DIY Fire Pit Buyer's Guide
The DIY propane fire pit is not for everyone. There are specific circumstances and people with a particular set of skills who can install DIY fire pits using a fire pit kit. The average consumer looking for an "out of the box" style fire pit to add to the backyard without hassle should think twice about these.
The DIY gas fire pit is designed more for a contractor installing a custom fire pit for a job. But, it could also be for the handy homeowner with a mechanical skill set who wants to customize the look of a unit. In other words, these fire pits are for the people who are in the process of making an outdoor space of their dreams. A DIY kit isn't typically an accent to an already great backyard, although it can be that, too!
See, the keywords here are "Do It Yourself." Buy a burner pan and components and build the enclosure all on your own. Or, buy the enclosure and finish it with a veneer of your choosing.
- Round DIY fire pit
If the idea of doing that makes you happier than a pig in slop, keep reading. This article will tell you everything you need to know about a propane fire pit kit so you can make the best outdoor space in the neighborhood.
What is a DIY Fire Pit?
A DIY propane fire pit or a DIY natural gas fire pit is what its name implies, a do-it-yourself fire pit. The unit requires someone with mechanical experience to assemble and finish the unit with various components and installation options. DIY kits are also known as pre-made, prefab, paver kits, or ready-to-finish kits.
- Firegear DIY fire pit kit
DIY kits with the terms "pre-made", "prefab", or "ready-to-finish" are enclosure kits. These look like a big block of concrete with a burner recessed in it. Paver kits usually have the words "paver kit" or "package" in the name. Paver kits are just the burner components, no enclosure. You make the enclosure.
Fire pits that don't sport the "DIY," "pre-made," "prefab," etc. monikers need no additional work, except installation.
Before You Buy
Local Rules and Regulations
Depending on where you live this could be the most important step. Before you even start looking at your dream fire pit, check the codes and regulations in your area. You don't want to have a freight shipment turned away because your brand new fire unit breaks some minor Homeowners Association rule.
Some questions to ask yourself before typing in your card number: Can I burn in my backyard? Can I dig a new gas line? Are there rules about the location of a fire pit within a certain distance of my home or my neighbors home?
Start with those questions and move on from there depending on the features of your potential fire pit.
Assembly for each system is a little different. It's great to know what you're in for before you purchase a DIY kit. This section will go over what you can expect from each type of system.
- Enclosures with Burners - These DIY kits are wholly welded and sheathed from the factory. To avoid any damage, these will arrive in a crate via freight. An enclosure and burner system operates using a gas valve turn-key. For HPC, you will find the surface panel is pre-cut to fit the burner you picked. If you opted for an electronic ignition system, you must provide a shielded and grounded electrical source. These kits come with 120 and 24-volt systems. Twenty-four volts meet the low voltage requirements for water features and pools.
- Warming Trends Ready-to-Finish Round Fire Pit
Install the burner into the enclosure and connect the proper fuel source. If you have a "small tank" unit, you will find a ventilated access door to store your LP tank. Larger propane tanks (over 20 pounds) will need to run a gas line to the enclosure.
After you have your kit in place, anchor it to prevent your fire pit from shifting. Once the enclosure is anchored and the burner installed, it's time to apply any finish you want. Clad your fire pit with tile, stone, brick, or whatever you choose.
- Paver Kits - These kits give you more flexibility in sizing but need more individual setup than enclosures. The company will craft the burner system to fit within the pavers or blocks you use. A flexible band supports the burner between two rows of pavers. The control panel and gas shutoff will fit inside a void created by removing a block or single paver. Using the burner diameter, you have to stack pavers until it reaches the height you want. To fuel your fire pit, you will have to run a gas line before stacking all the pavers in place.
- Wood-Burning Fire Pits - Set-up of a wood-burning fire pit can be super easy. You could buy a fire bowl or fire ring and set it down and get to burning. However, if you want something a little more substantial, you can use pavers just like you would with a paver kit. Stack pavers in the shape of your choice; place a fire bowl inside, and you can burn without gas. And, that's not the only way to do it. When making a wood-burning fire pit, the choices on set-up are limitless because you are not hindered by internal needs like gas lines, burners, or ignition options. We actually have a handy guide on how to build and use a wood-burning fire pit for you already if you'd like more in-depth information.
For gas fire pits, there are some ignition options you may not know about. This section covers those options and what you can expect from each one.
- Match Lit - This one takes the most work, but it's also the most straightforward option available. Turn on the gas; then, light the burner with a match. A match-throw system is the most reliable and lowest cost of all the ignition systems. If you're not vigilant about lighting it quickly, though, your burner will leak gas. If you're a forgetful type, consider investing in an automatic shutoff ignition, or go with one of the other ignition options.
- Match lit gas valve kit with key
- Push-button or Flame Sense - If you're looking for something with a little less work behind its operation, look at push-button. With this ignition system, you can turn your fire pit on/off by, you guessed it, pushing a button. The threat of leaking gas is practically nil because if the flame goes out, the gas valve closes. A flame sense system will cost you more, but there is increased safety behind it.
- Push-button ignition system
- Electronic Ignition - Unlike push-button, this system does not require a standing pilot light. Press a button and electric current lights the pilot, signaling the gas to flow. Many of these units have a battery pack in case of power outages. Electronic is a top-of-the-line ignition system. It uses a 120-volt, 24-volt, 12-volt, or 9-volt electric spark. You can wire this system to a wall switch, remote, or both.
- HPC 24-volt adapter for electronic ignition fire pit
The sizes of DIY fire pits fall into two categories: enclosures with burners and paver kits. These two categories do not give you a number value on size because you should already know the size you need. There are only two questions you have to answer. Will you make the enclosure yourself (paver kit), or will you buy the enclosure and finish the facade? And, what shape do you want your fire pit to be?
