Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Fire Pit
I am a firm believer that no back yard can be complete without some sort of fire pit. Some of my favorite memories have come from sitting around a fire on the beach, in my backyard, on vacation, etc. There’s something so relaxing about lounging around with friends and family around a fire pit. They’re perfect for warm summer nights and cold winters as well. At Patio Productions, we are experts on providing awesome fire pits. One of the best parts about fire pits is that they’re so accessible for the average homeowner.
We’ve covered this in previous blog posts and feel it’s important to mention again. It’s important to have a focal point when designing your backyard. It makes it feel completed and usually opens up the space. One of the best focal points is a fire pit! Building a DIY firepit in your backyard is easier than you would think. If you’re not super handy, there are plenty of other options available. We’ll start this guide by giving a quick run down of the different types of backyard fire pit options that are available.
1. Fire Pit
The standard fire pit is a classic addition to any home that can come in so many different shapes and sizes. They can be as basic as a DIY fire pit in the corner of your yard and as extravagant as a full stone fireplace. The best part about building your own is that you can make it into any shape or size you want. If you’ve got a big area with lots of space and want to be able to host a larger group of people, you can make a bigger fire pit! It’s easy to add some patio furniture surrounding the pit so you’ve got a custom seating area. On the flip side, if you’re dealing with a smaller space, you can tone down your fire pit and make it a cozy go to spot for a few close friends.
Here’s an awesome guide on how to build your own fire pit!
There are a lot of material options when it comes to the standard fire pit. Based on the material that you use, price will vary. Of course, the higher end material will be more expensive. The materials that we see the most are stone, brick, concrete, stainless steel, and cast iron. These metals hold up well under high heat and are also rust resistant! For the standard fire pit, the most common fuel source is wood, but there are other options that use propane, natural gas, and charcoal. Another route you can take is the full on electric fire pit! With that option you lose a little bit of the charm of a natural fire.
2. Fire Columns
Other than your standard fire pit, fire columns are a cool spin on a traditional outdoor feature. Unlike fire pits, fire columns almost always use natural gas or propane for fuel. A wood burning fire column is just a little too impractical. We mentioned focal pieces earlier, and fire columns are a perfect example of this. They’re unique and definitely catch your eye when you see one. The amount of different styles is great too! There are modern examples and traditional examples with everything in between.
Fire columns are usually pretty slim, which makes them great for smaller patios or backyards. I’m sure you’ve seen something similar at outdoor restaurants. Fire columns are usually made with stone, wood, or metal on the outside while the inside is always metal. Unlike fire pits, fire columns are not the most ideal choice for making s’mores. Propane and marshmallows aren’t super tasty together. Other than that downside, we love fire columns because of their unique and sleek appearance.
The Nest Lantern – $2,200
3. Fire Bowl
While the fire bowl is similar to a fire pit, the bowl is a little more portable than the pit option. This is ideal if your in a situation where you have a landlord. The big issue is that fire pits are often very permanent features of your backyard. If you have a landlord that doesn’t want you messing around with your yard too much, the fire bowl is a great option! As with most fire features, it comes in a wide range of styles.
Another aspect we love about the fire bowl is that since it’s so portable, it’s easier to store away when the weather gets really nasty. This will ensure that it has a long life. Fire bowls almost always use natural gas or propane as a fuel source. There are some that are wood burning but we recommend that you keep a close eye on them. If using a wood burning fire bowl, it’s not a bad idea to use a screen to contain rogue sparks and embers. You do not want to be the neighbor that catches their house on fire.
The Pebble Fire Bowl – $2,395.00
4. Fire Tables
The fire table is something you don’t see as often as some of the other fire features which is kind of a bummer because these things are super cool! Fire tables are form and function wrapped into one. Not only does the fire provide warmth (duh) the table is a great place to put your feet up or rest some drinks. There are a crazy amount of different styles to choose from so you’re guaranteed to find a table that will fit in with your patio design.
Fire tables are almost always fueled by gas or propane. A wood burning fire table is a little sketchy and a lot to handle. It might take away from the relaxing nature of lounging around a fire. As with the fire bowl and column, the fire table is portable and relatively easy to move. If you’ve got a smaller patio space, the fire table is perfect because it’s easy to move and store away. We mentioned in a previous blog post about saving space that you want to look for dual purpose patio furniture. The fire table is even better than dual purpose because it can also act as an awesome focal point for your backyard or patio!
Cambria Rectangular Fire Table – $2,636.00
The Chiminea is a cool little fire feature that’s slowly growing in popularity. It’s spanish for chimney and these are common in Mexico and the southwest states. Traditionally, chimineas were made from fired clay and used for cooking and heating homes. Today, chimineas are made using more modern materials, but the premise remains the same. The tall pipe moves the smoke upwards and the heat comes from the front.
We’ve all sat around the fire hoping the smoke drifts towards someone else. With the chiminea, you’ll never have to worry about smoke in your eyes again! They’re also one of the safest options available because of the enclosed nature of this fire feature. My favorite part about the chiminea is that almost all of the ones available are wood burning. Of course, you can still find gas and propane options, but nothing beats a wood burning fireplace.
Fire Pit vs. Patio Heaters
After cruising through the 5 most common types of fire pits you’re probably wondering, what about patio heaters? There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. We’ll start with the patio heater. One of the best features of the patio heater is the ease of use! They’re powered by gas or propane and the tanks are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. The patio heaters are portable (although heavy) and can be moved anywhere on your patio. Finally, you don’t have to worry about live fire, which can be a little intimidating for some people, especially if you have little kids!
