There’s nothing quite like gathering around a fire pit on a chilly evening, watching the flames flicker, and enjoying the company of friends and family. Fire pits provide a focal point for your outdoor space and can range from simple, traditional styles to more modern, innovative designs.
With various types of fire pits available, it can be quite challenging to choose one that best suits your outdoor environment. Here we’ll explore the various fire pit styles and explore the pros and cons to help you decide which might fit your backyard best.
Types of Fire Pits
There are four primary types of fire pits:
- Wood-burning fire pits
- Propane fire pits
- Natural Gas Fire Pits
- Gel-Fuel Fire Pits
While these types dominate the market, you may also come across other variations, such as tabletop fire pits, fire bowls, chimeneas, and even fire pits with water features.
Each has distinct features with pros and cons, offering a range of fire pit styles for your outdoor space. So, let’s discuss each one of these in detail:
The classic wood-burning fire pit is as old as humankind’s discovery of fire, yet it never fails to draw people together with its primal allure. These fire pits burn wood as their primary fuel source, recreating the authentic campfire experience in your backyard.
The unmistakable aroma of wood smoke, the crackling sound of logs, and the mesmerizing sight of dancing flames all contribute to the cozy, comforting atmosphere that wood-burning fire pits are famous for.
However, they demand some work in gathering or purchasing firewood, preparing the pit, starting the fire, and cleaning up the ash afterward. But for many, this engagement with the elements is part of the charm and appeal. There are various examples of wood-burning fire pits, such as stone or brick fire pits or wood-burning grills.
Stone or Brick Fire Pit
The stone or brick fire pit is popular due to its durability and visual appeal. It’s often a permanent fixture that blends well with most garden landscapes. The sturdy construction can withstand heat, and its rustic appearance enhances the backyard’s visual appeal.
Wood Burning Grill
A wood-burning grill is a multifunctional fire pit that doubles as a cooking station. Perfect for those who love a backyard barbecue, the grill provides heat for warmth and serves as a cooking platform. It adds a smoky flavor to the food that propane or natural gas fire pits can’t replicate.
Pros of Wood Burning Fire Pits
- Offers an authentic fire experience with the distinctive smell and sound of burning wood
- Generates substantial heat, more than most propane or gel fuel fire pits
- Functions as a wood-burning grill, enhancing outdoor cooking experiences
- Requires no gas lines or propane tanks, simplifying installation and usage
Cons of Wood Burning Fire Pits
- Produces smoke, which can be a concern in densely populated areas or those with strict fire regulations
- Requires regular cleaning due to ash and leftover debris
- Firewood must be stocked and kept dry, necessitating additional storage space
- Some regions might restrict the use due to fire hazard concerns, especially during dry seasons
Propane fire pits are ideal for those who crave the charm of a fire pit but prefer a cleaner, more convenient option. These fire pits run on propane gas, frequently available from a refillable tank. They provide the warmth and beauty of a fire pit without the mess of smoke or ashes. With a propane fire pit, you can enjoy a fire at the flick of a switch or the turn of a knob.
Propane fire pits are also portable, making them a preferred choice for those who like rearranging their outdoor spaces or taking their fire pit on camping trips or tailgating events. They are relatively easy to install and use compared to natural gas fire pits, which require a fixed gas line. Some examples of propane fire pits include the copper bowl or propane portable fire pit.
Copper Bowl Fire Pit
The copper bowl fire pit is a stylish propane fire pit option that serves as a heat source and a statement piece. The patina that develops over the copper surface over time adds a unique aesthetic appeal. These fire pits often come with rock pebbles or fire glass that enhance the quality of the flames.
Propane Portable Fire Pit
As the name suggests, the propane portable fire pit is designed for easy transportation. This feature makes it ideal for camping trips, beach outings, or tailgate parties. Despite being portable, these fire pits do not compromise heat output or flame aesthetics.
A fire pit table, often running on propane, is a piece of outdoor furniture with a built-in fire pit. These multitasking marvels provide heat, a fascinating visual, and functional tabletop space for placing drinks or snacks. They’re popular for those who like to entertain outdoors, offering a comfortable gathering point.
