Best Outdoor Fireplaces

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

54 Models Considered
24 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best outdoor fireplace

If you love spending time in your backyard, you might be sorry when cold weather cuts down on your outdoor time or puts a stop to it altogether. Luckily, while the weather is out of your control, there are options for making your yard more comfortable on those days when the elements don’t cooperate. One of the best options is an outdoor fireplace.

When it comes to pure relaxation, it’s hard to beat the mesmerizing dance, crackle, and warmth of a fire. Choosing the right outdoor fireplace can be complicated, though. There are several different types and styles, and you’ll need to make some decisions regarding fuel. In some cases, local ordinances or restrictions will also need to be taken into account.

We created this guide to help consumers choose the best outdoor fireplace for their needs. For your convenience, we also provide information about some of our favorite outdoor fireplaces to make your shopping expedition stress-free.

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An outdoor fireplace lets you enjoy your yard, even in chilly weather.

Key considerations

Outdoor fireplace vs. fire pit

While the terms “outdoor fireplace” and “fire pit” are sometimes used interchangeably, the two are not exactly the same thing. That said, they do share some features.

At the most basic level, a fireplace contains flames within a firebox and has a chimney. You need to sit in front of it or only slightly to the side of it to enjoy the flames and warmth. A fire pit, on the other hand, is open. There is no firebox containing flames, and it does not require a chimney. Most fire pits are round, though some are square. The open design allows you to sit anywhere around the fire pit and enjoy the same view of the flames and the same access to warmth.

Chimineas

If a built-in outdoor fireplace isn’t an option, a chiminea is worth considering. These freestanding fireplaces are traditionally made of terracotta clay, stand on short legs, and have a vase-shaped appearance with a round belly and long chimney. A small opening in the belly lets you add wood for burning.

Traditional chimineas have lots of rustic or ethnic flair, but you’ll also find contemporary designs made of cast iron or another metal with a smooth, sleek appearance. Contemporary takes on the chiminea often have metal mesh insets along the sides which allow you to see the flame and feel the warmth from any angle. While most contemporary designs also burn real wood, there are options that use propane as fuel. But whether traditional or contemporary, chimineas are generally quite heavy, so they aren’t intended to be moved from place to place.

On the plus side, a chiminea lets you enjoy all the benefits of an outdoor fireplace without actually having one permanently installed in your yard. On the downside, it can be messy to clean the ashes, and not as many people can gather around a chiminea as a fire pit.

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Did You Know?
A built-in fireplace or fire pit can add considerable value to a home.
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Features

Types of outdoor fireplaces

Built-in fire pit

For those who love to entertain in their yard or just sit outside enjoying the evening, a built-in fire pit can provide pleasure throughout the year. A built-in fire pit can be as basic as a DIY hole dug in the ground, lined with bricks or stones, and surrounded by a low wall of stacked brick or stone. But more often, a built-in fire pit is a sturdy feature in which the building material, whether brick or stone, is mortared in place.

Appearance: While many built-in fire pits have a rustic look, a contemporary look can be easily achieved with the use of smooth stone, such as granite or marble, or concrete in place of brick or roughhewn stone. Fireproof tile is another option. On the plus side, a built-in fire pit adds considerable value and beauty to your yard. More people can gather around a fire pit than a fireplace, and you can enjoy the flames and warmth from any angle.

Fuel: A traditional built-in fire pit burns real wood, but charcoal briquettes are also an option. Many people like the ease of a propane-fueled fire pit, which eliminates the need for starting a fire with matches and kindling. However, you cannot burn real wood in a propane-fueled fire pit; faux logs are used instead. Natural gas is another option, but you’d need the services of a professional plumber to attach the fire pit gas line to your home’s gas line.

Cost: On the downside, a built-in fire pit can be expensive and may be subject to local ordinances or building codes.

Portable fire pit

If a built-in fire pit is beyond your budget or not allowed in your area, a portable fire pit is a great alternative. These are moveable, although some are much easier to move than others. As with any fire pit, you’ll need to consider wind direction when using it. Furthermore, burning wood can be smoky, and some areas forbid the burning of wood altogether.

Appearance: Portable fire pits can be found in a wide range of styles to suit any landscape, from rustic to contemporary. Typically, portable fire pits are made of metal, most often steel, although copper and aluminum are also options. Portable fire pits come in a range of sizes, so choose one that is in proper scale for your patio. Remember that you need clearance on all sides of the fire pit, and most are unsuitable for use on a wooden deck.

