How to Choose the Right Fire Pit

August 2, 2017

With these warm summer nights, many of us want to get outside as much as possible before the rainy weather sets back in. And what better way to enjoy your garden than with friends and family sitting by a fire and roasting some marshmallows. We can’t think of a better way to spend our summer!

If you’re thinking of adding a fire pit to your landscape, there are many things to consider including: what type of fire pit you want or need, where it’s going, usability/functionality, any neighbors you might have, mood, style, etc.

To start off with, there are 4 main types of fire pits: wood burning, gas, propane, and bio ethanol.

Wood Burning Fire Pits:

  • Has a high heat output (good for those chillier nights)
  • Produces smoke, ash, and sparks which may be an issue with neighbors
  • Should be further away from buildings and tree canopies
  • Can be built with stone, slate, and other hard materials or salvaged items such as metal truck rims or small cone crushers for a permanent firepit
  • Can also be purchased from various retailers in metal, slate, etc for portability

Wood Burning Fire Pit

Natural Gas Fire Pits:

  • Low cost of operation once installed
  • Installation of a natural gas fire pit requires a professional to come out to trench where the gas piping will go, along with laying the pipe and getting everything hooked up properly.
  • Can burn for an unlimited amount of time
  • Many gas fire pits have options for adjusting the flame and heat settings
  • Cannot be relocated easily due to the permanent natural gas connection
  • Can be made from various materials such as metal, stone, slate, etc

Natural Gas Fire Pit

Propane Fire Pits:

  • Fuel is readily available from many different places
  • Can burn anywhere from 4-20 hours depending on how large the propane tank is
  • Easy setup
  • Many propane fire pits also have options for adjusting the flame and heat settings
  • Due to fuel being external, most propane fire pits are portable
  • Can be made from various materials such as metal, stone, slate, etc

Portable Propane Fire Pit

Bio Ethanol Fire Pits:

  • Can be used outside or inside (provided you have good ventilation)
  • Burns clean (no soot, ash, or smoke) making it the most eco-friendly option
  • Easily setup and portable
  • Fuel can be a bit more expensive than natural gas and propane
  • Lower heat output
  • Burns anywhere from 4-14 hours per fill of bio ethanol fuel
  • Can be made from various materials such as metal, stone, slate, etc

Bio Ethanol Fire Pit (Photo Courtesy of Ecosmart Fire)

Where should I put my fire pit?

Not everywhere in your yard will be a suitable place for your new fire pit. If you have large tree canopies covering your yard, it may be best to steer away from wood burning fire pits so sparks and ash don’t do any damage. Smoke from wood burning fire pits may also disturb neighbors close by. With wood burning fire pits, it’s also important to place it far enough away from your house and other buildings, vehicles, and any combustible materials so that sparks, smoke, or ash don’t cause problems.

Wood Burning Fire Pit

If you’re wanting a permanent fire pit or wood burning fire pits may not work in your yard, a natural gas fire pit may be a good choice. They have an unlimited supply of fuel making them perfect for those weekend barbecue parties. It’s important to remember that natural gas needs to be available on your lot for a natural gas fire pit to be installed and that existing meters (especially in older homes) might not be able to handle the extra usage.

Natural Gas Fire Pit

If you’re needing something more portable or easy to put away, propane and bio ethanol fire pits are great options. These are good for smaller spaces or for dual purpose spaces.

Bio Ethanol Fire Pit (Photo Courtesy of Brown Jordan Fires)

Another thing to consider is that fire pits need a flat area for both the fire pit itself and a seating area. For seating, you’ll want to consider how many people you generally have over and how big your chairs or benches are.

Fire Pit Seating Area

Winds are another factor to consider. If you have a strong, prevailing wind that may blow smoke or heat in one direction, you may need to find a more sheltered location for your fire pit or, if you’re thinking long term, plant trees or shrubs for a windbreak.

Also, having a water source close by and easily accessible is extremely important no matter what kind of fire pit you have. Having a bucket of sand to smother fire is also useful.

What else should I consider before investing in a fire pit?

One feature to consider that we’re seeing more and more of are dual purpose fire pits. You may be thinking…what else could I possibly use my fire pit for other than fire? The answer: a table top! Many fire pits come with removable table tops or lids that can be used as table space when the fire pit is not in use. This is especially useful if you have a small yard, so if you’ve been dreaming of a fire pit but you don’t have much room, this may be a great choice for you. You can also get small fire pits that can be inserted into the middle of an existing, fire pit-compatible patio table. There are also fire pit tables that have the fire pit in the middle and a table around it for setting drinks and small plates on (great for a s’mores table!)

Fire Pit with Removable Table Top

Fire Pit with Removable Table Top

Around the middle of summer when it’s the hottest and driest, you should also be aware of any burn bans that may be in effect in your area. Some burn bans will be because of high fire danger and dry conditions while other burn bans may be due to poor air quality. You can call your city or county to see what kind of restrictions may be in place before you light your fire.

Materials for your firepit are another thing to consider. Do you want it to match an existing patio? Are you trying to convey a certain mood with your fire pit? Rocks, stone, slate, and salvaged materials can help make a space feel more rustic and natural whereas concrete, metal, and other man-made materials can feel refined and modern.

Modern Fire Pit

Rustic/Natural Fire Pit

But what about outdoor fireplaces, you ask? If you have the space, this is another option if a fire pit is not for you. If you’re considering making a more formal space or possibly want the option to have a larger fire, an outdoor fireplace could be the way to go. Fireplaces can either be wood burning or natural gas and can be made from various materials from man-made to natural. If you have large gatherings, remember that fire pits allow for 360 seating and standing, while a fireplace will have significantly less room to gather around it. If you’re considering a fireplace but not sure whether it’d be better for your space than a fire pit, take a look at this previous blog post to help you decide.

Gas Fire Place

Wood Burning Fireplace

Wood Burning Fireplace

No matter the shape or size or type of fire pit, a fire element is a great addition to any garden and will certainly make you want to be outside more. Fire pits can help extend the usage of your space and create a cozy atmosphere for all to enjoy any time of year.

Are you thinking of adding a fire pit to your yard but not really sure where to start? We can design a landscape to include a fire pit or fireplace all while taking into consideration your likes and dislikes, budget, goals, wants, and needs. If you’re ready to get started, you can fill out our new client questionnaire here.

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