- Enclosures with Burners - These kits are prefabricated to fit a specific burner or range of burners. HPC, for example, makes steel framed units sheathed with cement board panels. Firegear offers similar enclosures, but they also have the Assemble and Finish (AnF) models. HPC breaks down the AnF units into modular sections that can be put together quickly. You can choose from round, octagonal, square, or rectangular. Some manufacturers even offer custom sizes. Burner sizes range from 19 to 48 inches, and enclosures can be up to 72 inches in width. You'll find that most enclosures vary in height, but most are made to set up at a height comparable to a coffee table.
- Paver Kits - These kits give you a full package of components to install a gas fire pit burner system into a purpose-built set up of pavers and blocks. This complete package consists of a burner and pan, gas valve, support frame, control panel kit, and basic media like lava rock. No enclosure. If you want something easy to set up and at a lower cost, a paver kit is your best bet. Burners range from 28 to 42 inches, with an overall diameter determined by the pavers and blocks you pick. The height is up to you too, but it is recommended to use pins and mortar to secure your setup once you're finished.
- Stack of brick pavers
Fire pit burners are often covered by media to enhance the appearance of the unit. Fire glass, lava rock, etc. look great and help protect your burner from the elements.
- Fire Glass - A layer of reflective fire glass gives your fire pit a modern and beautiful look. Fire glass is a unique form of tempered glass made to use in indoor and outdoor fireplaces. Fire glass comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Do not go cheap and put everyday glass in your fire pit; it will likely melt or burst.
- Lava Rock - Lava Rock makes an excellent base for other media to sit upon. Lava rock is durable and looks great on its own, too. You won't find lava rock in as many colors/sizes as fire glass. But, what lava rock lacks in variety it makes up for in versatility. Lava rock is the perfect co-star to other media for your burner.
- Decorative fire media
- Other Media - The big two are lava rock and fire glass. Beyond that, you'll find cannonballs, sand, ceramic logs, and stones. These options augment your other media. Cannonballs and logs, for example, look great on top of lava rock or glass.
- Gas fire pit logs
Gas Fuel Options
- Natural Gas - With a natural gas-fueled fire pit, you'll never run out of gas. The fire pit connects to a gas line, unlike propane, which connects to a tank. This connection means once you have your fire pit in place, there's no moving it. Installation can be a hassle too, but if you get over the headache of putting in a gas line, a natural gas fire pit will cost less to run over a period of time.
- Natural gas line
- Propane - Propane fire pits are easier to install than natural gas pits. Some manufacturers make "small tank" fire pits that connect to a mobile propane tank. Slide in a propane tank, make the connection, and you're ready to go. This tank means you can even move your fire pit to another area one day without worrying about a gas line. There are fire pits that can accept a propane gas line, mixing those ideas of mobility.
- Propane gas tank
Best Brands of DIY Firepits
You can find a lot of DIY kits on the market. It can be hard to know which one to choose because they all look similar. In this section, we will go over three of the best brands available. You can't go wrong with either one of these choices.
- Warming Trends - The DIY kits by Warming Trends are called "ready-to-finish." Warming Trends is famous for its all brass components that will last a lifetime. With Warming Trends, the options are limitless; the company offers custom shapes, sizes, and heights. Warming Trends can build a ready-to-finish unit to any size specifications for natural gas or propane. Depending on your build, heavy equipment may be needed to move it to your space. The company also offers a large selection of paver kits. The burners in these paver kits come in as many shapes and sizes as Warming Trends enclosures.
- Firegear Outdoors - Fire Gear calls its DIY fire pit kits Assemble and Finish or AnF. Fire Gear will send you the kit in pieces, and you will put it together and finish it yourself, or a contractor will. These kits come in three configurations: round, square, and rectangle. Like Warming Trends, Fire Gear also offers a slew of customization options. Because Fire Gear's DIY kits come in pieces, it can ship via parcel. Fire Gear calls some of its paver kits "retaining wall packages." You'll find lots of options and sizes with Fire Gear.
- HPC - Like Warming Trends, HPC calls its DIY kits ready-to-finish. Unlike Fire Gear and Warming Trends, HPC does not offer customization. HPC offers its ready-to-finish kits in round, octagon, square, and linear shapes. They come assembled, so there is no work needed in that department. The burners in these kits come with a lifetime warranty. Rather than full paver kits, HPC offers burners and components sold separately. Save yourself the headache of searching through the components and only go HPC if you want a ready-to-finish package.
Care and Maintenance
Keeping your fire pit working properly is not a full-time job. The materials are tough and can withstand a lot. Despite that, here are some basic tips to help you keep your fire pit running for years and years.
- Rigid fire pit cover
- Buy a cover - When not using the fire pit, put a cover over it. The cover will protect the fire pit from weather and animals.
- Inspect the burners - Once a season, remember to check over the burners and valves of your fire pit. Even if you have a cover, a rogue insect could get in there and start building a nest. Remove any blockages you find and you'll be good to go.
- Clean your fire pit - Remove ash or clean the fire glass. Cleaning helps keep your fire pit looking great and functioning properly.
Depending on the unit, the fire pit can be shipped in a couple of different ways.
- Parcel - Paver kits and Fire Gear's Assemble and Finish (AnF) kits will ship by parcel.
- Freight - The other Ready-to-Finish kits will come to your home via freight. The company will place your fire pit on a pallet and ship it to you. Once it arrives at your home, be sure to inspect your unit for any damage. If you find something bad let the manufacturer know ASAP.
- DIY Fire pit and seating area
Buying a DIY fire pit is step one in a longer process. After reading this article, you are more knowledgeable to tackle that first step than you were before. If you have more questions, feel free to reach out and contact one of our NFI certified specialists at 1-800-203-1642.
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