While fire pits are a great way to bring warmth and personality to your outdoor space, choosing the right one can be a difficult task. In addition to the vast selection of products available, there are also multiple factors to take into account, such as the different types of fuel source, materials, and sizes, not to mention your intended usage and any additional accessories you might require. These are all aspects that need to be considered during the process of selecting and purchasing the absolute best fire pit for your garden.
To aid you in the process, and ensure that you’re equipped with all the information you need to make the right choice, we’ve compiled a comprehensive buying guide on fire pits, to simplify the entire process for you. This guide contains all the key points you need to consider and be aware of before you set out to select and buy a fire pit. Read on for our expert tips and info.
What are the Benefits of a Fire Pit?
There are many reasons why a fire pit can make a great addition to your backyard/patio.
Firstly, the most obvious reason is the warmth they provide. Fire pits can be great for pleasant summer nights, and can warm up frosty fall evenings. In addition they provide a safe way to enjoy fire – the fire is contained in the fire bowl which prevents it from spreading, and accessories such as spark guards can keep you and your loved ones protected from flying sparks and embers. Fire pits will also keep any resulting messes (such as ash or other debris) contained in one place, and all you have to do to clean up is empty the fire bowl into the trash after everything has had a chance to cool down.
Another major benefit of the top fire pits is the aesthetic appeal they provide. A fire pit can really add to the outdoor ambience, and enhance the décor of your patio/backyard. They also serve as excellent talking points at gatherings, and are great for entertaining purposes, as guests tend to congregate around them for warmth and conversation.
Finally, best fire pits are also beneficial because of the wide range of uses they have. In addition to the obvious warmth and light they provide, they also are excellent for toasting marshmallows and roasting hot dogs in the backyard. If required, they can be covered with a cooking grate and used to grill food, and if portable, they can be taken along to campsites or beaches. You can even use them as a quick and easy way to dispose of bills and old documents.
Types of Fire Pits
Fire pits vary in terms of their fuel source, and in this aspect, there are three main types of fire pits. Being familiar with all three types can help you determine which one you need, and make the selecting process a whole lot easier.
Wood Burning FirePits
These are the most common and popular types of fire pits. They tend to be cheaper than the other varieties and are also the most readily available, and easiest to set up and use. In addition, they also create the biggest, brightest, and hottest fires out of all other varieties of fire pits. If you’re looking for the bright and cheery comfort of a crackling bonfire, this is the fire pit for you.
The best wood burning fire pits come in varying sizes, from small table-top and foldable models, to larger ones with big fire bowls that can accommodate huge fires. They generally come with mesh guards to protect against sparks, a poker to stoke the fire, a log grate on which to place the wood, and a cooking grate on which you may grill food.
While they are obviously the most authentic type of fire pit, the wood burning variety can have its drawbacks. Starting a fire in a wood burning fire pit takes time and effort, and you will, additionally, need to look into purchasing and storing wood. Ashes will also need to be disposed of at the end of every use.
Propane fire pits
These fire pits are fueled by propane gas tanks, and the best thing about them is that you can have a fire going with a simple push of a button, and the intensity of the fire is easily controllable – definitely less labor-intensive than wood-burning models. Since no wood is involved, there are also no messes or ash, and no resulting clean-up.
These types of fire pits are generally larger in size as compared to their wood burning counterparts, and tend to be more ornate in terms of design. Some models are portable, while others are built into tables, with the propane tank hidden from view for aesthetic reasons.
The only problems with a propane fire pit are that you will need to keep purchasing liquid propane, which is pricier than regular wood, and the tanks will need to be replaced every time they run out. In addition, you will also need to be wary of gas leaks, as these can be dangerous.
Natural gas fire pits
The most expensive of the lot, natural gas fire pits are hooked up to a natural gas line, so you will need to check whether such a line is available and accessible to your backyard where you will be placing the fire pit.
The set-up and installation will involve the hiring of a licensed professional to hook the fire pit up to the gas line, and if there is no gas line running to your backyard, you will need to shell out a lot of money for plumbing.
However, once installed, this type of fire pit is absolutely worth it. Since it is connected to a gas line, you will, effectively, never run out of fuel. There is also no bulky propane tank to disrupt your décor, and no wood to create a mess, post-fire. All you need to do to operate this kind of pit is use the simple ignition and control mechanism.
