The Art and Science of Construction

Making the Outdoors More Comfortable: Fire Pits vs Fireplaces

Autumn weather in most of the country is still warm, if not outright hot, but the evenings cool off nicely. Sitting outside with family (and friends, if done safely) can be a nice way to get outside the house without worrying about virus case numbers. You don't want those cool nights to be too cool, though, as that makes sitting outside a little uncomfortable. Adding a fireplace or firepit can make things more comfortable. And pandemic or not, you know a warm night spent chatting by a fire can't be beat.

But adding these features isn't a matter of choosing one and just asking someone to install it. You've got several decisions to make, not the least of which is whether to get a fire pit or a more traditional outdoor fireplace.

What Do You Use Now?

First, if your home already has an outdoor fireplace that's just old and hasn't been used in years, the easiest thing to do is upgrade that to current codes and stick with the fireplace, rather than installing a fire pit. You'll need to upgrade materials, and you'll need to be sure any part of the house that's near the fireplace has been upgraded to modern fire safety standards, including fire-resistant soffits and eaves.

Why not simply remove it? Well, if one's already there, then your house already has the support structure for that type of feature, meaning there's already a chimney and other structures in place, and you'd have to spend money closing those off if you removed the fireplace. If your house has an old fire pit, that's different; those are simpler to remove and fill in.

How Much Space Do You Have? 

A firepit is basically an open flame in a container. It needs to be well away from house overhangs and awnings, and you really don't want it near plants in your yard. If you have a large patio, however, with a good portion of it uncovered and not overshadowed by tree branches and leaves, you could see about fitting a firepit in there.

Fireplaces are different. Even when outside, the flames are contained in a fire-proof structure that encloses the flames on almost all sides – and even in front, you've got a curtain or door to contain sparks. The fireplace can be closer to the house, although you still want to be careful about placing it close to anything flammable, like tree branches that hang down.

What Impression Do You Want to Give?

There's making an impression, and then there's giving an impression. A firepit gives off an informal impression, one of sunset barbecues on the beach and sitting around with old college friends. A fireplace gives off a more grown-up impression, although it can still be casual. Figure dinners outside with the family, quietly chatting over coffee or a glass of wine as you wind down from the day.

Speak with contractors who construct fireplaces and firepits about which type might work in your yard, and which type might be more in line with your vision for your autumn evenings. Visit websites like to learn more.