Outdoor Fire Pit vs Fireplace: Which One Should I Install?

outdoor fire pit or fireplace

If you are debating whether an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit is a better investment for your next home improvement project, you are not alone.

With the increasing popularity of outdoor kitchens and other exterior living areas that expand a home’s usable space, it makes sense that more and more homeowners are interested in installing features that can provide warmth and create a particular ambiance for their families or guests to enjoy.

As the trend towards spending more time living outdoors continues to grow, we will continue to see an expanding selection of unique fire pits, fireplaces and outdoor kitchen options becoming available.

Fortunately, this also means that more options will be available for homeowners that need to work within a tight budget, since the expanding range includes everything from portable fire pits that you can pick up at a local home and garden store for less than $50.00 to professionally installed, intricately designed fireplaces costing well over $10,000.00.

Hopefully this will assuage any fears you may have that you might not be able to afford to add this outdoor heating element to your landscape design.

You can afford to add a fire pit of some sort to your yard – even if it is a simple ring of river rocks that you place around a hole you dig and fit with concrete or an inexpensive fire ring.

Of course, this type of pit is not going to add the same level of aesthetic appeal and might not do much to increase the value of your home, but – nonetheless – a pit of some sort is possible on any budget.

And if your main goal is to have a place where you can occasionally roast a hot dog with your kid or swap stories with your buddies after the big game, that might be all you need.

If your main goal is to enhance the visual appeal of your home and potentially increase the value of your home in case of a future sale, then you may want to consider a higher-end option that may cost more to install but will be well worth the investment.

Fire pit vs. Fireplace

Things to Consider Before Installing a Backyard Fire Pit

Fire features can add a very distinct beauty to your backyard and can provide a cozy place for you to entertain guests or spend time with your family.

In order to make sure your pit or fireplace is a comfortable, safe place for you to hang out with your friends, family members and pets, there are a few things you should consider before you hire a professional to install one for you or take on the DIY home improvement project of installing one yourself.

Wind Conditions —

Check out the wind conditions in your backyard to make sure you will not have to deal with burning embers ending up on your guests or starting an unwanted fire outside of the pit.

If your yard is prone to heavy winds, consider adding a wind break of some sort, such as a fence, wall, trees or shrubs at a safe distance from where you intend to install your pit.

Emergency Supplies —

You will need to have on hand a quick way to put out your fire when you are ready to turn in for the night or if it gets out of control.

Keep sand and a shovel nearby, and make sure you know where the nearest water source is located.

You will also need to make sure you have a way to quickly transport the water from the source to the pit, such as with a water hose.

It is also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand, which you really should have available whether you have a fire feature or not, since household fires can occur from many sources.

Local Laws —

Check with your local governing body to make sure there are no restrictions or bans that will influence whether or not you can have a fire pit and where it can be located.

For example, some cities might enforce restrictions about how far you must place the pit from structures, such as buildings and fences.

Some municipalities may also regulate the maximum size allowed for backyard pits or may require a permit for backyard fires.

You may also need a permit to build your pit.

Yard Debris —

Keeping your yard free of debris is an important part of making sure your yard is safe for general use, but it is even more important when you plan to enjoy fires in your backyard.

A single wayward ember can be very dangerous, particularly if there is burnable debris nearby.

Other Landscaping Features —

Regardless of the regulations placed on pits by your local governing body, you should pay close attention to where you place your pit in regards to other landscaping features in your yard.

You will want to make sure there are no low-hanging branches, patio curtains, umbrellas or other flammable objects in the vicinity of your pit.

To ensure that you have a good fire break between your pit and other landscaping features, you should consider installing a patio made from rocks, paving stones or other non-flammable materials around your pit.

This will also provide a nice setting for benches, chairs or other seating options you would like to use for you and your guests when enjoying a backyard fire.

Outdoor fireplaces and fire-pits

Reasons to Add a Fire Pit or Fireplace to Your Yard or Patio

If you are trying to decide between a patio fireplace or a pit, it might make your decision easier if you consider the reasons for adding one or both to your landscape design.

For example, both options can provide heat during colder months and extend your outdoor entertaining options later into the winter or, in some areas, this can be conducive to year-round outdoor living.

Both options also provide an easy way to roast hot dogs or marshmallows with your family or, depending on the style you choose, either can be used for more extensive outdoor cooking with the addition of cooking grates or other accessories.

