Nothing makes a backyard or patio more welcoming than a warm, safe fire. Choosing the type of fire pit that will fit your space and meet your needs is no easy task. You have to consider how much space you will need to ensure safety, how many people will be enjoying the fire at one time, and which style will complement the landscaping and furniture of your outdoor space.
As experts on fireplaces and fireplace safety, we review the types of outdoor fire pits available and provide some helpful ideas to consider when making a selection. Other than digging a hole in the ground, there are two common ways to have a fire outdoors: outdoor fireplaces or freestanding fire pits. There are a many types freestanding fire pits or bowls which we will review below.
First, here are a few things you’ll want to consider when choosing the best type of fire pit for your space.
How much space does your fire pit need to be safe?
Never build a fire in an enclosed space or under a roof
Keep a safe distance from trees, no sparks or flames should reach the branches or leaves
- As a rule of thumb, keep 10-20 feet distance between the fire pit and the nearest object (trees, houses, etc.)
Which materials do you want your fire pit to be built with?
- Heat Conductor
- Resistant to Corrosion
- High Maintenance
- Weather Resistant
- Stain & Corrosion Resistant
- High Melting Point
- Easy to Clean
- Durable & Somewhat Heavy
- Heat Resistant
- Low Maintenance
- Somewhat Fragile
- Weathers Well
- Conducts & Radiates Heat
- Resists Corrosion Better Than Steel
- Low Maintenance
- Does Not Rust
Types of Fire Pits
Call us biased, but we love chimineas. It probably has something to do with the chimney, which gives this charming fire pit design a unique touch. These fire pits traditionally have closed sides, with an opening on the front and a chimney on top. Modern designs are open on all sides, with a chimney supported by a cast iron frame and sturdy mesh walls.
Chimineas are easy to find, sold at most home & garden stores, and are full of style. The ceramic material sometimes used to build chimineas can be painted, adding a pop of color to your outdoor space. They are also available in metallic materials.
Chimineas are usually pretty heavy and not meant to moved from place to place. They are often sat upon a cast iron frame for stabilization. Their design is helpful in keeping smoke out of your guests’ eyes, as it travels up the chimney rather than blowing freely in any direction. Look for a chiminea with a spark arrestor, a mesh screen in the neck of the chimney that prevents flaming debris from leaving the contained space.
Be sure that the design and size of the chiminea matches your needs. For example you might like the look of a chiminea with a small opening, but the design limits the angles from which the fire can be enjoyed. This is a better design for an intimate setting for smaller groups.
Advantages of Chimineas
- Unique Style
- Chimney for Smoke Control
- Safe (especially when equipped with a spark arrestor)
- Ideal for uncovered patios and porches
Disadvantages of Chimineas
- If built with clay or ceramic, material can crack
- Depending on design, chimineas might not accommodate larger groups
- Not good for cooking
- Depending on size, it’s best to burn only small pieces of wood
If you’re looking for a campfire effect, a fire bowl is the perfect fit. These large metallic bowls are usually low to the ground and suspended in a cast iron frame. They are somewhat portable and cheaper than most options. It’s a simple and very affective design for a fire pit, making it a popular choice.
Fire bowls are easy to find, available at most home & garden stores. Depending on the depth of the bowl, a grill can be laid over the top. This creates a great setup for campfire cooking. Fire bowls are also good for medium sized pieces of wood. Prevent injuries by keeping your fire within the bowl at all times. Don’t allow flaming pieces of wood to hang over the rim of the bowl.
These fire pits are great for large groups, as they can surround the fire and enjoy from all sides. If the commonly low design of fire bowls doesn’t appeal to you, check out fire tables next.
Advantages of Fire Bowls
- Relatively low cost
- Good for simple campfire cooking
- Can burn medium sized pieces of wood
- Somewhat portable
Disadvantages of Fire Bowls
- Simple design can limit aesthetic impact
- Smaller sized bowls can’t hold very large fires
- Generally low to the ground
Fire Pit Tables
The fire pit table is the perfect solution for those who seek a fire that sits higher off the ground. In addition, it provide a place for you to kick your feet up (when the table and fire are not too hot) and lay your drink. The fire pit table is perfect for people who like to cook around fires, providing you with a spot to immediately check if your mountain pie is torched.
Fire pit tables usually require a lot of space, some more than others. If your table is built from stone, it can quickly become quite the production. Larger fire tables like the one pictured here can handle larger pieces of wood, becoming the center of attention in the space
Not all fire pit tables are built with stone. A large metallic table frame with a fire bowl set in the middle is the common design. This is the perfect type of fire pit for loungers, people who like to leisurely hangout around fires
Advantages of Fire Pit Tables
- Provides the outdoor space with a tabletop surface
- Table can also be used as footrest
- Depending on size of table, large pieces of wood can be burned
- Fire sits high from ground
Disadvantages of Fire Pit Tables
- Not easily moved
- Can be expensive
- Great for cooking
- Can take up a lot of space