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    Fire Pit Insert Buyer's Guide

    No matter which part of the world you live - warm, tropical, cold, or somewhere between - most homeowners want a fiery outdoor oasis. It's a bridge from the interior to the exterior, an extension to the scenic beauty of the great outdoors.

    Whether you've decided to add a patio, deck, outdoor kitchen, or the like, no outdoor living space is complete without the spark from a fire feature. And, you don't have to be rich to do it! You can host year-round entertainment at a fraction of the cost you'd pay for some of the common prefabricated structures.

    Fire Pit Inserts
    Hearth Products Controls blue flame specialties

    In this article, we'll teach you some ways to create a custom fire feature as the focal point of your backyard using a fire pit insert. We'll explain how fire pit inserts differ from pre-built fire pits. This includes the costs for materials, installation, fuel, and maintenance. We'll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of getting one.

    As more people attune themselves to the trendy outdoor designs, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. Most people end up selecting from piles of mass-produced products with no originality. But, you do not have to succumb to these basic, ill-fitting fire pit assemblies. Don't fill the void of empty space in your backyard with generic styles that everyone has. All you need is a fire pit insert to create a custom design to fit your unique outdoor space.

    What is a Fire Pit Insert?

    A fire pit insert or drop-in fire pit includes all the components needed to operate a fire pit, excluding the enclosure or surround. For wood-burning, a fire pit ring is a type of fire pit insert. A gas-fire pit insert consists of a fire pit burner, burner pan, ignition system, flex gas line, a gas valve, and key.

    Fire Pit Inserts
    Hearth Products Controls fire pit insert with H-burner

    Like indoor fireplace inserts must be installed into an existing firebox or structural opening, a fire pit insert works the same way. It must also be built into an appropriate structure. Most contractors install fire pit inserts in landscape projects, water features, or the like.


    Fire pit inserts, in a sense, are more malleable. They allow you to design masterful creations without the limitations of pre-built fire pits. They are also more cost-effective than purchasing a complete fire pit.

    From a more practical standpoint, not every backyard can fit a cookie-cutter fire appliance. Some backyards are larger or smaller than others, and some are far less traditional in shape and size altogether. With this in mind, a fire pit insert serves as an equalizer for all, ensuring everyone has access to the alluring mystique of fire.

    But, there are some downsides you may want to consider as well.


    Fire pit inserts call for a bit of technical know-how to install. Thus, the cost-effectiveness associated with them will decrease if you need to hire a contractor to get the job done. While the more basic wood-burning fire pit inserts are easy for even the most novice DIYer, gas models are not quite so simple.

    Fire Pit Inserts
    Hearth Products Controls custom fire pit insert

    In other words, drop-in fire pits need more elbow grease to install. So, these may not be the ideal choice for those with a "set-it-and-forget-it" mindset.

    Depending on the scale of your fire feature design, you may need more than one or two fire pit inserts to complete the look that you are going for. And, having to install more than one or two fire pit inserts can increase the cost of the job in a major way. This can far exceed the price you would pay for one standard fire pit unit.

    Keep this in mind as you plan out the design of your backyard fire feature. The more ambitious the project, the more money you can expect to spend.

    Things to Consider Before You Buy a Fire Pit Insert

    When it comes to any major home renovations or remodeling projects, it's always a good idea to do a bit of research on the front end. You want to calculate potential expenses to help you develop a more realistic budget.

    Whether you plan on installing the fire pit yourself or hiring outside help, we'll share some general cost estimates. These estimations were retrieved from and based on different building materials, fuel types, and installation needs.

    It's also worth searching at locally-owned shops in your area that sell overstocked source material. These shops often have stones that are more igneous and dense to handle intense heat. In other words, you don't have to overspend to get quality materials for the look that you want.

    Custom-Built Fire Pit Materials (Priced High to Low)

    • Techno-Bloc Valencia - This is one of the most expensive building materials for fire pits. Techno Block Valencia can run around $610 per fire pit project since the bricks consist of brand-name paving stones. The material is more versatile than other materials. It can withstand greater temperatures for wood, charcoal, and gas-burning fire pits.
    • Unilock Stones - A fire pit constructed from Unilock stones, also brand-name pavers, typically costs around $500. Like Techno-Block, these pavers can withstand copious amounts of heat produced from wood, gas, and charcoal. They also come in a wide range of colors, sizes, and prices for every budget.
    • Nicolock - Like Unilock stones, this is a type of brick paver designed to handle copious amounts of heat produced by wood, charcoal, and gas-fueled fire pits.
    • Stone or Field Stone Material - This building material comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and beautiful colors to match a range of natural, Earthtones. This material can be less pricey than other materials. The typical cost per fire pit project using this material is around $300.
    • Standard Brick Paver and Fire Brick - The most commonly used materials to construct in-ground fire pits, fire brick and standard brick pavers often crack under intense heat. If using this material, you'll need to line the inside of the structure with fire bricks and line the outside with pavers for extra support. With proper construction, fire pits built with this material can withstand copious amounts of heat produced from various fuel sources.
    Fire Pit Inserts
    Assorted brick pavers
    • Concrete Blocks - Perhaps the most economical material used to construct built-in fire pits is concrete blocks. Not only are they inexpensive in comparison to other materials on the market, but they are also larger in size, requiring less material to build a solid construction. They, too, can tolerate heat produced from wood, coal, and gas-burning fire pits.
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    Cement block

    Fire Pit Size and Fuel Type

    This may be seen as a no brainer, but the size of your fire pit often dictates most of the expenses you can expect to incur. Larger units will inevitably need more material for an enclosure. Also, the fuel type will dictate whether you'll need to hire plumbers or electricians.

