Fireplace vs. Fire Pit: Choosing the Right Fire Feature for Your San Diego Backyard

The holidays are here which means cooler weather for Southern California! While sunny days and little rain mean we get to enjoy our backyards and patio spaces year-round, the nights can get a bit cold during the winter months. 

Installing a fireplace or fire pit in your backyard can add some much-needed warmth and light to those chilly California evenings. But how do you know which one is best for your space? 


We always ask clients how they intend to use their new, redesigned space to help them evaluate their options and make the right choices. Do you have visions of cocktails enjoyed around the fire pit? Or an elegant dinner party? Since there’s no way to direct the smoke, fire pits can often feel smoky. If you plan to entertain a lot, a fireplace would likely be a better fit since you can enjoy the heat without the smoke. On the other hand, if you have more casual uses planned, a fire pit might be just fine. 

Space is also a consideration. Fireplaces are easier to tuck to the side of a small space. However, if you have a spacious backyard, then you probably won’t mind losing some square footage to a fire pit. 


Fire pits tend to run a bit cheaper than a full fireplace install. Fireplaces often make use of brick, tile, or stone that can really add to the price tag. The ballpark cost for a fire pit is about $3-6K. A fireplace can run you between $4-25K!

When we build a fireplace, we often add built-in seating, which adds to the overall material cost. We also have clients who want to install a TV above the fireplace or some other decorative focal point. 

Though some fire pits are more involved (think tabletop varieties), most pits can be constructed relatively cheaply and easily. 


Whether you choose a fire pit or a fireplace, there’s going to be some maintenance involved. Most of our installations utilize gas which means running a gas fuel line or adding a propane tank. You’ll want to care for these as you would the rest of your home’s HVAC system. 

While it doesn’t rain much in Southern California, it’s a good idea to keep some sort of cover on your fire pit. If you don’t regularly clean out the debris, water can collect on the bottom. This excess water is not only bad for the fire pit, it can become a breeding ground for mosquitos. 

A grate or screen on your fireplace helps keep debris from blowing into the fireplace. You’ll also want to get the chimney inspected and cleaned regularly. 


Do you have young children or exuberant pets? Then a fireplace is usually the safer option as it’s easier to keep small hands and paws away from the open flames. The fire stays in the firebox and a mesh screen provides an extra barrier of safety. 

In contrast, it’s easy for sparks and embers to jump out of a firepit. Small children and pets can also run into the edge of the firepit and burn themselves on the open flames. Mesh grates that go over the top of a fire pit are available, but again, it’s easy to catch a hand on the heated metal. 

Now that you’ve put some thought into whether a fire pit or a fireplace is right for you, the next step is to schedule a consultation with us! You can check out some of our featured past projects here and then reach out to us to get started on your backyard transformation. We look forward to helping you make your vision a reality!


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