In fact, some fire pits can double as your outdoor barbecue for all of your grilling needs, but it is not quite as convenient as cooking on a conventional grill that allows for more versatility for serious grillers.

You can also use your fire feature as the focal point of your patio or yard, depending on the design of that particular feature and how it fits into the rest of your landscaping.

Since the number of fireplaces in your home is something an appraiser looks at when determining your home’s value, a well-designed, permanent fire feature can potentially add value to your home.

This is particularly true in situations where it is considered a luxury feature.

Regardless of how it affects the official value placed on your home, it will increase the perceived value of your property and can result in a higher selling price, since this is the type of feature that higher-end homebuyers seek out.

When properly installed and well designed, fireplaces and permanent fire pits significantly increase the visual appeal of your home and can make your home notably more attractive to potential buyers.

Outdoor Fireplace

Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Options to Consider

Gas, propane, electric, wood-burning or gel are just a few of the options you need to consider when selecting the type of fire feature that is right for you.

Which type is best for your particular situation will depend on the size of your yard or patio, whether or not you want to use it for cooking, whether or not you want it to function as a heat source and what your budget will allow.

Portable Fire Features —

There is a wide variety of portable options available for both fireplaces and fire pits.

This is a good option for homeowners on a tight budget, those who want the ability to move this feature to different locations in their yard depending on their needs, those who want the option of storing it in a garage or garden shed when not in use, and those who think they might want to take it with them when they go camping or move to a new home.

Portable pits and fireplaces can be used much like permanent options, but they will not increase the value of your home and will not have the same wow factor as part of your overall landscaping.

These options tend to be much smaller and easier to design around, so they are also good options for people with small backyards or who want to create a small seating area for entertaining.

If you are working within a tight landscaping budget, portable options can be ordered online, or purchased at a local garden center or home improvement center, for anywhere from around $40.00 to a few hundred dollars.

Among portable fire feature options, you will find fire bowls, fire pits, small fireplaces, chimeneas and fire rings.

Patio tables with a fire bowl in the center would also fit into this category.

What to install: Fire Pit or Fireplace

Permanent Fire Features —

Permanent fire features can range from simple, DIY fire pits made from locally gathered river rocks or pavers to elaborate fireplaces that are professionally designed with an expansive hearth or sitting walls.

It can be a single feature surrounded by comfortable seating in the middle of your yard or built in as a part of your patio design.

While enlisting the help of professionals is the best way to ensure a satisfactory finished product that will add to your home’s visual appeal and significantly enhance your outdoor living space, outdoor fireplace kits are also available.

These kits are relatively easy to install, if you are a handy sort, and come with instructions, pre-cut materials, masonry adhesive and everything you need to create a beautiful, functional feature in your yard.

This is a fantastic DIY home improvement project for people who enjoy building things or who have some basic masonry skills.

Permanent fire features can drastically change the entire look of your yard or patio and are the best option if part of your goal is to increase the value of your home.

Permanent options can also be the safer choice if you have children or animals that may wander too close to or knock over a portable pit or chimenea.

backyard fireplace

Final Thoughts on Fireplaces and Fire Pits

A fire pit made from river rocks or paving stones might be the best choice for homeowners who mostly want a simple fire feature where they can roast marshmallows with their partner or kids, or enjoy a drink while stargazing.

There is a wider variety of inexpensive options available in the category of fire pits, as compared to fireplaces, which also makes this a more viable option for many people.

If you want a place where multiple guests can have a conversation with everyone facing each other, sitting around a fire pit is the ideal situation for this.

While you can roast a hot dog or chat with friends in front of a patio fireplace, larger groups will find it more comfortable to circle around a pit than to huddle around the opening of a fireplace.

A fireplace, on the other hand, usually creates a different ambiance that can be more romantic, intimate or elegant for outdoor entertaining.

This is the option you want if your goal is to add a luxury feature to your patio or really impress your guests.

Of course, if the space in your yard and your budget allows, you can install both a fireplace and a fire pit.

Having both of these features is becoming more common, especially in higher-end homes, and can increase the value and visual appeal of your home even more.

This also gives you even more outdoor entertaining options and will truly make your backyard an inviting oasis to be enjoyed by you, your family and your guests.

Whether you choose to include a fire pit, a fireplace or both in your landscape design, you can certainly look forward to spending much more time outdoors enjoying your patio or yard any time of the year.

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