Outdoor Fireplaces Vs. Outdoor Fire Pits: Which Is More Ideal?

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Rest and relaxation in front of a fire is an activity people have enjoyed since the dawn of humanity. Few experiences allow your senses to become completely entranced as when you enjoy the bright warm cracking of an outdoor fire. When it comes to building a fire feature outside your own home, however, you may be torn between a fire pit and an outdoor fireplace.

Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces both increase the value of your home. Fire pits are usually cheaper than outdoor fireplaces. They are a good option for those looking for a social campfire aesthetic. Outdoor fireplaces are safer, stronger permanent structures. They stand the test of time and add more value to the home, often recouping most of their cost.

Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are both great additions to your home. Studies have shown fires can reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure. You can also extend your outdoor season, especially in cooler climates. If you are deciding if you want a fire pit or an outdoor fireplace then keep reading to find what type best suits your needs.

Key Distinctions Between Fire Pits and Outdoor Fireplaces

Fire Pits

Perhaps the most defining attribute of a pure pit is that it is often situated in the center of a space with seating circulating around it. Fire pits often mimic the campfire style of seating, with people gathered around in a circle gazing at the flames.

Fire pits are usually more exposed to the elements. They are often uncovered, and can be blown to and from based on the wind and weather conditions. If the fire pit is fueled by wood, this means the smoke can be unpredictable as well. Circular Seating

Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces are often more planned and permanent structures. They are also often part of a larger outdoor room, rather than a stand alone object. One key attribute of an outdoor fireplace is it has a chimney, or a mock chimney. This allows smoke to exit upwards in a controlled fashion.

Outdoor fireplaces are often found along a secure wall. This means people often sit in front of a fireplace rather than around in a circle. Fireplaces are also less affected by natural elements like wind and rain, as they are more protected than fire pits.

What Do Fire Pits and Outdoor Fireplaces Cost

Fire Pit

A fire pit can cost anywhere from under $100 dollars for a cheap model from a box to upwards of $5,000. The average cost of a fire pit is around $700. This price reflects fire pits that are easily installed.

A fire pit that requires building, natural gas installation and design work will cost significantly more. These more expensive fire pits tend to last much longer. They can also add value to your home. Either way, a fire pit is an outdoor fire feature that can be achieved on almost any budget.

Outdoor Fireplace

A price tag for an outdoor fireplace is typically much higher than that of fire pits. The typical price range for an outdoor fireplace is between $1,500 and $10,000. The price depends on building materials and the type of fireplace you want. Gas fireplaces with stonework and high chimneys will cost more than a simple brick fireplace that uses wood for fuel.

The ultimate outdoor fireplace setups, with televisions, personalized design, weather proofing, can be between $20,000 and $50,000. These fireplaces are often part of a larger concept that involves a large indoor/outdoor space. These fireplace concepts often include a grill area and possible water features.

How Long Do Fire Pits and Outdoor Fireplaces Last?

Fire Pits

Fire Pits can last anywhere from one year to an entire lifetime. The two key factors that go into determining the lifespan of a fire pit are the materials used and the quality of work.

Well-designed fire pits that are installed by professionals will be built more solidly. They are less likely to crumble or deteriorate quickly than ammeter work.

Cheap ready-made fire pits are often made with lots of metal. Over time, when exposed to natural elements, these metal fire pits will rust. In fact, some metal fire pits may last only one full season.

Professionally installed cement and stone fire pits can easily last more than 20 and upwards of 100 years if diligently maintained.

Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces are often built of stone, brick, cement and other strong building materials. For this reason, outdoor fireplaces normally last for generations. As long as the outdoor fireplace is built professionally and to code, it should last just as long as any fireplace inside the home itself.

There will be a greater cost associated with building the more permanent outdoor fireplace structure. However, you can rest assured that it will outlast any inexpensive fire pit setup.

Wood Burning Versus Gas Fire Pits and Fireplaces

Just as with any fire source, there are several fuel sources for outdoor fire pits and fireplaces. The three most traditional types of fireplaces and fire pits are wood, natural gas and propane.

Wood Burning Fire Pits

Wood burning fire pits are the ultimate throwback to camp fires. They are essentially a more controlled version of that wilderness vibe. These fire pits do not require any type of feel or electrical setup, simply ample chopped wood and an operator who knows how to safely maintain a wood fire.

Wood fire pits can be potentially hazardous as the flames are not easily controlled. They also require dry chopped wood, which may be either plentiful or scarce, depending on where you live. These wood fire pits also require the most upkeep and cleaning.

