The sound of crackling flames, clinking glasses, and fireside chatter could lure just about anyone—and there’s no need to hike to a campsite to get it. Spurred by pandemic-induced staycations, more of us are bringing the experience into our backyards with the help of a freestanding firepit. In fact, a recent report found that two-thirds of U.S. homeowners say a pit is a vital feature of their ideal outdoor living space. It’s also an easy way to extend your entertaining season, perhaps even year-round, depending on how low the temperature dips in your neck of the woods.
The increased interest in firepits has resulted in more artful designs in recent years, to the point where they can double as sculpture in a backyard. “Adding one to your outdoor living experience can provide a focal point that is both functional and beautiful,” says Brittney Herrera, a Portland, Oregon–based interior designer and founder of Wildwood House, an online and brick-and-mortar shop that sells curated homewares from a diverse network of artisans and manufacturers.
We checked in with Herrera, along with other design experts, to share the best firepits for bringing the heat to any outdoor setting.
- Best overall: Tiki Patio Firepit
- Best for harsh climates: Stahl Firepit
- Best for large gatherings: CB2 Rectangular Firepit
- Best table-style: Room & Board Adara
- Best portable: Solo Stove Bonfire
- Best low-profile: Terrain Low-Profile Firepit
- Best value: Teamson Cement Wood-Burning Firepit
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Wood vs. gas: If the goal is maximum nostalgia, opt for a wood-burning firepit. You can’t beat the smoldering aroma, and the flickering flames are perfect for roasting marshmallows. But if you just want to create a little ambience out back with instant start-up and minimal upkeep, gas is the way to go.
Size: This is mostly a matter of portability and crowd size. If the firepit is going to stay in the same spot, you don’t have to worry much about its size. However, if you plan to move it around the yard or take it with you on vacation, look for a model that will be easy to lift in and out of a car; say 20 pounds or less. As for crowd size, a round firepit that’s about 20 inches in diameter will fit a couple chairs comfortably, while one that’s 36 inches can host up to eight chairs.
Material: All firepits are built to withstand high heat, making them inherently durable. But some materials are more weather-resistant than others. If you live near the coast, for example, 304-grade stainless steel will withstand harsh salt water. Iron and anodized aluminum are other highly durable metals. Still other materials are designed to take on a patina over time. Raw stainless steel, which doesn’t have the same protective finish as the 304, will darken with age, while Corten steel will develop a reddish patina. Cast concrete is a nonmetal option that’s suited to less extreme climates.
Safety: Every year thousands of people sustain burns and other injuries from firepits. To minimize risk, enforce the 3-foot rule for kids and pets, keeping them that distance from the pit at all times. Make sure anything combustible, like blankets and clothing, is also a few feet from an open flame. For good measure, have a hose, bucket of water, or a shovel and dirt nearby in case you need to douse the fire in a hurry. Finally, never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to start wood fires. Old-fashioned newspaper and twigs or other kind of kindling is the only way to go.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Tiki Patio Firepit
Best for Harsh Climates: Stahl Firepit
Best for Large Gatherings: CB2 Rectangular Firepit
Best Table-Style: Room & Board Adara
Best Portable: Solo Stove Bonfire
Best Low-Profile: Terrain Low-Profile Firepit
Best Value: Teamson Cement Wood-Burning FirepitFirepits can start to look a little chintzy under the $150 level, and durability is also harder to come by at that price point. That’s why we like this 21-inch round wood burner from Teamson. The gray concrete design looks much richer than its price tag suggests, plus its joint-free construction means it should hold up well over time. If there are kids in the picture or you’re concerned about flying embers, the durable steel cover is a nice safety feature. There’s even a grilling grate, enabling you to cook burgers and dogs over the open flame.
Is it safe to leave a firepit on a deck?
Yes, but for starters, a firepit should be at least 10 feet away from anything that can catch on fire, including your house. So unless it’s a big deck, that distance requirement could be a deal breaker. And if the deck itself is made of wood, you will need to place the pit on a fireproof pad or other heat-resistant surface—for example, tiles made of metal or ceramic.
How do I clean my firepit?
Firepits are fairly fuss-free. You just need to get rid of the ashes after each use. Some models have pull-out ash pans, similar to the tray on a toaster oven. With smaller firepits, you can simply turn them upside down. Either way, remember to let the firepit and ashes cool before cleaning. And even ashes that have grayed over might still have heat in their core, so be sure to wet them down in a noncombustible container before disposing of them with the household trash.
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