So you’ve officially decided to add a fire pit to your backyard ensemble. Now it’s time to get it done. But where to start? So many things to decide! The push-button ease of a propane-fueled fire pit does sound like the pinnacle of convenience. But, would I really want to go through all of the effort to get a fire pit that doesn’t use wood?
PLANT Design Group CEO, Jon Kontz (who has over 25 years of experience building and installing fire pits) weighs in to tell you the things you need to get right to enjoy your newly acquired fire pit.
Whether you’re going to hire a design and build company to handle your fire pit installation or plan on tackling the project DIY style- here are my top 7 things that you have to get right when you add a fire pit to your property.
Tip 1 – Get Your Fire Pit Location Right
Is there an ideal place to put a fire pit? Where should I put my fire pit? In real estate they say: ‘It’s all about location!’ With fire pits this is especially true and even more so if you’re going to be burning natural wood. The location of your fire pit also comes into play if you’ll be getting one that’s propane-fueled, as you’ll need to have a nearby fuel source. Don’t put firepits too close to open windows or flammable vegetation to avoid a nuisance or fire hazard. And check for prevailing wind direction- so you dont end up with smoke where you dont want it.
You might want your firepit in a secluded area. Or, you might want to have it as close to your outdoor dining area as possible-
When selecting the location for your fire feature, envision the real-life circumstances under which you’ll be using it to ensure that it works for you and others who will be enjoying it. If you arent sure, then start with where you are hanging out right now- chances are starting there will be your best bet.
Tip 2 – Choosing The Right Type of Fire Pit
There are two types of people- those who like to smell like a campfire and those who just can’t stand it. If you don’t get this right- there won’t be any happy campers around your campfire. Gas firepits provide an odor-free fuel-burning choice and natural wood-burning fire pits satisfy the outdoor camping enthusiast
If you’re set on going with natural wood, both buying or building it can make sense.
Wood burning fire pits can be either purchased or custom built to your specifications. But, if you’re looking for a propane-fueled fire feature, then you’re almost certainly going to be purchasing it from a major manufacturer.
Tip 3 – Get Your Fire Pit’s Size Right
To get the size of your fire pit right, think about how many people you’ll want to comfortably fit around it. It defeats the purpose if there isn’t enough room for everyone to enjoy themselves.
The optimal size for the fire pit itself ranges from about 3-4 ft. in diameter or width. Stay on the larger side of that range for more usable space to support larger gatherings.
Make sure the patio area has plenty of room for chairs to back up or move in depending on the temperature of the fire. We suggest a minimum of 7’ from outside of firepit to outside perimeter of the patio.
Tip 4: Ensure Fire Pit Seating Fits Your Needs
If the seating around your fire pit is going to be fixed, then seating placement is of utmost importance. If you’ll be choosing furniture to surround a natural wood burning pit, select something that’s made of flame-resistant materials that can withstand the occasional stray ember.
Make sure that seating is lightweight, allowing anyone to easily move it as weather and fire conditions change. Providing an alternate place to hang out as the fire intensity or wind patterns shift ensures that everyone remains comfortable.
For permanent seating around a natural wood fire pit, stone seating walls can both look and work great. Consider leaving some open space when planning for fixed seating, allowing for impromptu placement of portable furniture to accommodate extra guests.
About 3 feet of distance between the seating and the flame source is considered optimal. Add durable throw pillows with colors that contrast against the tone of the seating material to increase comfort and visual appeal alike.
Tip 5: Check Local Regulations
You will want to consult your township office to see if there are any restrictions on the placement or implementation of a fire pit. Avoid fines and frustration by checking first. There’s nothing worse than designing and building something that violates local ordinances or building codes.
Some municipalities require that a fire pit be fitted with some sort of grated cover. Other, more rural locations might be more lax on this sort of regulation. Contact your local township or zoning office to see what fire pit regulations exist in your area.
Tip 6: Make Sure To Consider The Wind Situation
Wind can even make lighting an auto-start propane fire pit a bit of a problem. If the space gets some steady gusts, you might wind up struggling to get a flame. If your area is windy- you can get around the problem in several ways.
One way is by planting shrubs or trees to create a natural wind barrier (which can also double as a source of privacy). Selecting a fast growing plant species can accelerate this natural approach. Alternatively, a wood-burning fire pit itself can be situated below ground level, providing more stability in windy environments with flames that are, at least, partially protected.
Remember that the wind conditions impact natural wood burning fire pits especially. You want to safely distance the fire pit from anything that could burn. 10 is the magic number here. Situate the fire pit at least 10 feet from any structure or other combustibles so that stray embers are not a threat.
Tip 7: Choose The RIGHT Surface To Surround Your Fire Pit
The lowest cost patio surround for a fire feature is pea gravel or grass. The advantage of placing it on a deck, or on pavers is that your feet have a greater chance of staying nice and clean throughout your relaxed nightly gathering when the grass starts to get covered and dew and your feet tend to pick up all types of dirt and debris as you head back to the house.
Tip 8: Choose The Right Budget
The lowest cost firepits range in the low- hundreds of dollars. Though made out of light guage steel that rusts and dents easily, they are a great way to experiment with where you want to place your firepit and to assess how much you will actually use it.
Custom paver firepits can cost upwards of $1-3,000, depending on the design and size, and gas inserts installed can range between $700 and $2,000. Read about how to choose the right pavers HERE.
We have even carved propane fireplace inserts into natural stone boulders for a custom look that’s bound to be a summer night showstopper!
A safe cost range for a total custom firepit project is between $1-5,000 depending on the access to an underground propane tank or built-in gas line.
For the patio surrounding the firepit, we suggest budgeting between $10 and $45 per sq. ft. depending on whether you want crushed stone, natural flagstone, concrete pavers, or square-cut bluestone patio surrounding your fire feature.