Fire Pit vs. Fireplace

Posted October 4, 2018 in Fire Feature

This summer has been a bit out of the ordinary…muggier and definitely wetter than we can ever recall.  With sticky temperatures lingering longer than normal, just like that…*poof*…we have nighttime temperatures that finally scream autumn.  Now that we are able to turn off the air conditioning and open the windows, we can venture outside to enjoy our outdoor living spaces in comfort.

At this time of year, what is the one outdoor feature you love and run to in the backyard?  We bet our bottom dollar it has to do with fire!  For those who are exploring the option of incorporating their very own fire feature in the backyard, let us touch upon the subject of fire pit vs. fireplace.  While both provide light, warmth and an interactive experience, there are definitive differences between the two.  Your ultimate goal for the feature within your outdoor living space will certainly determine which is the right choice for your family.

Fire Pit

A fire pit is the quintessential fully-interactive outdoor feature.  With a 360-degree surrounding usable space, there is plenty of room for all family and friends to gather and enjoy at the same time.  This open layout creates the ideal situation for a social gathering, providing a cozy campfire-like environment fit for face-to-face laughter and snack roasting!  Being low to the ground, a fire pit does not detract from any background views and the warmth is suitable to all.  For those who do not want to commit to permanence, portable units like metal fire pits or fire tables give the luxury to be transported around the property, to wherever the action is.  Built-in fire pits, while not portable, still have their own level of flexibility.

Your landscape designer will research your township ordinance to understand the rules of your municipality.  Some don’t allow open-burning of any sort, while others just want to make sure that the fire feature is not within so many feet of your property line.  Using your local guidelines, your designer has the flexibility to place a fire pit where it makes the most sense within your outdoor living space to flow beautifully with the rest of the landscape design.  However, being that a fire pit is in open air, you will need to pick a location that isn’t greatly affected by strong wind or constant breeze.  A fire pit is a great choice for families with children or for those who love to entertain.


Prefer your fire feature be in a more intimate setting?  An outdoor fireplace may be your perfect fit.  Outdoor fireplaces are not as interactive as fire pits.  Fire pits can accommodate several people at once, while fireplaces will only serve heat to those directly in front of it and seating is limited.  This, alone, is one reason why a fireplace is less of a social feature and more of a romantic ambiance.

While it is true that a fireplace can also be independently placed in your landscape design, abiding by the township’s ordinance that is, we follow the rule that features farther away from the home tend to lose their impact and are used significantly less than those incorporated closer.  This allows the warm, flickering fire to always be in the background of the main outdoor living space, exuding a sense of elegance and welcome.

Unlike fire pits, outdoor fireplaces are typically built in conjunction with an overhead roof structure.  The structure gives support to the fireplace.  The roof system will protect homeowners from the elements, helps contain some of the residual heat, yet allows for a more developed source of entertainment.  Being a covered structural feature, your fireplace presents the opportunity for a mounted outdoor-rated television or speaker system.  This area can have the comforts of inside, in an outside setting.


One other important factor to consider is the feature’s fuel-source!  Opting for a wood-burning fire pit or fireplace will require energy and maintenance.  You will need to be diligent in obtaining and storing the firewood, stoking the fire and extinguishing the flames and embers when the party ends.  For those who do not care for the smell of campfire or don’t want the responsibility of starting and maintaining the fire itself, there is always the option of gas.  If natural gas or propane exists on your property, you may certainly have your landscape designer take the proper steps to install and be code compliant with your local municipality.  When developing your outdoor living space, permits and inspections will be required, especially when it comes to structural and fire features.

If you know you would like a fire feature in your outdoor living space, but still are not sure which one would serve your family best, reach out to MasterPLAN Outdoor Living!  Whether a fire pit, a fireplace, both or neither make sense for your family and your property, we will weigh the pros and cons of each to find the perfect fit.  We have found that partnering with our clients creates an unstoppable dynamic because everyone is moving forward to the ultimate goal of a beautiful, custom outdoor living space!  Working together so you can live your best life outdoors is our goal and our promise!

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