A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Fire Pit

Creating a Backyard Oasis: A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Fire Pit

As the weather warms and the days stretch longer, the allure of spending evenings under the open sky grows stronger. Transforming your backyard into a cozy haven with seating and a fire pit not only enhances the ambiance but also extends the functionality of your outdoor space.  These extensions of our homes can quickly become some of our favorite places to spend evening hours. I enjoy starting a bonfire, roasting marshmallows with the kids, or chatting with friends on summer nights. Staring at the flames while sitting under the stars is so relaxing! I’ve learned recently that if you’re looking to add some of this cozy ambiance to your outdoor space or upgrade your current fire pit setup—whether for a balcony or sprawling deck—there’s likely an option available. Below is a guide to help you figure out the who, what, where, why, and how of fire pits. I’ve also shared some of my personal favorites. Why Install a Fire Pit? Fire pits are more than just beautiful features; they are centers of social and familial gatherings. It can be a perfect spot for gathering with friends and family for a night of storytelling, laughter, and relaxation while providing a source of warmth that allows you to enjoy your outdoor space longer into the evening and during the cooler months.  But it’s not just about social gatherings. You can also use your fire pit to make s’mores, grill burgers, or cook a full campfire meal. They serve as an attractive focal point in your backyard, adding a touch of style and sophistication. Choosing the Right Location The placement of your fire pit is crucial for safety and enjoyment. Place the fire pit at least 10 feet away from house structures or flammable materials. Ensure the area is open and has good ventilation to avoid smoke accumulation. Consider prevailing wind patterns to avoid smoke blowing into your home or seating area and position it where you can enjoy the best view of your garden or the stars. Lastly, ensure the fire pit is easily accessible and has ample comfortable seating space. Wood-burning Fire Pit A wood-burning fire pit is ideal for the authentic campfire experience. It is perfect for areas where wood burning is allowed, and you enjoy the crackle and smoke of real wood.  It is generally the most economical choice and is relatively straightforward to set up. Assuming you’re allowed to burn in your neighborhood, you choose a safe location to set up and stack the logs inside before lighting a fire. Attractive options are available in both traditional and smokeless varieties. This modern Corten steel option is handmade and would elevate any outdoor space. Some smokeless fire pits like this one by Solo Stove have removable ash pans for easy cleaning. If you are using wood, ensure that where you store it is clean and covered. You don’t want to burn wet wood.  Propane Fire Pit If you’re looking for a fire pit option that doesn’t involve smoke and flying sparks and doesn’t require a permanent installation, a propane fire pit is a good option. Propane pits are cleaner than their wood-burning counterparts. Additionally, they are portable, can produce as much heat as a standard patio heater, and come in various styles.  Ecosmart’s Ark 40 boasts a minimalist architectural design. For all their conveniences, however, one downside to some propane fire pits is that not all styles elegantly hide the propane tanks that fuel them. One noteworthy exception is this sleek and colorful option from Loll Designs, which is stylish while keeping the propane completely self-contained. Natural Gas Fire Pit If you’re ready to commit to a permanent enhancement for the patio, a natural gas-burning fire pit may be the way to go. These fire pits require a dedicated gas line installed by a professional.  While this adds to the setup cost and complexity, using a natural gas fireplace is a snap once they’re in place. There’s no need to worry about keeping fuel hand or fear of running out mid-fire.  These fire pits burn cleanly and produce significant warmth, which might be attractive as summer turns to fall. There are many gorgeous options out there. Some vendors, like Lumacast, offer white glove delivery and setup, lessening the setup barrier.  I love Lumacast’s sculptural Paolo model. Paloform’s Fold and Kodo fire pits are other options that would give any outdoor space an edge. Bioethanol Fire Pit Bioethanol fire pits are among the most versatile options and are often selected for this flexibility. They vary greatly in size and style and can be burned indoors or outdoors. Many are even designed to sit on a tabletop.  Manufacturers tout the fire pit’s environmentally friendly fuel source, which is derived from plant by-products and releases no harmful emissions. Fuel sources come in liquid or gel form, depending on the fire pit. These fire features don’t put off nearly as much heat as other fire pits, making them an option for small spaces or where traditional wood-burning fire pits aren’t allowed.  One of my favorite options in this category includes this retro fireplace by Modfire, and its little sister, the Mini-Mod. Both have a fun vintage mid-century look and come in great colors. Adding a Fire Pit to Your Outdoor Space A fire pit is a wonderful addition to any outdoor space, offering functional and aesthetic benefits. You can create a delightful outdoor retreat in your backyard by choosing the right type, location, and safety measures. Whether roasting marshmallows on a summer night or enjoying a warm drink on a crisp fall evening, a fire pit can make any outdoor gathering magical.