How To Choose the Best Fire Pit – All Your Questions Answered!

fire pit

Choosing the Best Fire Pit

Fire pits are a great way to warm up a backyard when you are socializing with your friends and family. Whether you have one next to your pool, in the middle of a lawn or on a purpose-built paved area, a fire pit looks great and can really add some value and character to your property.

Despite what the name suggests, you don’t need to dig a hole to create a one. There are plenty of freestanding commercial types available that you can easily set up to get the fun started. So read on to get the inside running on how to make the best choice when it comes to getting your new fire pit!

What is a fire pit?

A fire pit is essentially a round or square bowl-shaped container in which fuel is burned to create radiant heat. The heat is given off by the flames and coals within the pit, and also from the heated up container. You can also add a grill to many models if you want to do some barbecuing.

How much does a fire pit cost?

Like other appliances, fire pits have a wide price range. They start at about $85 for a basic steel lattice stars and moon’ model that burns wood. Prices then go through to around $600 for a high quality, propane ‘table-style’ pit such as the Outland Living Series 401 – and beyond. The sky is the limit really, but the point is you can get fire pit to suit almost any budget. More details on the types of fire pits you can get are given below.

What types of fire pit are there?

There is a huge range of firepits on the market, built from many different materials and in many different shapes and sizes. Below is an overview of what options are available.

Which fire pit is the best?

There is no one material that is better than all others for fire pits. The type of fire pit you choose will depend on your budget, what kind of ‘look’ you want, and the type of fuel you want to use. Another important decision to make is whether you want your fire pit to be portable, or to keep it in a permanent location.

Cast iron fire pit

Cast iron firepits are made of a very durable and hard-wearing metal that slowly develops a light surface rust, so that the colour changes from grey to a light reddish brown. The final colour is similar to terracotta pots. This colour change is completely natural and will not compromise the strength or life of your fire pit.

Cast iron fire pit bowls typically sit on a fire pit stand so that they are at an ideal height and won’t tip over. They are also very solid, with the heavy duty models and large fire pits typically weighing in at around 50 – 100 pounds (20 -50kg), depending on their size. So they are portable, but the bigger models may require two people to move them around.

You can also get lighter cast-iron pits, which are easier to relocate but will not be as long-lasting as some of the sturdier types. However, if you decide on a lighter model, you can easily move it under cover when it is not in use. This will greatly extend its life.

Some models have built-in legs, which can also be more convenient.

Click here to see a range of cast iron firepits

Corten steel fire pit

These fire pits are made from a high strength steel alloy which is designed to gradually form a light rust on its surface. This stops further corrosion and means it doesn’t have to be painted.

Corten steel, sometimes written as ‘cor-ten’ steel is extremely durable and is great for outdoor firepits if you like the natural, rustic look.

You will probably have seen large steel corten sculptures in city parks – most of these are made from corten steel because they need to last for decades – or even longer.

If you decide to go with a corten firepit, make sure it isn’t at the really lightweight end of the market, with very thin steel. Even though corten is inherently strong, it still needs to have a reasonable thickness to last well.

30″ Round Cor-Ten Steel Glass Media/Lava Rock Firepit with Propane Gas Fire Ring

Stainless Steel Fire Pits

If you want a low maintenance firepit with a more ‘metallic’ look, then a stainless steel fire pit is a good option. Stainless steel is inherently corrosion-resistant because of its composition. Make sure any pit you are considering is made from ‘304 stainless steel’ because this is the most durable grade.

The walls and base will also need to be several millimetres thick for extra strength and longer life. Make sure the walls as well as the base are of sufficient thickness.

Two further advantages of stainless steel is that it is easy to clean and will not stain any underlying surface.

Some models come with a polished, mirror-like surface which looks beautiful in the right setting.

If you are buying one with a stainless grill or mesh, it is a good idea to keep it under cover when not in use, because the finer-grade metal in these will deteriorate faster if left in the rain.

Stainless steel firepit cost: Typically in the range $250 – $500, and upwards for top of the range models.

Here is a nice example, which includes a durable fire pit carry case/cover: Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit with Stand

Copper fire pit

Copper fire pits have that beautiful, ‘high-end’ look that is perfect if you want a bit of luxury. And as they age, their colour changes and they seem to become even more attractive. Some even have a hand-hammered surface to lend an artisan touch to their styling.

A quality copper fire pit bowl should be of medium to heavy gauge, and will ideally have sturdy steel legs to make sure it remains safely in one place.

If a delicate, stylish look is what you’re after, then the Catalina Creations AD112 30” Solid Copper Fire Pit, 30 inch looks great and has good customer reviews. It comes with a handy fire screen. As mentioned before, these can rust out much faster than the bowl, so make sure you cover it up when not in use.

The Landmann USA 28905 Super Sky Fire Pit has incut stars and moons to perfectly complement your outdoor dining on a starry night! It also comes with a mesh cover to prevent embers escaping and improve safety.

Concrete Fire Pit

Concrete firepits and modern concrete fire pit tables offer a stylish alternative to their metal cousins. They are typically made from lightweight fibre or glass-reinforced concrete that is specially formulated to prevent cracking or spalling (i.e. bits of concrete breaking off).

Their lightweight construction also means that it is possible to move them around. They come in all shapes and sizes – rectangular, cubes or bowls are all possible with fire pits made from concrete.

