How to make a fire pit work for your outdoor space

An outdoor fire pit undercover
ARTICLE Erin Reilly

The outdoors is increasingly becoming an extension of the indoors thank to larger decks, fold-back doors, covered roofing, exterior lighting, and outdoor furniture options that aren’t just plastic or wicker. Add a fire pit to your outdoor space and you’ve suddenly got yourself an extra room, not just a patch of land out the back.

Adding a fire pit to your outdoor space

Traditionally, a pit dug into the ground, lined with stones, and used to generate heat and cook, the modern fire put is seen as a cosy way to draw people together.

“A fire pit creates a destination within the garden which draws people into the space,” says a landscaping architect and designer from Zones Landscaping. “More and more people are requesting that fire pits be incorporated into their outdoor spaces in order to create entertainment and relaxation hubs and make their gardens more utilised and functional.

“I’m seeing a lot of fire pits incorporated with other outdoor areas like swimming pool decks or outdoor movie seating areas,” she continues. “Many people also want to create multi-functional areas by installing fire pits that can double as barbeques or pizza ovens.

“And the best bit? You don’t need a huge budget to incorporate a fire pit into your garden. There are plenty of options out there to suit every budget.”

A group of people are enjoying barbecue under a firepit

Location, functionality and safety

Before saying ‘yes’ to a fire pit, ask yourself ‘why’. Are you hoping to create an area dedicated to relaxing, chatting and drinking glasses of wine after a long day at the office, or would you like the option to cook too? Do you want to create an entertainment hub, or a private nook for you and your special someone? Your purpose will determine how much space you need, where in your garden it will best suit, and what kind of fire pit you’ll choose.

Next, think about location and safety.

“Is it easy to get to, and around?” asks the landscaping architect. “Is it safe? Is it close enough to the house to be functional, but not so close that it becomes a fire hazard?

“You also need to consider a stable and non-combustible base and surround, whether to include a grate or grill, and if it’s easy to supervise when kids are around.”

Boyd Gillespie from Zones Landscaping says the functionality of the space is important too.

“A fire pit creates a great entertainment space in your backyard, but if it’s not easily accessible, or if there isn’t enough seating around it, you’ve missed an opportunity. Make sure there’s lots of room for seating so you get the most use out of it.”

A built in outdoor fire pit and chairs

Built-in or portable?

Next, decide what kind of fire pit will best suit your garden. Built-in fire puts and fireplaces let homeowners create an outdoor feature that works for their unique needs, like improving entertainment capabilities, creating a space where they can relax and unwind, or turning a forgotten corner of the garden into a more functional space.

“Built-in fire pits are only limited by your imagination,” says the landscaping architect. “From concrete block structures to repurposed cast iron, copper or steel, customising your own fire pit with a chimney to draw smoke away from your seating area. Also, check your local fire restrictions. In many parts of the country you can’t have open fires outside during the summer (or in the city) so always check with your local council first.

Gas, on the other hand, is fast, efficient, low-maintenance and cheap, but a qualified gas fitter will need to install it. If you’re concerned about the environment, bioethanol is clean-burning and green.

Ask the experts

As is the case with most landscaping projects, various rules and regulations apply when installing a fire pit in your backyard, so always check with your local council before turning soil. Depending on the model, some fires will require resource consent for emissions too.

Matt says that while DIY stores often have a range of ready-made options available, hiring a landscaper to design and install your new fire pit for you is a better option.

“For the best results, always get a professional to install your fire pit,” he says. “That way, you’ve got more flexibility around designing your perfect outdoor area, plus reassurance that you’ve covered all your bases.”

Get inspired by looking through our Zones case study Low on maintenance, high on style.


Get in touch with Zones to discuss your landscaping project

If you would like to discuss fire pit options and ideas for your outdoor landscaping project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your landscaping design and build. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.

*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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