We asked designers to weigh in on what you should consider before you install one.

An orange tree hangs over two square, raw concrete fire pits
Bradley Meinz

Getting a new firepit can be as easy as going online and clicking add to cart. But, whether you’re going the built-in route or buying off the rack, it’s helpful to know what landscape designers think about when they’re installing a new fire feature. That’s why I asked Washington-based designer Scot Eckley and the California-based pair of Hollis LaPlante and Jordyn Grohl of Hollis Jordyn Design what they consider when putting in a new firepit for clients.  

Consider the Size of the Firepit

The first thing Eckley does is measure the size of the area he has to use. “For me, I think the most important thing about a fire feature is if someone has limited space,” he says. “We then think about how many people you want to sit around it; if you want eight or 10 people sitting around your fire feature, you can’t buy a 24-inch ring; you want a 48-inch firepit.” 

LaPlante and Grohl agree that measurements matter. “Typically, you should have a minimum area of seven feet surrounding a firepit,” they say, adding that “wood burns hotter than a gas firepit and would require a minimum distance of 30 inches [from seating]. The minimum distance for a gas-burning fire feature is 24 inches from the edge of the firepit.” 

Think About Safety

Another important measurement? The one that helps ensure safety. “It’s recommended that a firepit be placed anywhere from 10-25 feet away from a home, tree, overhanging branches, wood deck, vehicles, or anything considered to be flammable,” say LaPlante and Grohl.   

Choose the Type of Firepit

Next, you should decide if you want a wood-burning, natural gas, or propane firepit. All three designers I spoke to lean towards natural gas. “In many places in the West there are burning bans and you can’t have an open flame,” Eckly points out. “We use a lot of natural gas, but if you’ve got a propane tank, I prefer the designs where the propane tank is remote and you can get a cover for it. Those really boxy propane features with the propane tank inside are too tall.”

Pick a Design

In terms of decor, Eckley recommends that you think of a firepit the way you would a piece of furniture. “Conceptually, I think of a fire feature as a coffee table,” he says. “We have covers that go on them so you can use them as a table during the day. In the evening you take the cover off and you’ve got this great fire.” 

Shape, meanwhile, is widely varied. “Firepits can be round, square, rectangular, or broken up into multiple pits,” say LaPlante and Grohl. Eckley prefers to use round firepits, because they allow you to seat the most people around them. (The straight sides of a square or rectangular firepit, on the other hand, determine where you place seating.) “One thing I like about circular fire features is they’re so sculptural,” he says. “It’s a beautiful element even when it’s not being used.” He also points out that a fire feature with a wide lip can come in handy for kicking up feet or placing a drink.  

Of course, the best thing about a firepit is the communal warmth it brings. “I love that it’s such a great way for people to gather,” Eckley says. “Who doesn’t like to sit around a fire? Plus, everybody looks a little prettier by firelight.”  

Eight Fire Feature Designs We Love 

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