Backyard fire pits aren’t just for the colder northern states. Texan homeowners also love sitting around a fire with their families once darkness falls during the cooler winter, fall, and spring months.
Fire pits offer a cozy way to bring people together for a chat, a meal, a drink or just to reflect on life for a while. That’s why demand for fire pits is increasing rapidly across North America.
But how can you get the look and feel you want with your fire pit — without major landscaping costs?
The following backyard fire pit ideas will help you create an inviting yard space, even if your backyard is small and space is at a premium:
What are fire pits?
If you’re thinking of investing in your backyard, creating a fire pit is a family-friendly way to do it.
Humans have been attracted by fire since we first walked the Earth. This primitive attraction remains and a fire pit or outdoor fireplace is a contemporary way to offer family and friends a place to sit and spend “quality time” together in the warmth and ambiance.
A fire pit essentially contains and maintains the fire in a secure and safe environment, just like a fireplace would inside the home.
Fire pits are highly customizable and can be as elaborate or simple as you like. They are generally constructed of steel, copper, tile, concrete, clay/terracotta, cast iron or another noncombustible material.
Much depends on your budget but getting creative can help you design the ideal fire pit for your yard even if funds are limited.
Types of fire pits
So-called “classic” fire pits are the most popular type of fire pit used in U.S. homes, with over half of all fire pit owners opting for this style.
Traditionally, fire pits are portable, wood-burning furnace-like structures but, increasingly, gas pits (using propane or natural gas) are used as a more convenient and eco-friendly option. Gel-fueled fire pits are also an option for homeowners.
Fire pits come in almost any shape – circular, rectangular, cone-shaped or more unusual shapes — and may be available as standalone structures or as part of a table-top design. They can be portable (which is most common) or permanent fixtures.
Backyard fire pit ideas to spark your imagination
The most important thing with fire is not to get burnt! Safety comes first and you should understand the local fire safety regulations in your area before installing any fire pit. The regulations do vary from city to city, county to county, and state to state (more about this below).
Once you’ve covered the safety concerns, an array of customizable ideas can give you the look and feel you’re after with your backyard fire pit. Here are some of the best ideas…
- A classic wood-burning fire pit
This is the classic fire pit, circular and wood-burning with a simple stone structure and metallic insert. It looks fantastic pretty much anywhere in a backyard and, with temporary seating, you’re relatively unrestricted if you’re pushed for space.
- Recreate a campfire ambiance
How about a little nostalgia? If you fondly recall evenings sitting around a campfire and want to recreate that for your family, how about following the lead of this idea, which uses fieldstone for the campfire look (you can DIY this one so it’s very cost-effective):
- Go with gas
Wood or charcoal are not your only options for fueling your fire pit. Modern natural gas or propane fire pits give you a contemporary look without the smoke, which is especially useful in more restricted spaces.
- A fire and water pit
Fire and water is a classic elemental mix and it can create an eye-catching feature in your backyard. Most of these features have a self-contained basin surrounded by water. In this example, a water fountain is combined with the fire pit, making it the centerpiece of the backyard:
- Install seating
Fire pits are meant to be relaxing and enjoyed. That means you need some appropriate seating around the fire pit. If your budget allows it, you can see how stunning permanent seating can look around a fire pit in this example:
- A tabletop fire pit
A popular design idea for small backyard fire pits is to incorporate the fire pit into a table. This makes sense if you and your family frequently enjoy drinks or a meal around the fire, saving space while adding functionality and style. Many tabletop fire pits are powered by gas:
- An urn-shaped fire pit
An urn-shaped fire pit (sometimes called a “fire pillar”) is a unique take on a classic backyard shape. Sometimes, these fire pits even include water features and become “fire fountains”, as in this example:
- Add pavers to your fire pit area
Pavers around your fire pit can add a touch of elegance to your backyard area, while also making it easier to place seating and make a cozy area for the family to gather. Here’s a good example of how stylish pavers can look…
- Install a chiminea-style fire pit
Chimineas are Mexican-inspired terracotta outdoor fireplaces. They’re popular in the southern/western states like Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and can be used as garden art on patios or as a functional fire pit. Because chimineas usually take up little space, they are suitable for small backyards.
- Surround your fire pit area with artificial grass
As part of a cozy gathering area for family and friends, artificial grass works well with fire pit installations — preferably a small synthetic turf lawn surrounding a patio area. You get the stunning emerald green appearance of real grass all year round without any maintenance — as in the following example:
*Note: artificial grass is not flammable but care should be taken that the grass area is far enough from the fire pit to prevent damage from flying embers.
