Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard (2024)

Outdoor entertaining is a quintessential part of Australian living, and there’s nothing better than gathering in the backyard with friends and family around the cosy fire pit. To help inspire you, here are 5 essential tips for choosing the right fire pit for your backyard.

Whether you’re planning to extend your entertaining season well into winter or simply want a dedicated space to roast marshmallows with the family, a fire pit will be a versatile addition to your garden or outdoor entertaining area that’s guaranteed to improve the ambience.

Available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and finishes, fire pits can easily become a dramatic sculptural feature in any backyard.

Ensure your fire pit space becomes a beloved hangout by pairing it with comfortable outdoor furniture, and you’ll be sure to look forward to winter for many years to come.

Here are our top 5 tips for choosing the right fire pit for your backyard…

Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard (1)


Gone are the days of concrete blocks and rusty drums for outdoor heat. The new breed of fire pit adds atmosphere as well as warmth to a garden, can create a focal point in an alfresco space, and allow you to spend more time outside in cooler weather.

“Adding a fire pit area to your backyard can totally transform the overall look and feel of it, and make the space feel welcoming, regardless of its size,” says Sydney-based landscape designer Adam Robinson. “And don’t forget, the fire pit can also be a cool way to cook outdoors.”

Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard (2)


The fire pit you need depends on the space you have available. Big backyards can of course accommodate built-in stone or brick fire pits, freestanding pits and fire bowls.

Smaller spaces, such as courtyards, should stick to fire bowls, portable fire pits, table-top pits or chimineas.

When it comes to balconies, the best option is a tabletop fire pit or small fire bowl.

“A simple bowl in an interesting, robust material makes the most classic and sophisticated fire pit, and never goes out of style,” says Adam.

Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard (3)

fuel choice

While timber is the most obvious fuel option for a fire pit, you can also use clean-burning ethanol/bioethanol products, gels (with a base of isopropyl alcohol or methanol), and faux logs (as in the ornamental logs used in outdoor gas fireplaces, which are less like fire pits and more like fireplaces).

Timber alternatives can be used in both small and large spaces, but wood should only be burned where there’s no risk of embers landing on flammable plant life or built structures.

“Whatever you go for, it’s important to consider safety requirements and environmental concerns,” says Adam. “Bioethanol is by far the most environmentally friendly option as the fumes emitted are the cleanest, followed by natural gas.

A great alternative to wood is biofuel logs. The flammable briquettes made by Melbourne company Zero Impact contain recycled coffee grounds. They are meant to burn better than wood, and are a cleaner source of energy than coal.”

If you do choose wood, Matthew Hoffmann, the national barbecue and outdoor heating buyer for Bunnings, has the following advice: “Any dry hardwoods, such as red gum or jarrah, burn for longer and are cleaner. Softwoods, such as pine, tend to burn quickly, so you will need more wood to keep the fire going and more smoke to manage,” he says. And remember, you can only burn natural, untreated timbers.

Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard (4)


Before you get excited and race to the nearest fire-pit retailer, it’s important to read the local council regulations about fire pits and open fires.

And if you live in an apartment and the building has a body corporate, you’ll need to check the regulations to make sure they allow fire pits.

When you install the fire pit, it should be positioned on gravel or a paved area, with plenty of room for movement around the pit when it’s lit. Avoid tight, secluded or high-traffic areas.

“Only use a fire pit on a balcony if it is on a non-combustible surface,” says Matthew. “If not, a gas heater is a great alternative.”

Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard (5)


Once you’re all set, you can further enhance your fire-pit experience by burning naturally scented products.

For a festive olfactory punch, light up cinnamon sticks at Christmas, dried citrus such as orange in winter, and sage and rosemary when the bugs are about, which should ensure a fragrant – and hopefully mosquito-free – experience at any time of the year.

top tips

  • Size The scale of your alfresco area should inform the fire pit’s size.

  • Design A bowl is more portable and won’t get too hot.

  • Fuel choice Make sure your timber is dry and untreated.

  • Safety Set your fire pit on a non-combustible surface.

  • Ambience Burn herbs or dried fruit to enhance the experience.

Backyard ideas

February 9, 2024

21 fire pit area ideas that make outdoor entertaining easy

ByLucy Francis

WriterLaura Barry

Laura Barry is a writer, bookworm and interior design enthusiast with a love for reporting on all things homes and lifestyle. When not tapping away at her keyboard, Laura can be found making endless cups of tea or perusing the shelves of Sydney’s many bookstores.

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Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard (2024)


Fire pits: 5 tips for choosing the right one for your backyard? ›

The fire pit you choose should strike a balance between quality and cost. Better quality will cost more, so size, style, fuel, and materials will influence the price tag. However, if you plan to use your fire pit often and for years to come, a solid design with durable materials will eventually pay for itself.

