One of the most common questions we discuss during patio consultations is whether or not a client should include a built-in fire feature. Most of our clients know that they want some sort of fire feature and we work hard to make sure it fits just right into the layout and flow of their patio, as well as into their budget.
I remember last spring, I was working with a family on a patio design. One non-negotiable for them was the fire pit. They ended up adding about 20% to what they originally intended to invest, in order to make sure the fire pit and surrounding area was just right. I could tell a special excitement from the entire family, including the 11 and 15 year old girls, who even listened into some of our conversations as we finalized the plans and scheduled the installation. Their old patio was so small that in order to avoid stepping off of it, you had to shimmy sideways around people seated in chairs around the table. However, they had bought a little moveable fire pit and used it so frequently that it fell apart and the rust ate a hole in the bottom after only a year. They knew they wanted a permanent fire pit.
Their excitement continued to build as the installation wrapped up on a Friday afternoon, and when we returned on Monday to wrap up just a few final details, they told our team they had used the fire pit every night since we finished it! When I ran into them about 6 months later, the mom told me that they had enjoyed some really great memories with their teen girls around the fire pit over the course of the summer. That is the type of story that gives great purpose to the work our team does, and we love to hear those stories!
But is a built-in fire pit the right choice for your patio? Or is a fireplace a better option? Here are the basic differences, so that you can decide for yourself. First of all, let’s start with definitions. A fire pit is a pit that is open on the top that provides a place for you to build a fire. They can be all sorts of shapes and sizes – round, square, rectangular, and anywhere from 2’ to 6’ inside diameter. Generally, a fire pit is built such that you can sit all the way around it to accommodate larger crowds. Fire pits can be wood burning, or can be built with a burner in them (think of the burner on a gas grill, except in whatever shape the pit is) that burns natural gas or liquid propane. They are typically constructed with the same materials that are being used for walls or steps of the patio, so that the look is cohesive; however, sometimes, natural materials such as rocks or natural stone are used. With so many variables, prices can widely vary, but generally speaking, a wood-burning fire pit is likely going to be in the $500-$1500 range, and a gas fire pit is generally going to be in the $2500-$4000 range, depending on if/how gas has to be ran to the location.
A fireplace, on the other hand, refers to an upright, generally free-standing structure with a fire box that looks essentially the same as an indoor fireplace, as well as a chimney. Sizes can vary, which is usually driven by the size of the firebox, with sizes ranging from 30”-42”, giving a general size range of 4’-6’ wide and 8’-12’ tall. Materials are generally one of two types: pavers/engineered block or natural/veneer stone. Fireplaces can be built with a hearth, either at ground level, or higher in order to act as a seat or footrest, and sometimes with areas on the sides that are open cavities to act as wood storage boxes. Fireplaces can also be wood burning or gas, and a general price range for a basic fireplace is $8000-$12000.
With a basic understanding of options and prices, what are the functional and aesthetic pros and cons? Here are my general thoughts and advice when I am working with someone who is struggling with whether they want a fire pit, fireplace, or perhaps a moveable, non-permanent pit.
Built-in Fire pit: Pros – inexpensive, infinite options for shape, size, and placement, long lasting, can place a grate on top of it for grilling
Cons – wood burning pits need to be kept farther away from houses and structures, such as wood pergolas, smoke blows and swirls so you will smell like campfire (unless you do a gas burner)
Built-in Fireplace: Pros – create a stunning focal point for outdoor living, smoke goes up the chimney so it doesn’t get on your clothes, can be used in windier conditions, can be placed closer to wood structures
Cons – higher cost, block line of sight
Would you like to discuss incorporating a fire feature into a new outdoor living area? Do you need to add a fire pit or fireplace to an existing patio? Let us know how we can help!
The ProScape team designs and installs paver patios and outdoor living environments all throughout Columbus and central Ohio, including Delaware, Franklin, Marion, Union, and Morrow counties (and beyond!). If you’re ready to talk, fill out the form below.