One of the, ahem, hottest new trends in back yard design is the addition of a fire pit. This ancient heating component used by cavemen thousands of years ago has experienced a modern-day comeback as the backyard goes from feral green space to family-friendly entertainment oasis.
But as the market for fire pit design heats up, homeowners can find themselves sweating over which design to choose. So, we’ve narrowed down the options to these popular options.
Permanent or Portable?
The first question to ask yourself is whether you want a fire pit that can be stored away in the off-season or easily tossed into the car on road trips to the beach -- or, do you want a permanent fixture that becomes integral to your outdoor landscape?
For the former, these are are the leading, light-weight, low-maintenance options:
Made of copper, steel, cast iron, ceramic, concrete, and so on. Can be log-burning or gas-fed and filled with fire gems to conceal hardware.
Fire Pit Tables
Integrate function and style by providing a usable surface area to set down mugs of hot-chocolate or S’more skewers. Often made of distressed woods like cedar or walnut as a base with a central metal insert encased in glass.
Free-standing, front-loading log fireplaces with vertical flue. Fired clay or cast iron.
Cages filled with fire rocks. These can double as planters during the warmer months (see above).
Steel or aluminum triangular propane-powered towers.
For the permanent fire pit, one can choose from the following options.
General measurement: 12-18 inches high by 3-5 feet across with a 12-inch thick perimeter.
Depending on your budget or blue-print, these can be a great DIY weekend project or, the work of a professional landscaper. Whatever stylistic signatures you make, above-ground fire pits share these common features:
- Concrete footer to provide a stable base
- Refractory kiln-baked bricks stacked along the floor and inner edges to face the fire
- Outer rim made of natural stone, concrete, brick, or any fire-resistant material
- Inside filled with logs, lava rocks, or metal inserts
A $60-$100 kit comes with easy instructions, cinder blocks and steel insert to build your own above-ground fire pit.
The most cost-prohibitive option, these pits are built into the surface of an already existing patio, pool deck, backyard, pavillion, and so on. But, where money is no question, the fire pit world is your chargrilled oyster.
Here, designs often channel the surrounding hardscape. Think: underground fire pit built into the floor of a pergola, with rustic porch swings fastened on either side.
All fire pits, whether portable or permanent can either be:
Gas or Propane Powered
Pros: Instant fire with the flick of a switch or tap of a button! The automated fire pit has arrived and can be operated from a smartphone. Cons: These don't get as hot as wood and many are not designed for cooking.
Pros: Achieve the classic, campfire experience. Cons: More labor-intensive; requires clean-up of ash or wood chips.
Uses both fuel types.
Outside the Box
The fire pit design is a hot-bed for creativity. Basically, anything made out of a heat-resistant material can be converted into a functioning fire pit, with the right tools and imagination. A few examples:
- An old tractor wheel as an insert, surrounding by a natural stone border
- Combining a water and fire feature
- Hand-hammered copper bowls or woks
- Cast-iron claw-foot tubs framed by a wooden casing
- Rustic, farmhouse woods with metal inserts
- Old concrete water troughs filled with recycled glass
Need ideas? Check out our Pinterest for outdoor inspiration.