Wood Burning Fireplaces

Wood fireplaces can be very romantic, and bring back nostalgia for older simpler times. They will require ample storage space for dried wood, but like fire pits, will not need to rely on external power, which may be a good solution for those without access to natural gas.

Wood fireplaces are easier to contain than fire pits as the structures do a better job blocking wind and containing flames. The biggest downside to wood burning fireplaces is they make quite a mess. They need to be cleaned after each use, which can be tedious.

Natural Gas Fire Pit

Natural gas fire pits are typically professionally stalled and the highest end on the cost spectrum. They also tend to be the most stylish and aesthetically pleasing. Natural gas is easier to control, meaning it is also normally a safer option than wood. A natural gas fire pit is also far less smokey.

Natural Gas Outdoor Fireplace

A natural gas fireplace is more expensive than a wood-burning fireplace. They are, however, much easier to clean and maintain. A natural gas fireplace can also add significant value to your home if you build it correctly.

Fireplace Vs. FirePit: Will They Add Value To You home

Now that you understand the cost associated with adding a fire pit or outdoor fireplace to your exterior landscape, you might wonder if this investment will add value to your home.

Will A Fire Pit Increase My Property Value

Outdoor fire pits can add value to your home and can even be a selling point. If you create a lasting fire pit and maintain it, you will see a noticeable increase in your property value.

Gas fire pits with quality stone work may be more expensive initially, but they often see a higher percentage return on investment as they tend to last much longer, look better and are easier to maintain.

Will An Outdoor Fireplace Increase My Property Value?

Outdoor fireplaces are often more elaborate, professionally designed permanent structures. For these reasons, they are often even more aesthetically pleasing to homebuyers, and significantly increase your property value.

Outdoor fireplaces may cost significantly more than fire pits, but you can easily see an 80 percent return on your investment. Outdoor gas fireplaces often see the highest return on investment. Do not let the initial sticker price of an outdoor fireplace scare you. You may get most of the money back if you sell your house.

Rules For Building Fire Pit Fireplace

When you install a fire pit or outdoor fireplace it is important you check your local ordinances first. The rules and laws will vary based on exactly where you live. There are several factors to consider when you do your research.

1. Climate

Many rules for fires outside the home are directly related to climate. Some states have fire guidelines based on how dry the weather is. Others do not allow fires on windy days. Be sure you understand the east rules in your area as it relates to weather and fire.

2. Is Your Fire Considered “Open Burning”

While fireplaces often are not considered opening burning or recreational fires, some fire pits are. Open burning refers to a fire that is not contained or covered. There are more strict laws on open burning versus contained fires. Be sure you know the difference.

3. Location of Fire Feature

Many rules stipulate a fire must be a certain distance from the house. This often refers to a more open fire. Be sure that you check the exact rules before you spend a large sum of money designing a fire feature that is too close to the home. Check all building codes before you start building.

Which Is Safer? Fire Pit Or Fireplace?

Safety should be considered when you are choosing between a fire pit and an outdoor fireplace. While safety has a lot to do with the person operating the fire feature, outdoor fireplaces are typically safer than fire pits.

Outdoor fireplaces have walls to contain flames. This prevents fires from going in unpredictable directions. Fireplaces also have chimneys to direct smoke. This prevents smoke from going in various directions, including in your lungs.

When It Is Better To Choose A Fire Pit

Fire pits are the better choice for someone who is looking for a fire feature on a tighter budget. You can purchase a quality fire pit for just a few hundred dollars. Fire pits are also great for those looking for a rustic vibe.

A fire pit is great at channeling the campfire, roasting marshmallows vibe. They are a great option for those who love the outdoors. They are also a good cost-effective way to lengthen your outdoor season.

When It Is Better To Choose An Outdoor Fireplace

Outdoor fireplaces may be much more expensive than fire pits, but they often pay for themselves. For those who have a larger budget, an outdoor fireplace is a great way to elevate your home.

Outdoor fireplaces are perfect for those who are looking to create a space that brings the outside and inside of the home together. Outdoor fireplaces are also great for those who want a cozy gathering place.

Summing It Up

Outdoor fire pits and fireplaces can both add significant value to your home. At the end of the day, the decision often comes down to budget. If you are on a tight budget, then a fire pit is the best option for you.

If you have more money to spend then an outdoor fireplace is the way to go. Keep in mind that while these fire features can be costly, if built well they can increase your home value.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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