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What to Consider When Buying a Fire Pit: Ultimate Buyer's Guide

What to Consider When Buying a Fire Pit: Ultimate Buyer's Guide

An outdoor fire pit is a great way to extend the enjoyment of your outdoor space well into the evening hours. Gathering around a crackling fire under the stars creates an inviting ambiance while providing warmth on cooler nights.

With so many fire pit options on the market, it can be overwhelming to decide which style, size, and fuel type is right for your needs. This comprehensive buyer’s guide breaks down the key factors to consider when shopping for the perfect fire pit.

Key Takeaways

  • Fire pits come in 3 main styles - fire bowls, fire tables, and fire urns. Consider your space and needs when deciding on the right style.
  • Fuel options include wood-burning, gas, smokeless, and charcoal models. Wood-burning pits offer a rustic ambiance but require safety precautions.
  • Select durable, long-lasting materials like steel, natural stone, or high-quality concrete. Check required maintenance needs.
  • Shop end-of-season sales in late summer & fall for the best deals on fire pits. Sign up for brand email alerts on promotions.
a collage of different fire pit designs

    Fire Pit Styles

    Fire pits come in three main configurations – fire bowls, fire tables, and fire urns. Determining how you want to use your fire feature is an important first step in selecting the right option.

    Fire Bowls

    Freestanding fire bowls have open tops and sit directly on the ground or a base. Available in a range of round and square sizes, fire bowls can suit smaller backyards and intimate gatherings or anchor larger seating areas.

    The simplistic styling of steel, stone, and concrete bowls blends well with a variety of decors. For added visual interest, propane models allow you to fill the fire bowl with fire glass or lava rock.

    Fire bowls offer flexibility in placement and most are portable if you want to change locations. Smaller-sized wood-burning models can even be taken camping. On the downside, freestanding bowls lack a surface area for holding drinks and plates.

    Fire Tables

    Integrating the conveniences of a table into a fire pit, fire tables have a burner in the center surrounded by an upper surface. Rectangular shapes work well for seating multiple people while square-shaped fire tables are ideal for tighter configurations.

    Look for solid tabletop materials like slate, limestone, or concrete that can withstand heat. Other fire table options have tile, stone, or glass tile insets that allow the flames to shine through for a mesmerizing effect. Most fire tables operate on convenient gas fuel requiring no wood or cleanup.

    The main advantage of fire tables is having a built-in space for dining and drinks right next to the fire. The tradeoff is fire tables take up more room than a basic fire bowl or urn.

    Fire Urns

    Resembling classic Roman colonnades, an outdoor fire urn consists of a burner housed in a tall covered urn, usually over three feet high. The elongated shape shoots flames upward while the cover contains sparks, making fire urns a good choice when safety is a top concern.

    From an aesthetic standpoint, the stately silhouette of copper, hammered metal or fiber clay urns complements formal backyard designs and garden landscapes. For portable warmth, some models accommodate hidden propane tanks while larger permanent urns operate off natural gas lines.

    On the downside, the narrow shape of fire urns only allows seating for a couple of people. The hot surface of the urn body can also pose a safety risk for kids and pets. Weigh these factors when deciding if a stylized fire urn is the right option.

    Weigh the pros and cons of each fire vessel configuration:

    Style Pros Cons
    Fire Bowl Freestanding versatility No tabletop space
    Fire Table Built-in table area Less portable
    Fire Urn Stylized appearance Limited seating
    Outdoor Greatroom Co Bronson Block Gas Fire Pit Kit Round in use, featuring a charcoal top, SKU BRON52-K.

    The material composition of your outdoor fire pit determines durability, maintenance needs, safety factors, and price range. Compare the advantages of common fire pit building materials:


    Known for its strength, steel is one of the most popular choice for a metal fire pit and is available in a range of types:

    • Stainless steel resists rust and corrosion better than other steel but also costs more. It requires occasional cleaning to keep its lustrous appearance over the years.
    • Carbon steel holds up well to high temperatures and develops a dark patina finish protecting the surface. Quality carbon steel fire bowls and tables last for years.
    • Copper steel lends a handsome antique look as it naturally oxidizes. Note that petals and leaves can cause staining.
    • Corten steel has a weathered rust tone when new and remains stable once it fully oxidizes. Low-maintenance cotton steel has excellent durability.

