How to Choose the Correct Components for Your Gas Fire Pit Project
How to Buy the Right Parts for Your Fire Pit
If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely already done quite a bit of pre-planning for your fire pit, and now you’re ready to select the components you need for installation. We’re ready to help you find the best products for your DIY project.
If you haven’t done any pre-planning, we recommend you do so. We’ve covered the basic steps you need to take before you make your first purchase, and it'll save you time in the long run.
How to Shop for Fire Pit Parts
Construct a Suitable Enclosure
Typically, there aren’t too many restrictions for what you can use as a fire pit enclosure beyond the requirement that it be a non-combustible material. That said, you will need to abide by any local building codes specific to your area. As we mentioned in part one of the guide, it’s important to do your research ahead of time.
Fire pit block kits are often sold with a steel liner for wood fire pits. However, these kits can be repurposed for use with a gas fire pit.
A ready-to-finish fire pit, also commonly referred to as an unfinished enclosure, is a fire pit enclosure typically constructed from a steel frame and cement board. These can be finished using stone veneer, brick, stucco or any number of other non-combustible materials.
Many people choose to use custom masonry for their fire pit enclosure. With the help of a stonemason or landscaper, it’s easy to construct an impressive fire pit using landscaping block, concrete block with a stone veneer, boulders or almost anything else you can think of.
Steel fire pits may not be as common, but we’ve seen some impressive examples. Whether stainless, powder-coated, galvanized or some other variation, there are some excellent options on the market. Just be sure to pick a material that won’t rust.
Looking for a simple option? Poured concrete or a concrete bowl can work just fine.
If you decide to use dense stone such as granite or marble, take care to avoid direct contact with flames for long periods of time. This prolonged exposure can cause cracks in the stone, a potentially costly miscalculation. Be sure to use a wind guard and provide plenty of clearance from the flame.
Additional Considerations for Your Enclosure
Ventilation and fire pit pan installation are two important details that can easily be overlooked when constructing your enclosure.
For ventilation, you’ll want to make sure you have at least 36 square inches of venting. Typically, this is achieved by installing two 18-square-inch vents on opposing sides of the enclosure to create proper airflow.
Some fire pit users simply choose to leave large holes of adequate size to meet venting requirements. While this will work, a large hole can make the fire pit appear damaged or unfinished and results in an unsatisfying appearance for some. This problem can be mitigated by leaving numerous smaller holes in the enclosure to meet venting requirements.
Alternatively, we recommend the use of fire pit vents to complete your enclosure. These vent kits are pre-sized to meet the venting needs of a fire pit and offer a professional finished appearance. These components also serve to keep small critters from making a nest in your fire pit.
Fire pit pans are often required for natural gas fire pits, though this can vary. However, burner pans are always required for propane installations and fire pit kits with electronic ignitions. We recommend the use of a fire pit pan in all installations for three primary reasons:
- A fire pit pan allows for proper drainage of water away from components. This helps extend the life of the components.
- A burner pan gives a burner a uniform surface to be mounted on for a professional appearance. This also makes the pan a convenient tray to hold lava rock or fire glass.
- In the event a fire pit requires maintenance, a pan facilitates easier removal of fire pit components to gain access to the interior of the fire pit.
Each method of supporting a fire pit pan has its pros and cons, but all will do the job adequately. Here are the three most common installation methods we see:
The first option for installing a fire pit pan is the use of installation collars. These accessories are designed specifically to be mounted to an enclosure wall for the purpose of holding a pan. Our collars are flexible and can bend to match the shape of round enclosures. This method simplifies the installation process and offers a clean, professional finished product.
The second method for installing a fire pit pan requires an enclosure to be built with an interior lip several inches below the top of the fire pit. The viability of this method will mostly depend on the materials used to construct the fire pit enclosure.
Burner Pan with Blocks
The final method for installing a burner pan involves stacking several levels of fire bricks or another non-combustible material for a pan to sit on. This simple, low-hassle option is great if you have any bricks remaining after constructing your enclosure.
It’s also worth noting drop-in or trough bowl pans can also be purchased in some cases. These pans can be convenient thanks to their built-in lip. However, there’s less room for error when sizing the pan for the enclosure, and the top lip of the pan can not be covered up in case the pan ever needs to be removed for maintenance.
Choose the Ignition Type
The fire pit ignition system can significantly impact the overall cost of your fire pit. However, this part of the process can also involve the greatest amount of customization of your fire pit. Fortunately, we have a large selection of systems to match all budgets and use cases.
The simplest ignition option for your fire pit is the match light system. Low cost, easy to use and extremely reliable, this system allows you to turn a key valve, light your flame with a match or lighter and start enjoying your fire pit with little hassle.
Manual spark ignition kits are very similar to match light ignition systems except these systems don’t need to be ignited by hand. Manual spark ignition fire pit kits feature battery-powered push-button igniters to light the gas for the fire pit.
