Transforming your backyard with the inclusion of a fire pit will create a gathering place for drinks, for meals, for heartfelt chats, and casual hangouts after a long day. Deciding to add a fire pit to your outdoor space is the easy part — now, you need to make many quick decisions and narrow down options to ensure you’re satisfied with your fire pit for a generation.
First, weigh the options to decide if you will go with a DIY fire pit or a ready-to-buy fire pit. If you are in the market for a fire pit you can order today, read on. These are the essential steps to settle on the perfect fire pit for your family.
Step 1 — Choose Your Fire Pit Type
Before you start comparing brands online and shopping around for the best deal, it’s essential to decide what type of fire pit you want. Excavating your yard for a fire pit may not be possible if you rent an apartment with a small patio. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types of fire pits.
Fire Pit — The prototype is exactly what it sounds like – a sunken pit in your yard where you can safely start a blazing fire. These projects are often DIY or involve a contractor. Fire pits tend to be large, at least ten feet in diameter. This option is ideal for families with plenty of space in their backyard who host regular parties and events.
Fire Pit Bowl — Fire bowls aren’t permanent and can be moved across your patio or yard after a remodeling project. Fire pit bowls vary in size and material, but can produce a substantial flame and serve as the focal point of your entertainment area. The bowls hold logs or glass beads for gas-powered units, and can sit directly on the ground or be elevated with legs.
Fire Pit Table — A fire pit table is like an outdoor dining table with a controlled campfire in the middle. Fire pit tables are almost always fueled by propane, as a wood-burning table would be a fire hazard. Fire pit tables often include ample space to place drinks and snacks a safe distance away from the flame. Choose between a variety of styles, designs, and materials to perfectly match a fire pit table to the architecture of your home.
Tabletop Fire Pits — Don’t have room for a full-fledged fire pit? Tabletop fire pits are attractive compromises that are portable and can easily fit atop your patio table. The diminutive size translates to lower costs and less maintenance while still delivering the enchantment of a dazzling flame. Of course, these options are less practical if you plan to use your fire pit as a prime grilling location.
Step 2 — Select Your Fuel
Natural fire pits cost significantly less upfront but entail more maintenance of the fire itself as you are cooking, roasting marshmallows, and swapping ghost stories. There are a few commercial fire pits that run on bioethanol and other fuels, but you will mostly be choosing between wood-fueled fire pits and those that operate using propane.
Wood — The traditionalists will agree that nothing beats the smell and gentle crackling of wood burning atop a fire pit. The standard fuel source for a backyard fire pit brings the nostalgia of a classic campfire. There are a few potential downsides to consider: wood requires hands-on tending to keep the fire at the right temperature and size. Wood also necessitates more safety precautions to prevent out-of-control fires. Also, check the laws in your area: burning wood is not allowed on covered patios or porches in most states.
Propane — Gas-powered fire pits typically operate with the assistance of a propane tank. These fire pits can be activated with the flip of a switch, and allow more control over the flame than is possible with a wood-burning fire pit. A few factors to keep in mind: propane-fueled fire pits cost more to run than wood-fueled ones. Gas-powered options come in a range of heating options, with lower-end models generating around 30,000 BTUs.
Step 3 — Consider the Materials
All materials aren’t created equally. When deciding how you’ll be using your fire pit, know that the material will determine the quality and the portability of your fire pit.
Steel — Steel is an easy-to-mold metal that can be painted or stained for a wide range of looks. Steel is susceptible to rust. To avoid decay, you will want to look for a powder-coated option when shopping around. Steel is relatively lightweight, which translates to a more portable fire pit.
Stone — Stone is a popular option for fire pit materials, especially to match existing outdoor features. Stone fire pit bowls and tables are on the heavier side, so this material is better for fire pits you won’t move from season to season. Stone won’t rust like some metals do, but be wary if you live in a region with extreme winters: stone can crack after cycles of freezing and thawing.
HDPE Lumber — This weather-resistant material is ideal for long-term investments when you want your fire pit to endure salty sea air, cold winters, and rainy summers without degrading. Marine-grade hardware resists rusting, and the material means that the fire pit is safe to use on wood or composite decks. This material is heavy to keep your fire pit in place during torrential storms and winds.
Step 4 — Determine the Location
We know the impulse: erect your fire pit in the middle of your yard as a centerpiece or near your back patio to keep the party close to your home. Beyond pure design factors, multiple practical considerations will help determine the location of your fire pit.
First, keep the edge of your fire pit at least 10 feet away from structures of any kind. You’ll need a vast open space for plentiful seating, but you also need to be proactive when choosing a spot to prevent fires. Choose an area away from bushes and low hanging branches — on windy evenings, embers from the fire can travel surprisingly far, and you don’t want your tree catching sparks from your fire pit.
Speaking of the wind, avoid areas of your yard that you know get gusty. Wind can force fires far in a single direction. To avoid safety issues and general discomfort, you should select a patch of land protected from high winds.
It’s not a bad idea to check with your county or city officials to inquire about laws or regulations before making the final decision on where you’ll place your fire pit.
Step 5 — Prepare for the Unexpected
A fire pit presents plenty of possibilities for fun, relaxation, and happy memories. To prevent any fireside gathering from becoming a panic-inducing debacle, take the proper precautions to make every fire safe and contained.
- Remove all grass and debris within a 10-foot diameter of your fire pit.
- Always supervise your children around fire pits, even if there is a safety guard in place.
- Store water nearby before starting a wood-fueled fire. Keep a fire extinguisher within 15 feet of your fire pit, if possible.
- Teach all guests and family members proper stop, drop, and roll procedures.
- Have pets or small toddlers? Don’t build fire pits into the ground. Go for elevated fire pit bowls or fire pit tables.
Step 6 — Have Fun!
Now that you’ve figured out what type of fire pit will bring the party to your backyard while keeping your family safe and your upkeep manageable, start planning some small gatherings or full-scale parties to christen your fire pit!
There are several activities you can do around a fire, no matter the season. During the summer, sing camp songs or play word games with the kids while enjoying a glass of lemonade or a fresh bowl of ice cream. As Halloween approaches, roast hot dogs and marshmallows by the fire while you swap creepy urban legends. When winter has set in, huddle around a controlled flame for the perfect cold-weather antidote.
Once you have your fire pit established, finish off the outdoor lounge area by furnishing your yard with benches, Adirondack chairs, and deep seating furniture. You’ll never want to leave the comfort of your fire pit, but do your best to go inside now and then!