Concrete Fire Pit

They usually come with an inner lining bowl and mesh guard if you have one that burns wood. But if fire wood isn’t your thing, then you can choose a model that burns either propane, natural gas or ethanol. These offer a cleaner burn, with no need to clean up coals or worry about smoke. An added benefit of contemporary outdoor fire pits is that you just switch them on and off, and don’t have to worry about the coals dying down before you leave the fire pit unattended.

The most attractive feature of concrete firepits is their modern, ‘cutting edge’ appearance, which will suit the décor of most contemporary homes.

Brick fire pit

Brick firepits are popular for those who like a bit of DIY. If you want to build one, you will need to use special bricks that can withstand a lot of heat. These are known as ‘firebricks’ or ‘refractory bricks’. Although they are more expensive than ordinary bricks, don’t be tempted to cut costs because ordinary bricks will easily crack and break at high temperatures.

An alternative is to buy an off-the-shelf brick fire pit kit that is made of good quality materials and is all ready to be put together.

Click here for fire bricks (Fire Brick Kit of 6 replacements for stoves, fire pits and pizza ovens)

Folding fire pit

If you like the idea of taking your new toy to the beach, or around to a friend’s place, then a portable outdoor fire pit is a really useful option. Of course they are not quite as solid as a ‘fixed’ fire pit, but they offer great flexibility in terms of transport and storage. And they are a lot cheaper. There are some good collapsible fire pit models in the $70 – $100 range, and some foldable fire pits are even below $50.

I like the idea of the UCO Flatpack Portable Stainless Steel Grill and Fire Pit because, as the name suggests, it can be folded up and put into a slim carry bag. For the same reason it will take up much less space when you store it away at home. And it only weighs just over 3 lbs, making it very easy to carry.

Another option is the Campfire Defender Protect Preserve Pop-Up Fire Pit, weighing in at only 8 1lbs. It has been specially designed for use in forested areas and contains a heat shield so that you don’t burn the ground underneath.

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Fire pit table

Firepit tables are a really handy combination of….yes, you guessed it…fire pit and table.  In most contemporary backyard settings you will want both, so why not combine the two ? That way you can put your snacks and drinks right where you need them, in a central location where everyone can gather around, keep warm, and also well-fed and watered. Combining the two is also a great space-saver.

For safety and convenience, most round fire pit tables and square fire pit tables are gas-powered. This enables you to easily control the flame size and heat output without affecting what you put on your table.

The ‘table’ component is typically the outer edge of the firepit. You can get gas fire pit tables with varying edge widths, depending on what you need. The width range is usually ~ 6 inches to 12 inches or so. Not sufficient for a meal, but perfect for finger food and drinks.

Are firepit tables safe?

Fire pit tables are perfectly safe if you buy a stable, solid model and use it wisely. Be careful not to put flammable items next to the fire; e.g. paper serviettes or plates), and adjust the flame to suit your purposes. On windy days you will need to be extra careful. In general, save the ‘big heat’ settings until you are settling back after your meal. Of course with some types the flames are contained within the pit, so these may be worth considering. 

Choosing the best location for your firepit

Where to build a firepit?

The most important thing with firepits is to make sure that they are located in a safe place. to Protecting your family, friends and neighbors from sparks and smoke is really important. Here are some tips to follow:

Firstly, check with your local authority to make sure they allow backyard fire pits, and to see if they have any special rules or requirements you need to meet.

Secondly, choose a sheltered spot that is at least 10 feet (3.5 meters) from any building or flammable material. In general, the further the better. Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose handy whenever you are using the pit, just in case. It is always good to make sure you minimize smoke, for the health of your guests and neighbors. The last thing you want is to create a neighborhood dispute because of poor site selection or the use of wet firewood.

Bear in mind that if the pit is placed over grass, you will eventually end up with a patch of bare soil and you may face safety problems with stray sparks. Use pavers to create a solid base – around one meter by one meter will suit most sizes.

Thirdly, don’t put it under a tree, wooden structure or next to a wooden fence

Finally, once you have your fire pit in place and are ready to use it, check the weather forecast to minimize the risk of spark fires and smoke blowing on to the neighbors’ washing!

What to set firepit on?

Bear in mind that if the pit is placed over grass, you will eventually end up with a patch of bare soil and you may face safety problems with stray sparks. One option is to use pavers to create a solid base; around one meter by one-meter square will suit most sizes – or buy a handy fire pit pad to protect the ground.

Can I use a firepit on a wooden deck?

While it is possible to put a fire pit on a wooden deck, it should be done very carefully, with safety as the main consideration. As a minimum you will need a fire pit pad on the decking surface to protect it from heat and any spilled grease. Fire pit pads typically cost between $50 and $200, depending on the size and style you require.

Gas fire pits would be best for a deck because there is less risk from escaping sparks. As mentioned before, always keep a fire extinguisher nearby if you are using a deck fire pit. k

Will a firepit crack concrete?

Fire pits will get very hot. If there is only a small gap (say less than a foot) between the concrete and bottom of your free-standing firepit, you may eventually get some cracking. So if your portable fire pit is to be used on a concrete area, buy a few pavers and place them directly underneath. These will act as an insulating layer and should prevent any damage from occurring. Or you can buy one of the fire pit pads mentioned in the previous section.