Hello, fellow gardeners! Nothing I enjoy more than transforming a barren backyard into a lush outdoor oasis. Adding a cozy fire pit can be the perfect focal point for your landscape design. As your friendly neighborhood garden guru, I’m excited to share my tips and insights on fire pit landscaping to help make your backyard blossom. Grab your gardening gloves, and let’s get growing!
- 1 Choosing the Right Fire Pit for Your Backyard
- 2 Fire Pit Materials: Stone, Metal, Brick
- 3 Fire Pit Placement
- 4 Designing Around the Fire Pit
- 5 Seating Arrangements
- 6 Landscaping Elements to Complement the Fire Pit
- 7 Fire Pit Lighting
- 8 Practical Aspects of Fire Pit Landscaping
- 9 DIY Installation vs. Hiring a Professional
- 10 Accessorizing Your New Fire Pit
Choosing the Right Fire Pit for Your Backyard
The first step in any fire pit project is deciding which type best fits your space. There are a few main options to consider:
Wood Burning Fire Pits
Nothing beats the ambiance of a wood-burning fire pit for that classic campfire feel. The crackling flames and smokey aroma create a wonderfully rustic outdoor experience. Wood fire pits are also great for cooking over an open flame.
However, they do require more maintenance than other types. You’ll need to stock up on firewood, clean out ashes regularly, and take safety precautions like keeping a fire extinguisher on hand. But for many gardeners like myself, the extra effort is worth it for the actual fire pit experience.
Some of my favorite woods for burning are maple, oak, and hickory. They have dense fibers that burn slowly and produce less smoke. I recommend using seasoned softwoods like pine or spruce and your hardwoods for quick lighting.
Gas Fire Pits
Propane or natural gas fire pits are relatively fuss-free if convenience is vital. They ignite quickly with the turn of a knob and produce a beautiful flame. Gas fire pits are often more weather-resistant than wood ones, as well.
The trade-off is that gas can be pricier to operate long-term. And the fires don’t provide that smell and crackle that wood fires do. But gas fire pits are still a great choice if you want the ambiance without the maintenance.
Newer models allow you to switch out burner inserts to accommodate propane tanks and natural gas lines. This gives you flexibility if you later decide to convert your fuel source.
Gel Fuel Fire Pits
For a clean burning and environmentally-friendly option, gel fuel fire pits are worth a look. They contain cartridges filled with a jelly-like ethanol fuel that burns without smoke or toxic fumes.
The biggest downside is that gel cartridges can get costly to replace frequently. But gel-fueled fire pits are super portable and easy to light. So they can be ideal for temporary setups.
Fire Pit Materials: Stone, Metal, Brick
Once you’ve settled on a fuel type, there are a few primary materials to choose from when selecting or building your fire pit:
Rustic stacked stone fire pits lend an inviting, earthy feel to any backyard. Local fieldstone or river rock works beautifully and makes a long-lasting pit. Adhere to the stones with a durable construction adhesive suitable for high temperatures.
For cheese lovers, soapstone is another excellent natural material that withstands heat. It develops a nice patina over time. Remember that quarried stone is often more uniform in shape for a cleaner look.
If you prefer a more modern, sleek look, shop for steel, iron, or copper fire pits. These metals are durable, resistant to high temperatures, and come in various shapes like squares, rectangles, or rounds.
Opt for a sizeable bowl or pit depth to contain sparks and embers. Some metal pits even allow you to insert a grill for cooking. Enameled steel is rust-resistant if you plan to leave your fire pit outdoors.
For DIY’ers, building your fire pit from brick or concrete masonry blocks is a very affordable project option. Retaining wall blocks work well and provide built-in seating. Adhere to the partnerships with high-heat concrete adhesive.
Leave breathing room between bricks for airflow and line the inner pits with gravel or sand for drainage. I’d recommend a liner to protect the masonry against heat damage over time.
Fire Pit Placement
Safety should always come first when positioning your fire pit. Leave plenty of clearance from structures, trees, and shrubbery. Here are some guidelines:
- At least 10 feet from buildings, decks, or wooden fences. 20-25 feet is even better.
