Fire Pit Buyer's Guide
Though the time period is debatable, it is said that some of the oldest evidence of fire pits was found in Israel and South Africa. As long as man has roamed this planet, we have had use for fire, and more specifically, an outdoor fire pit that can be used for cooking and warmth. Fire pits are a long-standing tradition that has only continued to grow in popularity as time goes on.
- outdoor firepit
With the invention of gas fire pits and their design constantly evolving to meet current trends, the possibilities are endless for creating a fire pit to fit into your living space. Because there are so many details that go into installing a fire pit, we created this article to guide you on how to choose the best fuel, material, and style to fit your needs. First, let's take a look at a few basic things that everyone needs to know before buying outdoor fire pits..
Fire Pit Size and Fuel Type
The size and fuel of your fire pit are going to be the biggest indicator of how expensive the unit will be. The two really go hand in hand because the size of your fire pit dictates how much fuel you will need and the price of hiring technicians to install it. Even if you buy cheaper materials for the basic structure, you can end up spending more, because you go with a larger setup.
While pricing depends on your area and the availability of contractors, you can expect to spend between $200 - $500 on labor to have someone install it. It typically takes four to eight hours to set up the brick or stone, piping and valves, and any electrical you may need. This price estimate is based on labor that usually charges by the hour.
If you are interested in saving money on fuel because you know you will need to hire a contractor, here is a general breakdown of the expenses of fire pit fuel.
Firewood and Charcoal
We put these two in one category because charcoal is actually not coal. It is heated wood that is treated and turned into pellets used for starting fires. Charcoal and wood fire pits are the least expensive fuel options available. For initial installation and fuel, you can assume it will be around the $300 range.
These are the least labor-intensive options and you could possibly install a charcoal or wood fire pit on your own if you have the tools and some experience with installation. As a side note, you don't have to decide between having a wood or charcoal fire pit because you can use the two fuels interchangeably in one fire pit. So, if you happen to have one fuel on hand and not the other, it can be a huge time saver.
- MF Fire Delta wood burning fire pit
The next level up in terms of price is propane gas fire pits. They are cheaper than natural gas fire pits, though more expensive than wood or charcoal. The benefit of propane fire pits is the portability.
- Endless Summer propane fire column
Propane often comes in tanks that can be moved with nothing more than a little effort. Though, you will likely need a contractor to install the fire pit itself, which may cost around $400 for fuel and labor. Though, if you decide to relocate it, it is possible for you to do it on your own since there are no gas lines, like with a natural gas fire pit. If you desire a gas fire pit, the freedom and cost-effectiveness of propane may sway you to this option.
Natural gas is the most expensive fuel option among the three due to the complicated nature of its setup. It is encouraged that you hire a professional to install this type of fire pit, because the average person is not skilled in connecting gas lines. While this option may cost you around $600 for fuel and installation, it will be a lot less expensive than you trying to set it up yourself and causing damage to your fire pit or your home.
- Outdoor Greatroom gas fire pit table
The other thing to note about natural gas fire pits is their inability to be moved once installed. Typically, once they are installed, that is where they live because natural gas lines are limited in where they can reach. So, if you are looking for fire pits for sale that can move locations from season to season, it is not recommended that you buy a natural gas fire pit.
Once you have decided on fuel, the next thing to look at is the materials you will use to build your fire pit. Obviously, if you are looking to save money, the size you build will make a difference in the total price. You could opt for a mid-grade material if you don't want to break the bank but would still like to have a decent-sized fire pit. If quality is your top priority there are definitely materials that will achieve a polished look and give you the classy finish you desire.
Fire Pit Materials
If your goal is to build a sturdy, no-frills fire pit at the most affordable cost, concrete is the way to go. It is by far the least expensive material out there, ranging around $100 - $150 depending on size, and comes in large blocks that require less material to complete the structure.
Concrete is very sturdy and able to withstand the heat of wood, coal, or gas burning fire pits. So, this may not be the fanciest avenue out there, but it will certainly get the job done.
