A stylish twist on a campfire, a fire pit creates an outdoor oasis right in your backyard. It’s like the lazy person’s version of glamping and in theory the easiest sell ever: “Hey millennial buyers who like to splurge on luxury everything! Come pay extra for my house with an Instagrammable fire experience!”
Yet as you gear up to sell your house, the answer to—Does a fire pit increase home value?—isn’t as obvious.
Digging into the data: Does a fire pit boost home value?
According to a survey of over 6,000 Realtors, a 10-foot in diameter natural stone, gas fire pit will yield on average 67% ROI.
Costs range widely depending on the type of fire pit and whether it’s permanent or mobile, but if you pour $6,000 into the project, you’ll get $4,000 back. So yes, fire pits add value but you likely won’t make money on the project.
There’s also the marketability factor.
Fire pits or backyard fireplaces top the American Society of Landscape Architects’ list of the most popular outdoor design elements, outranking lighting, and seating and dining areas, according to the 2018 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey.
Real estate agent Pete Veres of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said that even in his hot climate, fire pits increase marketability, especially if they’re the walled type like he has in his flagstone yard as opposed to a more portable style that a seller might take to a new house.
“In most cases, people like it,” he said.
“It’s appealing when you have a landscaped yard. What that allows you to do is push the price to the top of the market to try to recoup some of that cost.”
Before you grab the wine glasses or the s’mores, pull up a lounge chair to see what type of fire pit might be best for you, as well as other considerations—like what your city allows—before installing one.
Does your community limit fire pits?
Check with your city or county fire department, as well as your homeowners’ association, about any restrictions regarding fire pits. Some communities, such as Denver, ban “open fires,” which includes fire pits.
Others, such as Urbandale, Iowa, allow propane and natural gas fire pits as long as all manufacturers’ recommendations and instructions are followed. (Urbandale has other specifications for fires used to prepare food.)
You also may want to check with your insurance agent. Allstate notes that in some parts of the country, such as areas prone to wildfires, you may need to disclose whether you have a fire pit as a requirement of your homeowners’ insurance policy. An insurance agent also can advise you about any impact a fire pit has on your coverage.
How big and how permanent?
The size of your outdoor living space is key when picking the right fire pit. Fire associations, advise placing a fire pit a minimum of 10 feet from your house and your neighbors’ houses—and to keep young children about 10 feet away from the pit as well.
You’ll also want to keep at least a 10-foot buffer away from any overhanging tree branches, shrubbery, fences, garages, sheds, or your property line.
Even if you don’t have children around, you’ll want your guests to have enough room to sit and move comfortably. You’ll also want to consider whether you’d like a fire pit that converts to a grill for cooking or maximizes limited space by doubling as a center table for meals, both of which could boost its appeal for potential buyers.
A stone fire pit, such as the Four Seasons Lightweight Wood Burning Concrete Fire Pit ($360 at Home Depot), requires the most space and becomes a permanent structure in the yard.
Other designs considered portable include a fire bowl and a chiminea. A fire bowl, such as the Hampton Bay Quadripod Round Fire Pit ($79), includes a metal structure that can be set on a ground-level cement or stone surface, or elevated via a table or metal stand. Some models, such as the Patio Festival Round Metal Propane Fire Pit Table with Lava Stone ($664), include the fire bowl in the tabletop.
A chiminea, such as the Hammered Chiminea Copper Fire Pit ($270), is an enclosed structure with one or more openings in the front to draw in air and an opening at the top for smoke.
Pick your materials wisely
When selecting a fire pit, you’ll need to choose your materials and heat source, even if you’re not building it yourself.
The exterior materials of your fire pit have a huge style impact, plus affect its durability, says Serenity Health & Home Décor of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
- Cast iron is a common material used in fire pits and light enough that you can move a smaller cast iron fire pit around without much trouble.
- Steel models vary in price and quality. To be sure it doesn’t rust over time, you’ll want powder-coated steel.
- Tile and stone fire pits typically have a solid steel frame and mesh body with the tile or stone adding artistic flair. These fire pits tend to be heavy and not easily moved, even if they’re designed with feet instead of a flat bottom.
- Copper fire pits won’t rust but develop a patina over the years. These tend to be expensive.
- Stainless steel fire pits are the most expensive because this material isn’t used as often, even though it’s quite durable and rust-free.
Select an exterior with the right heat source:
- Wood is readily available. But even if it’s OK for use in your area, neighbors may find the smoke bothersome, especially if they have bronchitis or asthma.
