Fire pits are growing in popularity and can make a great addition to your home. An outdoor fire pit or fireplace is great for gatherings and creates a centerpiece feature.
There’s something about open flames that mesmerizes us. Just sitting and watching the flames is relaxing and soothing. And the heat is a welcome addition to the cool seasons. Maybe it’s a throwback to the residual caveman in all of us that creates the feeling of security and peace that you get from sitting in front of an open fire.
Let’s look at some of the features of the fire pits out there and see which ones are important to you.
Choose a size that fits your location and use. Small fire pits are easiest to move, and some are even portable. Many fold up and have carrying cases which is great if you want to take it to a friends house or the beach. They are also often the least expensive. Small fire pits by necessity have small fires which is great if you don’t want to overheat a small area in mild weather, but troublesome if you have a large area.
Medium fire pits are the most popular size. Most are still reasonably priced and can hold enough wood for a decent fire. Medium units are in the 3-foot range or so and will hold several standard fireplace logs. You can choose to build a small or large fire depending on your needs.
Whatever size you choose, look for ones designed for easy cleaning. Ash can build up fast, and most of us aren’t hefty enough to easily pick any but the smallest ones up and dump them out. And that can be a messy job. Select one that cleans easily.
Large fire pits will hold more wood, burn larger fires, and heat more area. They’re great if you have a large patio, but keep in mind that they can be a task to clean or stoke.
Note that purchased firewood is usually cut to 16” long. Use smaller pieces or split firewood in all but the very largest of fires. Smaller wood has more surface area and flame surface. Split wood is often easiest to light. Don’t overload your pit; it’s best to keep it away from the sides for air circulation.
Fire pit size is important for several reasons, choose your fire pit to fit your space. It’s obvious that a small patio needs a small fire pit, and a large patio can use a larger one. What isn’t as obvious is that if you have a wood fire pit, large fires need a lot of work. Wood is heavy, and it needs dry storage space. And big fires can take quite a while to get going.
Firewood should be dry for easiest burning. Green, wet wood still has a lot of moisture and tends to be tough to light, plus it hisses and produces a lot of steam. Dry wood will feel lighter, and there should be some noticeable cracking on the ends.
Don’t burn treated wood. Burning paint or preservatives may give off fumes and odors that can be smelly and unhealthy.
What to Look for in a Fire Pit
Number 1 is safety. The flames need to stay inside the fire pit. Look for the UL symbol; UL is a testing lab that verifies that the fire pits meet certain standards. There’s always a risk with an open fire, but your goal is to minimize it.
Next, you have to decide what type of fuel you’re going to burn in your fireplace. Some people like wood with its crackles and pops along with the smell of smoke. Others like the ability to turn on the gas knob and have an instant flame.
Low-Cost Basic Wood Fire Pit
AmazonBasics 26-Inch Portable Folding Fire Pit
The name says it; this is a lightweight basic fire pit. It folds up and packs into a storage bag when you’re not using it, then goes together again without tools. The construction is painted steel, and it comes with a wood grate to hold the firewood, a cooking grate if you want to use it as a BBQ, and a firescreen to let the heat out but keep the ashes in.
With a 26 inch diameter at its widest point, this pit is built for a small fire with small pieces of wood.
Lightweight construction is a plus if you want low cost and portability, but a negative if you want longevity. The AmazonBasics 26-Inch Portable Folding Fire Pit is listed as Amazon’s best selling fire pit.
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Low-Cost Basic Propane Fire Pit
Like our Amazon Basics Wood Fire Pit above, this is a small size, basic model. It is small and portable, yet still puts out a lot of heat, up to 58,000 BTUs. The burner is stainless steel for long life, and the body is powder-coated steel. Propane burns clean, so there’s no ash to clean up, and without the corrosive ash, it should last a lot longer than a wood pit.
The Outland Fire Bowl 823 is only 19 inches in diameter which makes it easy to pack away or take with you. Keep in mind that it needs propane and used a 20-pound tank (about 5 gallons) which limits its portability. Of course, a wood fire pit needs wood, and a propane tank is a lot cleaner than a stack of firewood.
Gas appliances need approval, and this one is CSA rated for safety. They claim that because of its design, its safe to use during most campfire bans.
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Decorative Mid-Sized Fire Pit
This one looks more like a piece of furniture than its two cousins listed above. It’s still portable, and at 14 pounds, it is easy to store and carry.
The fire bowl itself is 30 inches of steel, still a small and easy to fire size, yet big enough to heat a medium patio. The bowl is surrounded by a rubbed bronze finish. It is a very attractive package.
A dome-shaped spark guard is included for safety, along with a fire grate and a fire tool. The built-in ash catcher makes clean-up easy.
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Affordable Large Size Fire Pit
At 40 inches diameter, this fire pit is big enough to heat most patios and provide lots of fire-side seating. The construction is woven steel covered with high-temperature stove paint. Everything keeps clean, and the ashes empty easily with a solid bowl insert. A spark screen dome and poker tool are included.
This fire pit is big enough to take regularly sized fireplace logs which put out a lot of heat. And the design makes tending your fire substantially the same as a fireplace.
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