Considering a Backyard Fire Pit? Here’s What You Should Know

Puffy Lux
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Many of today’s homeowners are looking for more than a traditional wood deck with a grill in their backyards. These days, accessorizing means amenities like ponds, vegetable gardens, outdoor kitchens and fire pits. Because styles, sizes and materials abound, your choices should be based on your space at hand, budget and, of course, local ordinances. (Some municipalities ban open burning of any kind.)

Before you start dreaming of moonlit nights and toasted marshmallows, here’s what else to consider about planning a fire pit:

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How Much Does It Cost to Build a Backyard Fire Pit?

Costs can be as low as $100 if you go with something simple, according to Houzz. You can purchase a simple kit at a hardware store. Or, if you’re up for a DIY project, you can create your own backyard fire pit. But costs certainly can also go up to several thousand dollars, especially when seating is added, says Angie’s List.

Permanent vs. Portable Fire Pits

As you begin planning, you may want to think in terms of permanence. Do you want a fire pit that is built in — a focal point in the yard — or something that’s lightweight and potentially portable, so you can take it where you want your gathering?

Permanent Fire Pits

For a permanent fire pit, choose something that coordinates with the color, style, shape and materials you have in your yard already, says Houzz. You can assemble a fire pit yourself with a premade kit from a hardware store that comes with everything you need. Or, you can go fully custom and have a landscape professional or contractor design and build it.

Portable Fire Pits

Portable fire pits offer a lot of different options. Fire bowls are typically made of copper, steel or cast iron, according to HGTV. Fire tables typically use propane or natural gas and have an area around the fire where you can put food and drinks, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. Freestanding fire pits called chimineas feature a chimney-style vent, says HGTV.

Regardless of which style you choose, you need to use proper stones and materials (something that shouldn’t splinter when the fire heats up). Make it proportional to the size of your yard, and be sure you have room for seating and circulation, says Houzz.

Wood-fired vs. Gas Fire Pits

Wood, propane or natural gas are most common choices to fuel an outdoor fire pit, according to Houzz. Those who favor the sound of a crackling fire may prefer burning real logs, says Houzz. This will require a steady supply of firewood.

Some fire pits use natural gas or propane for an instant fire — though you don’t get the same crackle and smoke as a wood fire. A propane fire pit will have an attached tank, while a natural gas fire pit will require a gas line that runs from your house to the fire pit.

Where to Set a Portable Fire Pit

It’s best to set a portable fire pit atop a fire-resistant surface such as metal, pavers or bricks, says HGTV. Putting it directly on a wood deck or grass can be dangerous if embers fly.

Where to Safely Place a Fire Pit

Many communities require a minimum of a 10-foot distance from your house and neighbors’ yards, according to the Seattle Fire Department. Some don’t require a permit if the fire pit fits within set size requirements, while others require a site inspection from local fire officials to help make sure your proposed location is safe (away from fences, structures, overhanging branches, etc.). Some communities may also have restrictions on wood burning fires, says Houzz. Check with local officials before you purchase or start planning a fire pit.

Seating and Lighting Around a Fire Pit

Provide enough light for people to walk around the yard safely but keep it subtle enough to avoid destroying the camp-fire mood, says The Family Handyman. Consider light posts or overhead string lights (but don’t hang them directly over the fire pit). Energy-efficient LED lighting can also be plugged into a nearby outlet without requiring you to call an electrician.

When adding seating, HGTV recommends keeping it far enough away from the fire for people to get up and move around safely. Built-in seating and heavier chairs may help keep people from moving too close to the fire pit.

Backyard Fire Pit Safety Tips

A fire of any kind demands serious attention to safety. The National Fire Protection Association and ReadyWV offer the following fire pit safety advice:

  • Check wind direction before lighting a fire.
  • Don’t use flammable fluids (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) to light or relight fires.
  • Don’t wear flammable clothing (like nylon) or any loose-fitting clothing.
  • Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the fire.
  • Avoid using soft woods like pine or cedar, because they can “pop” and throw sparks.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher, garden hose or bucket of water nearby.

It’s also important that you know how to safely dispose of the ashes when you’re done with the fire for the night. Once the ashes have cooled, Portland Fire and Rescue recommends putting them in a metal container and pouring water on them.

In some parts of the country — areas prone to wildfires, for instance — disclosing your fire pit may be a requirement of your homeowners insurance policy. It may also be a good idea to check in with your insurance agent to understand how having a backyard fire pit may affect your coverage.

Originally published on March 1, 2017.

Dental Insurance – should I be reimbursed if insurance pays more than estimated?

Puffy Lux
Better water better life

I visited an endodontist and the total cost for the procedure was around $1400. Insurance was estimated to pay around $600, so I ended up paying $800 before leaving the office (same day of procedure). Weeks later I signed in to my insurance portal (Anthem) to view my claims and see the claim from the endodontist for $1400, but it says the insurance actually paid $1100 instead of the estimated $600. Does this mean I'm only be responsible for $300 and should be reimbursed by the office for the difference?

