Picture it: You’re spending time with beloved friends or family, gathered around your fire pit on a balmy summer evening. The flames are high and bright — in fact, everyone keeps remarking how beautifully the light of the fire reflects against the shimmery fire glass.
Then a breeze blows in, getting stronger as the night goes on. Your fire pit’s flames are majestic no more; instead, they flicker erratically, dipping and spiking instead of burning steadily. What a disappointment!
Windy weather is inevitable, but you don’t have to let it spoil your fire pit fun. That’s what flame guards are for. A flame guard is the one must-have accessory for outdoor fire pits and fire tables — and should be the first, if only, accessory you add to your fire feature.
What is a fire pit flame guard?
A flame guard is a heat-resistant glass barrier that fully surrounds the burner pan in your fire pit or fire table. It protects the flames from wind, which can negatively affect the beauty and performance of your outdoor fire feature. You’ve made a big investment in your fire pit or fire table, and you want it to deliver a dazzling show whenever you light it up. By blocking most of the direct wind from your flames, a flame guard will greatly improve the efficiency of your fire feature, resulting in a more eye-pleasing, cleaner, and consistent fire with every use.
Watch a flame guard in action here:
The benefits of a flame guard
Provides a steadier-burning flame. It only takes a bit of a breeze to disrupt the flame of your fire pit and cause havoc. A flame guard (also called a wind guard) blocks interfering drafts to help ensure a strong and steady blaze that illuminates your patio. With a flame guard installed, you can be confident that your fire pit will look amazing no matter how windy it is.
Conserves fuel (and saves you money!). Here’s why: Unprotected flames need to burn harder (that is, consume more gas/propane) in order to counteract the effect of the wind. But with a flame guard in place shielding the fire from breezes, you can maintain a lower flame height and use less gas while still ensuring a consistent burn.
Adds instant contemporary style. When it comes to combining beauty AND function, a flame guard can’t be beat. You’ll love the way it transforms your outdoor fire pit from “so-so” to “spectacular!” It’s truly an affordable, simple way to freshen up the look of your fire feature.
Creates a cleaner burn. Having a flame guard around your burner will ensure cleaner burning of the gas — especially if you use propane. On a breezy day, the constant blowing around of the flame results in the gas not being efficiently used. This imperfect burn can leave a soot residue on both the surface of your fire glass and around the edges of the burner pan. The flame guard protects the flame from the breeze so that the gas is totally consumed.
Provides an added measure of safety. A wind guard is actually a safety feature, too. It provides a solid barrier between onlookers and the flames, helping to ensure that you and your family members don’t accidentally get burned by a blowing flame. It also provides a deterrent to younger children who may be drawn by the beautiful glow of the fire and the glimmer of the fire glass. What’s more, a fire guard helps to prevent something from accidentally blowing into your fire pit and catching fire.
Warning: It’s important to be aware that due to its very close proximity to the flames, a flame guard gets extremely hot. Do not touch it while the fire is lit or while it’s cooling down after being turned off. Also, take extra care to teach your own family and any visiting children to stay away from the glass.
The anatomy of a flame guard
Flame guards are made from standard tempered glass that is assembled using metal fasteners. Standard, non-laminated tempered glass can withstand consistent temperatures up to 500°F. There are ceramic-based glass products available on the market that can withstand temperatures up to 1,600°F and more — however, these products are much more expensive than the glass versions and aren’t necessary for use around an outdoor fire pit.
The fasteners used for flame guards are usually available in chrome or aluminum. Aluminum is the preferred material, as it will last the longest and won’t rust over time. Most typical flame guards only require corner fasteners; these hold the pieces of glass together and raise the glass from the surface of the fire feature. For larger fire pits, extension fasteners may be required. These simply connect multiple pieces of glass in a line. When connecting multiple pieces of glass in this manner, you should add some extra feet at the end of each piece of glass for extra support.
What to look for in a flame guard
Like any product you buy today, not all flame guards are created equal. Here’s what you should keep in mind when evaluating your choices.
Quality: First and foremost, any flame guard you purchase should be built to last the life of your fire pit. The ideal product will be constructed of high-quality, shatter-proof tempered glass and sturdy, rust-resistant aluminum hardware that won’t corrode in the outdoor elements.
Customer support: This is another important concern, especially when it comes to installation and warranty support for your flame guard. Companies should stand behind their products and be accessible to their customers. While there is very little to go wrong with flame guards, it’s convenient to be able to reach out to the manufacturer if one of the clamps is missing, if you need help with assembly, or you require any other type of support.
Ideally, you’ll select a flame guard company that is located in the United States, as they’ll be able to provide a high level of support. Beware of companies in China that are selling on marketplaces such as Amazon, even though their lower prices can be attractive. While these companies may save you a couple of dollars in the short term, they too often lack adequate customer support — meaning no representatives in the U.S., no phone assistance, and little or no warranty on their products.
Is there an easy and reliable way to determine if a flame guard manufacturer is reputable? Try these steps:
- Visit their website and check that they have a U.S. phone number prominently displayed on the Home and other pages.
- Check the “Contact Us” page and verify that they have a phone number, address, and open hours listed (it’s even more helpful if they show their exact location on a map). If the only way to contact the manufacturer is through email, this is a big red flag. It means they’re most likely based in China or another country other than the U.S.
- Even if you see a U.S. address on the manufacturer’s website, don’t take it at face value. Instead, Google the address to see if it’s actually someone’s house or a drop box address such as those offered by The UPS Store, Pak Mail, and other shipping outlets. Also, keep in mind that Google Maps isn’t always current. For instance, Celestial Fire Glass is located in a new building, which presently shows as farmland in Google Maps.