- Propane or natural gas is easy to use and requires little maintenance, but you’ll need a professional to run a buried supply line to the fire pit. “Most of the ones we see are gas,” Veras said.
- Canned alcohol gel fuel is another option, providing about five hours of burn time but needing about 15 minutes to warm up.
Lastly, consider other conductors of heat in your fire pit, which work with gas and provide lots of warmth while reducing flame size, according to Montana Fire Pits, which designs outdoor fire features nationwide and provides DIY fire pit advice on its YouTube channel:
- Fire glass is tempered or fire-rated, meaning it doesn’t burn, melt, or discolor. Also sold as fire diamonds, fire cubes, or fire beads, it comes in several colors and reflects light beautifully.
- Lava rock, especially in smaller chunks for better heat dispersion, costs less than fire glass and offers a textured, rustic look. Sold as black lava rock, red lava rock, and the smoother rolled lava rock.
Is a DIY fire pit doable?
If you have the time and the inclination to build one yourself, you can make a fire pit from scratch using a variety of online instructions.
However, depending on the design and fuel, you also can buy a fire pit kit that saves you lots of time and muscle. For instance, the Sun Joe Round Cast Stone Wood Burning Fire Pit includes a natural stone exterior, a 29-inch heat-resistant interior bowl, and a wire mesh screen to protect against sparks.
The Bond Canyon Ridge 36.6-inch Brown Composite Fire Table uses liquid propane (sold separately) but assembles about the same as a propane grill. It includes a black granite top and stainless steel burner, as well as lava rocks and a protective PVC cover. (Lowe’s, $399)
Be aware that anything compact, such as the Bond 18.5-inch Bronze Portable Steel Liquid Propane Fire Pit (Lowe’s, $129), likely won’t add to your asking price unless you state that it comes with the house.
“Things that are attached convey with the property. If they’re mobile, sometimes the sellers will take it,” Veres said. “That’s where you have to negotiate that in.”
Whether you’re using a kit or building from scratch, find out before installing your fire pit whether you need an inspection before you break ground or a permit. At least call 811 in your area about the work you’ll be doing a few days ahead of the project to learn if there are any underground utility lines on the property where you plan to put the fire pit.
Once the fire pit is installed, lay down ground rules about its use, especially if you have children. The Consumer Products Safety Commission says that at least 5,300 injuries related to fire pits or outdoor heaters were treated at emergency rooms nationwide in 2017, nearly three times the 1,900 injuries reported in 2008. About one-quarter of those injured were under age five.
Many were hurt after the fire was extinguished because fire pits can take days to cool. Firefighters recommend keeping a fire extinguisher, a garden hose, or a bucket of dry sand nearby to douse any flames while the pit is in use and giving the pit plenty of space to return to a normal temperature afterward. If you need to dispose of the ashes, transfer them to a metal ash bucket, wet them down, and seal with a tight-fitting lid.
Even if your fire pit kit includes a screen, you may want to invest in a cover to protect the fire pit from rain and snow when not in use. If you place the pit on a deck, DeckProtect, a perforated, insulated tray starting at about $109, provides a thermal barrier between a smaller fire pit and deck to prevent the heat from warping the deck.
Stage your fire pit to help sell the outdoor experience
If your fire pit uses any type of fire glass, make that sparkle by scooping it out for a quick wash in dish soap and water to remove any dust and soot.
Then set the scene with seating. The shape of the pit will dictate the arrangement, but some options include:
- A sectional, such as IKEA’s Sollerön three-seat modular sofa ($740); the Playa Living Collection from West Elm; or the Newton Five-Piece Wicker Sofa Set from Target ($794);
- Adirondack chairs, such as the GDF Studio Five-Piece David Outdoor set in dark gray (fire pit included) at Houzz ($881);
- Swivel chairs, such as the Castle Island Swivel Lounge Chair ($350 each) at Ashley Furniture;
- Benches, such as the Achla Curved Backless Bench ($165 each) at Hayneedle.
Veres showed off one client’s fire pit with just two chairs on either side, a small table, and two wine glasses with marbles inside for color and weight.
“We captured the view, which was the mountains,” he said.
“It kind of gives you that flow that you can come out here and have a drink.” (He advises against using too many props, such as skewers for marshmallows, which wind can scatter.)
Whatever style of fire pit you choose, be sure to show it at its best to give buyers that toasty feeling of wanting to curl up and stay awhile. It could be the extra nudge they need to make an offer, but don’t expect the feature to add value dollar for dollar.