Standard Brick Paver and Fire Brick
While brick is very popular and one of the more affordable building materials, around $250 - $300 depending on size, it does have it's drawbacks. Brick is not very fire resistant and can crack under pressure from high heat.
If you want to use brick to achieve a particular look for your fire pit, you will need to line the inside with firebrick then line the outside with “regular” brick pavers for extra support. This set up will ensure your fire pit lasts for a long time and continues to bring beauty to your space.
- standard brick paver
Stone or Field Stone Material
This material comes in shapes from rounded to angular and a variety of sizes and colors. It's recommended that homeowners choose from igneous (granite, obsidian, basalt, etc) or metamorphic (slate, marble, etc) stones because they are much denser and stand up better to heat. This price point is around the middle range with the total landing between $300 - $350 depending on size.
Unilock & Nicolock
Both of these brand name brick pavers will cost you a pretty penny compared to their “no name” counterparts. While they can stand up to heat better than the standard brick, both brands typically cost over $500 to complete a fire pit. Thankfully, they do come in a wide range of colors and sizes and withstand heat from wood, coal or gas.
Techno Bloc Valencia
This is the crème de la crème of fire pit building. Techno Bloc Valencia is a high quality, high premium ( over $600 ) name brand brick paver. Techno Bloc maintains a uniform consistency throughout their stones and offers colors like gray, white, black, beige and brown. Their stones are very versatile, meaning they can work for your fire pit or your driveway and withstand higher temperatures with wood charcoal or gas.
- techno bloc valencia fire pit
Before we move onto the ins and outs of each type of fire pit, lets quickly talk about a few things you need to consider no matter what fire pit you buy.
Before you begin to look at fuel type, material section or get any kind of ideas going about the type of fire pit you want in your backyard, please check with local regulations and make sure fire pits are permitted in your area. Many wood and propane fire pits do not need a permit for installation.
Though, if you are going for a natural gas or electronic ignition system, you most likely will need a permit. Even though it is an extra hassle to verify these types of things, it is better to do it ahead of time then get the entire unit installed and realize you aren't allowed to have that particular style on your property.
Another thing to keep in mind when planning the set up of your wood or gas fire pit is location. You need to be aware of low hanging branches or large amounts of dry brush. You should never install a fire pit near either of these, as they are a fire hazard.
Fire Pit Inserts
Now that we have covered the basics that anyone considering a fire pit needs to know, we can move onto each specific type of fire pit available, starting with the fire pit insert.
A fire pit insert includes all the pieces of a regular unit, minus the enclosure. So, the insert is dropped into an existing surround to replace worn out parts or if someone is wanting to change the current burn system they have.
For wood fire pits, this could mean inserting a fire pit ring. You also have the option to change a wood fire pit into a gas one by installing a burner, burner pan, ignition system and gas line. Though, if you already have a gas system, you can not change it to a wood-burning unit.
When a gas line is already built into the system, you don't have the flexibility to throw wood over the top of that unit. Though, if you were only using wood in the past, you can add a new gas system in and complete that transition.
- fire pit insert in landscaping
Fire pit inserts are different than most fire pits because they allow you a lot more flexibility on location. Some contractors will put them inside water features or decorative landscape projects that normally wouldn't have room for a fully enclosed fire pit. Considering you don't need enclosure materials for a fire pit insert, they are typically less expensive than a full fire pit. The labor is also less costly too.
If you like the sound of less materials and labor cost, don't get too excited before you consider the other side to that coin. Fire pit inserts are easier to install than regular wood or gas fire pits, but you still need professional experience to do so.
Unless it is a very simple wood burning fire pit, the average DIYer won't have the skills to get the job done. So, the cost you thought you were saving in materials may go up because you will need a contractor.
So, the moral of this story is, fire pit inserts are not for every person and every project, weigh your options carefully before jumping into this purchase so you can make sure you get the right unit for your needs.
