On the fence about adding one? Find out the benefits and which type is right for you
By Laura Gaskill
1. Fire pits are crowd-pleasers. Lighting up a fire is a natural way to create a focal point at an outdoor gathering. Whether it’s the hypnotic dancing flames or some sort of primal memory, the fact is that people love to gather around fire. And if you’re looking for an excuse to invite people, all you need to say is “We’re lighting up the fire pit tonight. Want to come over?”
2. A fire pit doesn’t have to be wood-burning. Wood fires are glorious, and in the right conditions, a wood-burning fire pit can be the perfect backyard addition. But if you have close neighbors or live in an area with restrictions on wood burning, you’re not out of luck. Just make yours a gas or propane model instead of wood-burning.
Fire Pit Fuel Options
Wood Fire Pit
- Pros: Wood-burning fire pits are straightforward to build, with many options available at all price points. If you’re DIY-savvy, you can even build your own.
- Cons: Wood fires contribute to air pollution, and their use is banned or restricted in some areas. Sparks flying out of the pit can also increase fire dangers; using a protective screen can help minimize this risk.
Natural Gas Fire Pit
- Pros: Lighting the fire in a gas fire pit is as easy as flipping a switch, which may mean you use it more often. Gas fire pits can often be installed where wood fire pits cannot, such as on decks.
- Cons: Installation is more expensive and is dependent on being able to connect to an underground natural gas line. Once installed, you cannot move the fire pit.
Propane Fire Pit
- Pros: Like natural gas, a propane-burning fire pit is quick and easy to light. Some propane fire pits are free-standing and can be moved easily.
- Cons: You will need to monitor propane levels and haul the (heavy) canister back and forth to the store regularly for refills. Some (but certainly not all) propane fire pits look a bit clunky. It’s not easy to hide a bulky propane tank, and some pits do this better than others.
3. A fire pit lights up the night. All the fancy landscape lighting in the world can’t compete with the flickering blaze of a real fire. Use the warm light emanating from your fire pit to light up a far corner of your yard without having to fuss with electricity.
4. A fire pit can work in spaces both large and small. Even a compact urban yard or patio can handle a fire pit. In fact, it’s sure to become the centerpiece of a small yard. In a large yard, sprawl out with a big fire pit surrounded by bench seating for a crowd.
5. A fire pit is an outdoor feature you can use year-round. You would be hard pressed to find a backyard feature as versatile as the fire pit. In the summer, roast s’mores by starlight. In fall and winter, wrap yourself in a thick blanket and sip hot cider or cocoa while gathered with friends and family around the cozy blaze.
6. A fire pit creates a cozy atmosphere for two. Fire pits aren’t just good for parties, they are equally suited to romantic nights for two. You may be tempted to skip the wine bar when you can sip vino beside the fire in your own backyard as stars twinkle overhead.
7. Fire pits are available at all price points. From simple fire bowls and DIY projects to elaborate custom designs with built-in bench seating, there is sure to be a fire pit that fits your budget. Whichever style you choose, don’t skimp on safety, and be sure to place the fire pit on a nonflammable surface.
Fire Pit Safety Tips
- Fire pits should be at least 10 feet from your home or other structures. Some city and county codes may require an even greater distance, so be sure to check before you build.
- Don’t place a fire pit beneath a tree or overhang.
- Don’t burn on “spare the air” days if these are used in your area.
- Don’t put a wood-burning fire pit on a deck. A gas fire pit won’t send out dangerous sparks, making it the safer choice.
- Educate your kids about fire safety, and always supervise children around an open flame, even when you’re sure they know the rules.
- Keep a container of water, a hose, a fire extinguisher or all three on hand whenever you light up the fire pit.
8. You can even use a fire pit to make dinner. Make a backyard campout feel even more authentic by cooking dinner over the open flames. Cooking over a gas fire pit is not advised, but if you have a wood fire pit, you’ve got options: Place a grill rack over the fire to cook above the flames, or wrap up foil packets and tuck them among the coals. Then pull up a seat and dig in. Food always tastes better outside!
9. And, of course, a fire pit is perfect for s’mores. Kids (and kids-at-heart) know that making s’mores is one of life’s great pleasures. With a fire pit in your own backyard, why not make every Friday night s’mores night?
10. A fire pit may help you sell your home. According to a recent Houzz survey, fire pits are among the three most popular backyard additions by renovating homeowners. In other words, fire pits are hot. Having an attractive and well-maintained fire pit in your yard could give your home an edge if you decide to sell. But once you have that cool new fire pit, you probably won’t ever want to leave.