    While thin steel may dent, high-quality steel fire vessels maintain their structural integrity through seasons of regular fire pit use. Another plus is steel’s high heat conductivity – expect plenty of warmth emanating from a steel fire feature.

    Cast Iron

    Known for retaining and conducting heat efficiently, heavy cast iron makes a wonderful material for wood-fueled fire pits. Beautiful and durable, cast iron develops a protective patina finish with consistent use.

    Keep in mind that cast iron fire bowls tend to run smaller in diameter due to their weight. You’ll also need to take precautions to prevent rust on fire pits installed outdoors.

    Natural Stone

    Quarried from the earth, natural stone has uniquely beautiful striations and color mottling that varies from piece to piece. Granite, limestone, and marble stone fire pits bring a refined elegance to patio seating groups.

    Cared for properly, natural stone fire vessels can serve you well for over a decade. The initial investment runs higher than metal options but the stone’s durability justifies the cost long-term. One note is that built-in stone fire pits and tables often require professional installation.


    A budget-friendly fire vessel option, precast concrete boasts extreme durability and weather resistance. Concrete maintains structural integrity when heated and the neutral tone blends into most backyard styles.

    With concrete creativity comes in shape options. Many manufacturers offer custom molds for one-of-a-kind concrete fire bowls, tables, and columns limited only by the imagination.

    On the downside, mass-produced concrete fire vessels tend to offer fewer decorative styling choices than steel or stone. Also, you have to put non-combustible material beneath the fire pit on the concrete.

    a visual of different shapes and sizes of fire pits

    Fire Pit Size

    Finding the perfect size for a fire pit is crucial to avoid issues later on. You have to ensure the fire pit fits comfortably within your available backyard. First, determine the rough size of the area you want to heat, then cross-reference your size limitations. Consider these general size guidelines:

    Small Fire Pits

    Ranging from 22 to 36 inches in diameter, these fire pits sufficiently warm seating areas measuring 6 feet across. Compact fire bowls work well placed near pathways, gardens, and limited spaces. Tailor these fire pits to solo relaxing or an intimate conversation area for two.

    Match dainty-scaled fire vessels with tiny patio furniture like bistro sets. Single-sided fire tables in this size bracket save room in narrow outdoor areas. Small fire options offer affordable pricing and ample portability.

    Medium Fire Pits

    With a diameter spanning 36 to 44 inches, medium-sized fire pits throw heat for 8 to 10 feet which comfortably accommodates standard conversation and dining seating arrangements.

    Their generous sizing handles regular backyard fire pit gatherings without overpowering the landscape. Position medium round or square fire pits centrally concerning seating groups. Fire tables work exceptionally well for family meals.

    Large Fire Pits

    On the spacious end, large fire pits measuring 44 inches across or larger make a dramatic backyard design statement. Impressive wood-fueled statement fire bowls allow for arranging sectional seating 360 degrees around.

    Rectangular fire tables spanning 4 feet wide or more provide ample surface area for serving buffet-style spreads to large gatherings. Oversized fire pits require allowing lots of clearance from seating, serving space, and through traffic routes.

    Extra Large Fire Pits

    For major landscape impact, extra-large fire features 60 inches wide and bigger serve as a central point of focus and orientation for expansive pool decks and even patios. Seating twenty or more people with ease, plus-sized fire bowls work best built into place due to their bulk and weight.

    While budgetary reality limits super-sized fire table options, some manufacturers offer custom overscale fire tables perfect for grand hotel courtyards and reception spaces. Always follow safety codes for required clearances when installing extra-large pit options.