Fire Pit Tables
Fire pit tables are a great option to elevate the look of an outdoor space. For those with limited room, you can kill two birds with one … table... and combine a table and heater all into one. Fire pit tables come in a variety of shapes like square, round and rectangular. They range in size from 16 inches all the way up to 90 inches wide. So, whether you have a small patio or spacious back yard, we have a fire table to fit your space.
- Endless Summer propane fire table
For those of you who enjoy color coordinating your furniture and décor, the exciting part about our selection of fire pit tables is the vast amount of colors they come in. If you are looking for a neutral color to blend with a natural palette we have beige, cream, grey and white.
If you prefer a metal finish we have bronze, copper, grey steel and stainless steel. And for good measure, we even have some terra cotta and charcoal finishes. These colors typically refer to the entire structure though, sometimes the body and the tabletop can be different colors and materials.
Thankfully, the colors, widths and shapes aren't the only way to customize a fire table. Many of them come in varying heights that can accommodate chairs or bar stools so you can lounge while you dine in style.
The last thing to note about the look of a fire pit table is the tabletop finish. Typically they are made with glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). GFRC can be finished in many different colors and mimic the look of natural stone or reclaimed wood.
Other tabletop materials include aluminum, tile, and glass or steel. Heavy-duty, fire-resistant materials, like GFRC, are used in the tabletop so you can enjoy the warmth of your fire while having the ability to use the tabletop for more than just looks. Having strong, heat-resistant materials ensures your fire won't overheat your dining space.
- fire pit table
Unlike fire pit inserts, fire pit tables typically only burn gas. They are made with a standing enclosure that houses a 20lb propane tank for fuel. If you buy one pre-made, through a place like efireplacestore, you will not be able to find one that burns wood. However, if you want to buy a fire ring or bowl (which we will discuss in more detail below), you could use that to build your own fire table that burns wood.
For the gas burning systems, you can choose from match lit, push button, and electronic ignition systems. If you create your own and choose wood, match lit is your only option.
While fire pit tables can put off intense heat, with some models burning up to 100k BTU's, they can be installed on a combustible surface like a deck or patio. This is a nice advantage of choosing a table over a traditional fire pit that sits on the ground.
Now that we have gone through two of the more complicated fire pit options, we have come to another type of fire pit called the fire ring. This is the simpler option among the group as fire rings are short, metal rings that usually only burn wood.
Fire rings may be the simplest of all fire pits to assemble, though they do take a little more maintenance to keep lit. Wood placed in the center will only burn as much as you tend to it, but be careful, we don't need a song made about how you fell into a burning ring of fire. :)
They can be customized to work with a gas-burning system, though Efireplacestore only sells them prepared to burn wood. With wood burning fire pits, you also have the option of burning charcoal. For those made from cast iron or steel, you can interchange wood and coal without any worry.
- P&D Metal Works wood burning fire ring
For some of the fire rings and fire bowls (that we will talk about next) manufacturers offer grills that elevate the functionality of your appliance.
If you like the idea of a versatile fire ring, you may also enjoy all the options P&D Metal Works offers for the style of your ring.
P&D Metal Works has mastered the art of customizing metal fire rings. They've created patterns that appeal to the outdoorsman, the animal lover, the patriot and more. You can be sure of one thing, if you want a fire ring to match your personality, P&D Metal Works has it.
Fire bowls are one of the most diverse options when it comes to fire pits. Fire bowls are a great accessory near a pool, hot tub or in between chairs on the lawn. They can accentuate many types of landscaping or bring a little bit of elegance to your patio or deck.
Fire bowls come in wood-burning or gas-burning options, though wood burning fire bowls have a few more regulations because they can get much hotter than a gas fire bowl, depending on the type and amount of wood used in the fire.
If you are considering gas, don't forget that natural gas is tethered to natural gas lines. While propane gas comes in portable containers and allows the fire bowl to be more portable, fire bowls fueled by natural gas won't have as many options for location.
