Skip to main content

Firepit or built-in fireplace? Here’s how to decide

Who doesn’t love a night around a blazing fire? More and more backyards are becoming extensions of the home with “rooms” that rival any indoor space. Fireplaces and firepits provide an attractive focal point and also offer a gathering spot. Not only does adding one create an instant photo op, it also extends the time you can enjoy your outdoor space. Fireplaces and firepits each have their own benefits, but which is right for you? Here, we will explore both options to determine the perfect one for your space.

How do you use the space?

firepit father son outdoor patio deck
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Think about how you want the space to function. Is a quiet escape or a busy and social entertaining spot? If you have visions of friends and family gathered around roasting marshmallows, the firepit is ideal. Its circular design invites conversation and allows everyone access to the warmth of the fire. This means you will be able to fit more people, and by nature of the circle, they may be more interactive.

On the other hand, if you looking for a relaxing setting to unwind at the end of the day, a fireplace may be a better match. They work wonderfully for more intimate get-togethers and by design can be made to offer additional privacy. Fireplaces provide a cozy spot to read a book, relax with family, or share a romantic evening. Another popular option is to mount an outdoor television above the mantle just as you would in the family room. Fireplaces are not limited to an indoor setting. There are beautiful outdoor fireplace ideas you may want to take inspiration from if you’d rather unwind outside.

What is your style?

Are you casual and outdoorsy? Elegant and formal? Just like any other part of your house when outfitting an outdoor space, think about how you want it to feel. It will serve as a focal point, so it is potentially one of the most important choices. A fireplace surrounded by an outdoor conversation set with comfy all-weather cushions will have a different ambience than a laid-back firepit surrounded by sturdy Adirondack chairs.

Each option has its own character.

There is no doubt that a fireplace adds an architecture statement conveying the feeling of a true outdoor room. Likewise, the outdoor space can be decorated to reflect this, and the space will feel more formal. On the other hand, the firepit, whether built-in or portable, will reflect more of an outdoor experience. In that regard — unless it is a gas version — since it doesn’t have a chimney, it may also leave you smelling like a campfire long after you go inside.

What works best in the space?

Outdoor Living Room with Fireplace

A fireplace is a permanent, built-in structure typically covered in stone, brick, or concrete, which includes a chimney. It can be constructed on the back of a house or as part of a patio area to add interest or privacy. Since it is custom, it can be built to closely match the exterior of your home and patio. Typically, it is located on the edge of the seating area, so it takes up a lot less “floor space.”

Since firepits can come in any shape, they offer more flexibility about where they can be located. They can be built-in but are often movable, which will give you more options if there are times you want to switch locations or remove it altogether.

Another thing to look at is the way each one puts out heat. A fireplace will hold on to and radiate the heat better simply because it is more contained. Its three enclosed sides will protect the flame, and it will not be as susceptible to wind. With its open sides and no chimney, winds will not only affect the fire in a firepit, they will also have an impact on where the smoke is directed.

What’s your budget?

The last factor to consider is budget. Firepits are easier on the wallet and have a wider range of options. Think about whether you will be staying in the home or if you may want to take it with you to a future residence. A fireplace is an investment and will certainly require a bigger budget; it will also be a permanent fixture — meaning if you move, it isn’t coming with you. However, because fireplaces are built specifically for that location, you will have more opportunity to customize.

No matter which option you choose, a fire feature is a great addition to any outdoor space and will allow you to use it long after the temperatures drop.

Editors' Recommendations

Darcey Gohring
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Darcey Gohring is a freelance writer based just outside New York City. She served as the managing editor of New Jersey…
9 easy and effective ways to clear a garden full of weeds for good
Use these weed removal and prevention methods when your garden is full of these intruders
Gloved hand holding a pulled weed with roots and soil still attached

Growing a pristine garden is a horticulturist's pride and joy. That makes a weed infestation a gardener's greatest nemesis. Weeds not only make your garden look messy and unkempt, but they also suck up a lot of nutrients from the soil and weaken your prized plants. That's why we're going to discuss how to clear a garden full of weeds so you can save your gorgeous outdoor space.

Sure, the best weed management method is prevention, working to tackle weeds before they sprout, but this isn't always possible. So, if your garden or lawn becomes overgrown with unwanted weeds, you'll need a game plan. This growing season, keep your garden lush and tidy with these tips and tricks for clearing a mountain of weeds (and some bonus tips for how to prevent them from returning).

Read more
Rustic but modern: Why water trough gardening may be right for you
Water trough gardening will have you planting in style — here are the pros and cons
Water trough with plants

Water trough gardening has been a rising trend in the green thumb community. There is no one-size-fits-all method to achieving a beautiful garden: Some gardeners create gorgeous vertical gardens, some prefer pyramid gardens, while others would rather start a hydroponic garden. But water trough gardening is unique because it typically uses steel or other metal and is often used to provide fresh, clean water to livestock on farms or ranches.

If you are looking to achieve a rustic yet modern look in your garden, a water trough planter can be the perfect vessel to hold your plants. Here are the pros and cons of water trough gardening so you can determine whether it’s the best gardening method for you and your space.

Read more
11 attractive English cottage garden design ideas you should steal for your yard
You may just love one of these English cottage garden designs for your space
English garden walkway

If you're looking for something new and unique to do with your garden this season, consider an English cottage garden design. English gardens are informal, traditional, and serene, and they require dense plantings to make them come alive. Usually, they have a mix of ornamental and edible flowers and plants and use perennials, layers, and a lot of color. They're both formal and whimsical in design and can use brick, rocks, and mulch as structures to house the plants.

If you're wondering how to lay out an English garden, we've got some tips and tricks to do just that, along with some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Read more