How to Plan Your Gas Fire Pit Project
The events of 2020 have proven to be tough for many reasons - but here at FirePitsDirect, we're looking ahead to what 2021 will bring, and of course, we're thinking about fire pit projects. With more time spent at home, the investment in your own patio space will be money well spent.
Each spring, we see a huge spike in the number of consultations and orders as people are planning and purchasing for their spring & summer projects. In normal years, this presents issues with the availability of both products and contractors being able to complete projects. This spring, we're anticipating availability to be even more of an issue. All the more reason to be way ahead of the game in planning your fire pit project.
With that said, building a fire pit doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve put together this comprehensive two-part guide to show you how to turn your dream backyard fire feature into a reality. Part one of our guide will cover everything you need to consider before you make your first purchase from us. Part two covers the buying process to help you find the correct fire pit components based on the planning you do here.
What to consider when designing your fire pit
Determine your construction budget
It goes without saying, but we’re going to say it, anyway: Know what you want to spend on your fire pit before you get too far into the design stages. Fire pit kits can vary in price considerably depending on any number of factors—many of which we’ll cover in these guides. You’ll want to make sure you’ve given adequate consideration to your entire construction budget before you begin.
This isn’t just material costs, either. In nearly all cases, you will want to bring in a professional gas technician if you’re doing anything more than connecting to a 20-pound propane tank. This leads into our next important consideration you’ll want to make.
Check your local building codes
Before getting too far into your fire pit planning process, be sure to review any local codes related to fire pit construction. Most areas have relatively simple guidelines to follow—if any are given at all—but it’s never safe to assume. Buying a fire pit, installing components, and then having to modify your design after the fact due to local codes can be a costly mistake to make.
Choose your fuel supply
Gas can be a tricky fluid to work with no matter if you’re using propane or natural gas to fuel your fire pit. There’s a reason we recommend working with a professional during this part of the process, after all. Too much gas pressure to your fire pit and you’ll get what’s commonly described as a “whistling” noise. Too little gas pressure and you’ll have a weak flame.
It’s always easier to get it right the first time when it comes to gas lines—one of the worst things you can do is lay the gas line (especially under a concrete or hardscape patio) before you determine what gas supply you need. The price of re-laying a gas line can out-cost the entire project, so please consult us and/or a gas plumber before this step.
As you begin to work with a gas plumber, be clear to communicate how big you want your fire pit to be, and ultimately, what size fire pit burner you’d like to use. These details will determine the necessary BTU and gas supply the plumber needs to account for as they consider the variables. Details like gas pipe material, pipe size (diameter), and distance the gas line must travel to the fire pit from the source will be important factors to consider. Pipe diameter, for example, is one of the largest determinants to how many BTUs you’ll have available at the fire pit location.
Here are some of the numbers you’ll want to give your gas installer to ensure your fire pit works as intended:
- For natural gas, supply pressure should be set between 3.5 inches and 7 inches of water column (water column is a common measure of pressure).
- For propane gas, supply pressure should be set between 8 inches and 11 inches of water column.
Please note, both of these pressures should be available at the fire pit location and not at the source—gas pressure will drop the further it travels from its source.
What about 20-pound propane tanks?
If you’re using a standard grill tank to operate your fire pit, you’ll have a simpler installation process. However, you’ll be limited on the size of fire pit you can construct. The BTU rating of a 20-pound propane tank limits your burner options to sizes rated for 125,000 BTU or fewer. Any larger than this, and you’ll be left with an inadequate flame.
A fire pit fueled with a propane tank will also need a regulator to operate properly.
Determine how your fire pit will be used
The way in which your fire pit will be used—and the people who will be using it—should be taken into consideration when constructing your fire pit. A person building a simple fire pit for their backyard will have different requirements than a hired contractor designing a fire pit for a business.
It’s also worth noting you may be required to follow specific local building codes when constructing your fire pit. Though uncommon, it’s better to discover what, if any, restrictions you’ll have before you start buying fire pit components.
Since no two installations are exactly the same, it’s difficult to lay out a set of standard recommendations here. That said, if you give us a call and tell us a little bit about how you plan to use your fire pit, we’ll be happy to help you determine some possible setups for your build.
Select your fire pit size and shape
With a budget, fuel supply, and usability is taken into consideration, all you’ll need to do is determine your fire pit size and shape. These decisions will be more about personal preference. However, there are still a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Sizing your fire pit
Your fire pit’s size will most likely be dependent on your budget, the size of your space, and any fuel supply limitations you may have. Keep these factors in mind when you start shopping.
The materials used for your burner can change the price of your system significantly. For example, a brass system will cost much more than a stainless steel system (we’ll cover some of the reasons why in part two of our guide). As burners get bigger, material costs go up as will BTU requirements in most cases. You’ll need to make sure your fire pit can receive an adequate supply of gas.
Finally, keep in mind the size of your space. Your burner will typically need to be between six inches and 12 inches smaller than the interior dimensions of your enclosure to ensure at least proper clearance between the edge of the burner and the inside of the fire pit. Knowing this information will allow you to set up your fire pit area with enough room. Refer to your instruction manual for clearances specific to your fire pit.
Choosing a fire pit shape
Firepit shapes are more of personal preference—any option will look great if done well. If you don’t have a specific shape in mind, here are some recommendations we can make:
Round Fire Pits
Round fire pits offer a traditional look and can fit many people. They also complement landscapes with other curves in their designs.
Square / Rectangle Fire Pit
A square or rectangle fire pit offers a more contemporary appearance. These fire pits use space more conservatively, but it may be more difficult to squeeze a large number of people around the pit to feel the heat of the flames.
Linear Fire Pit
A linear fire pit offers a contemporary appearance, as well. Not only do they offer plenty of space to sit around, but since they have less of width than round or square fire pits, they are much easier to socialize and talk across than the traditional shapes. Since linear fire pits are often fire tables, be extra aware of your flame size—if your flame is too big, guests won’t want to get too close or keep their drinks on the table.
Sunken Fire Pit
A sunken fire pit offers a more unique design. This style of fire pit puts the burner, components and seating all below-grade—we’ve even seen installations in the middle of a pool. This design can offer greater privacy, protect flames from the wind, and create a cozy focal point for your space.
You’re ready to start choosing components
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Check out part two of our guide to learn how to shop for fire pit parts, how to compare products and more ways to find the best system for you. As always, if you’d like more information about anything you’ve read, contact us for more information.