- American Fyre Versailles gas fire bowl
As with a gas fire pit insert and gas fire pit table, you have a variety of ignition options. For both wood and gas, there is always the basic match light option. For gas only, you can choose an ignition that will start the unit with a simple press of a button or flip of a switch.
If you have access to electricity within a short range from your bowl, you can choose the electronic ignition that uses electricity to light the pilot and create gas flow. It's always possible to run electrical out to where your bowl is located though, that is another expense you will have to keep in mind as you begin considering size, material, and fuel costs.
Once you have considered your fuel source, you can begin to look at different customization options. Fire bowls can come rounded, square or rectangular in shape and usually sit on some sort of stand to elevate them off the ground.
While their shape won't have an effect on their BTU output, their fuel source and size definitely will. The most powerful fire bowls put off up to 300k BTU's. To put that into perspective, some gas fireplaces don't reach up to 100k BTUs.
- Goods of the Woods protective mat
So, you will need some sort of protective mat if you plan to put your fire bowl on a deck. As we mentioned earlier, if you have a wood-burning fire pit, there are regulations to be aware of – like not placing it on a wood deck. There is no way for a manufacturer to regulate the heat produced by a wood fire pit, so the general recommendation is to keep it away from wood surfaces.
When it comes to finish and size, the materials are as varied as the widths. The smallest variety can be made from concrete and come in a round shape or cylindrical urn style. They are as small as 20 inches in width up to a few feet wide.
- American Fyre wave gas urn
Next, there are copper and steel bowls. These are lightweight and usually stay under 40 inches in width, making them easy to relocate if you are the type to get a designer's itch every few months and like to rearrange furniture around your house.
Carbon steel is another type of fire bowl that is extremely durable and, sometimes backed with a lifetime warranty that speaks to its ability to withstand outdoor elements.
The most heavy-duty option is cast iron bowls. These bowls are typically made from 3/8” thick cast iron and suitable for burning wood. Though, some models can be converted to gas-burning units. Because of their sturdy materials, once they are put into place, it is very hard to move them. They will weigh several hundred pounds and not be good for relocating on a whim.
Fire bowls come in so many shapes and sizes, they can add a touch of flair to any outdoor environment you put them in. Even though you may think there's no way you could possibly elevate a fire bowl beyond what we've already described here, think again. Next up on the list is fire and water bowls.
Fire and Water
Fire and water bowls are very similar to fire bowls, with the only difference being that they have a water feature. Go figure!
Fire and water features are always fueled by gas and have match light or electronic ignition systems similar to fire bowls. Though what sets the fire and water features apart is the submersible ignition option.
Submersible ignitions are completely submerged underwater but powerful enough to spark and hold a flame through the water! It is as impressive as it sounds. Unfortunately, because of the skill and time that goes into creating these unique features, they are by far the most expensive ignition systems.
The good news is if you pay the extra money for this ignition system, you can connect it to your bluetooth device or a wall switch for ease of access. If you want to go into greater depth about the ignition system options for a fire and water bowl you can see our fire and water bowl buyers guide for more info.
- Bobe Fire and Water bowl
Though, fire and water bowls are a unique option to decorate your pool or yard with, installing them isn't as simple as it may seem. Because they have both fire and water features, you have to consider fuel options as well as electrical and plumbing.
When supplying water you can either constantly recirculate the bowls water supply or pull in water from a remote basin. If you decide to pipe the water in, a good plumber should be able to help you decide whether you need a 40 PVC supply line or if a more complex water supply is needed.
Many features also require a 120 volt supply of electricity to operate their water pump and any interior lighting features. You will need an electrician to determine whether your system can share a circuit with other devices or if it needs a dedicated circuit to draw power.
When looking at your different gas options, several things will determine whether natural or propane gas is best for you. As discussed previously, natural gas is pumped in by gas lines. If you want to use that for your fire and water feature and have to run the gas line through your yard; pools, trees or patios may limit your ability to reach your unit with the gas line.
If that is the case, propane may be the best option for you. Propane cylinders are easily hidden in nearby enclosures so they are easily accessible and dont take away from the beauty of your fire and water bowl.