Pros of a Propane Fire Pit
- Easy to start and control with a simple switch or knob
- Portable and suitable for different outdoor activities
- There is no smoke or ash, providing a clean fire experience
- Wide variety of styles, such as fire pit tables and portable designs
Cons of a Propane Fire Pit
- Requires regular refilling or replacement of propane tanks
- The need to carry a propane tank might limit its portability
- Heat output might not be as high as that of wood or natural gas fire pits
- Propane costs can add up over time, especially with frequent usage
Natural Gas Fire Pits
Natural gas fire pits are for those who want a permanent, clean-burning fire pit that is always ready for use. These fire pits run on natural gas supplied from a gas line connected to your home. This feature offers the convenience of a continuous gas supply, eliminating the need for fuel refills. However, the installation of a natural gas line usually requires professional help.
Natural gas fire pits are usually designed as a built-in feature of your outdoor space. They often become the centerpiece of your patio or backyard, where other elements are arranged. They also offer high heat output and are more cost-effective in fuel costs than propane or gel fuel fire pits. The sunken and tabletop designs are some of the most popular styles among these fire pits.
The sunken design is a unique and elegant approach to natural gas fire pits. As the name suggests, the fire pit is built into the ground, creating a cozy and intimate atmosphere. It’s perfect for gathering with friends and family and creates a sleek, minimalistic aesthetic.
Table-top, Round or Square Design
Natural gas fire pits also come in round and square tabletop designs. These are gathering points in your outdoor space, offering heat and a handy surface for beverages or small plates. The round or square design ties into your outdoor decor, adding functionality and style.
Pros of a Natural Gas Fire Pit
- Provide a steady, continuous flame that produces more heat than propane fire pits
- There is no need for wood or propane tanks, reducing the associated storage space and costs
- No ash or smoke, offering a clean burning experience
- Adds value to your home due to its permanent nature
Cons of a Natural Gas Fire Pit
- Installation can be complex and usually requires professional help
- Not portable due to the requirement of a fixed gas line
- Once installed, they become a permanent fixture and can’t be easily moved or relocated
- Initial setup costs, including the installation of a natural gas line, can be high
Gel Fuel Fire Pits
For those who love the concept of fire pits but live in apartments or regions with strict fire regulations, gel-fuel fire pits offer a safe, portable alternative. These fire pits use cans of gel fuel to produce flames. This fuel is made from isopropyl alcohol, which burns cleanly without producing smoke or ash. Gel-fuel fire pits are typically small and portable and come in various designs to suit any decor.
They’re also extremely easy to use—you simply open a can of gel fuel, place it in the fire pit, and light it up. While they don’t produce as much heat as wood, propane, or natural gas fire pits, they’re excellent for creating ambiance and can be used indoors. A tabletop fireplace or gel-fueled logs are common types of gel-fuel fire pits.
Tabletop Fire Pits
A tabletop fireplace is a small gel-fuel fire pit on your table. It’s perfect for small gatherings, offering a mesmerizing flame and cozy vibe. You can use it indoors during the winter or move it outdoors during a summer party.
Gel Fueled Logs
Gel-fueled logs replicate the look of a traditional log fire without smoke or ash. These are great for those who love the aesthetic of a traditional wood fire pit but want a cleaner, more manageable option. The logs are designed to hold gel fuel cans, providing a fire lasting around three hours.
Pros of a Gel Fuel Fire Pit
- Smokeless and ash-free, providing a clean and easy fire experience
- Extremely portable and suitable for indoor use
- Easy to light and extinguish, offering maximum convenience
- Various styles and designs are available, including tabletop fireplaces and faux wood logs
Cons of a Gel Fuel Fire Pit
- Gel fuel cans need to be replaced after each use, which could become costly
- Don’t produce as much heat as other fire pit styles
- Flames aren’t as high or as realistic as those produced by wood or gas fire pits
- The availability of gel fuel can be limited in some regions
Tabletop fire pits have gained popularity recently due to their portability and stylish design. They can transform any outdoor space into a cozy gathering spot, creating an intimate atmosphere with just the flick of a switch. Tabletop fire pits usually use propane or gel fuel, providing a clean burn with no smoke or ash. This fire pit style is also an excellent option for those with limited outdoor space, as it combines the functionality of a table and a fire pit, saving valuable room on your patio or deck.
The appeal of tabletop fire pits lies in their compact size, dual functionality, and wide range of designs. Whether you want a sleek, modern look or a more rustic look, there is a tabletop fire pit to suit your taste. Some are designed to mimic traditional fire pits with faux wood or rock pebbles, while others have a more modern appearance with fire glass or gas fire tables.