While these systems can add convenience, sparkers can have a limited lifespan when exposed to the elements. As a result, expect your ignition system to need to be replaced eventually.
Flame sensing spark ignition kits are certified to CSA standards, UL standards or both. Like other spark-ignition kits, these systems offer an added level of convenience and can even be used in commercial installations. These systems are battery-powered and feature a safety pilot that must be lit for each use. This process is similar to lighting the pilot on a water heater or fireplace.
One of the best features of a flame-sensing ignition kit is its ability to automatically shut off gas in the event a flame is extinguished, preventing pooling gas. This makes these kits a great option for small- to mid-sized fire pits where additional safety features are needed but electrical power is not available at the fire pit location.
Electronic ignition fire pit kits are the high-end option when it comes to fire pit ignition systems. These commercial quality kits are fully automated and can be used with an assortment of timers, switches and remotes. In some cases, these systems also offer Bluetooth compatibility and can even be connected to home automation systems.
Additional benefits of an electronic ignition system include pre-assembly and certification to UL or CSA standards as well as automated reignition and flame sensing abilities. These systems are often very powerful with some being rated for 400,000 BTU or more.
With all these added capabilities, electronic ignition fire pits come with an increased price. You’ll also need to have a way to connect the fire pit to electricity. Most commonly, these systems are 120VAC or 24VAC. However, a 12VAC or 30VDC power supply may be needed if the system is installed near a swimming pool.
Select a Burner Material and Shape
Several common burner materials are available depending on the needs of your installation. You can’t go wrong with any of these burners, so here are some of the differences you’ll want to keep in mind:
Stainless Steel Burner
Stainless steel burners are the most common burner option. Typically built from 304 stainless steel, these burners are designed to withstand many years of use.
Brass burners are the most durable option. While you’ll pay a premium for these burners, they’ll most likely last forever.
Steel burners are less common than both stainless steel or brass. Typically, these are used in special installations for specific reasons. For a general outdoor fire pit project, we will typically recommend stainless steel instead due to its superior durability when exposed to the elements.
Aside from making sure your burner meets the clearances required by manufacturers, your choice of burner shape will mostly be personal preference.
Determine if Additional Components are Needed
In many cases, the shutoff valve for the gas supply will be located inside the fire pit. If your enclosure walls are thicker than three inches, you may need to purchase a flange extension and extended key. Flange extensions are available in plastic and aluminum, while extended-length keys are available in a wide variety of sizes to best meet the needs of your fire pit. Keys are also available in a variety of colors to suit your design tastes.
Though we’ve already mentioned venting and installation collars, they’re worth mentioning again here. It’s easier to get everything you need ahead of time rather than getting to the installation day and realizing you need additional components.
One of the most fun parts of designing your fire pit will be selecting the media for your fire pit. Lava rock and fire glass are the two most common options here, and both work by dispersing gas to create a fuller flame. Lava rock will be more budget-friendly and provide a more traditional fire pit appearance, whereas fire glass will provide a more contemporary look for your fire feature. While fire glass may be more expensive, you’ll have greater freedom of choice of color, piece shapes as well as stone sizes.
Don’t forget to check out our fire pit enhancements, too. From river rocks to artificial log sets, these unique pieces are optional but can help set your fire pit apart from the rest.
To protect your investment and extend the life of your fire pit components, consider purchasing a heavy-duty cover for your fire feature. These covers are built to last and are particularly useful in climates with a lot of weather fluctuations.
Typically, you can choose between a soft vinyl cover or a hard metal burner cover. Vinyl covers will cover an entire fire pit, while burner covers will protect the burner, pan and media from exposure to harsh elements.
Wind guards can add to the enjoyment of your fire pit experience by keeping the wind at bay on a blustery day to ensure your flame stays full and bright. These helpful components are also great for keeping children and pets away from open flames.
If you're interested in a wind guard, make sure you know what size you need for a proper fit. Confused by sizing? Don't be. We've put together a guide on how to size a wind guard.
If you decide to purchase an electronic ignition fire pit, don’t forget to check out compatible remote controls, wall switches and emergency shut-off options. From basic on/off remotes to timed switches, these convenient add-ons will help you use your fire pit the way you want.
For commercial settings and safety-conscious homeowners, we also offer shut-off options designed to immediately cut gas and power supply to a fire pit in the event of an emergency.
Let Us Help You Design Your Perfect Fire Pit
By now, you should have a better understanding of the fire pit design process from start to finish. We offer a full selection of fire pit kits and components when you’re ready to buy. You can also check out our helpful video on how to build a fire pit kit. While the video covers match light fire pit kits, the basics remain the same even if you buy a more complex system.
We specialize in customized fire pits but can work with our vendors to create a fully custom design as well. For more info on the difference, check our Custom vs. Customized Guide. If you’d like more help with your build, our team of experts is available to help. Contact us today to speak with a member of our team. Use the information in these guides as a starting point to give our experts an idea of what you’re looking to create.