Before you get too carried away with DIY fire pit plans, you must first determine what you’ll use as the fuel source. Natural gas is not available everywhere. But even if you have access, it may not be the best choice for your project. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide what’s right for your goals.
There are several things to consider when starting a DIY gas fire pit project.
- Where do you want to locate it?
- Do you have existing hardscape that would be adversely affected by the installation of a hard line?
- What kind of budget do you have?
- Will you be using it for years to come, or are you a “short timer” in your current location?
- Are there any restrictions on fire features imposed by local ordinances or by your homeowner’s insurance?
The answers to these questions may make some of the decisions for you and help guide you on others.
|Burns clean||Requires professional installation|
|No need to replace empty tanks||Higher up-front cost|
|Less expensive than propane to operate||Not portable, requires a hard line|
|No tank to hide|
A quick look at natural gas reveals it to be more expensive at the start, but cheaper to operate in the long run. However, it does require availability in your neighborhood and a professional to install.
There could be additional costs if your home already has elaborate hardscaping. You may have to disturb it in order to run a line for the fire pit. If you have a gas BBQ grill; however, the installer can likely tap into that line without much problem. Keep in mind, once it’s set up, the fire pit becomes a permanent fixture.
Natural gas is lighter than air, so you don’t have some of the same worries that come with propane. It dissipates quickly into the air, and you can flip your burner upside down if you like to avoid rainwater. Plus, it burns cleaner so your fire glass will stay cleaner.
There are a lot of good reasons to use natural gas if it’s available, but there are some rare instances where it may not be the best choice. If you want to locate the fire pit in an area not convenient for installing a hard line, propane could make that possible.
In 2020, Consumer Reports listed a fire pit as one of the top seven ways to increase the value of your home. Most real estate experts suggest that homeowners won’t get a dollar-for-dollar return, but rather, an average 60-70% return on their investment. That’s not bad, but if you don’t expect to be in your house long enough to get “your enjoyment’s worth” out of the investment, maybe propane is the best way to get your “fire pit fix” for now.
A NATURAL GAS fire pit is inexpensive to operate, so it won’t break the bank if the party runs longer than you thought.
|Easy to install||Requires refilling of propane tanks|
|Low up-front cost||Need to hide the tank|
|Burns bright in daylight, more orange|
Propane is perfect for a DIY project. If you can use a propane BBQ grill, you can operate a propane fire feature. It uses the same portable tank (unless you have a large capacity tank at your house that you can tap into). It’s fairly quick and easy to get up and running.
This portability means you can literally move your fire feature from place to place in your outdoor setting as desired. Planning a big daytime gathering and need all the available patio space for tables? No problem, just relocate your fire feature for the day.
Another bonus of propane is that it burns brighter in daylight. It appears more orange so it’s easier to see if your evenings start before the sun goes down.
But quick and portable come at a price. It costs about four times as much to run a propane pit versus one fueled by natural gas. And you will have to find a clever way to hide the tank within your feature. You also have to keep a close eye on your inventory to make sure you don’t run out of gas when you’re in the middle of entertaining.
PROPANE allows for greater flexibility in design. So go ahead, use your imagination (and non-flammable materials for the tabletop)!
Propane is heavier than air, so it is prone to pooling. It is very important to make sure your feature is vented properly and that the fire glass is not too thick over the burner.
It also burns dirtier than natural gas and is more likely to cause sooting on the fire glass. This can easily be cleaned with hot, soapy water, and is generally done once a year when winterizing the fire pit or getting it ready for summer.
The Right Choice
There are definitely pros and cons for each of these fuel sources. The right choice will depend on a number of factors including availability of natural gas, a budget that can handle the upfront costs, potential space limitations or short-term circumstances.
Propane provides the most flexibility and allows you to get started right away without the waiting time and expense of a hiring a professional installer. However, you will have higher operating costs and the inconvenience of juggling tanks.
IF NATURAL GAS is a possibility for your fire feature, you’ll have to weigh costs vs. convenience.
Think about your situation and how you envision using your fire feature. Are you the kind of person who values convenience above all else or can you tolerate a little bit extra work in the name of flexibility? Only you can answer that question.
But, if you have any other questions related to how our products work and what might be best for your project, feel free to give us a shout. We’re always happy to help!