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Gas vs. Wood Fire Pits: What Are the Key Differences?

Picture of gas and wood fire pits

I had some good times sitting around the wood fire pit growing up. We had one which was actually made from an old tree stump that we burnt down a bit each year. It worked well. However, that’s not a fire pit per se.

If you want a pit, these days you have to choose between wood and gas fire pits. This article compares the two from a variety of consideration.

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Outdoor living spaces are becoming increasingly popular. Having a fire pit allows longer seasonal use, great companionship and roasting those incredible marshmallows. If you are considering adding a fire pit to your patio or outdoor living space, read on to make the best choice possible. Wood fireplaces have good points, but so do gas fire pits.

A. What is a Fire Pit?

A fire pit is basically a pit that holds a fire. The pit can vary from a pit that is dug in the ground to an above ground pit structure that is surrounded by metal, stone or brick. They are designed to keep a fire contained that is fueled by wood, propane or natural gas. Bio-ethanol is another option, but not as common. The pit can be constructed in different sizes for either style. There are several differences in a wood fire pit and a gas fire pit in the way that they deliver flames.

B. Materials

Wood fire pit being built

There are different kinds of material that can be used when considering a gas or wood fire pit. Because wood creates a hot heat, lava rock or special fire pit glass has to be used inside of a wood pit. The pit itself is made of metal and can have a decorative stone or brick as an exterior.

On the other hand, gas burns much cooler than wood and the use of special filling material is not necessary. A wood fire pit can be as small or as large as you want. Portable wood fire pits are popular for moving to different locations where a gas fire pit is usually unmovable due to gas lines.

C. City and County Codes

Before purchasing material to build your desired fire pit, always check with your city and county officials for special ordinances. Some areas have restrictions on wood fires, like how close they can be to a structure or there may be bans on open fires during specific times of the year. Still others do not permit wood-burning fire pits at all. A gas fire pit is not considered as dangerous and is usually not included in these restrictions. A good builder will know what types of permits are needed and what types of ordinances need to be followed.

D. Cost Comparisons

It is more costly (about twice as much) to have a gas fire pit installed as opposed to a wood burning pit. This is due to the pipes that have to run to the pit. If there are problems with installing the gas line, the installation fee could increase. You also have to pay a larger price for the gas supply than that of wood. A wood fire pit is simple with only a metal casing, stone or brick overlay and location according to city and county codes. Wood fire pits can cost anywhere from $100 – 1,000, while with gas you are looking at a base cost of around $1,000, depending on the gas lines needed.

E. Maintainance

A wood fire pit is more inexpensive to install than that of a gas unit, but the maintenance is greater. The pit will continue to hold soot and ashes until it is manually shoveled out. A problem with convenient storage of dried wood is also present in having a wood fire pit. When a wood fire pit is burning, flying embers can land on plastic or upholstered furniture, causing damage. There is little to no maintenance associated with a gas fire pit. It is clean burning and does not create the same creosote residue that burning wood does.

F. Environmental and Health Issues in Comparison

Since gas is a clean burning fuel, there are no harmful chemicals released into the atmosphere from a gas fire pit. Wood, on the other hand, creates a tar substance that is irritating to lungs of people close by. Gas is rated as being better for the environment than that of burning wood. Individuals with asthma or breathing problems may also be negatively affected by breathing the air close to a wood fire pit.

G. Preparation Time for Fire Pit Users

Not everyone is experienced in lighting a fire. With a wood fire pit, it can take up to an hour to get a good fire going. Wood takes patience, has to be the right type and dried just right. Gas fire pits are simpler by touching a button and having an instant flame.

H. Placement in the Backyard

Gas or propane fire pits can easily be integrated on a patio or deck. In fact, you buy them specifically for safe use on a deck or patio so that you enjoy it along with your patio furniture (see National Outdoor Furniture for example).

While a wood pit can be built into a patio or deck, special care must be taken, especially when built into a wood deck. The pits can get very, very hot and can be a fire hazard. You can also damage the patio with the heat emanating from a wood pit.

I. It’s All About the Experience

To some, having a wood fire cannot be replaced by anything. The scent of the burning wood and the magical essence that it provides, will never be replaced by a gas fire pit. However, if you are looking for a cleaner method for socializing without much fuss, a gas fire pit is probably preferred. There is an enhancement of home value when you have a fire pit, be it gas or wood. In the end, those smores and hot dogs can be made with either type of pit. However, gas is safest for this type of activity. Also with kids running around the fire and roast marshmallows and hotdogs gay would be the safest. The popping and crackling and the possibility of embers make gas the safest for children around the fire.

Overall it is up to you to decide which one you want. These types of patio improvements can be very beneficial to your house resale value.

Related: Types of Outdoor Fire