    Use this general size guide to identify what fire pit diameter best suits your seating area size:

    Fire Pit Size Heats Area Span
    Small (22-36") Up to 6 feet diameter
    Medium (36-44“) 8 to 10 feet diameter
    Large (44-60") 10+ feet diameter
    Extra-large (60"+) 15+ feet diameter
    an image of a rectangular concrete fire pit on a wooden deck surrounded by outdoor furniture

    Fire Pit Fuel Source

    Arguably the most critical choice to make when fire pit shopping is deciding between fuel sources. Here we break down the defining features of each fire pit fuel type.

    Wood Burning Fire Pits: Nostalgic & Rustic

    Nothing beats the nostalgic crackling sound, inviting aroma, and roaring flames of a genuine wood-fueled fire. Also, wood-burning fire pits give off most heat and that's too by burning renewable hardwood logs making them an eco-conscious choice.

    Ideal for: Those wanting an authentic fire experience with mesmerizing visuals and natural wood smell. Requires having ample outdoor space away from structures/trees and a steady supply of seasoned firewood.

    Safety considerations: Wood-burning fire pits produce floating embers, require oxygen to burn safely, and generate a lot of radiant heat. Only operate in non-combustible areas safely away from homes, foliage, and anything flammable. Always have a fire extinguisher, shovel, and water nearby. Ensure proper ventilation to allow heat and gasses to dissipate.

    Maintenance: Requires manually loading/stoking wood while avoiding dangerous flare-ups from pine knots or too many logs. Expect to remove fire pit ashes regularly. Inspect for damage routinely and re-stack any shifted bricks or stones.

    Cost: The pits themselves range dramatically in pricing depending on materials/masonry but wood as a fuel is very affordable, only necessitating an initial investment in tools.

    Gas Fire Pits: Convenience & Control

    Propane and natural gas fire pits provide convenience and control over more traditional wood-burning options. Simply adjust a dial or press a button to ignite the flame. Switch it off just as easily—no need to battle glowing embers!

    Ideal for: Homeowners wanting a permanent fire pit with push-button start, adjustable heat, and multi-color flames. Natural gas integrates seamlessly into backyards while propane models offer portable convenience.

    Safety: Gas options are typically safer than wood, especially on decks/patios. But propane tanks still present a (small) explosion risk. Ensure all lines and valves are in good shape and keep an ABC fire extinguisher nearby.

    Maintenance: Gas fire pits mainly just entail wiping down materials to keep them clean and replacing lava rock as it degrades over time. Propane tanks need swapping out eventually while natural gas bills slowly add up.

    Cost: Prices run the gamut from a couple of hundred dollars for basic portable propane fire pits to upwards of $5,000-$10,000 for installing a customized natural gas fire function. Operating costs depend on local fuel rates.

    Smokeless Fire Pits: Clean Burning & Portable

    Smokeless fire pits offer the ambiance and warmth of flames without all the mess! Smokeless fire pits work by utilizing cans of gel fuel to create an understated flame perfect for gatherings and close seating on balconies or patios. Cleanly burning ethanol fire pits offer high-design features across the portable tabletop and standalone models from contemporary brands.

    Ideal for: Homeowners in locations prone to weatherization like coastal areas. Apartment dwellers want a compact, portable flame that's permissible on balconies. Stylish entertaining spaces where guests will be sitting near the fire.

    Safety: Smokeless options are typically safer than wood-burning pits, especially regarding air quality and floating embers. However, ethanol fuel is still highly flammable and requires caution around kids/pets. Have a fire extinguisher ready at all times.

    Maintenance: Empty fuel cans when finished and wipe down steel surfaces if desired. Refueling costs add up over time but clean up is quick.

    Cost: Budget models start around $100 but smokeless fire pits use proprietary fuels that raise long-term ownership costs. Higher-end ethanol tabletop fireplaces easily fetch $1,000+.

    Charcoal Fire Pits: Grilling Functionality

    For fire pits doubling as grills, charcoal models allow you to safely barbecue while enjoying an open-air fire simultaneously.

