Outdoor Fireplaces vs. Fire Pits: Which One is Right for Your Home?

There’s nothing quite like the warm crackle and mesmerizing flicker of an open fire on a cool evening. Whether you want to extend those nights on the patio or create a cozy outdoor living room, adding a fire feature can turn your backyard into a welcoming open-air oasis. 

Two of the most popular options for outdoor fires are fire pits and fireplaces. While both offer the pleasure of watching flames and embers, each has distinct pros and cons.

In this blog, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of fire pits versus outdoor fireplaces to help you determine which type of feature best suits your space, needs, and lifestyle.

Outdoor Fireplace

An outdoor fireplace is a permanent, often masonry structure designed to contain a wood-burning fire while adding aesthetic appeal and functionality to exterior living spaces. 

Unlike a fire pit, which is typically an open design, an outdoor fireplace has a physical enclosure with a chimney or smoke vent to funnel smoke up and away from the seating area. 

Outdoor fireplaces can be built into an exterior wall or freestanding on a patio or deck. Common construction materials include brick, stone, stucco, or manufactured modular units. 

Many feature eye-catching architectural details like arched openings, mantels, and decorative finishes. 

Quality outdoor fireplaces are built to withstand the elements while providing an elegant focal point for outdoor rooms and landscapes.

In terms of fuel, the classic outdoor fireplace burns wood logs or manufactured fireplace logs. However, many homeowners now opt for outdoor fireplaces with gas log sets or inserts that allow for an instant, clean-burning flame via a gas line hookup. 

Gas models offer push-button convenience but require an approved gas line installation. Either way, outdoor fireplaces produce warmth, light, and ambiance for outdoor entertaining.

Another option for homeowners is an electric fireplace. Outdoor electric fireplaces are becoming an increasingly popular choice for adding warmth and ambiance to outdoor living spaces. 

Outdoor electric fireplaces are designed to withstand the elements and provide supplemental heat even in enclosed outdoor areas. Unlike wood-burning fireplaces, electric models do not require venting and can be mounted on a wall or recessed into an outdoor structure. 

They offer the look and feel of a traditional fireplace without the hassle of wood storage and cleanup.

Another benefit; outdoor electric fireplaces can be run with or without heat, allowing users to enjoy the realistic flame effects year-round. 

And while you won’t be roasting marshmallows with these types of fireplaces, they are a convenient and low-maintenance option for enhancing the comfort and coziness of any patio or backyard.

Outdoor Firepit

An outdoor fire pit is a contained, open source of fire that allows you to experience the warmth, light, and aesthetic pleasures of an open flame in your backyard or patio area. 

Fire pits can be purchased as portable units or built as permanent in-ground or above-ground structures. 

Portable fire pits are bowl-shaped vessels typically constructed of metal, stone, or concrete that hold the burning wood or other fuel source within their walls. 

In-ground fire pits are recessed into the ground and lined with non-combustible materials like brick or masonry. Above-ground permanent fire pits are constructed on the patio surface from materials like stone or concrete.


Wood is the classic fuel source, lending crackle, smell, and a rustic aesthetic. 

Some fire pits can burn propane or natural gas with an underground gas line hookup for easier lighting and maintenance. 

Other fuel options for fire pits include gel fuel canisters or wood pellets. The right fuel depends on your priorities for convenience, cost, and authentic wood-fire ambiance.

Permanence and Installation

Outdoor fireplaces are permanent masonry structures that require professional design and installation. 

Proper footing, venting, and code compliance are essential. Fire pits can be permanently installed in the landscape, but portable above-ground units allow more flexibility to move around the yard as needed.

Ambiance and Aesthetics  

An outdoor fireplace creates an elegant, architectural focal point with a contained fire viewed through an opening. Finish materials like stone or stucco blend with home exteriors. 

Fire pits allow 360-degree viewing of the open flames, lending a more rustic campfire-style ambiance to the yard. Their simple, freestanding design integrates easily into patios.

Heating and Functionality

Both can be used for warmth, light, cooking, and gathering, but outdoor fireplaces tend to generate more consistent, radiant heat directed toward the seating area in front. 

The structure also offers some wind protection. Fire pits disperse heat more equally in all directions. Fireplaces produce more smoke, requiring a chimney.

Finally, whether you opt for an outdoor fireplace’s elegant charm or a fire pit’s rustic allure, adding a fire feature to your backyard can transform it into an inviting outdoor sanctuary. 

Consider your space, needs, and aesthetic preferences to determine which option best suits your lifestyle. 

Whichever you choose, embracing the warmth and ambiance of an open fire will undoubtedly enhance your outdoor living experience for years to come. 

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