Guide to Choosing Fire Pits

Thinking about purchasing a fire pit, so you can enjoy the outdoors in the evening time in front of a nice, warm, ambient fire. Here are some tips on doing so.

Numerous factors may affect the type of fire pit that you can or should buy:


Are there any local wood-burning laws, permits, building restrictions? The vast majority of communities have local ordinances restricting how close fires can be to trees, structures, and homes.

You may also be required to file paperwork and seek approvals before undertaking any major construction works or renovations if you are building a permanent structure. If you are connecting to gas lines, a certified contractor may be required. You can contact your local City Hall or Homeowners Association for additional information.


What size is the outdoor space? Your lovely backyard might not necessarily be capable of handling a spacious firepit or full-sized fireplace. You need to have a fire that’s proportional to your area. The landscaping or architecture around your home may also make it challenging to accommodate fires of certain types.

Is your deck or patio combustible? If so, there could be restrictions regarding what you can install and how. Prior to making any purchase, ensure that you read through product manuals. The installation and clearance requirements will dictate your options.

What about low-hanging plants, overhanging branches, or awnings? Is it windy or dry? Be aware of how embers and smoke may blow about so that your neighbors and guests aren’t bothered and you aren’t at risk of setting the area ablaze. Windbreaks might be necessary or you may be limited to self-contained as opposed to open-air installations.


The amount of money you are ready to spend will definitely affect your alternatives. Are you working on a tight budget or is the sky the limit? You can get a tiny portable fire bowl for several hundred dollars, but if you want a substantial fireplace in which you can cook, expect to spend ten thousand dollars or more.

It really depends on what you plan to use it for and how regularly. Do you only get outside occasionally or do you regularly spend the day and evening in the fresh air? Is it an investment geared towards increasing the value of your property? High-quality permanent fire installations are usually attractive to many potential buyers and may increase the appraised value of the property.

people grilling marshmallows

Placement: Where Will the Fire Be Located?

Where the fire is located has a strong social impact on your outdoor living space. They usually attract people, which means that wherever you put one will most likely end up as a popular gathering space.

Away from the House: Placing the firepit in a secluded clearing across your yard is guaranteed to draw attention from the immediate vicinity around your property. If you have teenage children, you can be sure that’s where they will be congregating to relax. Just ensure that you keep it in view from a porch or window for the sake of safety.

Near or Attached to Your House: Keeping the fireplace in your patio or deck will centralize activity and lower the chances of people straying. You have slightly more leeway here because you can build upon the existing architecture for permanent fires. Large furnishings also tend to work better because they do not dominate the space as they would out in the open. Still, it is important to be mindful of the ceiling clearance and ventilation in covered patios and ensure that your space complies with the minimum manufacturer requirements.

Along Walls and Walkways: If your outdoor area is spacious, you may want to light up the path from the front to the pool area or backyard. Low and partial walls provide interesting opportunities for small decorative fires.

Fire Pit Styles

Fire Pit

The standard fire pit is a classic addition to any property and it can come in various shapes and sizes. It can be as basic as a DIY firepit in a corner of your yard or as extravagant as a full stone fireplace. The great thing about building it yourself is that you can make it into your preferred shape or size.

If you have a large area with plenty of space and want to host a larger group of people, you can always make the firepit bigger.  You can have a custom seating area by adding some patio furniture around the pit. If you have a smaller space, you should consider toning down the firepit and making it a cozy spot for your close friends.

When it comes to the standard fire pit, there are numerous material options. The price will obviously vary depending on the material that you use. You can inevitably expect that the higher end material will be more expensive. The most common materials are brick, cast iron, stainless steel, and concrete. All these materials not only hold up well under high temperatures but are also rust resistant.

The most common source of fuel for the standard fire pit is wood, but there are numerous other options that use charcoal, natural gas, and propane. You can also take a different route by installing a full-on electric fire pit. However, if you choose electric, you will end up losing some of the charm of a natural fire.

Fire Columns

Fire columns, unlike your standard firepits, are an interesting spin on the traditional outdoor feature. Fire columns almost always use propane or natural gas for fuel unlike firepits. A wood burning fire column would imply not be practical.

Fire columns are a perfect example of focal pieces. They are not only unique but will definitely catch your eye immediately you see one. The number of different styles is also great. There are traditional examples, modern examples, and everything in between.

Fire columns usually tend to be incredibly slim, which makes them ideal for small backyards and patios. You have probably come across something similar at an outdoor restaurant. Fire columns are typically made with wood, stone, or metal on the exterior while the interior is always metal.

Unlike firepits, fire columns are hardly the ideal choice when it comes to making s’more. Propane and marshmallows are not that tasty together. Other than that major downside, fire columns are still great due to their unique and sleek appearance.

Fire Bowl

The fire bowl is similar to a firepit, but the difference lies in the fact that it is a bit more portable than a firepit. A fire bowl is an ideal option if you have a landlord. The major issue is that fire pits are usually very permanent features of a backyard.

If you have a landlord that does not like the idea of you messing around too much with your yard, a fire bowl can be an excellent option. Just as is the case with most fire features, fire bowls come in a wide variety of styles.

The other aspect that many people love about fire bows is that since they are highly portable, it is easier to store them away one the weather gets incredibly nasty. If you do that, your fire bowl will have a long life.

Fire bowls typically use either propane or natural gas as a fuel source. You may still come across some fire bowls that are wood burning, but it is generally advisable to keep a close eye on them. If you are using a wood burning fire bowl, it can be a good idea to use a screen for the purpose of containing rogue sparks and embers. You obviously don’t want to be the neighbor that catches their house on fire.