Warranty: For your own protection, always choose a flame guard that’s backed by a solid warranty. This is something all reputable manufacturers offer! While warranties don’t cover things such as normal, everyday wear and tear, it’s good to have coverage in case a defect in the flame guard appears after a few years of use (yes — while rare, this can happen).
When it comes to warranty duration, which option should you look for — 1 year, 5 years, or a lifetime? As a general rule of thumb, the longer the warranty period, the more confidence the manufacturer has in their product.
Design: The flame guard you choose should be mounted on rubber feet, so the glass is raised slightly off the surface of the fire pit. This will allow air to feed the flame, resulting in a higher, stronger flame. The rubber feet can also help prevent any problems resulting from an uneven surface under the flame guard.
The thickness of the glass on flame guards should be a 5mm (3/16). A thickness of 5mm is ideal for use as a flame guard as it’s not likely to crack or break if accidentally bumped with a heavy object — for example, if you’re rearranging patio furniture.
How to select the right size flame guard
The flame guard should sit outside the burner pan an equal distance on all sides. Having the same spacing between the burner and the flame guard on all sides gives the fire feature a balance and well-designed look. The typical set-back distance between the outside of the burner and the flame guard is about 2″ to 3 ” on each side. For instance, a 24″ x 8″ burner pan should have a flame guard that is approximately 29″ x 13″. As a rule of thumb, add approximately 4″ to 5″ to the burner pan size to determine the overall dimension of the flame guard.
The height of the flame guard should be a minimum of 6″ and a maximum of 8″, with a preferred height of 6″ for square or rectangular fire pits and 6″ to 8″ for round fire pits. The 6″ height is sufficient to minimize the effect of the wind on your flames while still leaving them exposed enough so that everyone can enjoy their beauty. Round fire pits tend to look better with an 8″ flame guard height, which gives it a taller and more symmetrical balance. A flame guard height that’s higher than 8″ is unnecessary, and may not look proportional with your fire pit.
Assembly and installation tips
Installing your new flame guard may seem like a daunting task, but it’s really not that difficult! The product itself should come with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and offer phone-based customer support should you run into any issues. Here are a few pointers to help ensure that your installation goes smoothly:
- Assemble your flame guard upside-down (feet facing upwards) on a flat surface — this makes it much easier to assemble. With the flame guard upside-down on the flat surface, you can align the top clamps evenly with the top of the flame guard by aligning with the flat surface. Install the feet facing upwards, with the clamp aligned with the edge of the glass.
- Circular wind guards are a little trickier to assemble due to their shape. Start by loosely assembling the pieces upside-down on a flat surface. You may have to loosen some of the screws as you assemble the pieces to get the final piece to fit. Once it’s loosely assembled, go back and tighten each screw slightly, going from screw to screw until all clamps are tight and the entire wind guard holds together on its own (rule of thumb: you should be able to lift the flame guard off the surface without any pieces shifting).
Building your own flame guard (yes, it’s possible!)
One really cool thing about fire pit flame guards is that you can make your own. This is a useful option if you have a truly out-of-the-ordinary, custom-designed fire feature. The glass used for flame guards isn’t anything fancy; it’s standard tempered glass that you can purchase from your local glass store. You can buy the hardware for your flame guard online from a specialty merchant. See an example here.
Here’s the caveat: Although we tend to think of DIY projects as costing less money, making your own custom-sized flame guard is typically more expensive than buying pre-made flame guards. This is because you’re paying the local glass company to cut, temper, and polish your glass to your exact specifications, which is a labor-intensive process.
However, cost should not be your only consideration when deciding whether to make your own custom wind guard. Your fire pit (or fire table) is a major investment and a centerpiece for your outdoor space. You want it to look absolutely fabulous and deliver outstanding performance and beauty for years to come. Having a properly configured wind guard will ensure that it fits your fire feature “like a glove” and looks perfectly balanced in both size and placement.
Here are some tips on building your own custom flame guard:
- Use either 5mm thick clear tempered glass with a flat grind edge. A flat grind edge is a finished edge that has a matte finish with a small chamfer (a 45° beveled edge) on the edge corners. This results in a safe edge that is smooth to the touch.
- If metric size isn’t available, you can use 3/16″ tempered glass. The 1/4″ tempered glass is slightly thicker than 5mm glass, so you would have a problem with the glass fitting the mounting hardware. For this reason, we recommend you stay with 3/16″-thick tempered glass when building your custom flame guard. As an added precaution, you should verify that the glass won’t be too thick to fit into the hardware used to mount it. You can contact the manufacturer of the mounting hardware for exact specifications on the dimensions of the hardware. After all, you don’t want to get into a situation where you paid a lot of money for tempered glass that won’t fit any mounting hardware available in the market!
- Do not use laminated tempered glass — this type is made from tempered glass with a plastic laminate, which will not hold up to the heat from your fire pit. You should only use tempered glass without any laminates or other reinforcing materials.
- Measure your fire pit burner and add about 4″ to 5″ to the overall size. Then, check that the size you calculated will have a flat surface to sit on and will look appropriate for your fire pit. Remember that the clamps holding the corners of the glass together add an additional 1/2″ to each corner, so the glass pieces should be 1″ less than the overall actual size of the wind guard. For example, if you’re planning for a 32″ x 13″ flame guard, the glass panels should be 31″ and 12″ in length (and 6″ tall).
Now that you’ve gotten a primer on flame guards — what they’re for, how to choose the right one, and how to install them — you’re ready to start shopping for your own. Once you get a wind guard for your fire pit or table, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it!