While the initial expense is substantial, these fire pits tend to be the most economical to maintain and cleanest to use in the long run.
In addition to varying in terms of their fuel source, fire pits can also vary in terms of style. Some of the more popular designs include the following:
Portable fire pit
These fire pits are ideal for moving around and taking along on camping trips. They generally feature foldable legs, are relatively lightweight, and can be stored in a carrying case for easy transport from one location to the other. While they are portable, they may lack the sturdiness and durability of larger, heavier models, and will generally be unable to accommodate very large fires.
Fire pit table
These types of top-rated fire pits are designed for easy entertaining and decorative purposes. Shaped like a table, with the fire bowl located in the middle, these fire pit tables are generally sleek and large and feature a rim surrounding the fire bowl, where people can put up their feet or place their drinks. These types of fire pits look especially attractive on patios.
Choose a Fire Pit according to your Needs
When purchasing the best fire pit, in addition to knowing about the various types of fire pits the market has to offer, it is also essential to know what your priorities and needs are, as this will help you narrow down your options.
If all you’re looking for is a small cozy fire to enjoy with family in the evenings, a basic fire pit with a standard 20-25 inch diameter will suffice. These are good for placing on a patio, and using for warmth and some light s’more-making.
However, if you have bigger plans for your fire pit, and intend to use it as a part-time grill, you will need to buy a bigger pit, and also ensure that it comes with/can accommodate a cooking grate. There’s nothing quite like a fire pit BBQ.
If you’re looking for a fire pit you can take along to the beach or on camping trips, a foldable portable model is your best bet.
Meanwhile if entertaining is your prime intended use for a fire pit, you will need to invest in a bigger model (35-45 inch) and might want to consider the sleeker, more decorative units, which have features such as outside rings on which guests might place their drinks, etc.
How to Use a Fire Pit
While propane and natural gas fire pits are easy enough to use – all it takes is a button/lever to turn them on and customize the height and intensity of the fire – there is a particular process that needs to be followed for wood burning fire pits.
- Star by collecting the tinder, kindling, and the fuel. Tinder is what you need to start the fire – this can be newspaper or straw (basically anything that will quickly catch fire). Kindling is what needs to catch fire from the tinder – this can be small sticks and twigs. Fuel, lastly, is your wood logs. Keep in mind that dry hardwoods such as maple, hickory, and oak burn better than softwoods.
- Ensure your fire pit is well-prepared. Place the fire pit away from grass, on a hard, steady and level surface, and ensure that you have assembled the until correctly so that nothing is loose or wobbly. If the fire pit does not come with a log grate on which to place the logs, consider lining the bottom of the fire bowl with sand and then stacking bricks on top.
- Place a handful of tinder in the center of the fire pit, and build a small teepee of kindling around it. Set the tinder on fire and wait until it catches on to the kindling.
- Gradually start adding small logs to the fire. Allow them to start burning before you add the bigger ones. The fire may gradually fade – to keep it burning, add more tinder and kindling. You can stoke the fire using a poker, and use a spark guard to protect from sparks and embers.
- Once you no longer wish to use the fire, stop adding fuel, allow it to die down, and cover it with sand when there are only a few embers left.
- Allow a couple of hours to pass before you dispose of the ashes – make sure they are completely cool by this point.
What is the Best Material for a Fire Pit?
The material the best fire pit is made of determines its appearance, design, and durability. There is no single best material for a fire pit – it all depends on the décor of your backyard, and what you plan to use the fire pit for. There are multiple different types of materials fire pits are available in, but the following are the most common:
Steel fire pit
Steel fire pits are among the most popular varieties. They are available in multiple models, ranging from relatively inexpensive to more high-end, and are usually lightweight and durable (although they are not as sturdy as cast iron). While some models are weather-resistant, steel can start to rust over time if left unprotected, so it is essential to invest in a cover. However, generally, steel fire pits are low-maintenance.
In terms of the aesthetic appeal, steel can be fairly drab in its original, brushed, untreated form. However, many models come with a black, heat-resistant finish or are powder-coated, which makes them more attractive and more durable. Regardless of its coating, however, steel can get very hot during and after use, so it is essential to treat it with caution and allow it sufficient time to cool down after you are done using it.