    Most outside contractors will charge by the hour for labor for full fire pit installations. The average project can run anywhere between four and eight hours. You can look to spend approximately $200 to $500 on labor if hiring an outside contractor. But, if you choose to construct the fire pit yourself, you will save a great deal of money.

    Here is a breakdown of the expenses you can expect by fuel cost and labor performed by a professional contractor you may need to hire for assistance.

    • Firewood and Charcoal - These are the least expensive fuel options, running you around $300 for fuel and installation. Plus, your primary maintenance responsibility centers on the cleaning of ash regularly. You may opt to have a contractor install wood or charcoal-fuel fire pit, but you can often tackle this project yourself.
    • Natural Gas - With a natural gas fire pit, you will need to have a gas line routed where you intend to install your fire pit insert. Often times, people seeking to use their existing natural gas will need to have a plumber extend the gas line.

    This can become pretty pricey, usually around $600 or so for both the labor cost of the plumber and the gas line components themselves. Not to mention, natural gas fire pits tend to be more stationary structures and are less portable than propane versions.

    • Propane Gas - A cheaper option than natural gas fire pit inserts, propane models offer more flexibility for installation. This means they offer portability that gives you more creative freedom for your fire pit placement. The only cost you will likely incur for fuel and contractor labor is around $300.


    It can be a major blow to your dreams of installing a fire pit for your outdoor living area if it is not permitted in your region or municipality. To prevent wasting time and money, we urge you to check with local authorities to determine the permissibility of fire pits in your areas.

    Most freestanding wood-burning or propane units do not need a permit for installation. If you are planning on installing a natural gas fire pit or one with an electric ignition system, you will likely need some type of permit. The permits themselves are inexpensive. But, it's better to follow all laws and regulations to prevent unwanted fines.

    Installation Location

    Another factor to take into consideration is the location you plan to install. There are some major Do's and Don'ts you'll want to know, for sure. For instance, never install a fire pit near overhanging branches or trees or where there is a significant amount of dry brush nearby. These locations pose serious fire hazards for your home and nearby structures, including nearby homes.

    Fire Pit Inserts
    Backyard layout

    Also, make sure that you plan to install your fire pit on a level surface with significant drainage so that water pooling isn't an issue.

    Now that we've discussed some of the major things to consider before purchasing a fire pit insert, you may be wondering about your options.

    In the next section, we will cover the different types of burners and flame patterns, burner pan shapes and enclosures. We'll also discuss the common materials from which they are made.

    Selecting a Fire Pit Insert and Burner Style

    There is a large variety of burner shapes and sizes available for each type of fire pit insert. It boils down to your preferred flame pattern and the look that you're going for in your fire feature.

    Let's start by examining eight different burner shapes and the flame patterns each of them produces. Please note that most manufacturers offer customization options for customers, too. So, it is possible to buy specific burner shapes and sizes. Featured below is a list of common shapes and sizes that are mass-produced and readily available.

    • Round Burner - The round burner shape is one of the first fire pit burner designs. It produces a more centralized flame pattern that has the appearance of a torch, depending on the size of the burner. These tend to work well in bowl-like enclosures or enclosures situated in containers around water features. These are also good options for round, above-ground fire pits in a back patio. They range in size from 12 inches up to 54 inches in size.
    Fire Pit Inserts
    Hearth Products Controls custom round fire pit insert
    • Penta (Star-Shaped) Burner - The star-shaped burner creates a unique and more realistic flame pattern. The flames disperse across the entire burner pan assembly and fire pit. It is often attached to a square or round burner pan for installation in round and square fire pit assemblies. These burners come in a range of sizes from 12 inches to 54 inches.
    • Spur (Inter-linked Spokes) Burner - With a similar flame pattern as the star-shaped Penta burner, the spur burner consists of three interlinked spokes that have the shape of an asterisk mark. These burners also create an authentic-looking flame pattern that covers the width of the burner pan. These burners are often assembled to a round or square burner pan for installation in square or round fire pit enclosures. They range from 12 inches to 36 inches in size.
    • Linear or Trough Burner - If you're looking for a more sleek, modern-looking fire pit that appeals to a contemporary aesthetic, consider a linear or trough burner. These burners project a slender, ribbon-like flame. Many builders or contractors use them to emphasize a perimeter or retaining wall, seating area, or different spaces within the backyard. Most of these burners are rather long, ranging from 24 inches up to 121 inches!
    • H-Burner - The H-burner offers the elegance of two linear burners with more robust flames and heat. These burners are often attached to a rectangular burner pan in a wide range of sizes. Some are as small as 24 inches wide by 12 inches long. Others are as big as 66 inches long by 16 inches wide. If you're looking to add a contemporary design without sacrificing warmth, the H-burner design will not disappoint.
    Fire Pit Inserts
    Hearth Products Controls lit custom H-burner
    • Square Burner - Offering a more centralized flame pattern, square burners generate a great deal of heat. Yet, these burners are smaller in size with limited options ranging from 12 to 24 inches in diameter. This burner shape works for those who prefer either a rustic or ultra-modern fire pit look. You can add some fire pit logs for something more traditional. Or, you can install this insert into an oversized square enclosure filled with lava or river rocks media.
    • Rectangular Burner - With a similar flame pattern as an H-burner and square burner combined, the rectangular fire pit burner provides a somewhat linear flame pattern in the shape of a rectangular box. Some rectangular burners also have a welded t-shape in the center with extra gas puncture holes to emit more flames. Like its square counterpart, the rectangular burner comes in a limited range of sizes. They range from 12" by 6" to 24" by 12" in size.
    Fire Pit Inserts
    Hearth Products Controls custom rectangular fire pit insert
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