevent any damages? What is the best fire pit/Braai types to use?

Wooden decks are more susceptible to burning because of their material, but …

… if you use it the right way, you can safely enjoy your Braai or fire pit on a wooden deck.


Do: Pick a location that is far from any flammable items, including your house, furniture, or overhangs. Your fire pit/Braai should at least be 10 feet away from your house and other items as a general rule of thumb.

Don’t: Make sure you don’t place your Braai directly next to any item that can easily catch fire.

Even though it may seem like it is far enough away, always measure and ensure that the fire is at least 10 feet from anything flammable. Keep in mind that on windy days, the fire in your fireplace can travel farther and put your valuables and home at greater risk.

A braai on a wooden deck.

Protective Surface

Do: Use a fire pit pad to protect your deck from gas, embers, and ash. These pads come in different materials like stone and metal to keep the wood on your deck protected all the way around your fire pit. Buy some rubber mats and use that to protect from oil/fat splashes and the odd coal piece or two falls. If you are using a Weber -If you are using a weber with holes in the bottom, then close the holes.

Don’t: Never place your Braai directly on a wood deck. The heat, flying sparks, and ash can seriously damage your deck and can also lead to a dangerous fire.

Spark Screens

Do: Invest in a fire pit spark screen for additional protection against flying sparks. This will prevent embers from going in the air and burning nearby items.

Also, it is a good idea to have a poker tool available so you can easily control the logs and flames in your outdoor fireplace.

Don’t: Avoid having an open flame on your fire pit. As mentioned earlier, embers and sparks tend to travel, especially in windy conditions, so ensure your fire is covered with the proper accessories.

Fire pit with a spark screen.

Additional Layers

Do: Pour a couple inches of sand at the bottom of the fire pit/Braai before lighting it. This gives you more protection and creates an additional layer between the fire and your wood deck.

Don’t: Even if you have your fire pit on a stand and a pad surrounding the surface of your deck, don’t light your fire without placing an additional layer.

Also, having a layer like sand at the bottom of your fire pit will prolong the quality and effectiveness of your fire pit pad.

A layered fireplace.

Weather Conditions

Do: Using a fire pit/Braai on a wood deck is ideal during calm weather conditions.

Don’t: Never use your fire pit in windy conditions, especially on a wood deck. This puts your deck, house, and other valuables at risk because fire can easily travel when it is windy out. So Capetonians watch out for our famous South Easter Wind that blows from October to March.

A fire pit and wooden deck on a cloudy evening.

Deck Protection

Grill and Braai Mats come in all shapes and sizes. Grill mats are designed to protect your Deck from not only sparks from your charcoal fire but from grease stains as well.

When shopping for a grill mat, don’t go with the cheapest one you can find. If you’ve splashed out on a top-of-the-line charcoal grill/Braai and expensive wooden deck, don’t try to save on something as comparatively cheap yet essential as a grill mat.

Make sure you have one that is heavy enough to not blow around your grill and is also wide enough to extend a couple of inches each direction around your grill. Most importantly, make sure it is heavy enough to be fire resistant if an ember were to fall on it.

Painting, Staining or sealing – Which is Right for me?

Sealant, stain, and paint can all be applied to a deck for varying degrees of protection.

A deck in the process of being painted.

Sealants are primarily used to protect against moisture damage. They contain waterproof or water-repellent properties and have a thicker viscosity than stains. While they exist, it’s unusual to find a clear deck sealer with UV protection. The reason for this is that unlike stains, sealants often lack the pigmentation that naturally blocks UV rays.

Stains are always pigmented—they both add colour to the deck and protect against UV damage. Even the best deck stain generally offers only moderate moisture protection, but it is still better protection than nothing.

Paint, be it latex or oil-based, can protect against both UV and moisture damage, but the best deck paint generally doesn’t hold up as long as sealant or stain. The other thing to know about deck paint is if there’s any lingering moisture in the wood during application, it is susceptible to bubbling and chipping.

Therefore, a combined stain-and-sealant product offers durable moisture and UV/stain protection with little to no downsides.

Short of this 2-in-1-type product, you can always apply a stain to the deck and, after 48 hours, apply sealant to achieve a similar level of protection.

Contact Decking Pro SA to learn more about our wooden deck solutions and how to make the best of your wooden deck area.