    Ideal for: People desiring a fire pit with grilling/cooking functionality in one outdoor fixture. Also for those adverse to the smell of propane who prefer all-natural charcoal fuel.

    Safety: Follow standard grill/charcoal precautions like avoiding lighter fluid overuse and preventing grease flare-ups. Bank coals fully before leaving to prevent inadvertent fires. Allow ashes to cool completely before removing charcoal remnants and debris in case of latent embers.

    Maintenance: Clean grill grates thoroughly after each use with a metal brush and cover when storing. Expect to remove ashes occasionally. Periodically inspect fire brick or steel walls for damage/gaps and fill charcoal as needed.

    Cost: Budget charcoal models price similarly to mid-range wood-burning fire pits but offer extra versatility for cooking. High-end custom combo grill/charcoal fire pit combos cost several thousand dollars. Fuel itself remains affordable.

    an image of a fire pit table with a wind guard

    Key Fire Pit Accessories And Add-Ons

    A few handy fire pit accents make all the difference in functionality, ambiance, and safety. Consider incorporating useful amenities like:

    • Fire Pit Covers - Waterproof vinyl covers protect idle fire pits from weathering damage in between seasons of use. During the burn season, swap out solid waterproof covers for mesh spark screens containing glowing embers.
    • Wind Guards - Strategically placed wind guards block prevailing breeze flow from interfering with the flame. Transparent tempered glass and perforated metal guard options maintain visibility of the fire.
    • Fire Tool Sets - Specialized fireplace tool sets typically include pokers, tongs, brooms, and shovels to safely manage fires. Look for sturdy steel construction and ergonomic grip handles offering control.
    • Heat Guards - Protect surrounding lawn areas and surfaces underneath portable fire pits with non-combustible heat pads. Fireproof mats also keep elevated fire table levels.
    • Log Racks - Complement a wood-burning unit with Thich a dedicated log holder for storing split timber. Nearby log racks add decorative rustic ambiance in addition to keeping fuel neatly stacked.

    Fire Pit Placement & Safety Guidelines

    Improperly installed fire pits pose serious risks like home explosions or wildfire spreading. You must follow the manufacturer's specifications regarding clearance distances to structures and combustibles. While requirements vary, here are general guidelines for fire pit required distance from homes:

    Clearance from buildings

    • Wood burning fire pits = Minimum 25 feet from buildings, trees/shrubs, and wooden fences
    • Gas/propane fire pits = 10-15 feet from homes, foliage, or combustibles
    • Gel fuel/ethanol tabletop models = 2-3 feet from walls indoors, 5 feet outdoors

    Clearance from seating

    Location considerations

    • Only operate wood-burning fire pits on noncombustible patio surfaces away from homes/plants
    • Gel fuel models are safe for apartment balconies but check regulations
    • Position outdoor pits with prevailing wind direction in mind to avoid smoke drift
    • Place portable models atop noncombustible bases like pavers or gravel
    • When putting a fire pit on the deck, make use of tiles or non-combustible material beneath the fire pit

    Additional safety tips

    • Check local ordinances regarding recreational fires beforehand
    • Take extra care when igniting the fire pit
    • Keep a shovel, fire extinguisher, and hose ready in case of emergencies
    • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for extra precaution
    • Extinguish flames fully before leaving the area

    Fire pit installation is critical but what about ongoing maintenance? Let’s uncover...