- Portable and versatile, allowing for easy transportation
- Wide range of designs to suit any preference
- Space-saving dual functionality, serving both as a table and a fire pit
- Fuel can be costly and requires regular replacement
- Don’t produce as much heat as larger fire pits
- The flame is often smaller and less impressive than those of larger fire pits
Fire bowls are a distinct fire pit style that offers design versatility and portability, some with extra racks, grills and trays for cooking. The bowl shape enhances the fire’s visual appeal and helps contain the wood or coals, making fire bowls a safe option. You can find fire bowls in various materials, such as steel, copper, and concrete, each contributing to a unique aesthetic.
In addition to their aesthetic appeal, fire bowls offer the advantage of portability. They’re typically lightweight and can be moved around your outdoor space as needed, making them perfect for those who occasionally enjoy rearranging their outdoor layout. You have that flexibility, whether you want to bring the warmth closer to your seating area or move it to a safer distance from children playing in a fire bowl.
Pros of a Fire Bowl
- Highly portable, allowing you to rearrange your outdoor space easily
- The bowl shape contains the fire, enhancing safety
- Wide variety of materials and designs to match your aesthetic preference
Cons of a Fire Bowl
- Typically smaller and may not provide as much heat as larger fire pits
- Depending on the material, fire bowls may require regular maintenance to avoid rust and deterioration
- Some designs may not come with a cover, requiring a separate purchase for protection against the elements
Chimeneas, a traditional form of outdoor fireplace, have a distinct shape with a bulbous body and a narrow chimney. This unique design adds a charming, rustic aesthetic to your outdoor space and has functional advantages. The shape of the chimenea draws fresh air into the fire and funnels smoke upward, reducing smoke annoyance.
While chimeneas were traditionally made from clay, modern versions are also available in metal, including cast iron and steel. Metal chimeneas often come with a grill gate, allowing you to cook on them. The two main types of chimeneas are wood-burning and gas-fueled. Wood-burning chimeneas create a traditional fire with crackling logs and smoky scents, while gas-fueled chimeneas provide a smokeless flame with easy operation.
Pros of a Chiminea
- The unique design can be a focal point in your outdoor space
- Reduces smoke annoyance with its efficient smoke direction
- More contained than open fire pits, enhancing safety
Cons of a Chiminea
- Doesn’t give off as much heat as a fire pit
- Traditional clay versions can crack if not properly maintained
- The narrow chimney may require frequent cleaning to prevent blockages
Fire Pits With Water
Fire pits with water are an innovative design option that combines two captivating elements of nature. These fire pits offer a dynamic aesthetic that goes beyond the usual allure of fire, adding the soothing sound and visual of flowing water. They are ideal for homeowners looking for a unique focal point in their outdoor space.
Fire pits with water often come in several designs, including fire bowls with water features and fire tables with integrated waterfalls. They typically run on natural gas or propane, providing a clean, smoke-free flame that enhances any outdoor space.
- Provides a unique, captivating aesthetic combining fire and water
- Offers a multisensory experience with the visual appeal of fire and the soothing sound of water
- Usually provides a clean, smoke-free flame
- Has a more complex installation process
- Typically more expensive than other fire pit options
- Requires regular maintenance to keep both the fire and water elements functioning properly
FAQ’s About Types of Fire Pits
1. What style of fire pit is safest?
Each type of fire pit has safety considerations. Wood-burning fire pits require a safe distance from flammable materials due to flying sparks, and they need a screen to contain these sparks. Propane and natural gas fire pits should be installed safely, away from structures and overhanging branches. Gel-fuel fire pits are generally considered safe, but the fuel should be stored correctly.
2. What fire pit gives off the most heat?
Wood-burning and natural gas fire pits typically give off the most heat, making them perfect for cooler nights. Propane fire pits offer moderate heat, while gel fuel fire pits provide the least heat of the four main types.
3. Can you put a fire pit directly on the ground?
Some fire pits can be placed directly on the ground, but a heat-resistant barrier is necessary for others. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safely installing and operating your fire pit.
To summarize, fire pits can significantly enhance outdoor spaces by providing warmth, light, and a social focal point. Whether you prefer a traditional wood-burning fire pit, a convenient propane one, a permanent natural gas fire pit, or a clean-burning gel fuel one, there’s something for every backyard and every preference.
Along with your favorite marshmallows, bring this guide along on your journey to find the perfect fire pit, and you’ll have everything you need to create unforgettable outdoor experiences.