Choosing right fuel for your fire

Whether it is a fire pit, fire place, fire bowl, any fire feature is sure to become a focal point and central gathering place of your landscape design.

Outdoor fire features are generally divided into two categories based on the type of fuel that they use: natural gas and wood. We have also included propane fire tables as an another choice to consider.

Traditional wood burning campfire

Authentic wood burning backyard campfire.

Wood Burning Fire Pits

Timeless & Classic

A backyard classic, without question wood-burning fire pits and fireplaces are unmatched in rustic ambiance.


  • They don’t require additional plumbing or connection to a gas line. Installation is straightforward and less expensive than gas.
  • Ambiance – for some people there is no substitute for the smoky aroma of a crackling wood-burning campfire.
  • Wood is a renewable resource.


  • Smoke can bother the neighbors and irritate those with asthma or vulnerable respiratory systems. Some communities may also have rules against wood fires.
  • Chopping, buying, and storing wood can be a hassle.
  • Regulation can limit your design options (wood burning fires must be at least 25 feet from any flammable structure).
Gas fireplace connects indoors and outdoors

Gas fireplace with glass on two sides merges indoor and outdoor spaces.

Natural Gas Fire Features

Instant heat

The initial installation require a gas line but natural gas fire features are without a doubt the simplest option. There is no wood to buy or tanks of propane to refill. Just turn it on and enjoy.


  • Burns cleanly with relatively few emissions at the point of combustion.
  • Instant on, enjoy the warmth and ambiance of the fire with just the flick of a switch.
  • Natural gas fireplaces are considered an appliance and can be placed within 25 feet of any structure or on a deck.
  • Because there is no smoky smell or particulate pollution, a gas fireplace won’t bother the neighbors.


  • While natural gas is cleaner at the point of combustion than burning wood, it still adds to your carbon footprint.
  • Because a natural gas fire feature will need to be plumbed into an existing gas line there is a higher initial initial cost of digging a trench and extending the gas line.
Paver patio with fire table

This propane fire table can be moved around the patio as needed, adding flexibility to the space.

Propane Fire Tables

Portable fun

These are specially designed tables that contain a small fire powered by the same propane as your grill. Look for models with larger table tops for more space for setting down food or drinks. A hexagonal or round design will accommodate more people than a square design without taking up more space on your deck or patio.


  • Portable – because they aren’t dug into the ground or connected to a gas line fire tables can be moved from place to place.
  • Because they are categorized as an appliance and not a fire feature under the building code, fire features are allowed on decks and within 25 feet of any structure.
  • Available at many price points from ultra-luxurious to just a few hundred dollars.


  • Produces less heat than a traditional wood fire or propane fire.
  • Combining a functional surface with a fire feature can be a safety hazard if combustibles like paper plates and napkins, lighters, or plastics are placed too close to the flame.
  • If you use your fireable frequently the cost of propane could add up fast.
Stacked stone seat wall and natural gas fireplace

Natural gas fireplace with a modern style.

What to choose?

Wood, natural gas, or propane? Make your choice based on your personal preferences and situation. Does anyone in your family have asthma? Are you in a dense urban area or country lot with no neighbors but the birds? Do you like the challenge of building a fire, or the instant gratification of simply turning on the heat?

Still have questions? We’re happy to help, contact us with all your outdoor fire questions.

Keep Browsing

Other Recent Blog Articles

Our 2021 Interns

During their internships with Southview Design, students move through design/build, landscape care, enhancements, and business/marketing, getting a glimpse into what the green industry has to offer after college.

Water until the freeze, please

Trees and shrubs are stressed from the summer heat and drought. Keep watering until the ground freezes.

Tired of Turf?

If you are ready to try something different, these alternatives to sod require less water, less fertilizer, and less effort to maintain.