How to Choose an Outdoor Fire Pit or Table

How to Choose an Outdoor Fire Pit or Table

As summer winds down, my thoughts quickly turn to autumn. For some time I’ve been thinking about adding a fire table to my back deck. Fire tables and fire pits create a warm, comfortable, welcoming area for family and guests to enjoy. I did some research and was surprised to find how many types and styles are available.

To find the right fire pit/table to fit your needs, the first step is to carefully consider location, fuel type, desired function, and style. Whether you want to add a built-in or portable fire table, you will also want to consider the height. If the table has a surrounding surface, decide whether you want to use it as a footrest, for seating, or as a table, and whether additional seating may be needed. Most importantly, be sure to research local and state laws and safety regulations regarding fire pits. Some municipalities ban open burning of any kind. Certain types of fire pits are forbidden for decks. Check your city codes regarding size and distance from structures before installing. For your safety, have an extinguisher plan, which may include a fire extinguisher and/or nearby water source.

Types of fire pits to consider

Wood burning

Wood burning fire pits provide lots of warmth and you can also cook on many types of them. You’ll need to stock wood for fuel, so include a storage area in your plans.

Decide whether you want a permanent or portable pit. If you are inclined to build your own permanent wood burning fire pit, you can find many step-by-step guides online. DIY materials may include brick, stone, and/or cinderblocks. Or go the easier way with a Fire Pit Kit, ready to assemble out-of-the-box. For a more complex “fireplace structure,” go with pre-fab or modular kits, or hire a professional to design and build. If you prefer an out-of-the-box portable option, you’ll find an endless array of styles in stores and online, from traditional to modern, and materials that vary from hammered copper to slate. Some include grates for cooking as well as screen guards to keep embers from flying free.

The main drawback to choosing a wood burning fire pit is that you’ll have to manually clean out the ash and debris. You also need to be careful about what you burn. For example, don’t ever burn pressure treated or any wood with toxic sealers.

Gas burning

Propane fire pits are warm, beautiful, and some are rated for cooking. Most are designed to be portable, which is the ultimate in convenience. Many styles and price ranges are available for fire bowls and fire tables. Gas pits also don’t produce ash, which is safer for people with respiratory issues. You’ll want to have a safe storage are for keeping an extra propane tank on hand to be sure you don’t run out when the fire pit is in use.

Natural gas fire pits are permanent structures that require a gas line hook up. You’ll need to consider the upfront costs of installing and/or running a gas line to the pit. Like propane, natural gas fire bowls and kits are available in many styles and price ranges. Natural gas conversion kits are also available for use on many propane fire pits, giving you even more design options. Natural gas is also a great option for a fireplace style pit. Just flip a switch!

The upside to choosing a natural gas pit is that you don’t need to store fuel.

Gel fuel burning

Like propane fire pits, gel fuel fire pits are extremely versatile and portable. They do not generate as much warmth as other types, but still create a beautiful focal point, without smoke or scent. You can purchase gel fuel logs for use in many types of fire pits. You’ll also want to stock fuel canisters so you don’t run out. If you have difficulty finding them in stores, they are readily available online.

If you don’t have a lot of room, but want to add a fire design element, small table-top gel fire bowls or pots are a great option. Many feature beautiful stones, crushed glass, or decorative sand. Search online for style ideas. Tabletop fire bowls are a DIY project even I could handle!

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