Options for Outdoor Fireplaces and Firepits

There are plenty of fun ways to add visual interest and useful function to your backyard, but by far, one of the most popular ways is including a fireplace or fire pit. 

But as with any design choice, adding a fire feature to your backyard requires more than a single decision. And with so many options available to homeowners, it might be a little overwhelming at first.

We’re here to help, with a quick overview of some of the basic decisions you’ll need to make when adding this update to your yard.

Pit or place?

One of the first decisions you’ll face is whether you want to build a fire pit or a fire place. What’s the difference?

A fire pit is what you might picture when you think of a campfire—something designed to have seating on every side. Fire pits can be permanent or moveable (more on that later).

A fireplace is typically a built-in, permanent solution, more like you might see inside a home. Most fireplaces are built for seating on one side only, though that will depend on your design.

If you choose a fire pit…

Permanent or temporary?

When it comes to fire pits, the biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether you want it to be a permanent fixture in your yard or more like a piece of furniture you can move at will.

Built-in, permanent firepits can be made into almost any size or shape in order to add to the function and design of your yard. Tile, stone, cement, or even stucco can be used to decorate the outside of the pit, while decorative rock or fire glass can be used in the actual burn area. Most homeowners choose to power these fire pits with gas. This will require professional design and installation to ensure your pit will serve you for years to come.

A freestanding fire pit, on the other hand, is something you can pick up at a home supply or design store. Make sure you check out fire tables while you’re there—another yard trend we’re seeing more of!) While higher end options may still require gas plumbing or a more “permanent” fuel source, many of them can be fueled with propane tanks or even wood. (Be sure you check your city/community laws before burning wood!) 

These temporary fire pits have an advantage in terms of flexibility and cost, but may not give you the custom look you want in your yard. Make sure you talk to a landscape design expert so you can end up with a fire pit you are truly happy with.

If you choose a fireplace…

Custom or prefab?

You’ll face a similar dilemma if you choose a fireplace. 

Do you want something custom built just for you? If so, the sky’s the limit in terms of design. Choose your shape, materials, and more in order to create your perfect, cozy outdoor space. Don’t forget—if you choose this option, you’ll probably want to design the area around the actual fireplace too, including mantle and backsplash. Those decisions can get overwhelming (and can add up in cost), but the results almost always pay off.

If you don’t need that level of customization, ask your landscape designer about prefab options. These fireplaces are prebuilt, so you will be limited in your options for exact size, shape, and materials, but you’ll save on cost and time for installation. Plus, your design team may be able to help you add smaller custom touches that make your fireplace look like it was built specifically for your yard. 

When it comes to adding a fire feature to your yard, there are plenty of options. Now that you know where to start, you are well on your way toward adding a beautiful and useful feature to your outdoor space!

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