- Avoid placing under tree branches or near shrubs and mulch beds.
- Don’t install on wood or composite decks. Choose a non-flammable surface.
- Check local ordinances for fire pit restrictions in your neighborhood. Many have rules about proximity, fuel, smoke, etc. Don’t get burned with fines down the road!
Having ample space around the fire prevents accidents and allows for furniture arrangements and traffic flow. Portable fire pits offer flexibility if you plan to move it occasionally. Otherwise, choose a permanent spot that takes wind patterns into account.
Designing Around the Fire Pit
Now comes the fun part – dreaming up designs for your outdoor living space! Use the fire pit as the anchor point to inspire your landscaping theme and layout. Here are some ideas to spark your creativity:
Create a cozy cabin vibe with natural stone surroundings and timber seating. Incorporate boulders, a gravel pathway, and native drought-resistant plants. Prairie grasses like Muhly grass and Fountain grass add texture. For pops of color, dot your landscape with Black-Eyed Susan bushes, purple coneflowers, and spiky Yucca plants.
Go for a sleek, contemporary look with a gas fire column or pedestal pit constructed from limestone or concrete blocks. Paint the masonry a fresh white or opt for a matte charcoal grey. Include fiddle leaf fig trees in modern planters as accents. Place the fire pit on an elevated stone platform and surround it with mid-century seating.
Transport yourself to a tropical getaway with lush greenery, potted palms, and an exotic bubbling water feature. Place a gel-fueled fire pot on a stone patio amidst split bamboo screens for privacy. Use pavers or colored stone as a border around the fire pit. Plant Birds of Paradise and Hibiscus nearby to complete the look.
Embrace the Tuscan countryside with clay planters brimming with olive trees and herbs. Select a mosaic tile finish for the fire pit surface and perimeter. Include a mix of cast iron, wrought iron, and wood seating options with weathered finishes. Sprinkle in terracotta pots overflowing with flowers like lavender and vibrant red geraniums.
With some thought and planning, your fire pit can bring unity and character to your garden landscape. I always enjoy weaving themes inspired by my favorite vacation locales. This makes your backyard an oasis to unwind in and lets your personality shine.
A cozy seating area around the glow of the fire pit brings people together. Fortunately, there are all kinds of configuration options to choose from.
Built-In Bench Seating
For a permanent setup, you can build bench seating into the fire pit construction. Use concrete, stone, or brick to form long bench walls. This type of masonry seating stays put and offers much flexibility in shape and height.
Just allow at least 12-16 inches of seating depth for comfort. Place some weather-resistant cushions on top for extra coziness. This is an excellent opportunity to stow away extra firewood underneath the bench.
If you prefer to change your seating around seasonally or for events, go for lightweight movable pieces. Logs or stone stools are excellent rustic options that work well beside a flagstone fire pit.
For an eclectic mix, scatter the area with woven wicker armchairs, cast iron bistro sets, and wooden Adirondack chairs. Use a big, sturdy outdoor rug to define the space and protect your grass or pavers underneath.
Fire Pit Seating Materials:
Wood: Teak, eucalyptus, and cedar are excellent woods for outdoor furniture that can withstand sun, rain, and humidity. Cypress and redwood also hold up well, but watch for splintering. Look for sustainably harvested woods or salvaged pieces.
Wicker: For a breezy, beachy look, woven wicker furniture comes in many weather-resistant synthetic fibers like all-weather wicker. Focus on rustproof frames.
Aluminum and steel: From bistro sets to benches, powder-coated aluminum and stainless steel offer sleek lines, low maintenance, and strength. Wrought iron furniture boasts old-world character.
Stone: Sandstone, bluestone, and limestone stools bring lovely natural textures. Granite is also incredibly durable. Opt for smoothed edges for comfort.
Fabric: Look for all-weather cushion fabrics like olefin, acrylic, or polyester over more delicate cotton. Water-resistant blends help repel moisture.
Mix and match to create an inviting oasis for gathering around the glow of your fire. In my Wisconsin gardens, durable materials that can brave the elements are a must! Proper storage will help extend the life of any outdoor furniture as well.