One of the biggest drawbacks of patio heaters is that they don’t give off that much heat unless you’re right next to them. They also take a little longer to heat up than a fire does. Aesthetically, it’s really the consumers call! There are plenty of patio heaters that are super cool looking if you do a little searching.
Onto fire pits! Of course, fire pits are inherently more dangerous than patio heaters, that’s for sure. However, fire pits have some serious advantages. They can be just as portable as heat lamps, depending on the kind of fire pit you buy. They also heat up much more quickly than patio heaters. It’s also a little nicer to hang out around a fire and talk than to huddle around a patio heater. When it comes to aesthetics and enjoying your time using whatever form of heating you choose, fire pits come out on top every time. There’s just nothing that beats the feeling of hanging out around a fire.
Modfire Bonfire Fire Pit – $3,340.00
Now that we’ve covered the 5 basic options for backyard fire features and patio heaters, it’s time to move on to general information that’s important to know if you’re thinking about dabbling in a fire pit!
Wood Burning Laws
First things first, you can’t use fireplaces on covered patios or porches. Not only is it unsafe, but I have a feeling that you and your guests would be smoked out in minutes. Definitely a no go! Additionally, using a fire pit in a place with low hanging branches or lots of wind is a recipe for disaster. The next step is understanding the rules and regulations that are in place by your homeowners association, landlord, or county. In many states it’s too dry and dangerous to have open wood burning fires. If you’re really craving a night around the fire with your friends, you can usually call the local fire department and they’ll talk you through correct safety measures to take.
Your best bet is to do some research before committing to a fire pit purchase. Once you have everything figured out, go for it!
Location is everything when deciding where to put your fire pit, and there are a decent amount of factors to take into consideration when picking a spot. First of all, you want a big open space so you have plenty of room for the fire pit and seating. It’s best if this is away from bushes and low branches, as we mentioned before. You want to be able to have a decent sized fire without worrying about sparks and embers landing on bushes or trees. Next, make sure that the location you choose isn’t too breezy. Again, you have to be careful of sparks and embers.
Once you have a good idea of the location you want, put down some string or chalk so you have a way to visualize the size estimate of your fire pit. Ideally, you want about 7 feet of space around the seating area of the fire pit. This should allow enough room for outdoor furniture and traffic. A quick additional tip, leave some room behind the furniture so that if people get too hot, they have room to back up. There are a few more tips and tricks from the Landscaping Network about placing your fire pit.
The cost of a fire pit can change dramatically based on what you want. A DIY fire pit can be done on a very tight budget, especially if you have materials on hand. A cheaper fire pit starts at around $500.00 and can reach several thousand depending on customization and cost of labor. Most of the more inexpensive options are portable which is nice if you don’t plan on staying for an extended amount of time. While the other option is much more expensive, it will also most likely end up increasing the value of your home.
Tavola Fire Table – $2,590.00
Other costs that you have to consider are fuel. Shockingly, wood isn’t actually free and can be more expensive than you think. Buying small amounts of wood from grocery stores is never a good idea and you might not have the time or resources to cut down and split a tree yourself. The next best option is buying a cord of wood. There are two common cords that you can buy. There is the face cord, which is 4 feet tall by 8 feet long, 16 inches deep. A full cord is 4 feet tall by 8 feet long, and 4 feet deep. A full cord of wood averages out to $120-$180. During the winter months and in other places in the country, a cord of wood can be anywhere from $220-$400. (For a face cord, half those prices). Granted, a full cord of wood should last you a while, depending on how often you use your fire pit.
After purchasing wood, you’ll have to factor in the cost of building or buying a place to store it. This can also be a DIY project which should definitely reduce your cost. A place to store the wood is important because starting a fire with wet wood is not an easy task!
If you want to go the propane route, it’ll be a little easier to calculate your costs and probably less of a headache than dealing with all that wood! If you’re worried about a propane tank making your beautiful patio look a little sketchy, we have some awesome (and tasteful) propane tank covers!
Fire Pit Accessories
The first thing you’ll need is tools. A few things to get you started are a poker, tongs, wood handlers, cooking grates, and of course, marshmallow skewers! We highly recommend you pick up at least a few of these things because you don’t want to be stuck without them when you actually have a fire going and can’t leave! Another good thing to have is a metal screen. It’s not totally necessary, but if you’re worried about sparks and embers, it’s some nice peace of mind to have a screen in place.
A carrier for your wood is nice to have because it will make your life a whole lot easier if you need to get more wood for the fire. If you don’t have a carrier, your next best option is loading up your arms. Finally, a fireplace cover is nice to have to protect your fire feature from the elements. It’s not cool to invest so much time and money into a fire pit only to have it take a beating from a few nasty storms.
When dealing with fire, it’s always important to be very cautious! There’s nothing worse than a bad burn to ruin a good night. We found this awesome safety list from FireSafeKid.org that has some awesome tips. It is meant for campfires, but we found all the information to be relevant to fire pits as well!
- Scrape away grass and needles within a diameter of ten feet.
- Build your campfire or cooking fire downwind
- Have water nearby before building a campfire.
- Never use a flammable liquid (especially gasoline) to start a fire or hot coals.
- Adults should always supervise children around fires; never leave a fire unattended!
- While using campfires and grills, wear snug-fitting, tightly-woven, or short-sleeved garments;
- Avoid sandals or open-toed shoes while cooking.
- Make certain that everyone knows how to put out a clothing fire: “STOP, DROP and ROLL!”
- An extinguisher of some type (shovel, bucket of water or fire extinguisher), is an important tool to have on hand.