Outdoor fire pits can transform outdoor entertainment spaces like patios and backyards. They serve a multitude of functions: they make the space more aesthetically pleasing, they provide heat at a lower cost compared to fireplaces, and they extend the use of outdoor spaces through the cold autumn and winter seasons. For people who frequently entertain guests outdoors, a fire pit is a valuable addition to their home. Instead of going to the beach or the countryside to enjoy a robust fire, you can have one right outside the back door.
More and more homeowners are turning to outdoor fire pits to upgrade and add value to their home. In North America alone, outdoor fire pits represent 75% of home upgrades and extensions. Outdoor fire pits provide a focal point for an outdoor space, and extend the entertainment capabilities of the host. You can even roast food like marshmallows and sausages with an outdoor fire pit. The possibilities are endless.
If you’re thinking of having an outdoor fire pit built for your backyard, then you’ve come to the right place. I wrote the article specifically for the person who wants an outdoor fire pit but doesn’t know where to start. Outdoor fire pits come in a lot of configurations to fit individual homeowner needs and varying locations. This article is by no means exhaustive, but I hope the information contained here will help you make an informed purchase. I’ve seen lots of people choose the flashiest or most expensive fire pit, only to realise later on that it’s a poor fit for the backyard.
Here are the factors you need to consider when selecting the right outdoor fire pit for your home.
Outdoor Fire Pit Styles
Outdoor fire pits come in a variety of different styles. Select one that matches the theme and decor of your outdoor entertainment space.
1 – Cauldron
The cauldron pit is the most popular outdoor fire pit chosen by homeowners. It features a classic pit design, with an open concave shape that allows visibility of the fire from all directions. The cauldron fire pit is a perfect focal point for people to gather and lounge around. Some models also have grates for easy grilling. While the open format allows for slow and long fires, sparks may occasionally fly out. I highly recommend a fire cover or spark arrestor to keep the fire in.
2 – Fire Table
A fire table is, well, a table with a fire pit built in. This format allows for a lot of customisations: It could be a simple four-seater with a fire pit in the middle or a twelve-seater full dining table with a sunken, elongated fire pit in the middle. The close proximity of the flames to the people and other combustible materials means you have to be extra careful with a fire table.
3 – Chimenea
A chimenea is a free-standing fire pit with a bulbous design for containing the fire and a single mouth opening like a fireplace. They also look like pizza or bread ovens. Smoke comes out of the chimney, allowing for a clean burn with little residue. They look more chic, but are also more expensive.
4 – Custom-built/artistic
The sky’s the limit for custom-built outdoor fire pits. They come in every design imaginable, which makes them perfect for themed outdoor spaces. You can have one to suit a specific ambiance or style, which could be difficult to do with more conventional fire pits.
Outdoor Fire Pit Materials
Just like outdoor fire pits come in a variety of styles, they’re also made of a vast range of materials. Each material differs in its cost, quality, appearance and durability. You can even have a fire pit that’s made of two or more materials.
1 – Cast Iron and Steel
Cast iron and steel are two of the most popular material options for fire pits due to its affordability and adaptability. While steel and cast iron are especially susceptible to rust, you can just put a coat of stove paint on it to delay the corrosion process.
2 – Copper
Copper looks extremely beautiful and rustic, and is also outdoor durable and rust-proof, which makes it a stylish and dependable option for fire pit material. If you’re familiar with copperware, exposure to the elements will transform its initial colour to a more familiar greenish hue, which a lot of people find alluring.
3 – Stainless Steel
Stainless steel gives fire pits a more modern, sleek look that looks right at home in more minimalist and chic outdoor spaces. It also has the benefit of being resistant to weathering and corrosion. It’s also more expensive than most materials.
4 – Stone
Stone and stone tiles are used to clad houses for a reason. They’re built to withstand against the harshest weather elements and the passage of time seem to make them look better. They’re also heavy and prone to erosion. Stone is used for immovable outdoor fire pits.
Outdoor Fire Pit Fuel
1 – Wood
Wood is the most popular and classic fuel source for fire pits. They allow for an authentic campfire or bonfire experience and is the easiest and simplest fuel source. Depending on the wood, they emit a pleasant odor and give off warmth that’s absent from other fuel sources. However, they leave behind ash and other debris, and can also give off sparks and embers which could pose a danger to people and property.
2 – Natural Gas
The most expensive outdoor fire pits are fueled by natural gas. Pipes under the fire pit feed gas from tanks situated far away to keep the fire burning. The process required to construct a natural gas fire pit is time-consuming and expensive. They also don’t give off warmth compared to burning wood.
3 – Propane
Propane is a popular fuel which allows for a clean burn that doesn’t produce smoke. It’s also one of the safest options, as propane can be lit or turned off at the switch of a button or lever. It’s also the priciest fuel option. Like natural gas, it gives off little heat.