Wood vs Gas Fire Pits – Which to Choose Based on Who You Are
There’s nothing like relaxing in front of your own fire pit with friends and family.
Fire pits have always been popular because they’re great additions to outdoor spaces and add a lot of atmosphere than electric or propane heaters just can’t match..
Particularly if you live in a colder climate or enjoy regular barbeques and al fresco entertaining.
However, there’s different types of fire pits out there.
It’s important to choose the right type of fire pit for your lifestyle and home. The two most popular fire pits are wood-powered and gas-powered.
In this guide we’re comparing both so you can make an informed decision.
Read on to see how wood vs gas fire pits stack up!
Starting out with the most important – safety.
There’s no point having a stunning fire pit if it’s shooting sparks at your guests!
In general, gas fire pits are safer. When it comes to wood fire pits, you have burning wood outside exposed to other flammable materials, wind, draughts, and human error, so you need to be careful. If not used properly, wood fire pits can be dangerous.
Gas fire pits are safer than wood because your have more control over the flame size and the intensity of the heat. There’s no burning embers or smoke to worry about.
That being said, it’s still important to follow fire safety protocol and to use a gas fire pit away from combustible materials, trees and buildings – just to be on the safe side!
Both wood and gas have multiple uses – preparing food, simply as background lighting for entertainment, for heating the surrounding area or for providing ambience to a social gathering. So in terms of usability we have a draw here!
Wood fire pits win in the atmosphere category.
Bright cheerful flames and the comforting scent of wood smoke are the makings of great memories! Nothing lifts spirits and adds atmosphere like a roaring blaze.
That being said – nowadays you have a range of gas fire pits available that look very natural and are almost as good as the ‘real’ thing. Talk to your retailer or installer about the wide range of sizes and finishes available to you.
Neither wood or gas fire pits would be used as a main or only source of light. Particularly if you’re preparing food in the area, neither will give off enough direct light to see clearly.
Both provide enough light to extend a short distance away and to provide ambience, so they’re pretty much even here.
Ease of Use
Gas wins this category.
A wood fire pit takes work so you need to consider this. Think about the time and energy required to source the wood and fire lighting materials, build the fire yourself, and manage that fire from start to finish safely. If you have a very busy lifestyle, a wood fire pit may not be the best option for you.
By comparison, gas is operation at the touch of a button, much less clean up and preparation, and just simpler and less work intensive overall.
All of this being said – there’s real value in traditional wood fires. They take longer, have more smoke, and need more management. But you can’t beat the crackle of a real wood fire.
Placement & Space Requirements
Gas is the winner here.
Non contained flames are risky and this will affect where you can put a wood fire pit. Do you have enough open space away from trees, foliage and buildings available to make a fire wood pit AND wood storage a viable option? Size wise, it all depends on how big you want to go with your wood fire pit. Are you looking for huge bonfire type action or a modest campfire type arrangement?
The size of the fire you want and what you will be using it for will determine its safe space requirements so think through these issues first.
When it comes to gas fire pits, today’s smaller models are ideal for small yards and cramped outdoor areas where you may not have the authority or the space to build an outdoor wood fire pit.
As long as you’re not using it near combustible materials and you’re operating it safely, you can get nifty, portable models today that take up very little space.
Just bear in mind – a larger built in gas fire pit requires a gas line, so you need to examine your outdoor space and see if you have the space to have one built in and whether you can do so legally on your property.
Materials and Fuel
Both wood and gas fire pits are made from heat resistant materials like brick, metal or tile, so it’s up to you and the ‘look’ that you’re going for in terms of building a fire pit yourself or getting one professionally installed.
For usage materials, things like trays, grills etc. for barbequing usually come ready with store bought gas fire pits and cooking tools may also be provided.
For wood fire pits you may have to source these yourself as the sizes and types of trays etc. you’d need would be dependent on the size and shape of the fire pit you’ve built or installed.
Pro – tip: When building your own wood OR gas fire pit, follow standard oven dimensions so that you can easily source trays, grill sheets, racks etc.
For fuel, you need to consider where you live. A wood fire pit needs wood and lots of it. Think about whether you have a ready supply of wood in your area and whether you have the time and motivation to either go purchase it already cut and packaged from a retailer, or to source it yourself naturally from the trees around you.