Fire and water bowls have similar finishes to that of fire bowls. Copper, steel, grey, black and terra cotta are a few of the selections to choose from. Water is released through an extended or seamless lip. The seamless lip (below) is a great option if you want a modern, sleek look.
- Bobe seamless fire and water bowl
Fire rock and glass media are the final options for customization of your fire and water bowl. They really add a touch of elegance to any bowl you purchase. Not to mention, they often cover the clunkier mechanical pieces hiding in your bowl.
Fire glass comes in colors from red to coral to golden to smoke. You can also choose from lava rocks and canon balls to decorate the top of your fire and water feature and hide the burner system within the pan.
If you have heard about all the ways you can customize fire pits, fire bowls and fire and water features and wondered “Can I create the entire thing from scratch?”, the answer is yes. We will discuss the different things that go into customizing every feature of a fire pit and if that is a good option for you to consider based on your skillset.
Fire Pit Kits and Burners
So, maybe as you've read this article you were inspired by all the different ways you can make a fire pit your own. I mean who knew there were THAT many options to customize a fire pit? Well, we did, but that is beside the point.
If you want to create a DIY gas fire pit, that is definitely an option, but you will need to honestly assess your skillset before you get started. As we discussed in the previous sections, installing a fire pit is more than picking a color and a location. You have to have knowledge about installing the enclosure, connecting gas or buying the right wood, as well as possible plumbing connections.
Even if you aren't able to do those things on your own, you can learn a bit about fire pits, choose the kit and accessories you want and have a contractor complete the installation for you. Whether or not you have a contractor helping you, understanding terminology of fire pit kits will go a long way in making sure you buy only what you need.
If you see the terms “pre-made”, “pre-fab” or “ready to finish” for fire pit kits, that is referring to a DIY fire pit kit with a burner and concrete enclosure included. Adding decorative features like a stone or tile finish and possibly fire glass are all that is left to do outside of installation.
- ready to finish fire pit kit
If you buy the fire pit “paver” system, that will present a slightly more labor-intensive challenge as it only comes with the burner system and no enclosure, i.e. concrete surround. So, you will need to build the enclosure from scratch. This can be a great option if you want to create a piece completely all your own.
When it comes to burner systems, there are as many options as there are finishes on a fire pit. Are you surprised? Let's review those quickly so you have a general idea of what there is to choose from.
The round burner shape is one of the first fire pit burner designs. It produces a centralized flame pattern that can appear like a torch, depending on the size of the burner. These tend to work great in bowl-like enclosures or inside water features. They range in size from 12 inches up to 54 inches in size.
- round burner
Star Shaped Burner
The star-shaped burner creates a unique flame pattern that disperses across the entire burner pan 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 42 inches.
- star shaped burner
- star shaped burner in fire pit
Spur or 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 a wide spanning 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 44 inches in size.
- spur burner
Linear or Trough Burner
If you want a sleek, modern-looking fire pit a linear or trough burner is a great way to achieve that look. These burners project a slender, ribbon-like flame. Many contractors use them to emphasize a perimeter or retaining wall or to complete a seating area at a rooftop restaurant. Because their mass goes length wise you can expect them to be 24 inches up to 121 inches!
- linear burner
- linear burner in fire pit
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 element without sacrificing warmth, the H-burner will not disappoint.
With a slender flame pattern similar to an H-burner, the rectangular fire pit burner provides a double linear flame pattern that rounds into a rectangular box. Some rectangular burners also have a welded t-shape in the center with extra gas holes to emit more flames. This burner would look great with a layer of fire glass media that matches your patio furniture or lava rocks if you enjoy a more rustic look.
Though it has varying shape options that emit more heat, rectangular burners typically stay within 12 to 48 inches in size. So, they are perfect for the standard patio or backyard fire pit.
- rectangular burner
Square burners are similar to the rectangular ones in the sense that they offer a centralized flame pattern and have limited length options, unlike the linear burner. This burner style is very versatile and can be placed in a modern, square stone enclosure or work great in a square faux wood unit.
