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What are the Different Fire Pit Designs?

By S. Mithra
Updated May 16, 2024
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Fire pits are permanent or portable containers for backyard bonfires and barbecues, and they have become popular for entertaining and outdoor living. The different fire pit designs incorporate a variety of fuel sources and are available in many shapes and sizes. Some fire pits burn wood or natural gas and might be portable. The different fire pit designs include chimeneas, in-ground fire pits, portable fire pits and gas-fueled fire pits.

Chimeneas

One of the most attractive and popular fire pit designs is the chimenea. This squat, mostly enclosed tub sits above the ground on three stout feet and has a chimney or a vertical pipe for a vent. Traditionally made out of ceramic or clay, this outdoor stove was meant to cook food and provide heat by burning wood logs.

The chimenea's recognizable shape, with its rounded body and flaring stovepipe, appeals to many homeowners. The fire is made in the body and fed through an opening in the front. It is a very simple design and is available from a small, table-top size to a larger patio version. The smallest versions might be portable, and even the largest sizes can be moved with some effort. Modern chimeneas might be made of cast iron or other metals, as well as the traditional ceramic or clay.

In-Ground Fire Pits

Another choice in fire pit designs is an in-ground, permanent fire pit. These pits start as holes that are dug into the ground and then lined with small walls of stone or brick that extend above the ground. The bricks or rocks insulate the fire from the soil and block the wind. This simple design allows the user to build a basic campfire in the backyard and provides a place to set a grill or a few skewers. This type of fire pit can be a focal point of a patio, with seating built in a circle surrounding the pit.

Other Portable Varieties

There are some fire pit designs that are simple and portable, allowing them to be used in the backyard, at the beach, in the woods or anywhere else where an enclosed fire is permitted. A copper bowl fire pit, for instance, is a glittering container that sits on metal supports and provides a dish in which to build an open bonfire. Similar fire pits can be round, square or rectangular and generally have integrated spark screens to cover the flames, letting in fresh air while keeping flames and sparks from escaping. Some enclosed fire pits have rotisserie bars for roasting poultry, flat grills for cooking food and ash pans to easily remove debris. With most fire pits, either wood or charcoal can be used, depending on availability and the user's needs and preferences.

Gas Fire Pits

Some fire pit designs use natural gas as fuel instead of using wood. This is the case with many permanent, built-in fire pits. A natural gas fire pit needs to be connected to the natural gas lines in a home or other building. Designs that use propane are attached to semi-portable tanks.

Just like an indoor gas fireplace, a gas fire pit typically creates flames above concrete or ceramic logs. The unit might be shaped like a bowl or box, but it doesn't need a spark screen. This can be a smart design for use in places where the burning of wood has been outlawed as a fire hazard.

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Discussion Comments

By anon157709 — On Mar 03, 2011

I am currently building an outdoor fire pit that will run on natural gas and can also burn wood just as an indoor fireplace can. Cinderblock on concrete slab lined with firebrick. Natural gas line to a log lighter. You can buy all the Gas materials at any fireplace shop or home depot. A friend of mine has the same setup instead of using it as a fire pit, he has it set up as a hardwood grill/BBQ. Works like a charm!

By anon90857 — On Jun 18, 2010

I have a rough in-ground fire pit with a dirt interior, unfinished (weedy) surrounding, and lava rock rim. What would I have to do to line the interior and exterior and eventually add a patio surrounding it?

By anon79146 — On Apr 21, 2010

I have a fire pit that is made of stone and magnesium. It has deep chips in the top. How do I fill those in?

By anon72042 — On Mar 21, 2010

Is it possible to have a gas and wood-burning outdoor fire pit? We want the ease of just turning on an outdoor fire with the flexibility to burn wood when it is piling up.

By bluemoon99 — On Jul 15, 2009

to kfoerste: an indoor fire pit would be against building code unless vented outdoors, and the venting would cost more than the firepit. I would opt for a fireplace instead, preferably in a corner where the venting would be hidden by the fireplace. A second option would be a Franklin stove with a tempered glass door, these can be left to burn out overnight safely and will throw a lot of heat if installed with a blower unit.

By anon36883 — On Jul 15, 2009

To anon22323: Re: longevity of free standing fire pits, cast iron will eventually rust through. The pit I had was cast iron of chinese origin and lasted 9 years outside exposed to rain and snow. I left ashes in it frequently and they would absorb the water and hold it against the iron. I went through 2 vinyl covers that frequently blew off because the elastic did not weather well.

I think copper would last much longer and that is what the replacement will be made of. I favor an actual ground pit lined with brick, but like the ability to move the iron pit to where my yard trash is (tree branches, and old bamboo) for semi-annual clean up. We are banned from yard waste fires from May-October, due to fire hazard. I have not tried ceramic, but I have used a fired clay chimenea, which lasted only 1 year and cracked due to freeze and thaw, just like a clay pot left out in winter. In ground is best for outdoor, followed by copper I think - I'll update you in a decade or two when this one wears out.

By anon30408 — On Apr 18, 2009

When I was a kid we had a big cast iron fire pit. It was very heavy. The fire pits I see for sale seem flimsy. Any ideas on where to get a heavy-duty fire pit?

By Spot — On Feb 01, 2009

Maxx2330, I found out you should NEVER put a gas fire pit inside a screened in porch.

By anon22323 — On Dec 01, 2008

What is the best type of material that a fire pit should be made of? Does it matter if it is cast iron or ceramic or copper? what last the longest and is the sturdiest?

By kfoerste — On Nov 02, 2008

I want to put a fire pit in my living room as a coffee table. is there any problems I should be aware of. fumes? do they have be ventless?

By Len — On Oct 10, 2008

To eaw, I have done the auction donations too, and fire pit tools like a log grabber and poker are good, but by far the one that really gets the bids up is to include Roasting Sticks!

By eaw — On Oct 08, 2008

Hey! We are putting together an auction package with a fire pit as the main attraction. Would any of you have any suggestions as to what else we can put in this package? (i.e. marshmallow roasting sticks, etc) thanks!

By RetiredMayor — On Jun 16, 2008

We love our natural-gas fire pit! And yes, we do hot-dogs, made s'mores, etc. I covered the 'fire ring' with the lava rocks they supplied, but then instead of adding the 'fakey' logs, I covered the lava with Fire Glass....it is just beautiful, and very different. You can put real logs on top of that if you wish, or you can just watch the flame as it meanders through the Fire Glass. Really a nice thing....we were out there last night for Fathers' Day.

By Len — On Apr 02, 2008

To maxx2330, As with any fire, anything around or above the fire needs to be taken into account for safety's sake. The fire pit manufacturer should give you clearance guidelines to go by but unless you have a very large screened in porch, you should think "outside the porch" Good Luck!

By Len — On Apr 02, 2008

Don't worry about stray marshmallows falling into the fire, or meat juices either! They will burn up along with the other combustables. I also suggest that you get Roasting Sticks made of stainless steel which cooks better than other metals, and cleans up eaisily.

By anon9084 — On Feb 27, 2008

@maxx2330: yeah, good idea. make sure the kids are out of the house and your insurance is paid up first.

By maxx2330 — On Oct 26, 2007

Can you install a gas/propane fire pit on a covered screened in porch?

By anon598 — On Apr 29, 2007

We want to install a permanent natural gas firepit in our back yard. Can you roast marshmallows or hot dogs on these? What if some of the juice or marshmallow seeps onto the lava rocks or fire "wood"? Is it ruined or will it burn off? Thanks

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