Wood Burning vs. Gas Outdoor Fire Pits

A fire pit is a popular addition to a backyard, and for good reason. Even in the Arizona desert, there’s nothing quite like sitting around a glowing fire on a cool evening. 

If you’re thinking of adding a fire pit or fireplace to your outdoor living space, you’ll have some logistics to work out. One of the biggest questions you’ll have to answer is whether you prefer a wood burning or gas outdoor fire pit.

Today, we’ll give a brief overview of each of these options, including some pros and cons you maybe haven’t considered before.

Wood burning

A wood burning fire is a true classic. There’s nothing quite like the homey, smoky aroma of burning wood. But as pleasant as a wood burning fire can be, it does come with some downsides, too. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of the wood burning option.

PROS

  • Burns hotter. Wood burning fires tend to give off more heat than gas-powered ones. Not only does this create a cozy outdoor atmosphere, but it also means that cooking over your fire will be much easier and quicker. 
  • Inexpensive. Comparatively speaking, wood burning fire pits are cheaper to install than their gas-powered counterparts. This is because they can basically be free standing pits that can be installed anywhere—no need to be able to run a gas line to the pit. 
  • Traditional feel. Let’s face it: a gas-powered fire pit is always going to feel different (that is, more modern) than a wood burning one. With wood, you get the smell, the crackle, and the look of a true fire. If you’re trying to create a rustic vibe in your backyard, this is definitely something you should consider.

CONS

  • You bring the fuel. A wood burning fire pit requires, you guessed it—wood. You’ll have to chop or buy firewood to feed your backyard fires. It’s a chore that isn’t always pleasant or convenient.
  • Smoke. As lovely as a “real” fire is, it certainly isn’t clean-burning. A wood burning fire is going to give off smoke, which is going to leave you, your clothes, and quite possibly, your house, smelling like a campfire. Additionally, the smoke from wood burning fires means these fires aren’t as environmentally-friendly.
  • Prep and cleanup. A wood burning fire pit is going to require more work both before and after you enjoy it. First, it’ll take time to start and build the fire, and you may have to wait for it to grow and heat up. Then, you’ll have to wait for the fire to die down once you’re done. Additionally, you’ll have to do regular cleanings—a messy, ashy job that is sure to become your least favorite chore.
  • Permits/permissions. Some cities or areas have a ban on wood-burning backyard fire pits. 

Gas

The increasingly popular choice for backyard fire pits, gas-powered fire pits and fireplaces have plenty of great qualities. That said, they’re not without their setbacks. Let’s check out their pros and cons as well.

PROS

  • Versatile. Gas fire pits can be placed virtually anywhere (as long as it’s safe and you can run a gas line there) and come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. From unique tabletop fires to sleek, modern pits, there are plenty of options to suit your taste and backyard aesthetic.
  • Convenient. Ready to enjoy your fire? Turn on the gas and push a button. For many gas fire pits or fireplaces, it’s that simple. And when you’re done, the fire turns off just as easily as it turns on. Plus, with zero cleanup or upkeep, gas options can often run for years without presenting any sort of hassle.
  • Clean-burning. No smoke is better for your clothes, your body, your home, and the environment. Gas burning fire pits don’t leave the smell of smoke lingering for days, and are more environmentally friendly. 

CONS

  • Fuel logistics. The ease of access to gas is excellent, especially if you can connect to an existing line. However, you do have to figure out how to run that gas line to your fire pit, which can be complicated. It also introduces the possibility of a dangerous gas leak, which is why it’s important that your fire pit be professionally installed. 
  • Installation. Installing a gas-powered fire pit or fireplace is going to take longer, and be more expensive, then a simple wood burning option. 
  • Less heat. Gas fire pits don’t produce as much heat, so if getting toasty is your goal, it’ll be harder to do with this option.

Both options for fire pits are appealing; it really comes down to your lifestyle and goals for your outdoor space. Make sure that you talk to a professional landscape designer before making your final decisions; they may have more insight on your area’s fire restrictions, as well as the best place to put your fire pit (which can affect what type of fuel you use). No matter what, a fire pit is going to be a fantastic addition to your backyard!

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