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How to Choose the Right Firepit

By: Jim Childs
Ready for a firepit in your garden? Let us help you choose the right style and show you some must-have accessories for any perfect garden firepit experience.

Cauldron style firepit: If grilling hot dogs and roasting marshmallows over a flame is your style, then buy a cauldron or bowl style like this one.

Find the perfect firepit

What a treat to gather with friends around a crackling fire in your garden (maybe even snuggled in with a nice heated blanket). Few of us live where we can have a traditional bonfire, but you can have a fire on your patio safely. And there are all sorts of sizes and styles of “firepits” to choose from. Need one you can move out of the way if you need more space or haul into the garage for winter? Before you run out and buy the first model you see, here are some things to consider.

Figure out the function of your firepit

Freestanding firepits have a lot working in their favor. You get the benefits of a firepit or a fireplace, but you have more freedom of location than you do with a built-in — move the pit from the patio to the backyard if you like.

How do you want to use your firepit? If grilling hot dogs and roasting marshmallows over a flame is your style, then buy a cauldron or bowl style. They sit lower to the ground, are typically wood-burning and may have a grill for cooking. If you like to entertain in the evening, coffee-table and dinner-table styles allow guests to gather around.

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Wood burning firepit from Frontgate: This freestanding wooding-burning firepit has extra flare with its copper cauldron.

Firepit fuel options

There are three fuels you can use in a firepit: Wood, gas or gel.

Wood-burning firepits

Wood-burning fires give you crackling logs, glowing embers, great atmosphere and enough heat to keep you warm and to do a little cooking. For a wood-burning firepit, you’ll need a dry place to store wood. Unless you’re a Boy Scout, starting a wood fire can sometimes be tricky, and, for safety, you’d better plan on staying around until the embers have burned out completely. Also know that in most cities, there are rules about how far open flames must be from the structures on your property, so read up on the specifics for your area.

Wood-Burning Firepits We Recommend:
Sunny Daze Crossweave Outdoor Firepit
Esschert Design Cast Iron Firebowl
Titan Copper Firepit
Copper Classic Firepit

Gel Fuel Firepit from Gardeners Supply Co.: Make a fire by sliding out the bottom drawer, lighting the gel fuel canisters and pushing the drawer back in.

Gel fuel firepits

Gel fuel firepits don’t produce smoke or soot. Pop the top off the canister, light it and slide it into place. Flames lick the ceramic logs, and some gels even crackle like a wood-burning fire. However, gel fires won’t produce enough heat to keep you toasty warm, the canisters can be expensive and some folks notice an unpleasant odor as they burn. Most available gel firepits are tabletop models.

Gel Firepits We Recommend:
Anywhere Fireplace Oasis Table Top Gel Fuel Fireplace
Terra Flame Tabletop Fire Bowl

Tabletop gas firepit:Gas-fired coffee-table-style 
fireplaces sometimes have the tank hidden behind a decorative screen.

Gas firepits

If you’re looking for a heat-producing firepit that also burns without soot or smoke, try a gas unit. Flip the switch and you can have instant fire. You can even adjust the flame to set the mood or put out more heat. They do put out more heat than gel, but refilling the tank can be costly, especially if you like to have lots of fires.

Gas Firepits We Recommend:
Endless Summer Gas Outdoor Firebowl with Slate/Marble Mantel
Endless Summer Propane Gas Firepit Table
U-MAX Outdoor Propane Gas Firepit Table
Best Choice Stone Look Propane Firepit

Firepit safety

Before you buy, check your city code or call the fire marshal for regulations on size, placement and burning restrictions in your area. Place your firepit on a level, inflammable surface at least 3 feet away from the house, patio furniture and overhanging branches. And always keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water or sand close at hand in case of an emergency.

Firepit accesories

Do you or don’t you need these accessories? If you’ve been shopping for a firepit, you’ve seen all the accessories that are available, but which ones do you really need? These six items are worth a second look.

Firepit accessories illustration diagram: Firepit safety accessories

Wood-burning firepit accessories

  • Grills
    Cooking over an open fire is lots of fun. If you plan on using your fire pit for cooking, look into buying a grill insert specifically designed for your unit. Then you can cook your food while you enjoy the outdoors.
  • Poker
    To keep your fire in its place, get a long poker. You can adjust burning logs to create that perfect marshmallow-roasting spot. It’s also handy for lifting a hot spark screen.
  • Spark screen
    A spark screen is an extremely important safety feature because it keeps hot sparks from flying onto your deck, patio furniture or guests and prevents your fire from getting out of control.

Gas & gel firepit accessories

  • Lava rocks and logs
    Lava rocks, artificial logs or glass rocks cover the burner unit and spread the flame out so it dances and flickers like a real log fire.
  • Gel cans
    A necessity for gel firepits...

General firepit accessories

  • Cover
    A weather-resistant cover will protect your unit from the elements and keep it clean when you’re not using it. You can even leave it outside all winter with a cover.
  • Firepit pad
    Protect your deck or patio from heat or stray sparks with a fiberglass or cement pad. Select a size that’s slightly bigger than your firepit. Move the firepit around occasionally so you don’t have discolored spots on the deck.
  • Heated blanket
    Sometimes the heat from the flames isn't quite enough for the chilliest nights. Why give up the firepit experience? Wrap up in a cozy heated blanket and stay out with friends a little longer. We like the Cozee because it's battery-powered, which means it's so easy to take anywhere!
Published: Dec. 23, 2020

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.


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