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The windshield of my car is cracked and it’s spreading, should I file a claim in my insurance?

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Puffy Lux

Money is super tight. It will cost about $200 if I fix it myself. Will my insurance go up if I make a claim? And will they make me pay a $500 deductible for a cracked windshield?

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Should I call my insurance company if I pay out-of-pocket? How much does repairing bumper cost?

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Puffy Lux

I bumped into my neighbor's car when I was backing up today. Only a piece of paint (< 1 cm in diameter) chips off the other car's bumper without deformation. It was a relatively new Toyota Prius. How much should I be expecting to pay?

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It was also my first accident. I left a note with my contact and took some photos. Should I also call my insurance company if I am most likely paying the owner out of my pocket? What else should I do?

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I am going to Thailand and Cambodia in August. Should I be vaccinated and buy insurance?

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Puffy Lux

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Company screwed me out of health insurance, what should I do?

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Puffy Lux

Location: Southern California

Okay, so back near the end of April I resigned from my job.

Husband was going to add me to his insurance plan from his work, but my insurance coverage was still listed as active.

He asked his employer what we should do and they told us we should wait until my insurance finally terminated before asking to add me to his plan.

A month went by and strangely I continued to receive paychecks.

I emailed my former employer telling them that I thought something was wrong, that I was still receiving paychecks and my insurance was still active.

They responded and said don't worry about it, nothing was out of the ordinary.

Fast forward to late June. We finally got the notice for cobra coverage in the mail. The coverage end date listed on the cobra form was backdated to my resignation date, way back in April.

My husband tried to use the cobra letter to get me coverage with his employer but his employer wouldn't accept the letter because my coverage end date was listed more than 60 days after the qualifying life event – namely my resignation and backdated loss of health coverage.

So basically, they cut off my insurance and notified me after the window for me to apply for coverage via a qualifying life event had already lapsed.

Fast forward to today, to make matters worse, they are now asking me to reimburse them for the incorrect payments that they told me were not an error 2 months ago.

What should I do?

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Not sure what I should do.

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Puffy Lux

A while back my car was hit in a parking lot and about about a week or so a go I dropped it off for repairs, their insurance company is cover is everything thus far, including my rental. Now the company that I have doing the repairs was waiting on getting my taillight in so they can finish the repair. This morning I get a call from the insurance company that the rental agreement was only to the 9th of August, and it's currently the 14th, I'm being told that I will be responsible for the days after that date, now the car is not fixed, as I told the rep that the repair center was waiting to to get my part in. Apparently the shop went with a different vendor then the insurance had told them, and was also told that the shop never contacted that specific vendor that had it in stock. I called the shop, they ordered a part from well out of state and its the wrong part and I'm still left playing the waiting game, and to be honest I have no clue what I should be doing. I feel like I'm getting shafted, I was never told of this end date of the rental nor what was going on with the shop and I'm annoyed that this went from everything is going to be fine to hell on earth. Most likely I'm forgetting details, but if anyone can give some advice, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

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How Much Umbrella Liability Insurance Should You Carry

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Puffy Lux

How does personal umbrella liability insurance work (or any liability such as auto and homeowners). If you had say $100K in assets, and $100K in liability coverage, and you had an actual liability judgement against you of say $200K… what would happen. To protect the $100K of assets do you need liability coverage of $100K or did you need $200K of liability coverage in this case.

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The point is when buying umbrella insurance or any liability coverage such as auto… do you need to buy for the amount of assets you have… or do you need to buy $5M or $10M which is a reasonable upper bound on most losses — but still accept your not protected against larger losses.

This is cross post from /r/legal. There is a discussion in /r/personalfinance here that brought this up: https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/comments/cpyxmd/how_do_you_gauge_the_appropriate_auto_insurance/.

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Should I file a police report/tell insurance company or get repair cost from the other driver.

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Puffy Lux

Hey, I was parked in a street sitting inside the car, and the car on the other side of the road was trying to go besides a car that was double parking, but the car hit me.

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After I called the cops, the other driver said she didn’t want me to call the insurance company or report accident because she doesn’t want her rates to increase.

She said she will pay me the repair cost and gave me her licenses to take a picture.

The cops came after she left, and they told me since she exchanged info, I would have to file a report and send it to some address.

So should I file report and inform insurance company or just believe her.

I have attached pictures of the damage

https://ibb.co/yh57N6z https://ibb.co/9s8rtbt https://ibb.co/5xKqnZM https://ibb.co/k0bQTdk

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Auto: I have insurance, I’m at fault, I got all the damage. How much should I reveal?

Puffy Lux
Better water better life

In Sacramento CA area: I bumped the truck in front of me at the traffic light, and got all the damage. The other driver was okay, we kept a copy of each other's driver's license, shook hands, and left. My insurance can cover part of my damage, maybe through my collision or comprehensive coverage. But now I'm wondering how much detail I should reveal about the incident and the other driver, so that a) I don't get myself in trouble, and b) I don't get the other driver in trouble.

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