Homes With Heart – Heather Coombs-Perez

On these cool California evenings nothing beats a firepit. With their popularity growing exponentially, now is a great time to invest in a small pre-fabricated, inexpensive pit or a full-fledged designer grotto. The sky’s the limit when it comes to imagining your perfect backyard oasis.

Local landscape designer and owner of Gravel + Green Landscape Design (, Bret Weiss, says that when it comes to firepits, not all are created equal. There are basically three different types of ways to power your pit –wood burning, propane, or natural gas from your gas line. No matter which one you choose, all pits generally have the same make-up:

• A base or bowl that sits on the ground and serves as the main feature.
• Gas emitters that produce the fire-ring and come in a variety of shapes and sizes such as round, square, rectangular, start shaped, spiral and even long straight pipes.
• Fill for the pit such as fire-rated glass, lava rock or stone.

Wood Burning Firepits
If you want to choose the wood burning option, you will have to check your local city bylaws to determine whether they are still allowed. Many areas of the city—and in fact the country– have banned the use of wood burning firepits due to air pollution and fire-hazard concerns.

Propane Firepits
Propane firepits are excellent for occasional use and for small spaces such as condominium balconies, townhouses or single-family homes with small yards. In general, propane powered firepits are pre-fabricated and can be found on the internet, or at a garden or outdoor store for anywhere from $500 to $5,000 dollars.

In the case of firepits, pre-fabricated doesn’t mean cookie-cutter. The propane tank usually slides into the pedestal of the firepit, but the pits themselves range in size from a small base that only accommodates a mini-propane tank, to the size of a 5’ x 5’ table.

Once you’ve decided on the size and shape you want, the features to choose from are as variable as the people purchasing them. Bowls are made of stone, copper, polished steel, iron and more and there are myriad choices of colored glass or rock. Just make sure to get fire-rated rock as other non-rated types may result in the rock “popping” like popcorn in your backyard, making for a very dangerous evening!

Gas Fed Custom Firepits
A gas fed firepit has the advantage of always being available when you need it. It’ll never run out of gas and can be the most economical of the firepits, especially if plan on using your firepit on a daily basis, for long periods of time or if you plan on having the firepit as a permanent landscape feature. They are also the most labor intensive and costly to install. It is highly recommended to have a gas fed firepit designed and installed by a professional.

Design costs vary depending on the scale of the landscape design you are commissioning. Costs can generally range in the neighborhood of $200 to $3,000 for the design and $2,000 to $10,000 for a complete build cost. You are really only limited by your imagination when it comes to designing a custom firepit and surrounds.

Weiss commented, “Firepits are a better alternative to the moveable gas lanterns that cost several hundred dollars and usually only last a few years. They add immensely to the joy of outdoor living.”

For more information and creative garden design, visit, or contact Bret Weiss at 310-390-0502. To see what landscaping can do for the investment value of your home, or for a free market evaluation, contact me at 310-259-7419 or email [email protected].

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