While these might not be as sturdy as most materials, stainless steel fire pits are attractive, sleek, industrial and minimalist in terms of design. In addition, these types of firepits are also rust-free and maintain their eye-catching appearance for a long time. While not a very common material for fire pits, these models are offered by some manufacturers. However, stainless steel cannot be left out in the open, exposed to the elements, and you will need to invest in a good waterproof cover.
Cast iron fire pit
Cast iron is one of the most popular materials for fire pits. It makes for an extremely sturdy and durable fire pit, which is unlikely to rust. In addition to their durable qualities, cast iron fire pits also radiate the most amount of warmth, as compared to other materials, and are great for grilling and cooking purposes.
However, cast iron fire pits are not always portable, as they tend to be rather heavy, and can also be a bit on the pricey side. In addition, if left exposed to the elements, they can also discolor, so you will need to invest in a heavy-duty cover.
These types of fire pits are the most expensive, but ultimately the most desirable. Copper will never rust, and exposure to fire and the elements will only enhance its appearance, allowing it to develop a rich and eye-catching patina over time. In addition to radiating plenty of heat, these fire pits are also ideal in terms of décor and can lend a rustic charm to any backyard.
Fire Pit Sizes
The size of the perfect fire pit you choose should not only depend on what you plan to use it for but also the amount of space you have available. Ideally, you want so that there are no plants, power lines, other structures, or any flammable objects near the fire pit, and you’ll need to ensure that there is plenty of room for people to walk comfortably and safely around the fire pit. Before you select a fire pit, measure the space where you plan to place it, and then choose a model and size which is in accordance with the amount of available space you have.
Small-sized fire pits
Small sized fire pits are usually 20-30 inches in diameter and are ideal for anyone who is only interested in the occasional use of a fire pit and/or needs something portable. These models can be moved around with ease, and taken along for camping and beach trips, or to parties at friends’ houses. These are often foldable models and come with carrying cases to allow for easy transport. If you need a fire pit to take along to other locations, have less space, or are not willing to commit to the regular and prolonged use of a fire pit, a small-sized model is your best bet. However, keep in mind that these may not hold a lot of wood or allow for very large fires.
Medium-sized fire pits
Medium sized fire pits are usually 30-38 inches in diameter and are generally the most common. These offer a good balance of moderate size, portability (in some cases), and a nice-sized fire. They can hold a good amount of wood, and make for bright, cozy, and longer-lasting fires. Clean-up of ashes is also fairly manageable. These types of models are not foldable and usually consist of a fire bowl propped up with a stand. However, since medium-sized pits are the most common, there are plenty of options and designs to choose from.
Large-sized fire pits
These fire pits tend to be 38 inches or larger in diameter, and are not portable. However, they make for the biggest, most long-lasting fires, and can accommodate large crowds, big cooking grates, and multiple custom design features (such as an outside rim for placing drinks) with ease. Clean-up can be a hassle with this size, as the fire bowl cannot easily be picked up in order to tip its contents into the trash. Maintenance will also require greater effort on a more regular basis. Only opt for this size if you have sufficient space, plan to use the fire pit regularly for big crowds, and do not need to move the pit around.
Fire pits are great additions to backyards, camping trips, and beach parties, but they cannot be used on their own. There are multiple accessories that need to accompany even the best fire pit, in order to make it easy and enjoyable to use. While some models come with accessories included, others require you to buy them separately. Ultimately, when you are looking to buy a fire pit, it is important to take your needs and intended usage into account, to determine which accessories you will require with your purchase.
This is a metal instrument used for tending and stoking the fire. Generally, a fire poker should be long enough so that you can tend to the fire without bringing yourself too close to it, and should have a heat-resistant handle, to provide comfort and easy manoeuvrability. In addition to stoking the fire, a poker can also be used to remove or replace the spark guard screen.
This is an essential accessory, as it protects your fire pit from the elements, and keeps rain, snow, leaves, and other debris from getting in. Covers should generally be made of durable metal or waterproof materials, to ensure adequate protection.
A spark guard is a wire mesh screen (usually shaped like a dome), which is used to contain the fire within the fire bowl, and protect everyone gathered around from any stray flames, sparks, or rogue embers that might end up flying off the fire. Spark guards usually have a looped handle on top, to allow for easy removal or placement by using a fire poker.
This is a type of grill which is placed at the bottom of a fire pit, to protect the pit and elevate the fire logs to allow for adequate air flow. Sufficient airflow around and underneath the burning logs leads to better burning fires that last longer. Some models come with a log grate built into the design, while others will include one separately. For models that do not include a log grate, customers can either purchase one separately, or pour some sand into the bottom of the fire bowl and stack brick on top, upon which they can place the burning logs.
This is an optional but useful accessory – a cooking grate is a grill which can be placed on top of the fire pit, and used to grill foods like steak, burgers, corn, shish kabobs, or the like. This is a super useful accessory for entertaining.
This accessory is only ever included with the best portable fire pit models. Foldable varieties can be neatly zipped into their carrying cases and transported to your location of choice.
These are not an accessory per se, but rather a useful feature of some fire pits – heat-resistant handles located on both sides of a fire pit allow for easy transport of the unit.
Fire Pit Safety and Maintenance
While fire pits can be fun, and are a relatively safe way to enjoy a fire, multiple considerations need to be taken into account, in order to make sure you use your best fire pit in a safe and responsible manner. Here are some safety tips to help you in this regard:
- Always place your fire pit on a solid, steady surface – it should not wobble when in use.
Keep the fire small and manageable, especially if you are a novice – the bigger the fire, the larger the potential for disaster!
- Keep the fire pit away from power lines, all flammable materials, furniture, railings, plants, and trees. It should be located at least 10 feet away from all these things.
- Never use a fire pit indoors, or on a wooden deck. Keep a flame-resistant surface underneath the fire pit, and make sure you use a spark guard, to keep sparks from flying about.
- Clean up in and around the pit before you light the fire. Remove all leaves and other combustible materials around the pit, to make sure the fire doesn’t accidentally spread!
- Check the weather forecast before deciding to use your fire pit. Excessive wind can be dangerous, as it could cause embers to blow about.
- Always keep a container of water, garden hose, or fire extinguisher nearby, no matter how many times you may have used the fire pit and how confident you may feel.
- Never leave children and pets around a lit fire pit unsupervised, and do not leave a lit fire unattended.
Always put a fire out safely – let it die down completely and let the fire pit cool before you move to dispose of the ashes. There should be no glowing coals or ashes in the pit.
- Do not use kerosene or lighter fluid to start your fire. Dry tinder, kindling, and wood logs are all you need.
Avoid wearing loose clothing when around the fire pit, and do not wear materials such as nylon.
- Check with your local authorities on any fire pit guidelines/laws you might be required to adhere to – some areas and states ban fire pits, so staying up to date on local regulations is a must. It is also essential to stay up to date on different burn bans/burn ordinances in effect at particular times of the year.
- If using a natural gas or propane pit, stay alert for any gas leaks. If you smell gas, turn the fire pit off immediately, and have a professional check for leaks.
In addition to using the fire pit safely, it is equally important to maintain it properly. Here are some maintenance tips:
- Use only dry hardwoods as fuel in wood burning fire pits – oak and ash, for example, will result in longer, brighter, and cleaner burning fires.
- Always use a log grate to protect the base of the fire pit from extreme heat – if a log grate is not available, add a shallow layer of sand to the bottom of the pit and stack bricks on top on which to place the logs.
- Never burn trash, edible items, or any other potentially messy/smelly items in your fire pit.
- Always allow a fire to die down gradually and naturally. When you are done using it, stop adding fuel to the fire, and allow it to die. When it is out, you may rake through the ashes to make sure it has died completely, and there are no glowing embers remaining. Never pour cold water or any other fluids on to the fire to put it out, as this can cause a big mess and warp the hot metal of the fire bowl.
- Use a shovel and brush to clean out the fire pit and remove any ash. Always clean the fire pit before and after use, once it has cooled down.
- When not in use, keep the fire pit empty, clean and covered – if it is left dirty or exposed to the elements, it may develop rust, warp, and deteriorate well before it should.