Landscaping Elements to Complement the Fire Pit
Let’s explore additional design details to enhance your fire pit space! Carefully selected plants, lighting, and water features take your backyard oasis to the next level.
What you plant around the fire pit can make a significant visual impact. Flowering shrubs, grasses, succulents, and trees add color, texture, and structure. Consider the mature sizes and give plenty of distance from the flames. Here are some of my favorite fire pit planting ideas:
Shrubs & Grasses: For colorful blooms around a fire pit, choose low-maintenance shrubs like hydrangea, lilac, forsythia, spirea, and rose bushes. Ornamental grasses like Maiden Grass, Fountain Grass, and Switch Grass bring pleasing shapes and rustling sounds.
Trees: Small ornamental trees like Japanese Maples, Crape Myrtles, Dogwoods, and Crabapple trees lend gorgeous branches and often have vivid fall foliage. They frame the fire pit beautifully when planted at a safe distance.
Succulents: For drought tolerance, succulents like yucca, agave, and aloe vera withstand heat beautifully. Interplant them with hardy sedums.
Perennials: Try coneflowers, lavender, garden mums, iris, daylilies, and Russian sage for a sunny splash. Hostas, astilbes, and hellebores brighten shaded fire pit corners.
Take advantage of native plants acclimated to Wisconsin’s climate extremes when possible. Milkweed, coneflowers, and cardinal flowers are some of my native favorites! Choosing deer-resistant varieties will also help keep bothersome critters away from your landscape.
Fire Pit Lighting
Well-placed lighting transforms your fire pit from day to night. During the day, up-lights on trees or low-voltage LED path lighting guide the way to the fire pit.
As the sun sets, silhouetted flowering shrubs dotted with uplighting make a dramatic statement. Stake lights along a stone border or steps create a magical sparkling effect.
Use Tiki torches, lanterns, candles in glass jars, or solar-powered stake lights for ambiance around the pit. You can run low-voltage wiring and lights along bench seating, too. I’m a big fan of the flattering glow of Edison-style bulbs myself!
Programmable smart bulbs also allow you to change colors and dimness to suit the mood. Just do not aim intense lighting directly at seated guests’ eyes. A mix of light levels creates a cozy, inviting fire pit setting after dusk.
The sight and sound of trickling water combined with a flickering fire pit is a serene duo! Small water features like corner fountain accents, pebble creek beds, or a bubbling rock pond complement a fire pit beautifully.
More elaborate (and costly) options include custom fire and water combo tables with gas flames in the center. Surround this with a shallow pan of water, pebbles, or glass beads over LED lights. The result is an ethereal floating fire effect.
A mini waterfall cascading nearby adds delightful evening white noise for pond lovers. Be conscious of water splashing risks with an open fire pit, and take safety precautions. Integrating water into your fire pit environment creates a relaxing, multi-sensory retreat when appropriately designed!
Practical Aspects of Fire Pit Landscaping
While fire pits incite imagination with design possibilities, there are some important practical considerations, too:
- Wood fire pits require the most care. Remove ashes and embers regularly, spray with water to avoid dust, and scrub surfaces periodically.
- Cover unused gas and gel fire pits and keep debris out of burner vents. Remove any standing water.
- Check that gas lines/valves are working correctly and test for leaks before relighting if unused for long periods.
- Reseal masonry fire pits as needed to protect them from moisture damage. Replace mortar or bricks as necessary.
- Look for heavy-duty, water-resistant covers for any outdoor fire pit that fully protect the bowl and ventilation.
- Move portable fire pits to a covered area or shed during the rainy season.
- When disconnected, gel fuel canisters and propane tanks should always be stored in a dry, covered space.
- Adhere to all manufacturer guidelines for clearance, installation, operation, extinguishing, fuel storage, etc.
- Keep a fire extinguisher, hose, sand/water bucket, and fire blanket on hand. Know how to extinguish appropriately.
- Avoid burning during windy weather, and never leave a fire unattended.
- Build fires a safe distance from kids and pets to avoid accidents.
Installing or building a fire pit requires forethought, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Proper care and caution will allow your fire feature to provide enjoyment for years! I’ll share more thoughts on hiring a professional versus a DIY installation shortly.