    Fire Pit Care & Maintenance Essentials

    Investing a little periodic effort to maintain your fire pit preserves longevity and functionality. Follow this routine adjusting timing as needed:

    Every use

    • Inspect for damage before/after fires
    • Remove ash buildup for airflow
    • Ensure propane valves are fully closed
    • Extinguish embers fully before leaving


    • Clean metal surfaces with nonabrasive polish
    • Wipe down stone/concrete exteriors
    • Clear the gas fire pits by removing the debris
    • Check controls/lines for propane leaks with soapy water


    • Inspect gas lines/ burners by a professional
    • Reseal stone/concrete/iron surfaces
    • Replace protective covers fraying from weathering
    • Refresh heat-resistant paint on structures

    As needed

    • Stack fresh firewood in protected storage
    • Drain/refill water features
    • Patch minor concrete cracks
    • Spray paint the fire pit

    Every 2-3 years

    • Replace the lava rock surrounding the gas burner
    • Sprinkle fire glass with zinc flakes to rejuvenate luster
    an image of removing ashes from a fire pit

      Shopping Strategies For Finding Fire Pits On Sale

      The best time for a fire pit purchase can help maximize your savings. Here are some tips to find the best deals:

      • Shop end-of-summer sales in August and September when retailers put warmer weather merchandise like fire pits on clearance.
      • October through December tends to offer deep discounts as merchants clear out remaining inventory before winter.
      • Hunt for special savings around major holidays like Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or Black Friday sales events.
      • Sign up for email alerts from favorite brands announcing short-term flash sales and coupon promotions held throughout the year.

      Whether you decide on a basic $100 portable fire bowl or a luxury thousand-dollar customized fire table, rest assured you'll find deals that will reduce your fire pit cost.

      Summary: Your Complete Fire Pit Buyer’s Guide

      When looking for a fire pit, there are many options to consider. Fire pits come in various sizes, fuel types, materials, and styles to suit different aesthetics and seating capacities. As you choose the right fire pit for your home, keep in mind important factors like safety clearances and regular maintenance needs.

      Also, ensure your fire pit tables come equipped with features like spark screens and heat guards. When it comes to fire pits, knowledge is key for both enjoyment and preventing accidents. Carefully make a fire pit selection suitable for your yard that aligns with local fire codes so everyone can safely gather around a fire pit to connect and make memories.


      What BTU rating do I need for an outdoor fire pit?

      The amount of BTU rating for your fire pit depends on the size of your outdoor area and your heating needs. A typical range could be from 30,000 to 60,000 BTUs, with higher BTUs producing more heat.

      Is it hard to install a fire pit in my yard?

      Many fire pits are incredibly easy to install – sometimes it's just a matter of placing the fire pit in place on a level surface. Some models, like gas fire pits may require professional installation. But even with a DIY fire pit kit, you can have a safe and enjoyable fire pit set up in your yard in no time.

      Can I put a canopy over a fire pit?

      While a canopy might seem a tempting accessory, it's typically very dangerous to install a canopy over a fire pit. To ensure your fire pit is safe, make sure that it's not located under any potentially flammable structures like canopies or tree branches.

      How long does a fire pit last?

      The lifespan of a fire pit can vary depending on its material, the amount of use, and how well it's maintained. For example, a well-maintained steel fire pit can last for several years. Good maintenance advice includes using a custom cover to protect it against the elements when not in use.

      What are the different types of fire pits available?

      From wood-burning pits, tabletop fire pits, and DIY fire pit kits, to propane and natural gas pits, fire pits are available in many styles and materials. Each type can offer a unique ambiance and experience, and you can use this guide to find the best fire pit for your outdoor space.

      Can I roast marshmallows on a fire pit?

      Absolutely! Roasting marshmallows on a fire pit is a timeless tradition. However, the type of fire pit you have can affect how well this activity goes. Wood fire pits are incredibly ideal for marshmallow roasting due to the traditional fire they produce.

      Previous article How to Start a Perfect Fire in Your Fire Pit: Step-by-Step Guide
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      About The Author

      Andy Wu - Resident Expert

      Andy Wu - Resident Expert

      Andy Wu is the resident backyard products expert and hails from Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for crafting outdoor retreats began in 2003.

      As a fellow homeowner, he founded Backyard Oasis to provide top-quality furnishings and equipment, collaborating with leading manufacturers.

      His main focus is on sheds and generators!

      In his spare time he like to hike the tallest mountains in the world and travel with his family.

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