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A simple fire pit lets you enjoy outdoor living from the comfort of your backyard—even during the chilly months. Whether you want to experiment with cool architectural design ideas or provide an outdoor fireplace for friendly gatherings, a beautiful fire pit can be the centerpiece of your backyard. Here’s what to consider if you are investing in a fire pit.
What to Consider When You Buy a Fire Pit
When selecting a fire pit, you’ll have more to consider than just whether to buy from Lowe‘s or Amazon. You’ll want to consider the unit’s size, how much heat you need, and what type of fuel you prefer, to name just a few factors. You should also consider portability, maintenance, and warranty.
A modern fire pit can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000. The price depends on the fire pit’s size, material, and features. For example, a small painted metal fire pit should cost on the low end of that range, while a large stone fire pit with built-in seating can run several thousand dollars.
Your fire pit can use various fuel types, including wood, propane, or natural gas.
A gas fire pit is safe, clean, and easy to turn off or on. Since gas and propane are both fossil fuels, their prices will likely increase. The cost of wood depends mostly on where you live and how accessible firewood is to you.
Firewood, though messy, is easily accessible. Propane is simple, clean, and environmentally friendly. Natural gas is a less popular choice due to its higher cost.
Before you start shopping for a fire pit, learning the local laws regarding open fires is essential. Contact your city or county office and ask about fire pit regulations. They will be able to tell you what size and type of fire pits are allowed and any other restrictions. Your homeowners association (HOA) may also regulate the use of fire pits. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you know the laws before you buy anything.
Most commercially manufactured fire pits are fashioned from one of three materials: steel, copper, or cast iron. If you plan to construct your own fire pit, you can choose from brick, slate, native stone, or another durable and heat-resistant material.
Opt for steel, and you’ll get a lightweight, weather-resistant product at a moderate price. Cast iron, however, is a denser, thicker metal than steel; consequently, it holds heat longer. This material also ages better than steel and comes in more artistic designs.
Copper offers a warm, elegant style, and it lasts virtually forever. However, you must polish your copper fire pit, or it will turn black.
A portable fire pit is an excellent option if you want to be able to move your fire pit around or take it with you when you travel. Portable pits are typically less expensive than fixed fire pits and are easy to set up and take down. However, portable fire pits can be less stable and may not last as long as fixed fire pits.
The right size fire pit for you depends on how big your outdoor space is and how many people you want to accommodate. If you have a large outdoor space, you may want to choose a bigger fire pit so more people can enjoy the fire’s warmth.
Generally, small fire pits measure about 3 feet at their widest points, and large fire pits come in at around 6 feet. To seat multiple people around a circular fire pit, you need at least 3 feet of space around the pit—6 feet if you plan to entertain a larger crowd.
An above-ground fire pit should stand 12 to 14 inches tall. If you want to prop your feet on it, go a little shorter—around 6 to 12 inches. Taller fire pits—18 to 20 inches in height—are best if you want to sit on the pit’s edge.
Be sure to keep other objects 7 to 10 feet away from your fire to maintain safety.
Fire pits come in several styles. You can select stacked stone for a classic look, or go for something more rustic, such as an outdoor grill. If you like the built-to-last, outdoorsy look, you might invest in a copper grill.
You can build your own fire pit out of cinder blocks or pavers. The internet provides many easy DIY fire pit ideas. While these often lack the HGTV look of a copper pit, they work just as well as any top-of-the-line option for roasting marshmallows with friends.
How to Choose the Right Fire Pit
Before you invest in a fire pit, ask yourself: How will it look in my backyard? What materials are best? How much upkeep will it require?
Also, consider your seating area. Will your guests munch their s’mores sitting on your retaining wall or in Adirondack chairs? The answer will help determine the size and style of fire pit you need.
Bowl, Table, or Column
Backyard fire features come in a variety of designs and building materials. Typical constructions include bowls, tables, and columns.
A fire bowl is a portable metal bowl on legs. A tabletop fire pit is much smaller and sits on an outdoor coffee table. A traditional fire pit amounts to a hole in the ground lined with a fire ring to prevent errant embers from escaping.
Your best fire pit design depends on your other landscaping choices. A brick fire pit or one lined with pavers emits an entirely different aesthetic than one built from concrete blocks or a repurposed washing machine drum.
Gas or Wood-Burning Fire Pit?
Should you invest in a wood-burning fire pit or a gas option? That depends on several factors, including maintenance, safety, budget, and fuel storage. Wood-burning fire pits are a little more work to maintain since you have to clean out the ashes.
You also have to store wood, which takes up more space than a gas container. Wood-burning fire pits are as safe as gas fire pits, though. Some gas fire pits, however, can cost much more than a wood-burning option.
Modern Fire Pit or Classic Style?
Your outdoor fire pit may serve as the focal point of your backyard. Consequently, selecting the option that best fits your style is important. Modern fire pits feature intriguing geographic designs, chic shapes, or ornamental steel. Classic fire pits rely on solid and traditional designs and dark metals or rock construction.
Commercial-Grade Product or DIY Option?
You can either buy a prefabricated fire pit or build your own. If you like doing it yourself, consider constructing a fire pit out of pavers or retaining wall blocks. You can even try repurposing an existing product, such as a beer keg, tire rim, or washing machine drum. These low-budget options can offer a surprisingly sleek aesthetic.
Turnkey models offer the ease of being done for you. These products have also been safety-tested and come with a warranty. Still, if you enjoy the process of building your backyard fire feature, you can find many online tutorials on how to build a fire pit.
A fire pit offers a safe and affordable way to bring the warmth of a fire to your friends or family. Whether you’re looking for a fire pit table or something to contain a bonfire, you can find the right fire pit for you.
DIYers can explore their artistic sides with creative outdoor fire pit ideas, or you can purchase a done-for-you option from the home and garden shop. Whatever you choose, ensure you get the right size, style, and material for your home—and don’t forget to comply with local laws and regulations.
Fire Pit FAQ
What is the safest type of fire pit?
If you’re looking for a safe fire pit, your best bet is a gas-powered model. These fire pits run on natural gas or propane, producing very little smoke. That means there’s less chance that your clothes or hair will catch fire, and you won’t have to worry about breathing in harmful fumes.
How much room do you need around a fire pit?
You need enough room for your guests to sit comfortably. Fire pits generally run 4 to 5 feet across at their widest point. Smaller options mean snugger seating, while a larger fire pit can accommodate a crowd.Keep at least 2 feet between a gas fire and your seating area for safety. Make it 3 feet if for a wood fire. You’ll want to leave at least 10 feet between your fire and anything flammable, including mature trees, outdoor structures, and your home.
What type of fire pit gives off the most heat?
Wood-burning fire pits typically radiate the most heat since they hold the largest fires. Build these fire features low to the ground and add openings to the sides. Wood is the best option for outdoor cooking experiments, including roasting marshmallows.