DIY Installation vs. Hiring a Professional
Should I install my new fire pit myself or enlist some professional help? This depends mainly on the complexity of your particular project. Here are some things to help you decide:
DIY Fire Pit Project Considerations
Building your fire pit is a perfect weekend project for the handier DIY’er if your plan is pretty straightforward. Some examples well-suited for DIY:
- In-ground installation of a prefab metal fire bowl or chiminea
- Building a basic paver surround for a portable fire pit
- Constructing a modest masonry fire pit from block, brick, stone, concrete, etc.
For these projects, you’ll need to:
- Follow all zoning ordinances and get permits if required
- Have necessary tools – shovel, level, drill, wheelbarrow, trowel, etc.
- Watch DIY tutorials to understand proper construction techniques
- Allow 2-3 full days, including materials acquisition and construction
Budget-wise, these DIY builds often cost $300-$800 or more, depending on materials and accessories. You save significantly on labor costs. Exercise caution and get expert input if attempting gas or plumbing work.
More complex projects involving gas lines, extensive landscaping, or electrical work almost always benefit from hiring an experienced professional. Examples include:
- Custom stone fireplaces or fire pits with specialty masonry work
- Integrating fire features into outdoor kitchens or living spaces
- Coordinating fire installation with paver patios, seat walls, or retaining walls
- Converting fuel type or running new gas lines to feed a fire pit or fireplace
Benefits of hiring a pro may include:
- Handling all permitting paperwork and inspections
- Ensuring structural stability, zoning compliance, and safety
- Proper siting and installation accounting for drainage, utilities, etc.
- Total project coordination from start to finish
Naturally, professional installation comes at a price. Depending on labor and materials for intricate fire features, costs range from $2,000 to the tens of thousands. As with any major home project, check references and reviews carefully before hiring!
You can feel comfortable tackling most backyard fire pits as a DIY project with gravel, blocks, and a weekend of elbow grease. But for more elaborate designs, I always recommend consulting a qualified professional. This ensures your fire feature will be permitted, properly installed, and built to last.
Accessorizing Your New Fire Pit
The fun doesn’t have to end once your fire pit is up and running! Accessories can make your fire pit even more enjoyable and user-friendly. Here are some ideas:
Outdoor Living Accessories
- Cozy furnishings – Woven throws, waterproof cushions, outdoor rugs
- Ambiance lighting – String lights, lanterns, pathway lighting
- Planters and pots – For gardens, herbs, privacy screening
- Cooking tools – Grilling grates & utensils, rotisseries, grill covers
- Serving items – Fireproof mats, cutting boards, roasting sticks
- Storage solutions – Weatherproof cabinets, bins, log racks
Safety & Maintenance Tools
- Fire pit covers, caps, and screens.
- Fire pokers, shovels, tongs, and heat-proof gloves
- Firewood carriers and log racks
- First aid kit and fully charged fire extinguisher
- Cleaning brushes, scrapers, ash bins
By prepping some handy accessories in advance, you’ll get even more enjoyment and functionality from your fire pit over the seasons.
And don’t forget seasonal decorations like sunflowers in fall, mini wreaths in winter, and patriotic touches like red-white-blue pillows or napkins on Independence Day. This adds special touches to make evenings around the fire pit more memorable.
Adding a fire pit to your backyard landscape is such a rewarding project. With careful planning and consideration of your needs and style, the fire pit can become a beloved focal point. These tips have sparked ideas for designing your perfect outdoor retreat!
A fire pit brings people together, providing a gathering place full of warmth, light, and community. It extends your enjoyment of the garden from the day into enchanting evenings. With so much creativity possible in materials, shapes, seating, and accessories, you can craft a fire pit oasis that reflects your personality.
Start dreaming up your ideal backyard fire pit paradise. Chat with family and friends about how you envision using the space. Look for inspiration in your favorite vacation destinations and nature landscapes. Consider the look you adore and the activities you love.
With the right fire pit design, your backyard is ready to create magical memories that will last a lifetime. I wish you the very best on your fire pit landscaping journey ahead! Let your imagination grow wildly and bloom joyfully.