Fuel: Some portable fire pits use propane as fuel; many simply burn wood or charcoal. Often, a metal grill is included, allowing you to cook over the fire pit. This greatly increases versatility. Many portable fire pits include some type of screen or cover to keep ash contained. Some cities require the use of such a screen, so check your local ordinances before lighting your fire pit.

Cost: Portable fire pits are generally the least-expensive outdoor fireplaces. As discussed, there are many sizes and styles to choose from, as well as several options for fuel.

Outdoor built-in fireplace

Most often, outdoor built-in fireplaces are sizable structures resembling their indoor versions, complete with a hearth, mantel, and chimney.

Appearance: An outdoor fireplace can be constructed against one of the house’s existing walls or incorporated into an outdoor kitchen or entertainment area. The most common materials used for built-in fireplaces are stone and brick, but concrete and tile are also options.

Fuel: Fuel sources include real wood, propane, or natural gas, although you’d need a professional to attach your fireplace to your home’s natural gas line. Propane or gas-fueled fireplaces are only suited to faux logs, not real wood, although some fireplaces use natural gas to get a real-wood fire started; you shut the gas off once the wood catches fire.

Cost: A built-in fireplace is a significant investment in your home’s value and beauty. These additions are typically quite expensive.

Add flare to the bottom of your gas-burning fireplace or fire pit with lava rocks, river rocks, or fire glass.

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Outdoor fireplace prices

Inexpensive: Chimineas are quite inexpensive. Traditional terracotta chimineas can be found for less than $100, but at that price point, don’t expect much longevity or quality. A good investment that will last for years is typically between $200 and $300, although there are chimineas costing over $500.

You’ll pay the least for a simple metal portable fire pit. Good options exist for less than $100. For a more elaborate design or a fire pit designed to run off propane, expect to pay between $100 and $200.

Mid-range: A professionally installed built-in fire pit costs around $1,000, but you can bring costs down with a DIY fire pit kit. These build-your-own kits typically cost $200 to $550.

Expensive: Built-in professionally installed fireplaces are by far the most expensive options. Depending on your design, chosen materials, and location, the cost can be anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. On average, the cost is around $3,000.

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Did You Know?
While many outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are rustic in design, there are other styles to choose from.
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Don’t use a wood-burning fire pit on a wooden deck.
  • Clear away overgrown branches or brush surrounding your outdoor fire feature.
  • Avoid using a fire pit on a windy day.
  • Inspect gas lines and connections annually.
  • Never burn wood in a gas-fueled fire feature and avoid damp or newly cut wood in a wood-burning feature.
  • Keep children and pets at a safe distance.
  • Never leave an outdoor fire unattended.
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Safety is paramount when using an outdoor fireplace or fire pit.

FAQ

Q. What are my choices of fuel for an outdoor fireplace?

A. As a general rule, the three main fuel choices for an outdoor fire feature are wood, propane from a tank, and natural gas from your home’s gas line. Wood is the least-expensive option but also the messiest and smokiest. Propane burns clean and hot, but you need to be mindful of how much gas is left in your tank, and the tanks themselves are not attractive. Natural gas requires professional installation, but once in place, you won’t need to refill a tank or worry about running out of gas midway through your outdoor evening entertainment.

Other fuel sources include charcoal, which is inexpensive but won’t burn as dramatically as wood. Gel fuel is an expensive option that burns without much heat, smoke, or odor. Bio-ethanol is a “green” fuel option that burns cleanly without producing smoke or odor, but it doesn’t give off as much heat as other options.

Q. What sort of clearance is required for safety?

A. Before we delve into this answer, let it be said that you should always check local ordinances before buying or installing a fireplace or fire pit. Many locations ban the burning of wood due to environmental concerns. Some ban all forms of outdoor fire features. In general, however, most areas allow natural gas or propane-fueled outdoor fireplaces or fire pits. Permits are usually required for built-in fire features.

As for clearance, it is vital for safety. Fire pits and fireplaces require clearance of any flammable materials of at least 3 feet on all sides. Most city ordinances require anywhere from 10 to 25 feet between a fire pit and a house and similar distances from the fire pit to the property line or neighboring house.

Q. Are there other types of outdoor fire features?

A. Absolutely, although they are mostly variations on fire pits. Fire tables, which have a fire feature in the middle of an outdoor patio table, are popular, as are fire bowls, which are basically bowl-shaped fire pits that sit on the ground. Fire columns are tall, upright features. All of these are gas-fueled, typically with propane or ethanol, and are more for dramatic or decorative effect than warmth.

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