Dancing flames, close companions and a cool winter’s night. There’s no better way to extend time spent in your garden than with the addition of a crackling fire pit.
Create your own warm and cosy outdoor destination that is equal parts sculpture, gathering place and chill-out zone. All in your own backyard. Designs can range from charming and cosy to bold and bespoke. Read on to find out which fire pit is right for you and your space.
Planning your fire pit
Before you take the plunge and buy or build your own fire pit, consider the design and size of your garden or courtyard, in order to figure out what type of fire pit will best suit the space.
Planning is vital – you’ll need to choose whether you want a fixed or portable model, then think about your budget, style and fuel.
1. How to choose fuel for your fire pit
Think about the heat source and intensity you’re after. “The most effective heaters are ones designed to produce plenty of radiant heat,” says Daryl Crowley, dealer representative at Jetmaster. “We recommend considering a gas fireplace in the early planning stages, to ensure the right gas and power provisions are allowed for.”
If it’s a large garden and you love a raging bonfire, a big Corten steel fire pit is the go. “Or you may want something low-maintenance and not have to worry about collecting and chopping wood,” says Paddy Milne, owner and founder of Victorian outdoor design hub The Scape Artist. “Just light your ethanol-fuelled fire pit and away you go.”
A wood-burning fire pit
A wood-burning fire pit is hard to beat in your outdoor entertaining area, but keep in mind that council regulations require the use of proper kindling and dense hardwood, otherwise too much smoke is created. Burning garden vegetation, damp wood, toxic materials or waste is prohibited, so a supply of clean wood is essential.
Gas burning fire pits
“Gas and wood heaters provide the most radiant heat and work the best in external settings,” says Daryl Crowley. A gas-fuelled fire pit can run on plumbed-in natural gas – more cost-effective if it is available – or LPG bottles. It can burst into life with the touch of a button, even using smart-home technology.
Ethanol fire pits
Without messy coal, soot and smoke to impact you or your neighbours, ethanol fire pits are environmentally friendly, elegant and economical. “Ethanol is clean-burning, renewable energy,” says Simon Cullen, sales manager at EcoSmart Fire. “It’s a fire controlled within a cylinder – safer than having a wood fire in your backyard.”
For a modern aesthetic, ethanol fire pits are ideal for decks, small courtyards or even a balcony, as you need to be quite close to its flames to feel the warmth. Best of all, they require little-to-no installation so they can be filled, lit and enjoyed in less than 30 minutes.
2. Where to position your fire pit
Once you’ve locked in the type of fire pit and considered the logistics, turn your attention to the details as a fire pit promises good times ahead. “It’s about making something special out of every day,” says landscape designer Michael Bates of Bates Landscape.
Create an entire relaxation zone with inviting seating placed around your fire pit, where the best garden vistas can be enjoyed. “Far enough away to be clear of overhanging trees, yet in view so it will draw people out from the house,” says Michael. Contemporary gardens may suit a minimal metal tray or an oversized steel bowl to bring weathered texture. A heritage garden calls for a classic, decorative dish.
Again, planning is important. Measure up before you buy, allowing 1.5 to 2 metres all around your fire pit to ensure safety and comfort, and avoid damage by using a stand, to elevate your fire pit over heat-resistant surfaces such as tiles, sand, stone or gravel.
3. Seating around your fire pit
Seating around the fire pit is essential. Bench seats, outdoor sofas, chairs and ottomans are all flexible and portable options. “Consider non-precious seating, such as timber or stone,” says landscape designer Adam Robinson from Adam Robinson Designs, which can withstand the weather and plenty of outdoor fire action. In terms of where to position it, “Flexible seating rather than fixed, allows for snuggling closer to the fire in the cooler months, and the ability to move a little further away when it’s warmer or you have the fire raging,” Adam suggests.
4. What style of fire pit is right for you?
It’s possible your fire pit will stay in position in your garden all year round so the style you choose should work with the rest of your landscape design.
“Not only do they take the chill out of outdoor entertaining,” says Tim Trussell from Northcote Pottery. “They are a feature piece in their own right and are sure to become the heart of the garden.” From a custom-made fire globe to a traditional clay chiminea or a rustic portable wood-burning fire pit, shop around for the size, style and price point to suit your needs.
5. Fire pit safety and maintenance
Annual maintenance keeps your fire pit burning safely. All models, including ethanol and gas, will happily sit out in the weather and have drainage holes for water to pass through. Cast iron needs little care, whereas lighter steel constructions and those in coastal locations are more prone to rust. Gas fire pits have a glass safety screen, child lock and safety cut-out functions, while ethanol fire pits are cool to touch everywhere except the flame – great for families with young kids or pets.
Check council regulations in built-up areas before you finalise plans for a wood-burning fire pit, which come under the same ruling as braziers, chimineas, pizza ovens and barbecues. In rural areas, consult your local Rural Fire Service, as a permit may be required.
Safety always comes first so have a fire extinguisher on hand and ready access to water, and supervise children at all times. Do not burn your fire pit during high winds or a fire ban, and fully extinguish your fire after each use. So you’re all set for the next cosy occasion.
Our top tips to creating a wow factor with your cosy masterpiece:
Use LED lighting to highlight architectural features and hard landscaping
Invest in custom-made bench seating to hug the edge of your fire pit
Add a cover so your fire pit doubles as a coffee table
Design your own fire pit surround to complement nearby landscaping materials
Nestle your fire pit into a slope or hillside to avoid interrupting the view from the house
The best outdoor fire pits to shop in Australia 2023
An artwork in itself, this stunning cast iron fire pit lends a contemporary style to any outdoor space.
Compact, concrete and clean, this is the perfect fire pit for a deck or outdoor space where fuel, fuss and foliage might get in the way of the enjoyment of an open flame. Plus, with its included BBQ accessories, entertaining outdoors is easy.
With the timeless texture and patina of steel, this classic drum-shaped fire pit invites a gathering of friends and family to circle around it in style.
A striking centrepiece, this elegant fire pit features a grate for burning wood and barbecuing on one end, while on the other we see a clever storage solution for firewood. Plus, the top also serves as a low table for your favourite drinks and snacks.
A classic shape for a fire pit, this steel creation will lend a sculptural element to your garden year-round with its rich, reddish tones and warm, textured patina.
Sleek and sculptural, this globe-shaped fire pit from Eva Solo is perfect for bringing together family and friends outdoors. Creating a wonderfully warm atmosphere, its the perfect outdoor entertaining piece for any contemporary home.
This fire pit combines the rusty finish of cast iron with a contemporary silhouette to create a somewhat lunar effect that is truly fit for purpose under the stars. Sturdy legs elevate the fire pit to avoid damage to the ground and allow airflow.
Form follows function by adding an extra element to the fire pit area with this architectural storage structure that doubles as a design piece.