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Firepit vs. Fireplace: Which Is Right for You?

How to choose the one that’s right for your outdoor space

There’s something about gathering around an open fire that’s soothing to the soul — it’s the perfect place to relax while you listen to music, swap stories and share meals. 

But before you crack open the marshmallows and whip out the guitars, you’ll need to choose the fire feature that works best in your outdoor space and for your lifestyle — and is in accordance with local fire safety regulations. 

So, which one should you choose, a firepit or a fireplace? 

There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to each, so let me share those with you now.

Firepits: Small and informal, with a touch of class

Firepits are compact, free-standing little wonders that come in a variety of shapes and sizes — so you’re bound to find one that matches your taste and decor.

A firepit might be right for you if:

  • You have limited space — if you’re looking to add things such as a patio, outdoor kitchen, dining area or extensive garden beds to spruce up your backyard, a firepit might be your best choice. Because they tend to be smaller than fireplaces they can complement your landscape design instead of being the central focus.
  • You have a limited budget — because they’re smaller they don’t need as many materials and they’re less complicated to install, making them an affordable and easy addition to your landscape. You’ll still get the same open-flame experience while splurging on other design features such as landscape lighting or a water feature.
  • You have an informal, natural style — a firepit is less formal than a fireplace and is very versatile. You could choose a rustic firepit to suit a naturalized landscape design or one that’s more stylish and modern.  And because they have no back you’re free to circle around the entire fire, making you feel like you’re lounging around a campfire under the stars.

Fireplaces: Show-stopping focal points

Fireplaces are more than fire features — they’re structural design elements that are often the focal point of your landscape. 

A fireplace might be right for you if:

  • You want to create an outdoor “room” — because the flame is surrounded by a solid brick or stone structure (and exposed on one side only) you can build around the open hearth — making it look and feel like a warm and cozy “room”. Some of our clients opt to add a roof, arbour or pergola to make it even more intimate.
  • You want to enjoy it year-round — you can enjoy your fireplace no matter what the weather — rain or wind won’t affect the flame and you’re protected from the elements (especially if you opted to add an outdoor structure). And because the heat is concentrated you’ll stay warm even on the chilliest evenings.
  • You want it to be an extension of your house — Depending on the layout of your home, the fireplace could be attached to an existing chimney or smokestack — or on a terrace right outside your back door. And if it's protected from the elements you can display your favourite artwork (or even a television) above the mantle, making it feel like an outdoor living room!

Check fire regulations for your area

With the prevalence of wildfires in British Columbia, it would be remiss not to stress the importance of fire safety. 

Fire regulations can vary depending on your location, but most only allow outdoor flames fueled by butane, propane, natural gas, gel fuel, charcoal or other commercially available clean-burning briquettes — no wood-burning fire features are allowed.

Whichever you choose, both will give you that ‘campfire’ feel and are a great way to connect with others, extend your outdoor season and stay out late — long after the sun goes down and the air turns cool.

At Vandenberg Landscapes, we’d love to help you create the perfect fireside experience — right in your own backyard.

If you’d like to add a fire feature to your landscape design, reach out to our team.

Our professional designers can help you choose the option that’s best for your home and lifestyle — then the only decision left for you to make is, “Who’s going to bring the marshmallows?”

Written by  Trent Brown