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backyard firepit

What You Need to Know About Backyard Fire Pits Before Installing One

May 24, 2020 by Liz Brumer
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There’s something primal and relaxing about the warm glow of a fire. Installing a fire pit can be a wonderful addition to your backyard and a great spot for gathering with family and friends or for enjoying the beautiful weather on a summer or fall night. But there are a few things to consider before installing one. If you're thinking of getting a backyard fire pit, here’s what you need to know before installing one.

What is a backyard fire pit?

A backyard fire pit is a dedicated area for maintaining a fire. A common misconception -- largely due to the name -- is that a fire pit is an actual pit in the ground. In most cases, it's a raised structure used to help to improve airflow and reduce the likelihood of flooding or having the fire creep out of the pit.

Fire pits can be round, square, oblong, or another shape, and are made from various materials, including stone, concrete, metal, or even tile. They can range in extravagance and cost anywhere between $300–$1,400 for a professionally installed fire pit.

Should you choose gas or wood?

One of the biggest factors when installing a backyard fire pit is if you want it to be gas or wood-burning. Wood-burning is typically on the lower end in terms of cost and is easier to install since premade versions can be purchased from a wide selection of retailers and installed on your own. But there is more to consider than just the cost when comparing a wood-burning versus gas fire pit. While gas can be more expensive to install and will require a professional, it may be the better option because of the ambiance, location, or ease it provides.

Wood Gas
Sound Realistic crackle No sounds
Smell The pleasant smell of smoke (but it can also sting your eyes) No smoke to bother you but typically has a slight gas odor
Supply Need to source & store wood Gas maintained by a company
Time Significant; must build & kindle, then feed the fire to maintain it Just turn it on for instant heat with no maintenance
Upkeep Clean ashes regularly Minimal, if any, maintenance
Safety Embers can cause a fire hazard Potential for gas leaks

Where should you locate it?

The location of a backyard fire pit is an important decision that shouldn’t be overlooked. Choose a spot in your backyard that's a safe distance from your home. Fire safety codes can vary by the municipality, but it is generally recommended to be 10–20 feet away from any flammable structure, like your house, the fence, trees, or shrubs.

If you choose to locate the fire pit under a gazebo or trees, make sure that the overhang is high above the fire pit and there's good airflow, not only for the potential risk of catching the structure on fire but also so that smoke doesn't hang in the air around you while you are trying to enjoy your evening.

Your fire pit should be on a level, non-flammable surface so that any embers that fly off don't land on leaf litter, dry grass, or mulch. It should also be located near a water source so that you can quickly and easily turn on a hose if any errant embers do escape.

Backyard fire pits in summary

Fire pits can be a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors, warm up on a chilly evening, and gather with a group of friends. They can be a great addition to your home, but before you break out the blankets and s'more roasting sticks, check the local weather to make sure there are no burn restrictions or high-wind advisories that could impact your ability to safely enjoy the fire. If you do decide to install a fire pit, choose the best option for your home and renovation budget, and if gas is the way to go, make sure to have it professionally installed according to your local fire safety code.

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