How to Choose Between Outdoor Fireplace vs Fire Pit

October 28, 2014

outside-254716_1280One wonderful thing about Maryland weather is that it allows us to use an outdoor fireplace almost year round. We might skip the hot and humid summer nights, but the rest of the year a fireplace helps gather people outside regardless of what the thermometer shows. However, a fireplace is not your only option for outdoor winter entertainment—there are also fire pits that serve a similar purpose. What is the difference between the two and which one should you choose? Read on to get tips and advice from our Maryland fireplace experts at Fireside.

Design & Features

We all know what a fireplace looks like: it’s a vertical burning chamber faced with stone and ending with a chimney. A fireplace can be as big or as small as you want (within the reasonable expectations, of course), but it will always be taller than a fire pit, which is installed low to the ground. Due to its size and prominence, a fireplace is typically installed as a design feature as much as a heat source. If you need to create a focal point on your patio or add a statement piece, a fireplace will definitely make a bigger impact than a fire pit.

Heat Distribution

Because a fireplace can be bigger than a fire pit, it can also generate more heat. However, unless it’s a see-through fireplace accessible from both sides, it will only distribute heat in front of it. A fire pit, on the other hand, is typically round or square and disperses heat all around it. Therefore, more people can fit around the fire pit at the same time than in front of a fireplace. And you probably know that as it gets chilly out, everyone seems to gravitate toward the fire. If you plan on having many people over, a fire pit might be a better idea, or you could use both, creating several entertainment areas.


We’ve talked about the size a little bit, but here is one important thing you should consider. Whether you go with a fireplace or a fire pit, make sure they are in proportion with the rest of your structures and landscaping. An enormous fireplace will look awkward in comparison to your small gazebo or a low deck. Another thing to keep in mind is having enough room for a good flow. Once you install the fireplace/pit and add seating, tables and other furniture, is there enough space left for people to move around?


When it comes to fireplace installation, you only have one chance to get the location right. You might want to go against your instinct and don’t place it at the side of the most beautiful view your property opens up to. A fireplace will be tall and wide, blocking whatever is behind it, so you won’t get to enjoy your view that way. A traditional fire pit is also a permanent structure, but many modern modifications, such as fire bowls, are more flexible in terms of positioning. First of all, they are rather low and won’t be blocking neither your view nor people across from you. Second of all, some wood-burning fire pits are designed to be portable, so you can move them around as you please.

Codes and Regulations

Fire pit installation is rather straightforward, unless you bought a gas model that has to be connected to a gas line. A fireplace should better be installed by a professional Maryland fireplace installer to ensure safety and compliance with local codes. Fireplace building codes regulate which materials should be used, how tall the chimney should be, as well as proximity to the nearest combustible structure.

As you can see, there are quite a few differences between a fireplace and a fire pit, and they are not just visual, but function-related as well. If you need help choosing between the two or need a trusted company to perform fire pit or fireplace installation in Maryland, contact Fireside today or visit our showroom in Ellicott City.