Sitting around a toasty campfire with friends and family is one of life’s greatest pleasures. And now, you can bring that sense of cozy togetherness to your backyard with a well-designed fire pit. They serve as a statement-making focal point that looks good and keeps guests comfortable so the party can continue well into the night.
For most, the decision to add a fire pit to their outdoor spaces is the easy part. Narrowing the options down to find the right type, size, style, and safety features may prove to be trickier. The intent of this fire pit buying guide is to make that part a cinch too.
First things first—are you opting for a ready-to-buy fire pit, or do you plan to try your hand at a DIY fire pit project? If you’re in the market for a stylish fire pit you can easily order online, read on. This eight-step guide is for you. To answer all of your burning questions about fire pits, we’re covering budget considerations, types of fire pits, sizes and shapes, safety features, materials, and fuel/installation options.
Ready? Let’s glow.
Step 1 — Consider Your Budget
The fire pit you choose should strike a balance between quality and cost. Better quality will cost more, so size, style, fuel, and materials will influence the price tag. However, if you plan to use your fire pit often and for years to come, a solid design with durable materials will eventually pay for itself. Fire pits start as low as $40 for tabletop designs but can cost tens of thousands of dollars for custom-built features.
Step 2 — Choose Your Fire Pit Type
Before you start comparison shopping for the best deal, you should have a clear idea of the type of fire pit you want. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types: standard backyard fire pits, fire pit tables, fire pit bowls, and tabletop fire pits.
Fire Pit — An all-encompassing term, a fire pit is essentially anywhere you can safely start a blazing fire. There are several prefab fire pits that come ready to use.
Bespoke designs and those that require a natural-gas hookup may involve hiring a contractor. Remodeling your patio with a built-in fire pit may not be possible if you rent or live somewhere with limited square footage. That’s where the other fire pit styles come in.
Fire Pit Table — A fire pit table is where the coziness of a hearth meets the convenience of a coffee table. These multiuse designs often include enough surface space to keep drinks and snacks on hand—but securely away the flames. Fire pit tables are almost always fueled by propane or natural gas, as a wood-burning system would be a safety hazard. The central fire feature is often filled with heatproof glass beads or lava rock to aerate the flames and create a uniform look.
These family-friendly styles offer the safety features and versatility needed for any occasion. Fire pit tables are offered in an abundance of aesthetics, shapes, sizes, and materials. Some are even outfitted with detachable cooking surfaces. For a party-ready arrangement, look no further than a fire pit table set.
Fire Pit Bowl — From rugged metal structures to stunning sculptural vessels, fire pit bowls come in a variety of styles, materials, fuel types, and price points. Aptly named, these bowl-shaped fire features offer the rustic vibes of a campfire with their hollowed centers and simple, no-frills designs. They typically sit directly on the ground, but some options are elevated by legs.
Great for chilly nights and marshmallow-roasting, most will produce a substantial flame. Some bowls are intended for wood-burning fires, others are filled with lava rocks or fire glass and are fueled by gas.
Tabletop Fire Pits — Don’t have room for a full-fledged fire pit? Tabletop fire pits are safe, attractive compromises that sit right on your outdoor table. The portable design and smaller footprint translate to lower costs while still delivering the enchantment of dancing flames.
It’s important to note that ambiance is the primary goal of tabletop fire pits. These fun-sized styles typically won’t generate enough heat to keep guests warm on colder nights or grill up tonight’s grub. Bonus points: these lightweight models are generally very easy to move around.
Step 3 – Find the Right Size
Outdoor fire pits come in many heights, from in-ground designs to “chat heights” that allow for seamless socializing. Tabletop designs can be quite short, anywhere from 4–6 inches high.
The standard height of a fire pit table is between 22–24 inches.
The right fire table width (or diameter for round shapes) will largely depend on your usable square footage.
Large backyards may allow for a 5-feet-wide design; cozy patios call for something smaller. When measuring, remember to account for seating and accent tables too.
Fire pits typically come in round, square, and rectangular shapes.
Offering that classic campfire feel, round is best for larger gatherings where guests tend to be spaced out. Angular designs offer a more structured look and appeal to those who host intimate get-togethers.
Step 4 – Understand the Safety Features
A backyard fire pit presents endless possibilities for fun, relaxation, and memories. That said, fire is a natural element that can pose safety and environmental risks. Most fire pit styles are designed with some degree of safety in mind, but always take the proper precautions to make sure every fire is securely contained.
