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A Guide to Selecting the Best Fire Feature for YOU

A Guide to Selecting the Best Fire Feature for YOU

Story Highlights

Whether it's the romantic, glowing atmosphere or the warmth provided during colder seasons, fire features are one of the most popular additions to outdoor living spaces. When planning an outdoor living space, many homeowners wrestle with deciding which fire feature is best suited for their home and lifestyle. Is a fire pit or a fireplace the better fit for you? Should it be gas or wood burning?

If you're planning an outdoor living space, this guide will go through your options and help lead you to the fire feature that's best for you!

Getting Started...

Consider your property constraints

Before getting your heart set on a specific feature, make sure you don't have any property constraints from your HOA, building codes, and fire regulations.

Fire Pit Considerations

For example, fire pits are not allowed in neighborhoods where the HOAs ban open fires. Additionally, it is sometimes impossible to design fire pits into properties where building codes and fire regulations restrict homeowners from having an open fire within a certain number of feet of flammable structures (house, shed, fence, etc.).

See more photos of this lake-view patio

Fireplace Considerations

Similar building codes exist for wood-burning fireplaces that require chimney heights to go two feet beyond any roofline within a certain distance; though this doesn't restrict the feature, the cost of a tall wood-burning fireplace, like the one pictured, might push it outside of your budget.

See more photos of this unique deck space

If you have property Constraints...

Consider a Gas Feature

Because they are a controlled burn, without floating ashes and embers, gas fire features can be far more versatile with their locations than wood-burning counterparts. Gas features can be placed closer to the home, incorporated into other features (tables, fountains, and outdoor kitchens), and located underneath structures like pergolas and pavilions.

Price Matters

Factoring for budget

When homeowners cannot decide on a fire feature, budget is sometimes the deciding factor. While the price of each feature can vary significantly depending on the craftsmanship and design (size, shape, materials, etc.), an outdoor fireplace is always the more expensive feature.

Fire Pits

When built by a reputable contractor, you should expect to spend between $1,500-$6,500 for a fire pit.

See more photos of this project

Outdoor Fireplaces

When built by a reputable contractor, you should expect to spend between $15,000 - $25,000 for an outdoor fireplace. 

See more photos of this fireplace patio

The added costs of...

Gas Features

If you’re considering a gas feature, you’ll need to factor for an additional $1,500 - $6,000 for the burner system and decorative finishes (gas logs, lava rocks, fire glass, etc.) and $2,000 - $4,000 for installing a permitted gas line. That’s an additional $3,500 - $10,000 for a gas feature.

Getting to the heart of things

Consider your intended use

As with every element of your outdoor living space, it's essential to consider your intended use of a fire feature.

Fire Pits

If you're looking to create a casual atmosphere with the traditional campfire experience, a wood-burning fire pit is your best fit. Fire pits are perfect for long nights of storytelling and toasting marshmallows for S'mores.

See more photos of this patio space

Outdoor Fireplaces

If you're looking to create a more formal and elegant experience, you might prefer an outdoor fireplace. These large structures provide a grand stature to an outdoor living space and create an elegant ambiance.

See more pictures of this fireplace and pool space

Intended Use:

The Convenience of Gas

When it comes to convenience, there is no beating gas fire features. There is no buying wood. No chopping wood. No stacking wood. No seasoning wood. No difficulty starting a fire. No ashes to clean. With a gas feature, you can go from zero to fire in less than ten seconds. With such convenience, gas features are perfect for both a planned evening with friends or an impromptu nightcap.

Intended Use:

Seating & the Number of Guests

When contemplating your use of the feature, be sure to consider how many people you want to accommodate around the fire.

Outdoor Fireplaces

For outdoor fireplaces, most traditional furniture arrangements include seating for 5 to 6 people. Because of this, fireplaces are often preferred by homeowners that host smaller, intimate gatherings.

See more photos of this Outdoor Thanksgiving setup

Fire Pits

Alternatively, you can typically accommodate 6-10 people comfortably around most residential fire pits. If your property allows, you also have the option of making a fire pit larger to accommodate even more people. It's for this reason that fire pits are often a better choice for homeowners that want to host larger gatherings and bonfires.

Still can't Decide? Consider a...

Fire Wall

This lesser-known fire feature combines the elements of both a fire pit and an outdoor fireplace. It has the heat output and usability of a fire pit while providing the grand stature and elegance of an outdoor fireplace. These structures also typically cost somewhere between that of a fire pit and an outdoor fireplace.

Fire walls are not the right fit for every space or every homeowner, but they're definitely worth considering!

Setting the scene

Ambiance

The scent and sound of a crackling, wood fire create an enchanting ambiance that is unmatched by any gas feature. Additionally, the rich, warming glow of a wood-burning fire creates a greater sense of comfort than gas flames which tend to be more sterile.

A wood-burning outdoor fireplace is the pinnacle of ambiance and elegance when it comes to outdoor living.

on the other hand...

Smoke & Smell

Though most love the initial scent of a wood-burning fire, one of the biggest drawbacks is the smoke and lingering smell that can stick to you well into the following day. If smoke and the lingering smell are truly a concern, a gas feature is probably your best bet.

Keeping warm

Consider Heat Output

Fire features are often included in outdoor rooms because their heat allows homeowners to enjoy the outdoors during colder seasons. Though all fire features put out heat, wood-burning features provide greater heat than their gas counterparts. Though some gas burners generate an equivalent amount of BTUs, many localities regulate their use. If warmth is a driving factor in your decision-making, a wood-burn fire feature is the best choice.

When choosing the style of feature, also consider that fire pits put out the most heat. Unlike fireplaces that put out very directed warmth, fire pits project heat in all directions, creating a much warmer space. Additionally, because fire pits are typically furnished with individual chairs, it's easier to pull in closer when you're cold; it's difficult to do that with traditional fireplace furniture composed of sofas and sectionals. 

And don't forget about...

Maintenance

Though all fire features are low in maintenance, gas features tend to require slightly less attention. When it comes to wood-burning features, you must stay on top of your wood supply and make sure remains seasoned. Additionally, you must clean up and remove old ashes before starting a new fire. Failure to do so will limit oxygen flow, resulting in difficulty starting and maintaining a strong fire. Though not overwhelming tasks, it is more work than is required by gas features.

Can't Decide?

Who says you can't have it all?

If your space and budget allow, why not have two features? As illustrated by this Outdoor Dreams’ patio, consider designing your space to include both a fire pit and a fireplace, with one being gas and the other being wood-burning. Though it will add to the cost of your project, it will make your investment more worthwhile if it increases your use and enjoyment of the space.

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