- Surround the fire pit with pea gravel
Pea gravel is another alternative ground surface to use around a fire pit. Pea gravel looks attractive, drains well, and feels comfortable underfoot. It’s also low maintenance and affordable and its neutral colors work with almost any type of fire pit.
- A metal fire bowl
Bowl fire pits made from natural steel, cast iron or copper are a popular alternative to stone or concrete and can add real elegance to a backyard. This fire pit idea is suitable for big or small backyards and looks great combined with pea gravel:
- Add tiling
Another alternative look for a fire pit is a tiled structure. The tiles can either be in elegant, neutral tones or add a splash of color to the yard. Either way, they can impart a stylish look to your backyard, like in this Mexican-inspired example:
- Get creative with the shape
Did we say the shape of fire pits is usually round or rectangular? That’s true but there are no written rules to say that yours must follow suit. You can get a custom-designed model or look for a creatively shaped model in patio and hearth stores. Here’s a triangular one shaped like a wedge of pizza!
- Create a DIY fire pit
You don’t need a sprawling backyard to enjoy a fire pit. There are many budget ideas for small backyards. In fact, small fire pits and DIY efforts are sometimes the most creative. Take a look at this one, which is made from the drum of a washing machine:
- Decking fire pit
Your fire pit can be the centerpiece of your backyard if you install stylish decking around it and create an inviting seating area. Family and guests will love sitting outside enjoying the evening air with the fire lit…
- A poolside fire pit
Fire and water go well together so you might want to place your fire pit near your backyard pool area, making the most of the space surrounding your pool to entertain guests and family. Here’s a good example:
- Ambient lighting
Like with most backyard features, some well-selected ambient lighting can add mood and style. You don’t need to do much as you get light from the fire but hanging lights are a particularly popular addition.
- Go minimal
Fire pits don’t have to be too elaborate or traditional. With so many designs available now, a clean, contemporary, minimal approach is a popular look for modern homes, as in this example:
- A solid concrete fire pit
Another way to achieve a clean and contemporary look with your fire pit is to opt for a solid concrete design. This simple rectangular model lets the fire do the talking…
- A small concrete bowl fire pit
One of the simplest small backyard fire pit ideas is a concrete bowl placed on pea gravel. This is basic but can still produce fire and ambiance — especially if there’s just the two of you sitting in the yard (which is also quite romantic!):
Safety ideas for fire pits
Over 6,000 emergency room visits for injuries related to fire pits or outdoor heaters were recorded in 2021, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in backyard fire pit ideas that you neglect important safety features. Safety comes first and nobody needs to be reminded about the dangers of backyard fires: not only from a fire hazard point of view but also from the associated health risks from the smoke.
The Environmental Protection Agency publishes some safety guidelines for backyard recreational fires. For instance, here are some suggestions if you have a wood-brining fire pit:
- Only burn seasoned, dry wood, which burns hotter and cleaner.
- Use a moisture meter to check firewood; moisture content is best at about 20 percent.
- Cover stacked wood, but allow good airflow so it can dry.
- Never burn wood during air quality alert days, when air pollution is already higher.
- Never burn green wood, construction waste, plastic, garbage, or yard waste. They create more smoke and can be toxic.
- Take extra care if you live in a region where brush fires are of concern.
If you’re concerned about smoke from firewood, cleaner fuel alternatives like natural gas or propane fire pits may be a better option for your backyard. You may be able to enquire about converting a wood-burning fire pit to gas at your local hearth and patio store.
It’s also essential to follow local laws with your fire pit. Some local governments and municipalities place regulations on outdoor/backyard fires due to safety and health concerns (smoke pollution).
Some communities require a permit or onsite inspections by local fire officials for permanent fire pits, with particular concern over open fire pits on wood decking. Others specify a required distance between the fire and nearby seating or structures.
Check your home insurance to make sure that you’re covered if you should experience any damage from fire pit usage.
Bring your backyard fire pit idea to life
One of the leading backyard fire pit ideas is artificial grass and pavers around the fire pit seating area.
Synthetic turf is cost-effective and needs no maintenance to remain green and pristine all year round. It looks fantastic combined with pavers and surrounding patios.
At Artificial Grass Pros, we can help you landscape this solution if you’re based in the Austin area. Call us at 512-296-1500 to start the discussion.
Sources (not to be published)