Look for safety features like wind guards and flame-control valves to ensure worry-free ambiance. Have pets or small toddlers? You may want to avoid in-ground fire pits and opt for elevated fire pit bowls or fire pit tables instead.
General Fire Safety Rules:
- Remove all grass and debris within a 10-foot diameter of your fire pit.
- Always supervise children and pets around fire pits, even if there are safety guards in place.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within 15 feet of your fire pit.
- Have water nearby before starting a wood-fueled fire.
- Make sure all guests and family members know the proper stop, drop, and roll procedures.
Step 5 — Select Your Fuel
Most fire pits on the market today are fueled by wood, propane, or natural gas. There are some distinct pros and cons to all three: price, accessibility, and ease of installation.
Wood — Campfire traditionalists will agree that nothing beats the rustic feel, earthy scent, and gentle crackle of burned wood. A low-cost, bountiful fuel source, this simple setup requires no professional installation and brings the nostalgia of a campsite right to your backyard.
However, there are a few downsides to wood-burning fire pits. You’ll need to tend to the fire to maintain the right temperature and size (and ensure rogue sparks don’t lead to disaster). Always check the laws in your area—burning wood is not allowed on covered patios or porches in most states.
Propane — If you have little ones running around or don’t enjoy the soot, smoke, and scent of wood-burning fires, propane fire pits are fantastic alternatives. Safe, easy to use, and relatively cost-effective, propane-fueled fire pits can be activated and controlled with a switch.
Ideal for roasting marshmallows and keeping guests toasty, propane fire pit tables come in a range of heating options, which are measured in British thermal units (BTU). They typically top out around 60,000 BTUs, while lower-end models generate around 30,000 BTUs. Propane tanks are easy to set up, and some models have a nifty built-in compartment to keep the tank out of sight.
Natural Gas — Typically designed with the same simple ignition systems and control valves as their propane counterparts, natural gas fire pits hook up to gas lines managed by utility companies. Installation may have to be outsourced and results in a semi-permanent fixture that isn’t nearly as portable as other models.
Step 6 — Consider the Materials
When it comes to fire pits, all materials aren’t created equally. You’ll want to research the material used in the fire pit’s design to see if said material will work with your space, climate, and lifestyle. Ultimately, the material will determine your fire pit’s quality, longevity, and portability.
|Steel is an easy-to-mold metal that can be painted or stained for a wide range of looks. Steel fire pits are relatively lightweight, which translates to a more portable setup. However, steel is susceptible to rust. Seek out powder-coated and stainless steel options, as these alternatives aren’t prone to rust.||Stone is a popular fire pit material option, especially to match existing outdoor features like walkways and retaining walls. Stone fire pit bowls and tables are on the heavier side, so it’s best for fire pits you won’t need to move. It also won’t rust like some metals do. If you live in a region with extreme winters, note that stone can crack after cycles of freezing and thawing.||Fire pit designs built with weatherproof HDPE plastic are ideal for long-term investments. They endure salty air, humidity, cold temperatures, and hot sun without losing quality. Look for styles with marine-grade hardware to avoid rust. Generally speaking, this material is also heavy enough to keep your fire pit in place during heavy storms and winds.|
Step 7 — Determine the Location
Inherently inviting and oh-so cozy, fire pits have an undeniable way of bringing people together. With that said, you’ll want to position yours somewhere that’s spacious but encourages socializing. While every outdoor space will have its own layout possibilities and restrictions, you can follow these general guidelines when deciding where to put yours.
- Keep the edge of your fire pit at least 10 feet away from structures of any kind.
- Choose an area away from trees, bushes, and low-hanging branches. Embers can travel surprisingly far on windy evenings.
- Check with your county or city officials to inquire about laws or regulations before making the final decision.
Step 8 — Spark Creativity
Now it’s time to put your fire pit to good use. You can do several activities around a fire any time of year.
During the summer, sing camp songs or play word games with the kids. Enjoy a pitcher of lemonade or serve up ice cream cones. Come autumn, roast hot dogs and marshmallows by the fire while swapping spooky stories and admiring the fall foliage. In the chilly months, just wrap a blanket around your shoulders—and perhaps pour a glass of red wine—and watch the mesmerizing flicker of the flames.
Don’t Forget the Finishing Touches
Round out your outdoor living area with our selection of beautiful, built-to-last benches, Adirondack chairs, and deep seating furniture. We also offer several fire pit table sets that have been curated for your family’s ultimate comfort. By pairing your new fire pit with cozy seating that’s fit for the whole family, we can promise nothing but a roaring good time.