How to choose an Outdoor Fire Pit?
There’s nothing like ending the day in the backyard around the fire pit. Imagine yourself sitting in front of a nice little fire, maybe with a bottle of your favorite whiskey or your new favorite cigar. The day and evening are winding down, and you’re enjoying the last few moments of silence before you head to bed. Trouble is, you’re not sure what type of fire pit you need or want.
Fire Pit Design Styles
Most fire pit ideas are more interesting than just a rock-lined ground cover and stacked wood. Whether looking for a wood burning fire pit or a propane fire pit, consider the style that will best suit your backyard design.
A fire ring is a good way to contain a wood or wood-alternative fire pit. They provide the rustic aesthetic of a traditional campfire, but also keep the fire’s fuel and ash or embers from spreading into the seating areas. They are usually made of metal and can be found with crafted designs and customized grill inserts.
A fire bowl is a large metal disk that keeps the fire contained in the low center. It provides a rounded base, with raised, angled sides to keep pets and children safely away from flares and ash. They either sit on legs to hold the bowl off the ground, or the base weight of the bowl can keep it secure and flush on the dirt or rock groundcover, making them easily portable. Fire bowls are often paired with fire rings to add to both the aesthetics and the convenience, as the bowls are easily maintained and cleaned between uses.
Fireplaces can be built outdoors, too. These are made of brick or stone and raise the fire feature off the ground, with the fire enclosed on three sides to protect it from wind. The smoke is directed up through a chimney and away from the seating area. Brick fireplaces are a larger outdoor fire pit option and may require assistance from a contractor or landscape designer to install properly and within regulations.
A chiminea is a small, portable fireplace, though it is often heavy depending on the material it is made from and the size. It offers some of the same features as a brick, built-in, outdoor fireplace without the permanent installation. The fire is built inside the raised chiminea and the smoke is directed up and away from anyone seated nearby. Larger chimineas can also be used with grills and other accessories for cooking or baking. Chimineas are traditionally made of clay, but modern styles include a variety of materials and color options, such as steel and cast-iron.
A fire pagoda resembles a large, enclosed lantern. They make a stylish, portable patio fire pit. Pagodas consist of a framed-in, raised platform on which to build the fire. The fire is then enclosed inside metal screens to help protect family and friends as they enjoy the heat.
Fire pit tables are decorative and functional patio fire pits. They can be found at the height of a coffee table, or as stand-up cafe tables, and every height in between. Fire tables are usually propane, natural gas, or bioethanol fueled, with the fire coming through a fire-proof, decorative topping such as glass or stones as a centerpiece. The fire pit table edge is deep enough to safely hold plates and drinkware, with plenty of clearance away from the low flames. The fire pit area of the table is often surrounded by a short, protective glass wind-break.
Fire columns are taller, raised platforms with a propane or natural gas fueled fire feature. Some of these will have a protective glass or metal grating or frame to shield the flames. Fire columns are used for ambiance and lighting, particularly as an architectural accent. They have an emphasis on decor and style, with a narrower footprint than most other types of fire pits.
Safety Concerns When Choosing a Fire Pit
One of the first questions you might have is can you have open fires where you live. Some locations or cities don’t always allow open flames. The main things to consider for safety reasons are location and flame type.
Location: The fire pit needs to be away from combustible materials. This includes flammable liquids, awnings, sheds, your house, and even tents. You can, of course, store your fire pit when not in use and the fire has gone out, but you shouldn’t have it burning next to these things.
Open Flame Type: Can you burn wood where you live, or would it be better to use a gas fire pit? Wood burning can spark and ignite the flammable material we just talked about, or it can catch a nearby tree on fire.
It may sound scary, but truthfully, if used correctly, the fire pit can be safe almost anywhere. You just have to plan out where it’s going to be safely used because you don’t want to ever have to worry about putting out a fire.
Usually, it’s not too big of an issue if you live in a house, but apartment dwellings and condo living aren’t always ideal for fire pits because you need adequate ventilation and outdoor space. Some places even have no-burning zones or times of the year where fires are banned, no matter how large or small.
How Do I Choose a Fire Pit?
--Cost and Size
Choosing a fire pit is a matter of personal preference. You should choose a style that fits your budget and that is the correct size for the location you decided to place it in. When it comes to cost, there are fire pits that fit just about any budget and depend on the size and style you choose.
If you are going to have a built-in fire pit, the optimal size is 36 to 44 inches in diameter and about 10 inches tall from the ground up. If you are going to use a portable fire pit, then the optimal size is anywhere from 30 to 40 inches in diameter and about 12 to 16 inches tall, which is perfect for cozying up in a patio chair.
--Style and Type of Fire Pit
Built-in fire pits are usually dug into the ground and filled with sand or gravel and topped with a brick or concrete wall placed around the fire pit hole. There are some great do-it-yourself fire pit kits out there for this style, but beware: It’s a weekend project.
On the other hand, there are also free-standing and portable fire pits. These moveable fire pits are very popular and come in many different shapes and sizes. Many of the fire pits are designed as table-shaped, bowl-shaped, or rings. You can even find some shapes like columns, chimineas, and even fireplace styles.
What your fire pit is made of will also determine its durability. It will also define how moveable or portable your fire pit will be. A brick or concrete fire pit will more than likely be a permanent installation, whereas a steel or metal fire pit can be moved a little more easily.
The fuel type of your fire pit will be another big factor. A lot of wood-burning fire pits are economical but face a lot of criticism due to their emissions and fire bans — not to mention having to store firewood. Natural gas fire pits are environmentally friendly because they burn the cleanest, they’re easy to maintain, and they have the cheapest cost. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about refilling the natural gas. Liquid propane fire pits are similar to natural gas, but they do burn a little less cleanly by creating a small amount of soot. They are more mobile and still easy to maintain, but you will need to refill the propane tank at your local store.