Outdoor Fireplace vs. Fire Pit: Which is Best for You?   

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    In Kansas City and the surrounding area, the warmth and dancing light that a fire pit or fireplace gives your backyard are very welcome throughout the year, and especially during seasonal transitions when weather patterns are unpredictable and evening temperatures continue to dip below what’s comfortable.

    Both an outdoor fire pit and fireplace can provide exactly what you need: illumination, heat, ambiance, and an interactive experience that can enhance your outdoor entertainment.

    In fact, there’s nothing like sitting by a fire.

    As you debate outdoor fire pits vs. fireplaces, you may notice that while both add the appeal of fire to your yard, they are different structures that provide different experiences.

    Let’s talk about the differences between the two choices in front of you to help make your decision of whether to opt for a fire pit or outdoor fireplace easier.

    Which Is Better: Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit?   

    Maybe your idea of backyard enjoyment is an elegant evening chatting with friends or roasting marshmallows for s’mores with the kids? If so, a backyard fire feature can give you what you need and provide enjoyment for everyone.

    But how you plan to use your fire feature, and the type of experience you seek are major factors that will help you as you make your decision on whether a fire pit vs. fireplace is right for you.

    To help narrow your options, consider these key points.

    The Magic of An Outdoor Fireplace  

    An outdoor fireplace offers the ultimate ambiance, acting as a key focal point in your landscape design. In fact, they can even act as a barrier or privacy screen.

    When it comes to fire pit vs. fireplace, a fireplace is an elegant solution, providing a sense of separation or creating a true outdoor room. It can be a great addition to an outdoor living space or a pavilion, meaning it can be usable even in rainy weather.

    Another important point: You sit in front of an outdoor fireplace. And the smoke of this architectural statement travels up and out of a chimney.  

    Because of their grandness and need for additional materials, fireplaces will typically cost more than fire pits. Pre-fabricated fireplaces can range between $10,000 and $20,000. Pre-fabricated structures with custom veneer can cost between $10,000 and $40,000. Custom fireplaces can start and $20,000 and go up from there. The higher end ranges of the prices can include added fire boxes, mantles, stone hearths, or custom details. Total cost is also dependent on size, materials, and heat source.

    The Warmth and Ambiance of An Outdoor Fire Pit  

    If you are looking for an interactive experience with your backyard fire feature, then you might want to opt for a fire pit in your Kansas City backyard.

    Fire pits are an outdoor element you and your guests circle around. And they can more easily fit into design concepts as well. Customizable, fire pits can be made of boulders, wall-stone, stone-veneered, cast-iron, or custom concrete. A fire pit will usually include seating on all sides.

    Fire pits don’t have chimneys to direct smoke up, so landscape professionals will use their expertise to place them where winds won’t blow the smoke toward important areas of your patio.

    Thinking about the cost of fire pits vs. fireplaces, fire pits tend to cost less. Prices can range from $200 to $1,500 for a portable outdoor fire pit, $3,000 to $8,000 for a built-in block fire pit kit, and $8,000 to $13,000 for a custom fire pit, depending on the size, materials used, and whether you choose gas or wood burning.

    While installing wood-burning fire pits is usually cheaper than installing gas-burning fireplaces, wood-burning fire pits do tend to need more maintenance, such as cleaning out debris, but you also gain the option to cook s’mores or hotdogs over an open flame. In the end, you have to weigh which option is personally more important for you.

    Choosing Your Options: Wood-Burning Vs. Gas Burning   

    Whether your idea of backyard enjoyment is s’mores and hotdogs with your family or an elegant evening with close friends, you can suit most of your needs with an outdoor fire pit vs. fireplace.  

    While fire pits and fireplaces can come in all shapes, sizes, and styles to suit your home architecture, landscape design, and personal style and activity preferences, they are typically distinguished by two types of fueling options: gas burning and wood burning. So, as you’re deciding between fire pit and fireplace, you also have to decide between wood-burning vs. gas-burning.

    Let’s look at wood-burning and gas-burning fire feature differences, so you can make the ideal choice for your outdoor living space.

    Gas-Burning Fire Feature  

    A gas-burning fire pit vs. fireplace is certainly the more popular option in the Kansas City area. And we hear from our customers that they prefer gas-burning fire features for two reasons: cleanliness and convenience.

    With gas, you don’t have to chop wood and you don’t need lighter fluid or matches.  You just turn on the gas valve and hit a button and you’re rewarded with instant flames. What’s more is that you don’t have to spend time continuing to feed wood to your fire either.

    And, after you’re done enjoying your fire, there is no mess to clean up — no debris, soot, or ash.

    Usually a quality landscape professional will bring a licensed professional to the job to connect your fire feature to a gas line and make sure it’s done correctly. You want professional installation that is done with safety in mind and that eliminates problems like gas leaks.

    Gas-burning fire features do tend to cost more than wood-burning ones. A gas fireplace, for instance, can range between $2,000 to $7,000 more than wood-burning options.

    Wood-Burning Fire Feature   

    Sure, nothing compares to the crackling and old-fashioned, smoky aroma of a traditional wood-burning fire feature.

    One of the biggest benefits of a wood-burning fire pit vs. fireplace is the ability to cook over the flames. Roasting marshmallows is half the fun of getting an outdoor fire going. Can you really ever have enough s’mores?

    With a wood-burning fire feature, it might take you longer to start the fire. The process includes chopping wood or buying pre-cut wood, storing wood, and then building and feeding the fire.

    Wood-burning options also mean you have embers to worry about, as well as regular cleanup. This involves removing ash and debris.

    Wood-burning fire features also tend to be cheaper to install than gas-burning ones.

    Other Fire Pit Vs. Fireplace Considerations  

    When you’re working with your landscape designer to decide between an outdoor fire pit vs. fireplace, there are a few other things you should think about to help you make the best choice for you.

    • Wind direction. You always want to think about wind direction when choosing a fire feature. Direct winds can cause flame inconsistencies, blowing embers in undesirable directions. Make sure you discuss this with your landscape professional so you’re happy with the final location.
    • Flame clearance. You want to make sure your fire feature meets local codes, meaning it has clearance from structures and above. Kansas City suburbs typically dictate that a fire feature must be 25 feet from your home.
    • Convenience. You also want to think about your daily lifestyle. If you plan to have regular fires, will you want to be hauling wood and cleaning ashes that often where the enjoyment of traditional wood-burning smells and sounds will be worthwhile? If that’s not your thing, a gas-burning fire feature might be more convenient for your lifestyle.

    Choose the Best Outdoor Fire Pit vs. Fireplace For Your Kansas City Backyard  

    Now that you know all of the pros and cons of an outdoor fire pit vs. fireplace, all you have left to do is decide which one you want for your Kansas City backyard.

    Then you can get ready to enjoy the flames.

    We know the two fire feature options can seem very comparable; they are both great additions to any Kansas City landscape. In fact, you may still be torn even after reviewing their key differences. That’s why High Prairie Outdoors is here.

    We can help you make a final decision, showing you some real-life examples we’ve created in other local backyards. We can also ask you some key questions about your preferred activities and daily habits, so you can see which option you might use more than another — the one that truly fits your personal lifestyle.

    Ready to see how High Prairie can transform your Kansas City home landscape with an outdoor fire feature? We’d love to share our design and installation expertise with you. Get started today with a free consultation. Together, we can prepare a design that you will love and your neighbors will envy.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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