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Outdoor Fireplace vs. Fire Pit for Your Outdoor Living Space

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Evenings on the coast are beautiful and breezy, and we’re fortunate enough to have mild winters where you can still enjoy the evenings outside. To make the best of it, why not add a fire pit or fireplace to your property?

This is the best time of year to install an outdoor fire pit or fireplace for your home in Morehead City, Newport, or a nearby city of North Carolina. But which is better for your outdoor living space—fire pit or fireplace? Let’s dig in and compare the two.


What you choose shouldn’t be solely dependent on your budget, but it is a consideration. Fire pits are generally smaller and less ornate than outdoor fireplaces and thus tend to cost less. However, the project cost will vary based on the size of the project, material, and whether it is gas or wood-burning.

Outdoor fireplaces are a bit more expensive simply because they are larger and more labor-intensive. Most landscaping companies give you the choice of a custom fireplace or a pre-made kit, which tends to cost less.


The fire pit is often low to the ground and always offers 360-degree seating, which gives you a relaxing, campfire feel. A fire pit is great for social gatherings, and people can spread out and still see the fire.

A fireplace creates a particular point of view, and you can really only sit on one side of it. That’s not always a bad thing. The direction you choose to face your fireplace means you get to have a backdrop of your beautiful home and landscaping.

Style & Material Options

Fire pits can be custom-built, but they are generally round or square and low enough to the ground to keep good eye lines. There aren’t as many design and style options as to when you’re building an outdoor fireplace, which features a chimney and other elements that can add elegance. However, you can put your own twist on it by using multi-colored pavers or stones.

Both options have the choice of being made from a plethora of materials including stone, brick, and concrete. But outdoor fireplaces can also be built with extra storage for firewood and tools, as well as a built-in seating wall.

Maintenance & Lifespan

The type of maintenance required partially depends on the fuel source. Assuming you have a wood-burning fire element, both will need to be cleaned periodically—residue can build up on masonry, which can be a fire hazard. An outdoor fireplace will require more expertise and professional equipment to clean the chimney.

Gas-burning elements will need annual maintenance to check gas lines and electrical components. In terms of lifespan, both fire pits and fireplaces can last for years if they are maintained properly.

Heat Output

For wood-burning fire features, the amount of heat will generally depend on the fuel. Fire pits have 360-degree access which allows the heat to radiate the seating area but because it’s still an open space, a slight wind could move that warmth out of the area. So if your area has a lot of still nights an outdoor fire pit will work for you but if your side of town is a bit windy, you may want to reconsider.

On the other hand, fireplaces direct heat forward and up which will direct smoke up and away from the seating area but the flame is contained so it will still effectively retain heat in that area. Fireplaces can also be positioned against the wind current to prevent heat loss.