Gather Round the Fire

Year-Round Backyarding

When the autumn chill sets in, your enthusiasm for hanging out in the backyard can wane. Adding a fire pit or fireplace completely changes that. The American Society of Landscape Architects named fire pits as the sixth most-requested feature among homeowners doing outdoor projects.

Getting Primal

The act of gathering around a fire is deeply rooted in human history, so it’s no surprise that it can actually trigger physiological changes. Sitting by a fire can give you a deep sense of calm. A University of Alabama study found that it lowers most people’s blood pressure.

Going Beyond Instinct

For about $100, you run down to the local home center and purchase a small metal pit. But for an ultimate backyard experience, you’ll want something more substantial, visually appealing, and permanent. The big questions you need to ask are whether you want a fire pit or fireplace and whether it will burn wood or gas. The answers depend on which social gatherings you enjoy, how much space you have, and what you want to spend.

The Pit

Fire pits are usually easier to install and less costly than a fireplace. With a 360-degree design, they’re ideal for entertaining lots of friends and more people can pull up close to the flames. But that circular design means you need enough room for seating all the way around the circumference.

The Place

With a fireplace, fewer people can cozy up to the flames, so it’s well suited for more intimate gatherings. The fireplace can also serve as the focal point to visually anchor an outdoor room or covered porch. It makes managing smoke easy and, if you’re a pizza aficionado, a fireplace can even be built to include a brick oven.

The Burning Question

The other big question is whether you want to burn wood or gas. This answer may depend on where you live: some localities restrict the use of wood-burning appliances, while others aren’t served by gas lines, which could require you to install a large propane tank. If there are no restrictions, consider the appeals of either option.


On the positive side, there’s the smell of wood smoke and the satisfaction of stacking wood and building the perfect fire. On the downside, there’s the smell of smoke, the need to stack wood, building a fire, and sweeping up the ashes. If you prefer this option, don’t forget to include a place to store your firewood out of the rain.


If your idea of starting a fire is pressing a button on a remote, then natural gas and propane are ideal choices. But the flames will look different and won’t put out as much radiant heat. Lower heat output has advantages, though: you can install some models up against a house with no chimney, or get vent-free, two-sided gas fireplaces that can be built into the wall of a patio enclosure.

All About the Warmth

Whatever type of fire feature you choose, the rewards include more time enjoying the outdoors and a soothing place to build lasting memories with family and friends.


Disclaimer: Never burn treated lumber in an open fire. Click here for disposal instructions.

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