Outdoor

5 things to know before buying a fire pit

Plus, the best outdoor firepits to add to your backyard this season.
Timber deck with outdoor furniture and glowing fire pitCath Muscat

Dancing flames, close companions and a cool winter’s night. Our warming fire pit ideas confirm there’s no better way to extend the time spent in your garden than with the addition of real flames.

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.

A blue garden boatshed on the bay in Sydney's North Shore.
(Credit: Photography: Maree Homer / Styling: Kristin Rawson)

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.

“Burning a fire is great to keep the mozzies away,” says landscape designer Adam Robinson. Tim Trussell from Northcote Pottery suggests using natural insect repellents by burning sage or rosemary in your fire pit. “This also adds a delicious perfume to the surrounds,” he says.

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.

Ethanol and gas fire pits come ready to light, or as a burner unit to be placed inside a custom, fire-resistant surround. Get creative with stone, concrete or GRC (glass-reinforced concrete), all designed to handle weather conditions. (Credit: Photography: Kristina Soljo)

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.

A fire pit lid, such as this timber one by Bates Landscaping, keeps rain out and can also be used as a table. (Credit: Photography: Bates Landscaping)

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.

In the backyard of this Mornington Penisular home, this outdoor seating area centred around a fire pit is the perfect spot to take time out under the stars when the temperature drops. (Credit: Photography: Suzi Appel / Styling: Beckie Littler)

4. What style of fire pit is right for you?

It’s possible that your fire pit will stay in position in your garden all year round so when collecting fire pit ideas, 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.

bushland sustainable home firepit

A space once home to the washing line now hosts a rustic enclave made from timber offcuts providing plenty of fun for family and friends around the fire pit. (Credit: Marnie Hawson)

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.

Enlist the help of nature to set the scene. “Add some simple ingredients for extra aroma, such as cinnamon sticks for spicy warmth (ideal for any Christmas in July), or dried oranges for a citrus twist,” says Tim. (Credit: Photography: Cath Muscat)

STYLE TIPS:

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 2024

round stone fire pit

01

Round stone fire pit, $289, Temple & Webster

$189, Temple & Webster

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.

Key features:

  • Solid concrete
  • Includes poker, mesh, grill, stainless steel rack, fire bowl
  • Dimensions: H47 x D53cm
fire pit

02

Cane-line ember fire pit in Black

$1314, Finnish Design Shop

Designed by Danish designers Christina Strand and Niels Hvass, this cast iron fire pit is an artwork in itself, combining sleek, contemporary lines with simple styling to elevate any outdoor space. Sold separately are a matching cast iron lid and wire grill grate for cooking.

Key features:

  • Solid cast iron
  • Optional extra lid and grill grate
  • Dimensions: H22 x D60cm

03

Eva Solo FireGlobe fire pit

$1200, Hardtofind

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, the hooded shape puts a spin on traditional fire pit ideas and can be angled for wind protection, making it the perfect contemporary outdoor entertaining piece.

Key features:

  • Enamelled steel and stainless steel construction
  • Integrated handle for ease of movability
  • Dimensions: H75 x D64cm

04

Rust round bowl fire pit

$209, Temple & Webster

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.

Key features:

  • Enamelled steel and stainless steel construction
  • Integrated handle for ease of movability
  • Dimensions: H75 x D64cm

05

Costway firewood holder

$46.95, Catch

Even the best fire pit ideas will fall flat without a storage solution for your timber. Add an extra element to your fire pit area with this open-framed steel structure – an architectural storage structure that doubles as a design piece.

Key features:

  • Steel construction with reinforced bars, total weight 200kg
  • Open construction allows air flow to keep wood dry
  • Dimensions: H102 x D33 x W95cm

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