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Heating Options for Washington Cedar Decks

Chiminea on DeckDays last longer and nights are warmer in the summer, but even summer nights can get chilly in the Pacific Northwest. It’s no fun planning a deck party only to have to cut it short or move indoors when it gets nippy out on your cedar decking. Washington homeowners who like to entertain outdoors often find that by simply providing a little heat, they can extend the party well into the night.

There are many types of deck heating methods to choose from, each with its own quirks and benefits. As a general rule of thumb, most heat sources provide 10-15 degrees of heat per 10-20 feet of heat exposure on a cedar deck. Vancouver residents who are interested in heating things up should consider all of the options before settling on any particular one.

Fire pits

If you like to roast marshmallows or hot dogs, or if you like the ambiance and smell of a campfire, consider getting a fire pit. Fire pits come in many shapes and sizes and can be either portable or installed into the surface of the deck.

A fire pit makes a great focal point for your outdoor living space. However, when adding a fire pit to a cedar deck, Vancouver homeowners will need to take extra care to protect the decking material from catching fire. At minimum, you’ll need to surround it with deck tiles or another non-flammable surface.

When selecting a fire pit, you’ll also need to choose between gas and wood fueled. If you go with gas, your utility bill will be higher; if you choose wood, you will need to keep some firewood available throughout the summer. In general fire pits take up a lot of space and require more supervision and care than some other, smaller heat sources.


A chiminea is a cross between a fire pit and a small chimney. Chimineas are gaining popularity because of their simple design and aesthetic appeal. On the low end, you can find relatively inexpensive chimineas that will provide a nice amount of heat for a reasonable price; on the high end, some cedar deck owners in Washington have constructed much larger chimineas that double as fireplaces built into the deck.


When it comes to practical heating solutions, small heaters are your best bet for cedar decking. Washington stores carry a wide variety of sizes and models to choose from.

Radiant heaters are considered a more traditional outdoor heating option. These are the types of heaters you often see installed in outside seating areas at restaurants. They’re increasingly being replaced by newer infrared heaters, which tend to be safer and more efficient than traditional radiant heaters.

If you’re not interested in an electric heater, propane and natural gas deck heaters are also available, and both have their pros and cons. Propane is going to be slightly more expensive than gas.

Heated Furniture and Lighting

If you really want to get into the 21st century on your cedar deck, Vancouver stores selling outdoor furniture may carry heated furniture or lights. Heated furniture is a recent alternative to fire pits or electric heaters. Imagine a chair or table with small, built-in, charged-electric heaters. It requires minimal upkeep and installation, plus you have the convenience of heated furniture.

Heated lighting works in a similar way. Most light sources give off some heat, but heated lighting puts emphasis on both, which is perfect for those slightly chilly summer nights in Washington.

Other Considerations

Take style and ambiance seriously when deciding how to heat your cedar deck. Vancouver homes with a more rustic or cabin-style aesthetic may not mesh well with futuristic-looking heated furniture, for example. And fire pits or chimineas create a different sort of ambience than propane or electric heaters.

Finally, always remember to put safety first. Use deck tiles or a fireproof pad if you have a fire pit or chiminea, and always keep an extinguisher nearby. If you have friends who smoke, ask that they smoke away from any propane or gas heat sources. And if you have children, always make sure there is adult supervision around deck heating sources.

[ photo by: cjmartin ]

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