A DIY gas fire pit can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. It all depends on your requirements and design. A basic gas fire pit can be built for as little as $500. However, if you want something more extravagant, you may end up spending several thousand dollars. A luxurious gas fire pit will be built into your hardscape using high-quality materials such as stone or granite, a burner, and a control system.
But really, the cost is primarily up to you because there are so many variables at play. How big do you want it to be? What fuel sources do you have available? How essential is convenience to you? Do you already have a structure?
There are many things to consider when budgeting for a DIY fire pit or fire table. And that means there is a lot of room to be flexible to make your vision and costs match up.
We’ll run through the basics in this article, and by the end, your plan should begin to take shape. Once you have the outline of what you want, you can dial the project up or down to reach your goal.
Know the Rules for Gas Installation
First, you’ll need to determine what restrictions or codes apply to your home. Your community or insurance company may require that you use certain materials, such as black iron pipe for running gas lines or CSA-certified burner equipment.
Hiring a professional gas plumber to run lines and make connections is not only advisable, but your area may also require it. So, take a little time to acquaint yourself with local ordinances. Not only will it be safer, but you’ll also be sure to pass inspection if one is needed.
How Much Does It Cost to Install Gas Lines?
If you have natural gas available to you, the start-up costs will be higher because you’ll need to hire a professional gas plumber to ensure the proper installation of supply lines and the burner. However, natural gas is cheaper, so you’ll save money on the back end. Plus, as long as you have an appropriately sized supply line, you can use as big a burner as you like.
Before talking with your gas professional, it would be best to determine what size burner you want. They will ensure the equipment they install can handle your desired output.
The average cost to run a gas line is about $25 per linear foot. This cost increases if you can’t tap into an existing line or the location is difficult to reach.
Why Use Propane?
If you have an elaborate hardscape in place and don’t want to tear things up, you may opt for propane instead. Another consideration, some propane fire pits are also portable (lightweight or made with wheels) so you can move them out of your way when not in use. Once installed, a natural gas fire pit is a permanent fixture.
Propane may be your only choice if you don’t have natural gas where you live. Propane burns a little dirtier and costs more to operate, but you can’t beat it for ease of setup and low-cost installation. Unless you are connecting to a whole-house propane tank (and you’ll need a professional for that), you’ll most likely be using a 20-pound propane tank.
You may already be familiar with propane from using a gas grill. This smaller tank will allow you to place your fire pit just about anywhere as long as you adhere to safety clearances. However, because you’ll be using a small tank, you will have the inconvenience of having to swap out the tank for a full one periodically.
Also, using a 20-pound tank means you will be limited in BTU/hr. rating of the burner you can use. A small tank can’t support more than 125,000 BTU/hr. rating. For reference, a 90,000 BTU/hr. burner should be sufficient to provide moderate heat for groups of 4-6 people.
Operational Costs of Propane vs. Natural Gas
It costs approximately $4.25 per hour to operate a burner with a BTU/hr. rating of 65,000 on a propane tank. In contrast, running the same burner with natural gas costs about 80 cents per hour. To see the cost comparisons for various size burners, see our article, “How Much Does It Cost to Operate a Gas Fire Pit.”
How Many People Will You Have?
As you work through the following few elements, it’s important to think about how you’ll actually use your fire pit. Do you live in a neighborhood where friends often drop by to hang out? Do you have a large family that likes to gather at your house? Be realistic. Your enthusiasm for the project might skew your vision.
How likely is it that your life will resemble a beer commercial with you starring as the lead and surrounded by a large, raucous crowd having a roaring good time around the fire pit? If the reality is most often going to be you and your spouse enjoying a beverage by the fire, you may not want to spend for the biggest setup out there.
The fuel source could also be a deciding factor. If you’re using a small propane tank, you won’t have the capacity to light up a giant fire pit with room for ten people.
Size and Type of Enclosure
The typical size of a fire pit is 36-48 inches. The least expensive building material would be concrete blocks, with stone or premium interlocking pavers being the most costly. Costs average between $110-$600 for a 36-inch fire pit.
Bricks make a lovely fire pit, and the cost falls somewhere in the middle of the price range. However, keep in mind that you must use fire brick to line the inside of the pit. Fire bricks are high-heat tolerant and do not absorb moisture.
A DIY bridge between building from scratch and hiring a professional might be to purchase a ready-to-finish fire pit form. These come in an unadorned shape, such as a rectangle or cylinder. You apply the exterior finish, such as stucco or faux rock veneers. Starting prices, excluding the finishing veneer, hover around $2,000 though there are a few for less.
If you build your own from scratch, ensure you have included the proper venting and use a non-combustible material for the tabletop.
What Size Burner Do You Need?
Choosing the right burner size, or how many BTU/hr. rating you will need depends on your available fuel source and purpose.
A burner with a 48,000 BTU/hr. rating is plenty for two people sitting around the fire. You will need something more like 200,000 BTU/hr. to accommodate large groups of people.
If you just want the flames for ambiance—a linear burner may fill the bill. They feature only one row of fire, and their long narrow nature makes them perfect for creating drama on a dining table or as dividers between two seating areas.
Burner costs vary widely depending on whether you’re just buying a burner or a burner pan kit that includes everything you need to install it. Size matters too—the bigger, the costlier.
Electric Igniters Cost the Most
There are three different types of igniters. A burner with manual lighting is entirely mechanical and the least expensive option. You will have to light it with matches or a butane stick lighter, but you won’t have to worry about dead batteries or hire an electrician to install it.
The spark igniter uses a battery to create the spark. It’s easier to light than the match-lit type, as all you have to do is push a button, but it does cost about twice as much as the match-lit option.
The electrical igniter fires up the pit with a switch flip or a remote. It’s very convenient; however, it’s the most expensive option. You will have to hire an electrician to install it. The average hourly cost of an electrician is $50-$100 per hour.
At the very least, you will want some fire media to cover the burner. But it also influences the look of your design. Fire glass and lava rock are the two most popular options. Lava rocks are subdued and lend a natural feel to your creation, while classic fire glass adds drama and a modern vibe. Premium fire glass costs about $35 for 10 pounds.
Another must-have accessory is a burner cover or all-over fire pit cover. A burner cover helps prevent rust and keeps the fire media dry and user ready. It’s a quick on-and-off solution that allows the beauty of your structure to be seen. Quality stainless-steel burner covers start at about $70.
An all-over fabric cover protects the entire fire pit from dirt, debris, and the elements that would fade the color and wear down the surfaces. It’s cumbersome to use during the season when you’re using your pit often, but it’s a good idea for the off-season. Fabric covers start around $30 for the cheapest and go up from there, depending on size and the quality of the material.
One more thing to consider is a wind (or flame) guard. Made of tempered glass, this device protects your flame in breezy conditions. You won’t use as much gas to keep the fire going, and it keeps the flame from blowing about too wildly or being snuffed out.
It also keeps curious pets and small children from getting too close. Prices start at about $70. If you’re worried about breakage, you’ll be pleased to know all our flame guards come with Celestial’s No Fault Glass Protection Plan. We’ll replace a broken glass panel with no questions asked.
Bottom Line for Fire Pits
Your final cost will be affected by burner size, enclosure size and materials used, igniter kits, and whether or not you’ll need to hire a professional for some areas of the build. Don’t skimp in this last area. Better safe than sorry.
But like most DIY projects, you can do it for less than hiring a contractor because you’ll save on labor costs. Even if you decide to splurge on high-end materials, your sweat equity will lower the price tag from a comparable contractor job.
And in the case of a natural gas fire pit, you will be adding to the value of your home. So go ahead and start planning!