fire pit
fire pit
(Image credit: dschnarrs)

Fire pits in gardens are becoming more and more popular. They extend the time we have to enjoy the outdoors by providing a cozy spot during cool evenings and in the off season. People have always been attracted to the safety, warmth, ambiance, and cooking potential of a campfire. Using fire pits in gardens is a modern and more convenient version of the campfires of yesteryear. Today, people are using garden fire pits for social gatherings, for outdoor grilling and even for an attractive landscape focal point. They sometimes position the fire pit for convenience in movement between important outdoor areas. It is nice when our guests can easily transition from the outdoor dining table, pool, or spa to the fire pit and back again.

Tips on Building a Backyard Fire Pit

If you are building a backyard fire pit, consider the size and location of the fire pit. Although you can build one much larger, the average family sized garden fire pit has a 3-foot (1 m.) diameter. This includes the outer structural edging of the fire pit as well as the burning area. The most comfortable height for resting your feet on the outer rim of the fire pit is 10 to 12 inches (24-30 cm.). If the fire pit is flush with the ground, people will have to crouch around it to feel the heat. If you want an integrated seating wall as part of the fire pit design, build it 18 to 20 inches (45-50 cm.) high. Note that if the fire pit is too tall, it may be uncomfortable to rest your feet on the rim and it may not radiate enough heat to the seating area. Other tips on building a backyard fire pit cover physical space and weather. How big is the area you have allotted? Some fire pit experts suggest that a 7-foot (2.5 m.) seating area beyond the outer edge of fire pits is best so that people can move their chairs backward if they become overheated. In this scenario (with a 3-foot/1 m. fire pit), you would need a 17-foot (5 m.) diameter area. Consider prevailing winds when using garden fire pits. You don’t want to position the fire pit in a location that is too windy. Then it will be too difficult to light the fire and your guests will have to constantly dodge smoke. If you are going create a built-in seating area around the fire pit, consider the spacing carefully. Don’t put the seating too far away. Position the fire pit so you can take advantage of any nice views. Check your local ordinances on outdoor wood burning fire pits. Some towns don’t allow outdoor wood burning of any sort due to fire risk or air pollution issues. You may be required to get the approval of the fire department. They may want to ensure you haven’t located your fire pit directly on a wood deck or too close to flammable overhanging branches or foliage. There may also be property line set back limits for fire pits and other structures.

Fire Pit Garden Ideas

There are many types of backyard fire pits. Your simplest and cheapest option is to buy a prefabricated fire pit from your local hardware store. These are usually made of lightweight metal and come with a grill and a spark cover. They are portable and can be moved about the garden. If you install a custom fire pit, the sky is the limit. If you are not sure what style you want, look at images online. You can use brick, concrete, stone, metal, or a combination of materials. Fire pit bowls are another option. They are contemporary in style and made of precast smooth concrete. You can also install a fire pit table. These tables have an inset burning area in the center with a wide rim around the edge for dinner plates, cutlery, and drinking glasses. Fire pits and fire tables do not have to be round. They can be square, rectangular, or even L-shaped. You don’t have to have a wood burning fire pit either. There are gas and propane options that are good quality and easy to use. There are many landscape professionals who specialize in building outdoor fire pits. They know the local building codes and how to make your fire pit safe. If you are building a backyard fire pit DIY style, you must be very careful that the flames and sparks can’t easily escape and ignite flammable items. Use must use fire brick and fire resistant caulk on the bottom and sides of all fire pits. Follow the guidelines that a professional would use and check your building codes. I hope you enjoy using garden fire pits with your family and friends. Extend your time in the garden with the warmth and glow of the embers.

Karen Boness

Karen Boness is the founder of Wild Willow Design, an Australia-based company that specializes in ecological landscape design.