How to choose a good fire pit? ›

The fire pit you choose should strike a balance between quality and cost. Better quality will cost more, so size, style, fuel, and materials will influence the price tag. However, if you plan to use your fire pit often and for years to come, a solid design with durable materials will eventually pay for itself.

What is a good size fire pit for backyard? ›

Small fire pit dimensions should measure 3 feet wide, while a large pit can go up to 6 feet wide. Ideally a fire pit should be between 36 and 44 inches wide (including the width of the walls) in order to comfortably seat multiple people around it whilst still maintaining an intimate setting.

Where is the best place to put a fire pit in your backyard? ›

To ensure safe and optimal fire pit placement:
  • Adhere to local regulations and avoid placing during fire bans.
  • Keep fire pits at least 10 feet from buildings and trees.
  • Install on a non-flammable surface and away from overhead structures.
  • Check wind patterns to prevent smoke issues.
Nov 10, 2023

How far away should a fire pit be from a house? ›

Place your fire pit at a safe distance (10-25 feet) from any flammable structures or surfaces. This includes your house, trees, shed, vehicle, neighbors' property, and wood deck, among other things. Keep your fire pit away from overhanging branches. A 21-foot clearance is standard for most municipalities.

What is the perfect firepit? ›

Overall, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is hard to beat regarding function and value, making it a fantastic pick for those who want an all-around, well-designed fire pit. The dual burn of the Solo Stove (down and right) not only reduces smoke, it creates a lot more flame than the other two traditional fire pits.

What's the best shape of a fire pit? ›

Shape and Style

Fire pits are available in a wide variety of shapes and styles to fit your space and match your decor. A round fire pit is the most common shape, especially for wood-burning models. Like a campfire, this shape emits heat evenly around the perimeter to help ensure a warm seat for every guest.

Are backyard fire pits worth it? ›

Are fire pits worth the money? In short - yes, absolutely. The main reason they're worth the investment is that they've got multiple uses and they make your patio a multi-season space.

How high should a fire pit be above ground? ›

A good rule of thumb is to make an above-ground fire pit 12-14 inches tall. This is a few inches shorter than standard patio furniture seat height. If you want to be able to sit on the edge of the pit itself go a bit higher, 18-20 inches will be comfortable.

Can a fire pit be too big? ›

A large fire pit may look impressive, but it can overwhelm a smaller patio or deck, making the space feel cramped and uncomfortable. A fire pit that is too large can also be a safety hazard if it is too close to furniture, plants, or other combustible materials.

Where not to put a fire pit? ›

Fire pits should not be placed too close to a house or other backyard structures; and they should also not be placed too close to trees, shrubs, or other plants.

What do you put under a backyard fire pit? ›

What Do You Put in the Bottom of a Fire Pit? To create a safe, sturdy foundation for a fire pit, we use a gravel paver base. Other common materials used for the bottom of a fire pit are sand, lava stones, dirt, fire glass and concrete slabs.

Should I put anything in the bottom of my fire pit? ›

Placing a layer of sand or gravel at the bottom of a fire pit can help with heat distribution and protect the base from extreme temperatures. It also makes cleaning up ash easier.

What size should a fire pit be in the backyard? ›

A typical fire pit is 36 - 44 inches in diameter with wood & 22 inches in gas. Square fire pits average interior length between 34 inches to 34 inches in wood and 20 inches in propane. In most instances the external wall should be extended 12-20 cm.

What is the etiquette for a fire pit? ›

Ideally, a fire pit should be at least 10 feet away from any structures — 20 feet is even better. This includes your house, shed, fence and neighboring yards. Check the area around and above your fire pit. You don't want any plants within 10 feet of the fire pit area.

Can you have a small fire pit in your backyard? ›

Most cities and towns allow small recreational fires. A recreational fire is usually defined as a campfire, bonfire, or backyard fire in a fire pit. Many recreational fire regulations are in place to remain courteous to your neighbors, but others exist to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.

What is the best bottom for a fire pit? ›

The best materials to put in the bottom of your fire pit are gravel, paver base or fire bricks.

Should a fire pit be deep or shallow? ›

Depth: A good depth for an in-ground fire pit is between 6 to 12 inches. This range ensures adequate ventilation for the fire while keeping it contained. Remember, too shallow can make your fire pit less safe as embers can easily escape, while too deep can hinder oxygen supply, making your fire smoky.

What type of fire pit gives off the most heat? ›

A wood-burning fire pit gives off the most heat. Adequately seasoned wood is easy to burn and produces a large, bright fire that gives off a lot of heat, even in a small fire pit designed to save precious outdoor space.

Which is better in-ground or above ground fire pit? ›

While portable above-ground fire pits are cheaper and easier to install, permanent in-ground fire pits are better for most homes. They last longer with less care needed. They look nicer, built into the yard.


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