- square burner in table
The S-burner offers a ribbon of flames in the shape of an "S." These burners often come attached to a rectangular burner pan to fit within a linear enclosure. Because of their linear design they can lean towards a modern look if that is what you desire. Though, you can enclose them in a variety of materials and use any kind of decorative media to enhance the feature and make it your own.
These burners can be used to create division between different spaces in an outdoor living area or help emphasize the perimeters of your yard. They range from 36 to 78 inches long. Given their slender design, they can emit less heat than an H burner or round burner design. Which is good to know if your focus is on warmth over aesthetics.
Now that we have covered the basics of fire pit kits and burners, you can see a great deal goes into selecting and installing a DIY fire pit. We hope this section has helped inform you on how to pick the best burner and fire pit kit for your needs.
Though, there is a never-ending list of questions that can arise when you are taking this adventure on yourself. So, though we will end this section of DIY fire pits here, you can refer to the end of this article for our contact information should you need more help.
While fire pits don't require as much maintenance as a indoor fireplace, they do still need some TLC from time to time. It's important that you take good care of your fire pit so the burners and valves last as long as they can.
Gas Fire Pits
Gas appliances require a bit more care than wood fire pits do. Because of the gas lines and other metal pieces, it's good to do a check every few weeks to make sure there is no debris or dirt caught in your burner system.
Keeping a cover over it will help prevent random things, like animal hair or leaves, from flying into the fire pit. While you don't want your fire pit constantly exposed to water and other outdoor elements, its a good idea to take it apart and wash it with soap and water once a season to make sure all the grime of the outdoors doesn't build up.
Other forms of maintenance include checking your gas lines to make sure there aren't any leaks. Propane gas is heavier than air and can pool around a space where it is leaked. This could become very dangerous, but a regular check of your gas line will prevent you from ever having this issue.
Wood Fire Pits
Wood fire pits are incredibly low maintenance. Though, it would be wise to keep a cover over it so wind and rain don't wear the enclosure down as quickly. Although, you don't have a burner system to check, cleaning out the enclosure ever so often is a good idea.
You never know what kind of things may end up in there after a storm, so clearing out any excess junk before you start burning may prevent all sorts of foul smells from lingering in your backyard.
Shipping may seem like a simple task, and it is, though there are a few important things to note before you receive your package.
Small wood-burning fire pits with separate screens, fire bowls, or multi-piece fire rings will often ship via small parcel posts. The larger, heavier steel and cast iron bowls will ship LTL freight.
Replacement parts for gas fire pits will generally ship by parcel post if the diameter is less than 30 inches. Longer parts such as linear burners may require LTL freight.
Complete fire tables, ready to finish models, and bulky fire features will all ship via LTL freight.
Parcel shipments will not call ahead to make an appointment for delivery. They are also delivered without requiring a signature. As the customer, you are responsible for monitoring the shipping tracking provided by the carrier. As soon as you get the package, inspect it to make sure all parts were included and arrived in tact.
Take pictures if something is damaged or missing and report it to Efireplacestore immediately so we can file a claim to the carrier on your behalf.
Anything that comes via LTL freight needs to be received with the utmost caution. Do not allow the driver to push you into signing the delivery receipt without checking the product for damages first. You do have the right to refuse the shipment if it is damaged. Though, you will need to note the damages on the delivery receipt, sign it and take a picture of it for your records.
If there is no record of your refusing or noting damages done by the carrier, it will be very hard to fight a claim with them and receive a refund or exchange.
Well, that is not all there is to know about fire pits, though, that is all we will share with you for now. There are many other articles on our website that go in-depth on the specifics of each type of fire pit like: fire pit inserts, gas fire pits, wood fire pits, and fire pit tables. To see a list of our categories and find articles related to each one, our fire pit home page will be a great resource for you to have.
If you should have any questions, and we expect you will, please reach out to us at 800.203.1642 or email us by clicking this link.