Fire Tables

Fire tables are not as common as the rest of the fire features, which is rather unfortunate since they are incredibly cool. Fire tables are form and function all wrapped into one. The fire not only provides warmth, but the table is also an excellent place to rest some drinks or put your feet up. You have an impressive number of different styles to choose from, which means that you will always find a table that fits in with your patio design.

Fire tables are usually fueled by either propane or gas. A fire table fueled by wood is a bit sketchy and too much to handle. It is likely to end up taking away from the relaxed atmosphere of lounging around a fire. The fire table is portable and relatively easy to move, just as is the case with a fire column and fire bowl.

A fire table can be the perfect option if you have a smaller patio space since it is easy to move and store away. If you are looking to save space, it is always advisable to buy dual purpose patio furniture. The fire table is actually better than dual purpose since it also acts as a great focal point for the patio or backyard.


The chiminea is an amazing little feature whose popularity is slowly growing. It is Spanish for chimney and is a common feature in southwest states as well as Mexico. Chimineas were traditionally made from fired clay and used to heat homes and cook. Today, modern materials are used to make chimineas, but the premise is still the same. The heat comes from the front while the tall pipe moves the smoke upwards.

You have probably ever sat around the fire with the hope that the smoke will drift towards another person. If you have a chiminea, you will never have to deal with smoke in your eyes again. It is also one of the safest options available due to its enclosed nature. One of the best aspects of the chimineas is that nearly all the ones available are actually wood burning. You can obviously still find propane and gas options, but nothing beats a wood burning fireplace.

How Hot Does a Fire Pit Get?

The temperature of a firepit generally depends on the container of the fire and fuel source. There is an incredibly wide range of temperatures that can be obtained from using a fire pit. The temperature of fire pits is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). As a point of reference, the vast majority of fire pits/fireplaces are anywhere from 30,000 BTUs to 100,000 BTUs. The higher the BTU, the more warmth you will feel from the fire.

With regards to fuel sources, there are 3 main options: wood, propane, and bioethanol. Each fuel source has its benefits, but what is to be expected when using each fuel source will be discussed in greater detail.

three men in front of bonfire

Other Considerations

Fuel Types

If you love the sound of a crackling fire and an aroma that lingers in your hair and on your clothes then wood could be the perfect option for you. The average-sized log is 24 inches, so ensure that your firepit can accommodate such.

Natural gas or propane fire pits can be used on open porches with overhead roofs and are usually neater, without any pile of ashes, wood, debris, or smoke to contend with.


When it comes to choosing a fire bowl, choose something that will wear well and extend the life of the firepit. While copper is likely to stain, cast aluminum is less likely to rust. Cast iron, on the other hand, is a heavy but solid option.


The vast majority of fire pits aren’t too expensive, with a nice, safe model going for under $300. However, firepits and fire tables that use more expensive materials will obviously cost more. A custom-built fire feature using natural stone along with other customized features can easily cost several thousand dollars.

Portable Vs. Permanent

Depending on your budget, the location, and materials used, a firepit can be either custom built as a permanent fixture in your yard or it can be a portable model that you can easily move around whenever a crowd gathers.


Always check local ordinances regarding the placement of a fire pit or fireplace along with “recreational” fires. Code requirements may dictate placement of the backyard pit as well as how you operate your outdoor fire feature.

While it might seem obvious, you must never use fire pits indoors according to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA). Other places where you shouldn’t place the pit include a wooden deck, anywhere considered too close to your house or any other structure, under an overhand or anything likely to catch fire quickly, or on the lawn.


While common sense prevails, it never hurts to review safety practices when tending a recreational fire in your backyard pit. Ensure that all members of the household know the rules and never children alone with the fire.

Fire Pit Safety Tips

It is always important to be cautious when dealing with fire. Nothing is worse than a bad burn to ruin your good night. Here are some awesome fire pit safety tips:

–          Always have water nearby before lighting your fire pit

–          Always operate your firepit, fire table, or fire bowl downwind

–          Always scrape away needles and grass within a diameter of 10 feet of the firepit

–          Avoid open-toed shoes or sandals while cooking on the firepit

–          Wear tightly-woven, snug-fitting, or short-sleeved garments when using firepits

–          Children should always be supervised by adults around fires; never leave a fire unattended

–          Never use a flammable liquid (particularly gasoline) to start a fire

–          Always ensure that everybody known how to put out a clothing fire: “Stop, Drop, and Roll”

–          It is also important to have an extinguisher of some type (fire extinguisher, bucket of water, or shovel) on hand.

Maintenance – Keeping the Firepit Functioning and Looking Great

You should properly maintain your fire features not only to ensure a safe and efficient flame but also to extend the life of your investment. So, schedule an inspection of the gas lines by a licensed professional at least once every year.


All ashes from wood fires should be removed after each use and the fireplace screens should be cleaned to avoid build-up of soot along with other particles. Mild soapy water and a whisk brush should be enough.

When it comes to flues and chimneys, try consulting industry experts like Chimney Safety Institute of America for service references and advice. Inspect the burners for any excess residue and use a soft cloth or manufacturer-approved cleaning materials to wipe them clean. Similarly, check decorative fire media for debris and dirt, and wash as needed.

Here is a good guide to cleaning pits.


Weather-resistant protective firepit and fireplace covers are critical to preventing water and debris from putting unnecessary wear and tear on the equipment. If you have harsh winters in your area, store portable fire pits in a dry sheltered area. Drain firepits of standing water and allow them to dry before you use them again.