With the right fire pit, you can stay comfortable in the fresh outdoor air well into the night. Before you start gathering with loved ones and laughing into the wee hours, you’ll want to choose the right design for your space. We’re excited to help you boost your backyard ambience with a perfectly pleasant pit.
Types of Fire Pits
Fire pits come in a wide range of styles, materials, and sizes, whether you want to install yours on the patio or on the outdoor dining table. We’ve prepped a helpful guide that makes it easy to choose by style.
A fire pit table is similar to an outdoor coffee table, but it has a campfire in the middle. The tables are elevated on legs, and, like regular tables, these come in a vast array of styles. You can place drinks and snacks down on the flat surface surrounding the pit — just remember not to put them too close. Tables are often larger than other fire pit styles. They’re not as easy to move, but they’re perfect for kicking up your feet.
Fire bowls, like tables, can come in a huge range of sizes. Instead of having a table surface surrounding the pit, this style has a large container that holds the logs (for wood-burning fire pits) or glass beads (for gas-powered fire pits). It can be elevated on legs to help heat dissipate, or it can sit directly on the ground. Bowls can be highly portable and easy to clean, depending on the size you choose.
If you love the look of a fire pit but want something that feels more like a traditional campfire, consider a fire ring. Lightweight and easy to move, these round pits are typically made of metal and are shorter in height than tables, resting directly on the ground. They’re available with and without bottom bowls. Without the bowl, fire rings are meant to contain a campfire that you build directly on the ground. They keep the wood fire from spreading while also protecting you from embers and limiting accidental access by kids and pets. Use designs with bowls on their own or as inserts for larger fire tables and structures.
Less pit and more mini metal gazebo, fire pagodas blend the warmth of a campfire and the charm of a large lantern on feet. Pagodas typically have raised platforms where you build the fire, protective roofs, and screened walls to keep sneaky embers from hitting your patio. These designs are highly portable and often feature eye-catching embellishments.
Create a dramatic, elegant look with a fire column. These designs are taller and generally thinner than tables, and they often run on gas. They may have fire bowls sitting atop them, but some styles have recessed compartments that make the fire look as though it’s coming directly from the top of the column — almost like a grand torch. Thanks to their smaller footprint, these can be great space-savers on smaller patios. Fire columns often have side stone or masonry detailing.
Perhaps the most petite and portable of all the pit styles, tabletop pits are more diminutive in size to fit atop your patio table. They don’t cast out as much heat as bowls and tables, but they provide all the same enchantment of dancing flames. If you have a smaller apartment patio or don’t want as much maintenance, a tabletop pit works well.
Fire Pit Fuel Sources
Fire Pit Materials
Most portable backyard fire pits are made of metal as it’s durable, easy to clean, and virtually fireproof. Popular fire pit material options include:
Copper is a rust-hued metal that adds warmth even when you don’t have a fire burning. Copper can take on a rich green patina quickly when it sits outdoors. If you want your copper fire pit to keep its warm, shiny look, remember that this material requires frequent cleaning. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance material, copper may not be the right choice — unless you love the patina.
Steel fire pits often use this dark, corrosion-resistant metal as an accent on fire table legs as well as for the construction of the pit itself. This metal comes in painted and powder-coated varieties for extra durability. It’s also relatively lightweight, so it’s easy to move around your yard if you’re looking for a portable pit.
Cast iron is a heavy, solid metal that’s highly efficient at spreading heat. Cast iron fire pits are quite heavy, making them difficult to knock over, which is great for safety. That also means they can be difficult to move. If you plan to leave your fire pit set up in one place, cast iron can be an ideal choice. It also offers more of a classically rustic look.
Many fire pits often have stone or masonry detailing, which are especially common on fire table tops. Stone fire pits are relatively heavy, so it’s a better choice if you don’t plan on moving the table around the yard. Stone can also be easier to keep clean — it doesn’t rust like some metals do — but you don’t want to leave it out in areas where it’s exposed to temperature extremes. The stone can crack after a few cycles of freezing and thawing. If you have brick or stone detailing on your home, choosing a fire pit made of these materials can be a fun way to tie in your outdoor décor with your house’s architectural details.
Fire Pit Safety & Placement
Safety is another crucial factor to consider when you’re planning where to set up a fire pit. Most pits are between 20 and 48 inches square or in diameter. And, ideally, you should place the fire pit at least 10 feet away from any structures on the sides — this includes your house (or another building) and trees in your yard. Fire pits can spread a lot of heat, but this distance helps keep the side of your home and the plants in your garden from getting too warm. It’s worth checking with city or county officials to see if there are any rules in your area about where (and on what) you can set up your fire pit.
Your fire pit should also never sit directly on grass or decking. Place it on a stone slab or base that extends 18 inches beyond the perimeter of the pit to protect the ground or your deck. A concrete or brick patio is an ideal place to set up your fire pit, and you can also purchase a pit pad to set up under it. You can move these mats just about anywhere in your yard so they can shield the ground below the fire pit.
The idea of a cozy fire pit nook set up in your covered porch or under a pergola might sound tempting, but this can present a few safety concerns, too. It’s best to install your pit in the open air. That’s because floating embers can drift up out of the pit and land on rafters or the roof — that’s not a risk you’ll want to take. A gas-powered pit is a better choice than a wood-burning option if you have your heart set on placing your fire pit in a covered area. The flames are easy to control, and there’s little risk of stray embers getting loose. This is also true for trees — never place your pit under overhanging tree branches.
From sleek and elegant to solid and rustic, there’s a fire pit design out there to delight you. Consider the style and shape that catch your eye, and then hone in on the various options crafted from the material you love. Creating a relaxing haven outdoors is easy when you let your great taste guide you!