Remember, many wooded areas are under federal protection or are set aside as wildlife areas where cutting of wood is not allowed. Factor this in and check with your local authority before getting your chainsaw out!
Your gas fire pit will require either liquid propane or natural gas which is sold in tanks. Your installer or retailer should be able to recommend local suppliers to you and gas is widely available.
Pro – Tip: DON’T ever use wood in a gas fire pit – wood creates an intense heat that will damage the gas fire pit and it will pose a safety risk.
As far as the fuel COST goes both have pros and cons – wood is cheaper over the long run, as long as you have a cost effective and steady supply of it. Gas works out more expensive but is easily available.
Gas wins again!
Wood fire pits take a lot longer to ‘prep’ than gas fired ones. You have to check for obstructions and cleanliness first, arrange your fire lighting materials, and then spend time getting a good blaze going. It’s activity where you have to present – in terms of safety and being an effective fire starter there’s no walking away to do something else.
Consider the time commitment and your level of fire starting/fire management skills when comparing fire wood pits and gas ones.
Most models of gas fire pits are switched on and off with the simple press of a button or two. Gas is far quicker and easier when it comes to prep.
A gas fire pit needs much less maintenance.
A wood fire pit needs cleaning before or after every use and making sure that it’s safe to operate. The cleaning of a large wood fire pit can be quite a job, make sure that you’ve got the time and the will to do it regularly!
And, fire obviously requires constant maintenance and care as open flames are temperamental and need to be managed for safety, correct cooking temperature, size etc.
Your gas fire pit will only require careful usage (ALWAYS follow the manual and manufacturer’s instructions) and maintenance now and then. This is not hugely stressful or painful, just be careful to use it as it’s meant to be used, keep it from being damaged, and keep it clean and away from excess moisture that might cause rusting.
Laws & Codes
For both wood and gas fire pits, you’re going to have to follow your area’s fire laws, building codes, and heed burn warnings. Some counties don’t even allow wood fire pits on properties, so check first.
If you’re renting the property, check with the owner first that usage of a gas fire pit appliance doesn’t breach the conditions of your lease agreement.
Outdoor fires can be a cause of fine particle air pollution and irritating to people with lung conditions like asthma. You also need to think about if you can get enough sustainably sourced wood to make your fires eco – friendly.
The obvious danger from a fire pit is the risk of causing fast spreading wildfires or smoke pollution into wildlife habitats. Make sure that you are not harming your natural environment before deciding to go with a wood fire pit!
Gas fire pits are more environmentally friendly than wood ones because there is no smoke, so there’s no airborne pollution or fire hazard from embers. Also, using gas means using less trees for wood!
To build your own average sized wood fire pit prepare to spend an average of $700, it may be less depending on how cheaply you can source materials and the size and look you’re aiming for.
If you’re going pre – made, above ground fire pit you’re looking at spending around $400. To have one built for you according to your specific wants and size requirements, you’ll want to get quotes from local companies and installers.
The initial or ‘start up’ cost for a ready – made gas fire pit is higher than for wood – around $900 to $3 000 or more, depending on the model, size and the gas line that needs to be fitted. There are many options available so you’ll need to draw up your requirements and then do some homework online. It’s also advised that you talk to local installers for advice and comparing quotes.
To build your own gas fire pit you’d have to do your own Math as the cost is dependent on size, materials, placement and most importantly your specific gas line requirements for your property. The gas line installation is usually the highest cost.
It comes down to the amount of time and effort you want to spend on your fire pit and how rustic or ‘outdoorsy’ you are.
If you love the great outdoors and have lots of free time to enjoy building a fire and getting a bit mucky from the ashes and smoke, a wood fire pit if used safely is a good way to unwind if that’s your idea of unwinding.
If you have a busy lifestyle and enjoy easier, cleaner and less ‘rustic’ living, the gas fire pit can’t be beat for ease of use and simple clean up. The initial costs associated with gas fire pits are higher, but over the long term the running costs are relatively low.
There are also big differences in the safety of the two. If you have kids or kids within the extended family visiting regularly, gas is a lot safer and you won’t have to stress about accidents. You may also ‘get away with’ installing a gas fire pit in areas where the local laws don’t allow wood fire pits for safety reasons.
Consider the safety of your home/building and that of your neighbors.
Whichever you choose, and both wood and gas are great in different ways, we wish you many memorable and safe fire pit experiences to come!
Thank you for joining us!