In prehistoric times, fire was a necessity for survival. It was a way to provide warmth, cook food, and ward off predators.
Fortunately for us, a lot has changed since then, but what hasn’t changed is our innate bond with fire. Who doesn’t have fond memories of a campfire or a bonfire? Who doesn’t still enjoy huddling close to an outdoor fire on a chilly night and enjoying time with friends or just being mesmerized by the dancing flames?
It’s understandable then, that an outdoor fire pit is one of the most desired add-on features of landscaping. And to satisfy that desire, there are a lot of options to choose from and considerations to keep in mind. We hope this guide will help you when you’re deciding to add an outdoor fire pit to your landscaping.
Regulations and Restrictions
First and foremost, check into local regulations and HOA bylaws for rules and restrictions governing outdoor fire pits. Due to the higher density, cities and suburban subdivisions tend to have strict rules about pit size and type, fuel type, location, permits, and more. So do areas prone to drought and/or high winds. Some localities ban fire pits altogether.
Do yourself a favor and check into those things first. You don’t want to put in a fire pit only to face fines or removal because it isn’t up to code.
Where do you want your outdoor fire pit to be? Is it a safe distance from the home and flammable objects? An outdoor fire pit should, as a general rule of thumb, have at least 7 feet between it and any furniture that will surround it. That lets you be close enough to enjoy the heat but avoid accidental burns, and you can always scoot up closer if it’s really cold.
When it comes to installing the fire pit, it will need to be on level ground that provides ample support. It also should be situated well away from spots where water pools because that can weaken or damage the structure.
For most people, the choice of fuel is wood vs. natural gas. Each has its own pros and cons.
- Less expensive and easier to install and operate
- Hotter than gas
- Natural aroma and crackling sound
- More effort lighting and extinguishing
- Need for always having fuel on hand
- Smell of smoke in clothes and hair
- Regular cleaning necessary
- Release of ash and soot into the air
- Can only go where there is no cover overhead
- Easy to turn on and off
- Burns cleanly– no ash, soot, smoke, or scent
- Not as hot as wood– so better for smaller fire pits
- Fuel costs plus installation of gas lines
- More expensive to install
- Difficult or impossible to cook over
- Very little cleaning and maintenance required
- Can go under a roof
Less common but still out there are ethanol and propane units. These tend to be smaller, with ethanol pits being smaller than propane ones, but they have the advantages of burning cleanly, burning more efficiently than natural gas does, and being portable. There’s also no need to install a gas line, though you do have to buy and replace the fuel canisters.
Fuel type is another of those things you must look into during the initial stages.
Size and Purpose
How large an outdoor fire pit really depends on local codes, how many people will be enjoying it at once, and what its primary purpose is. Once you’ve determined the size and purpose, you can look at the style you want, which we go into next.
Style: Premade, DIY, or Professionally Installed?
Now that you’ve seen to all of the above, it’s time for the best part: getting your outdoor fire pit and bringing it to life.
Many people opt for the convenience of a pre-manufactured fire pit. Choose among many options available and pick the one you like. Some will be preassembled and as simple as a metal bin that can be portable as well, while others may require some easy assembly.
Some enjoy creating and building their own, and it typically doesn’t require a handyman to create a DIY wood-burning fire pit. You should be able to find the assembly materials at any Lowe’s or Home Depot. Again, make sure you are following all safety precautions and local regulations.
Finally, you can hire a professional landscaper to design and install a custom outdoor fire pit or to install the pre-manufactured unit you’ve purchased. Hiring a professional creates peace of mind knowing the unit has been installed safely and correctly.