A well-designed gas fire pit takes many factors into consideration, from legal to landscape. But it’s worth the effort because a well-executed fire pit can potentially add value to your home, helping to offset the cost of your project. Take a few minutes to look over this article to ensure your finished project will line up with your expectations.
Are There Limitations or Guidelines?
Unless you live in a rural setting in an area without wildfire concerns, you will likely have a rule or two about what you can do. For instance, can you even have a gas fire pit? If so, are there limitations on type or size?
Are there special components you need to use such as a CSA-certified burner? If this is a rental property (and that includes the occasional Airbnb rental), you must use CSA listed/certified burners.
You’ll also want to check with your insurance company and Home Owners Association (HOA). They may have requirements, as well.
After you know what is possible, you can then start planning within that framework.
YOUR INSURANCE company will likely reject a claim if there is an incident involving your gas fire pit and you did not adhere to their guidelines.
How Will You Use Your Gas Fire Pit?
The following are a few points to consider that will help give shape to your project. As you envision your DIY gas fire pit or fire table, be honest about how you’ll really use it. There’s no sense investing in a large fire pit if you rarely entertain more than 4 people at a time.
Think about how operating costs may affect usage. If you’re going to hesitate to fire up your gas pit because it costs more to run than you would like, maybe it’s better to go with something smaller and more economical. Or perhaps you’ll decide it’s worth the upfront costs of connecting to a natural gas line (if available) for the savings on the back end. Natural gas is much more inexpensive than propane.
If you routinely entertain large groups of people and you insist on a roaring big gas fire pit, you won’t be able to do that with a 20-pound propane tank. But there are some options if you don’t have natural gas available. However, you will have to make accommodations in your design to house the fuel source.
To use a larger gas burner, you will need to use a larger propane tank (40 pounds is recommended) that can be hidden off to the side in a separate housing or behind a nearby bush. The hose will run from the tank to the fire pit, so you’ll have to think about how to deal with that, so it isn’t a trip hazard.
Or you can use a special device to connect two 20-pound tanks together in order to increase the burner size and output. But your gas fire pit structure will need to have ample room to house them both.
Keep in mind, a more powerful fire pit will cost more to operate, and it may need greater clearance from nearby structures and more clearance overhead.
Gas Fire Pits Expand Living Space
A fire pit can expand your living area, giving a focal point to your patio. It also provides a heat source to extend outdoor living in spring and fall. So where will you place it for the best effect?
Gas Fire Pit Placement
First, you will need a level spot for your fire pit, preferably a spot free from excessive wind. Beyond that, you will also need to look for a space that allows for at least 3 feet of clearance around the structure and 8 feet above.
Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions for your gas burner size, you may need more room. Some require placement at least 10 feet from nearby structures. Local ordinances may also have rules that override the minimums.
A NATURAL GAS fire pit becomes a permanent fixture once its installed, so make doubly sure you like the spot you’ve chosen.
Landscape designers suggest at least seven feet of clearance around the fire pit to allow for chairs and navigation around them. This gives guests space to move closer to the fire for more warmth or move back if it’s too hot. Celestial Fire Glass has recommendations for outdoor gas fire pit clearances.
An easy way to get a feel for this is to mark the intended size of your gas fire pit with a piece of rope or chalk, and then place chairs around it. Does it feel like you have enough room? Is the fire pit blocking natural traffic patterns across your patio? You may need to reconsider the location or size of the fire pit to make it work.
One more thought. Some people opt to locate the fire pit at a distance from the house in a space all its own. Will this be convenient if you plan on using it as part of your outdoor entertainment space?
If the fire pit is located on or near your patio, the guests will tend to stay in one location. If it’s located way out in the yard, guests will likely split into two groups. Maybe that’s okay, but if that’s not what want, you will need to rethink that strategy.
Limited Space for a Gas Fire Pit?
If you love the idea of having a gas fire pit but are limited in space, you might want to consider a fire table. This often takes the shape of a coffee table. The burner is in the middle of the tabletop leaving room around the sides where guests can rest their drinks or small plates.
If you’re using a 20-pound propane tank as the fuel source, you can easily design a structure small enough to be portable. Mount it on wheels to make moving it around even easier. When not in use, that space can be freed up for an extra dining table or chairs.
While a portable fire table provides the utmost flexibility, it does not add to your home value as a natural gas fire pit does.
Fire Pit Building Materials
There is a wide variety of materials to choose from when designing the structure for your DIY gas fire table or fire pit. What look are you going for? Classic? Modern? Industrial? Something that blends harmoniously with your house or existing landscape?
This becomes very important when it comes to added home value. Natural gas fire pits can add value if executed tastefully. For instance, if your house is brick and the fire pit is the same brick, that lends a consistent, intentional feel to the fire pit.
DO NOT USE pea gravel in your fire pit. These little rocks retain water and can explode when exposed to excessive heat.
If the structure matches the patio pavers or complements the hardscape, that also works. The design must feel harmonious and pleasing if you want to get the extra bucks at resale.
A cement blocks / pavers is the least expensive building material, and it can be dressed up with stucco or stone veneers. Interlocking block is a popular choice for DIYers, but it tends to be on the upper end of cost. If you’re building your fire pit using pavers you’ll want to use a Flex Form Paver Collar which fits easily between the top and second from top layers of pavers to provide a shelf to support your burner pan.
Poured cement is very trendy these days, but it is very heavy so it will not be portable. Prefab steel structures are also popular for a modern or industrial feel, but you will have to commit to keeping it covered to prevent rust.
The main consideration to keep in mind – gas fire pits and fire tables should be constructed with non-flammable elements. But even acceptable building materials often need an extra layer of protection to keep them structurally sound.
For example, most of the materials listed above cannot tolerate sustained direct contact with excessive heat. They will need to be lined with fireproof brick to guard against cracking and crumbling.
Maybe you are a creative sort. Take a look at these ideas for inspiration.
Venting Your Gas Fire Pit
Whatever materials you use, do not forget to include vents in your design. If you’re using propane, you must install vents near the bottom of the structure. If using natural gas, the vents should be placed near the top. For more specifics, see our article on proper venting of gas fire pits.
How Much Fire Power Do You Want?
To some extent, you will be limited by what is available. If you’re using a 20-pound propane tank, you can’t go higher than a burner with a 125,000/hr. rating. As mentioned earlier, there are creative solutions if you want to bump up in size, but your design will have to allow for such changes.
If you have natural gas available, you can typically go larger. However, if you are tapping into an existing gas supply line, it’s possible you will be limited by the size of the piping. You’ll need to discuss that with your professional gas installer.
Design Your Gas Fire Pit
One of the best parts of a DIY gas fire pit or gas fire table is being able to make it your own. Put it in the place that works best for your entertainment needs. Choose the materials that you find pleasing. Size it to your usage and budget. Get creative! We love seeing what our customers come up with so please share your pictures.
If you have questions regarding the design of a DIY fire pit or fire table, don’t hesitate to contact us.