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The Burning Question: An Outdoor Fireplace vs. a Fire Pit?

Posted On: July 17,2017 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

An outdoor fireplace vs. a fire pit? Get tips to answer this landscape design question.Both an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit can provide a lot of enjoyment. They can add light, heat, and an interactive experience that really enhances your time spent outdoors. A fire feature can also add a lot of ambiance to your space. After all, there’s nothing quite like sitting by the fire.

While outdoor fireplaces and fire pits both add the appeal of fire to your outdoor space, they are different structures that provide quite different experiences. If you’re debating a fire pit vs. fireplace, there are a few things to keep in mind as you narrow it down for your home in Lancaster, Reading, Hershey, or York, PA.


Outdoor Fireplace Vs. Fire Pit

The very first thing we ask homeowners who are weighing the options between a backyard fire pit vs. a fireplace, is: How do you plan to use it? The answer to that question helps narrow down the best choice for your yard and your family. While there are similarities between these two fire features, there is an overall different “experience” that each provides.

As you try to narrow it down, consider these important points about a fire pit vs. fireplace.

Outdoor Fireplace

  • You sit primarily in front of it as opposed to around it.
  • It makes a bit more of an elegant architectural statement on your property.
  • The smoke is directed up and out of a chimney.
  • It takes up less space on your patio as it can be built on the edge.
  • It can also be part of a pavilion, above which a television is often mounted.
  • If part of a pavilion, can be used even in rainy weather.

Fire Pit

  • You gather around a fire pit, therefore it’s often thought of as being more interactive.
  • You can move completely around most fire pits, like a campfire. You can create seating on all sides.


The Experience of a Fire Pit Vs. a Fireplace

When you think of a fire feature on your property, are you thinking about roasting s’mores, gathering around it, and having more of an “interactive experience?” If you are looking for a very interactive fire feature then a fire pit might be the right choice for you. It tends to be a good fit for families with children who envision themselves spending a lot of time around the fire.

An outdoor fireplace vs. a fire pit? Get tips to answer this landscape design question.

Since a custom-built fire pit is immovable, it’s definitely important that it’s something you want to spend a lot of time around as it can take up a significant portion of your patio. But it can also really enhance your experience. While the smoke isn’t directed up a chimney, a company with a Registered Landscape Architect will do their best to plan its placement at a spot where winds can typically move the smoke away from the rest of your patio.

If you’re thinking more about a fire feature in terms of ambiance then perhaps an outdoor fireplace is actually the better choice for you. A fireplace isn’t quite the same interactive experience as the open fire of a fire pit, but it still gives you heat and ambiance. As mentioned in our fire pit vs. fireplace list above, it also has a sense of elegance to it. An outdoor fireplace is often built as part of the structure of a pavilion and is ideal for creating a seating area with a mounted television.

An outdoor fireplace vs. a fire pit? Get tips to answer this landscape design question.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. If you can’t make up your mind regarding the outdoor fireplace vs. fire pit debate, there’s nothing to say you can’t incorporate both. We have certainly had clients who like the idea of an outdoor fireplace to be built into the pavilion where the adults gather. But they might also incorporate a custom fire pit in the yard, for more interactive use—often where the kids gather.


Fireplace and Fire Pit Companies in Reading and Lancaster, PA

If you’ve decided you want to add an outdoor fireplace or fire pit to your space, it’s important to find the right company for the job. While there are a lot of fire pit contractors in Reading and Lancaster, PA, and surrounding areas, the fact is, most landscaping companies aren’t going to pay attention to crucial design details as they build. There are many considerations that go into building one of these structures that can impact your overall enjoyment.

An outdoor fireplace vs. a fire pit? Get tips to answer this landscape design question.

We can’t express enough how important it is that you hire a company that has a Registered Landscape Architect on staff. This will ensure all those little details are taken into account. Everything from which way the wind blows to the angles from which you’ll be able to see the fireplace or fire pit, all contribute to your overall enjoyment of the structure.

Can you still see the fireplace from your seat in the pool or is your view obstructed? Is the fire pit in an area of your yard where you can keep an eye on the kids? Is the smoke from it blowing back into the pavilion? Every detail should be accounted for—and with a design professional that has the experience of an RLA, it will be.

An outdoor fireplace vs. a fire pit? Get tips to answer this landscape design question.

If you’re weighing the options between a backyard fire pit vs. fireplace, we’d love to help walk you make a great decision that makes sense for you. At Earth, Turf, & Wood we’ve designed and built many custom fireplaces and fire pits and have the know-how to do them right. We’d love to answer your burning questions about fireplaces vs. fire pits and get you on the right track to add a beautiful fire feature in your outdoor living area.

If you’d like more ideas about adding a fire feature to your outdoor living areas, check out our pictures of fire pits and outdoor fireplaces.  Or, if you’re ready to start talking about your ideas, give us a call at (717) 276-9447 or schedule a free consultation.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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