Fire pits are seen as a trendy addition to any outdoor space (we have two), but are they really a good idea, and do you really need one?
Investing in a fixed or portable fire pit is a great idea. Not only do they create a focal point for your outdoor space, but they also keep you warm, double as a grill, and keep mosquitoes away. Realtors say they also add value to your home, so buying a fire pit is a good choice on many levels.
Let’s dive down into the subject of fire pits in more detail, and discover more about them so you can make an informed buying decision should you decide to invest in one…
Is It Worth Getting a Fire Pit?
We’d say a big “Yes!” to this question, as we think a fire pit is really worth getting. A fire pit forms a lovely focal point for your outdoor space, and helps you use your yard in comfort all year round.
You don’t even need to spend much, as you can easily pick up a simple bowl design in a hardware store, or even make your own.
If you love gathering outside with friends, enjoying food and chat, possibly over some food and a beer or two, then a fire pit is definitely a life-enhancing feature.
Why Are Fire Pits Bad? (Are They Dangerous?)
Like anything that involves heat, there can be risks involved with having a fire pit; however, most of these are easily mitigated.
The main thing is to choose a safe site for your fire pit. This should be a minimum of 10 feet away from any structures (including your home) and on a nice, level surface. Wood-burning fire pits need a heat-proof surface to stand on (and definitely shouldn’t be on your wooden deck).
Natural gas and propane burning fires can be safer, as they don’t get as hot or send out sparks. However, you will need to keep checking that the gas is flowing safely, and if you have a natural gas fire pit, that everything is correctly installed. Wet lava rocks can explode (check out our earlier article about propane fire pit safety) so you’ll need ways of ensuring they’re kept dry.
And then of course, don’t forget general fire safety: make sure kids and pets aren’t within a certain distance, watch out for wind direction and nearby trees, and never leave a fire pit (of any fuel source) unattended.
Do Fire Pits Add Value to a Home?
Apparently, according to realtors, they do. Homeowners can see a return on investment of up to 80% on their new fixed fire pit. A well-designed and attractive fire pit also has great appeal to potential purchasers – it’s a real lifestyle feature.
If you don’t want to spend much on a fire pit, you can always build your own. You can get a surprisingly stylish result from a DIY fire pit. There are lots of films on YouTube showing you how to make fire pits, from poured concrete wood-fired designs to propane gas-powered tables. We liked this short film from Home Depot about how to build a fire pit, not least because you know where to buy all the parts!
Do Fire Pits Actually Keep You Warm?
This depends on what you mean by warm. If it’s “wearing a t-shirt outdoors in November”, then no, you won’t be warm enough. If it’s more of a “can we stay outside for longer in coats in November?” then yes, a fire pit will work for you.
Wood burning fire pits give off more heat than gentler gas-powered versions. If you live in a cold climate and want the fire pit to really work for you, go with wood.
Is a Chiminea Better Than a Fire Pit?
Again, this is subjective. Many people like the traditional look of a chiminea, and they are great to cook on. They also neatly funnel the smoke away through their chimney, and because they’re usually smaller, they use less wood.
However, they’re not as easy to gather around as a fire pit, and if you want a sleek and modern look, this is easier to achieve with a pit.
However, thanks to its smaller and enclosed firebox, a chiminea can be a bit safer than a fire pit. Read our article about which is safer, a chiminea or a fire pit, to find out more.
Does a Fire Pit Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Nothing spoils a lovely evening like the arrival of a battalion of bugs. Mosquitos are the least desirable guests at your barbecue; however, the smoke from a wood-burning fire pit can help to deter them.
You can make the fire even less palatable to mosquitos by burning herbs such as citronella, sage, mint, catnip, lavender, and rosemary on the flames. Find out more about how these can help to keep the mozzies away in our article about fire pits and mosquitos.
Does this apply to gas-powered editions? Sadly, no. If you have a propane or natural gas firebox, you’ll need to stick with the citronella candles and bug repellent spray.
Why Are Some Fire Pits So Expensive?
As with everything we purchase, the upscale versions are going to cost us more. So, if you want a sleek, modern fire pit that’s sunk into a marble table, it’s going to cost more than a simple steel bowl you found in the DIY store.
The pit’s features as well as the materials affect the price tag. So, if you want one that doubles as a grill, this will cost more than a basic model that’s for warmth only (although arguably, you’ve asked yourself the cost of a separate barbecue…).
If you need any landscaping, this will also put up the costs, as you’ll need to hire in the pros for the construction work. A permanent structure will cost more than a simple, portable one (unless you’re building it yourself, of course).
What Kind of Fire Pit Should I Get?
As well as cost and looks, the real choice to be made at the start is fuel type. Wood is a popular choice and gives you that romantic, campfire feel. However, if you live in a smokeless zone, you may not be allowed a wood burner in your yard. It’s also not a good idea if you live near trees or have a lot of wooden decking.
Natural gas is ideal if you have a gas line to your property. You’ll need to pay to have the line installed to your pit, but after that, fuel is (relatively) inexpensive. But, your fire pit is now fixed and you won’t be able to relocate it.
A propane gas fire is the smoke-free option if you don’t have gas in your home. Provided you have a reliable local supplier of gas canisters, you should be fine. Unlike natural gas, a propane pit can be moved. It’s not always the prettiest option unless you choose a design that incorporates the canisters.
Do Fire Pits Cause a Lot of Smoke?
Not necessarily; and if your fire pit is smoking, it’s generally to do with the type of wood you’re burning.
Make sure your wood is dry and seasoned. Damp or green wood results in an unpleasantly smokey burn. Store your wood well, make sure it’s seasoned, and keep your fire pit clean and free from debris.
Is Wood Smoke Worse Than Cigarette Smoke?
It’s now believed that wood smoke is worse for our lungs than cigarette smoke. Wood smoke can be 12 times as carcinogenic as cigarettes and stays in the body 40 times longer. So, it’s really important to make sure that the wood isn’t smoking when you sit around the fire.
Another option is to invest in a smoke-free fire pit. We wrote an article on whether smokeless firepits actually work or not here.
Summary: Pros and Cons of Fire Pits
Still not sure if you want a fire pit? We’ve summed up the pros and cons for you:
Fire pits: pros
- Focal point for your outdoor space
- Extends your outdoor season by keeping you warm
- Makes a great, year-round sociable space
- Looks great – a real romantic feature
- Adds value to your property
- Can be built cheaply
- Can double as a grill
- A wood burning fire keeps the mosquitos away
Fire pits: cons
- Can be costly to buy and set up
- Need to buy fuel, and store it in the case of propane and logs
- Potential smoke, sparks and gas risks
- Don’t keep you as warm as some other types of patio heater
Now it’s over to you to make the final choice on what fire pit to invest in. 🙂