Cool weather is setting in, making the perfect setting for a night by the fire. Fire is a primordial desire and creates serenity and coziness to an outdoor space. There are many options, depending on need and budget.

Each have their own set of pros and cons. Generally speaking, fireplaces are cleaner and prevent smoke from following beauty as legend has it. Fire pits are much more affordable and faster to build and most importantly, keep great views open.

Portable fire pits are the simplest option and can be made to look more permanent with built in features or pavement details around the fire pit. They can also become permanent fixtures by running gas starters for easy start up. Typically, a portable fire pit will be made of steel or stainless steel, sometimes of copper or another metal.

As with anything, quality is key. All fire pits — portable and built in — must be a regulated minimum distance from the house or structures for safety.  10- to 20-feet is recommended, though we usually use 12-feet as a minimum rule.

Fire pits can be built in any shape or size — the most popular being round and with square pits coming in second (at least from our experience here in Kentucky). The size and shape depend on the existing surroundings and architecture. Square fire pits tend to be more modern, though round pits can achieve the modern look as well.

Wood burning or gas burning are your options here, and just like an interior fireplace. Gas is instant and easy with no smoke, though nothing compares to the crackle of a wood burning fire. A fire pit can be any material — from a basic round rock edge to keep the flames in their place to elaborate stone pits with nice cap stones. We like to accompany fire pits with sitting walls for built-in, easy to maintain seating.

Fireplaces create great architectural features and can also provide screening. They allow the fire to be closer to the living space, as they can be part of it rather than the minimum distance from structures with the open fire pit. Open fire pits are notorious for smoke, while a properly constructed fireplace will send the smoke up and away through the chimney. With the larger size, comes a significantly increased cost over a fire pit due to footers, block, firestone, chimney and veneer.

No matter what fire feature you choose, you’re sure to enjoy gathering around the fire with family and friends.