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10 Things to Consider When Building a Backyard Fire Pit

Ready to make a fire pit a part of your backyard entertainment scene? Here's what you need to know before you start.

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Best Locations for a Fire Pit

One of the first things you should do when considering adding a fire pit to your yard is where you’re going to put it. It’s important you choose a space that makes sense for entertaining while also ensuring it’s at least 10 feet away from your house and any tall trees or fences. The area above where the fire will be lit should be completely clear—no low-hanging vegetation. Nothing around the fire pit area should be flammable, so don’t locate it near any tall grass. And, make sure the area is level— don’t build a fire pit on a slope.

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sign Stefan Malloch/Shutterstock

Learn City Fire Safety Codes

Before you dig into your fire pit project, it’s important you learn your city’s requirements in order to ensure you comply with fire safety codes. Even if your city ordinance doesn’t have a ban on flames, it can’t hurt to speak with the local fire department to get their approval, as well.

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fireDebra Anderson/Shutterstock

Gas or Wood?

The type of fire pit you choose is another big decision. If you’re looking for the most leisurely option, you might like a propane fire pit, which they have easy, instant fires. If you want something that burns brightly, smells delightful and is used for more than just decor, you might want an authentic wood-burning fire pit. This decision can also impact your location choice, so take that into consideration.

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kidsMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Choose Permanent or Portable

If you’re looking for a fire pit and you want it to be an aesthetic fixture for your backyard, you’ll want it to be permanent. However, a portable fire pit is also an option, and while it’s less of a “look,” it’s a more flexible option. If you want to you can move the pit to a different part of your yard, take it on the go, or store it for next season.

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woodCPCollins Photography/Shutterstock

Choose Your Materials

Going for something permanent? Then you might like the look of a stone, brick or concrete fire pit. Prefer something portable? Then you have several metals to choose from. Copper is popular and iron is another great option. You should also consider a fire table, which can be permanent or portable. Consider filling your gas-fueled pit with lava rocks or special fire pit glass.

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outsideNeil Podoll/Shutterstock

Choose the Right Size

Choosing the right size fire pit is important for many reasons. You want to ensure it makes enough of a statement without interrupting the flow of your yard. However, if it’s too small it may not be ideal for a big group gathering. Take some time to consider what you’ll mainly be using your firepit for and make a decision on its size based on that.

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chairs randy andy/Shutterstock

Select Furniture

So you know where you want it, what size it should be, and the materials you’ll use, but what about furniture? Once you know the big stuff, you can start coordinating your furniture. A bigger fire pit requires more seating. A more elegant pit needs more refined decor. A portable, rustic fire pit will do just fine with some basic but comfortable pieces.

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night Artazum/Shutterstock

Choose the Right Outdoor Lighting

While a fire will provide plenty of light once you’re around it, stepping outside of its halo makes for dark and uncertain surroundings for your guests. Be sure you have enough lighting throughout your backyard that doesn’t take away from the coziness of the flames of the fire, but allows everyone to make their way to other parts of the yard or inside. Light posts, overhead stringed lights or torches are all great options.

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flame photocrazed_jls/Shutterstock

Always Keep Safety in Mind

When it comes to fires, safety is always of the utmost importance. Be sure you have a checklist on hand that keeps you aware of the wind direction before you light a fire, reminds you and others not to use flammable fluids to light or relight fires, helps you avoid flammable clothing or any loose-fitting clothing, tells you to avoid using soft woods like pine or cedar, and reminds everyone to ensure children and pets are at least three feet away from the fire.

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burn Coleman
Courtesy of Coleman


The last thing you can focus on is gathering your fire pit accessories. Along with the basics, like a spark screen and metal log poker, it’s a good idea to have long leather gloves (if you have to grab a log that topples), a garden hose you can turn on quickly and a supply of fuel (wood or gas).

Once you’ve got the safety accessories you can move on to the fun stuff like hot dog roasting skewers, s’mores and popcorn makers

Next, check out these outdoor fireplace design ideas.

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer, currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty and scientific news. Follow her traveling adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected] and check out her website: