With autumn starting to creep in and nighttime coming a little earlier every day, for many people it’s time to start saying goodbye to outdoor entertaining. But if you really love a good barbecue and an evening conversation out in fresh air, you aren’t totally out of luck when summer starts to wane. Fire pits, fire places, and other fire features make a pretty solid replacement for late evening summer sunshine, and can help you stretch out your outdoor season, even in cooler climates. Bonus? If you’re looking to do a large update (either for this year or next), this option is popular enough that many outdoor sets are sold with a fire pit designed to match.
Why Bother With A Fire Pit?
There are a huge variety of fire features you can add to an outdoor space, from big rough hewn rock-and-sand bonfire pits to delicate and sophisticated table toppers. But what they all hold in common is that they produce heat and light that chases back chilly autumn night air around a small area, allowing you and your friends and family to gather outside while still staying warm and comfortable. Unlike big outdoor heaters, these won’t make your space warm enough to enjoy in the dead of winter in a cooler climate, but they will provide enough heat to keep you feeling cozy on a long evening.
What Do Fire Pits Look Like?
What kind of fire pit or fireplace you want will depend a lot on what your outdoor space looks like, where you want to put it, and what kind of fuel it uses. Wood burning fire pits are usually made of stone or metal, and are typically quite large, heavy, and in the case of stone, almost always stationary. Fire pits that burn a liquid or gas fuel, on the other hand, can be much more compact and lightweight. They’re still hefty enough to stay stable, but not so weighty that once you put them down, they’re in place for good. That said, the fire pits that come paired with outdoor seating sets are almost never stone, and ones that are made of metal are typically either small and brazier-like (for mobility), or integrated directly into a table paired with the set.
Why Buy A Fire Pit As Part Of A Set?
Fire pits and other fire features can certainly be bought or built on their own rather than as part of a seating set. But there are a few big benefits to purchasing them together. Maybe the most obvious one is simply that they look good: fire pits paired in this way are designed to match the style of the chairs, and also to be used comfortably with them. Buying fire pits in this way is also a good way to strike a balance between price and quality. Regardless of what type of fuel they use, stone fire pits can be quite expensive to set up. Similarly, freestanding wood-burning fire pits made of metal range from very poor quality on the cheaper end, and hugely expensive (and heavy) once you reach the more elegant and artistic designs.
What’s The Best Type Of Fuel For A Fire Pit?
The type of fuel your fire feature uses is also much more than just a question of aesthetics. First, you’ll need to think about availability: how easy is the fuel to obtain, and how expensive? You also need to be sure the type of fuel you want to use will work in the space you have; wood fires in particular need to be well ventilated, and while propane is cleaner-burning, it can’t be used in spaces with low overhangs. Different types of fuel will also produce different levels of heat and light, burn for different durations, and can be easier or more difficult to extinguish.
Propane-burning fire pits are among the most commonly paired with outdoor furniture, and generally consist of a small fireproof basin built into the top of a table that conceals the propane tank. The heat and flame levels can be adjusted and last about as long as you’d expect from a propane grill with a similar sized tank. You can also find fire pits that use a liquid biofuel made of ethanol. This burns even cleaner than propane, is made of plant byproducts, and can be poured into a basin and lit to create heat and light levels more similar to wood fueled flames, but without the mess.
Can Fire Pits Be Used For Cooking?
Most fire pits that come paired with outdoor seating sets are freestanding, but only single-purpose – aka, they’re often shaped like a table, but not usable as one. But on rare occasion it’s possible to find a fire pit incorporated into a dining set, where the fire serves as a centerpiece of a larger table. This is a much rarer setup, but one I like a lot – especially ones that also feature an add-on grill that not only allows you to chat, but also to cook and eat right around the table. While this might be a little too toasty for a hot summer day, it’s the perfect way to see the summer season in and out when you’ve got the will to spend your evening outside, but the warmth isn’t quite there!