There are several different things to think through when deciding gas vs. wood. I’ve tried to narrow it down to the three I think should have the most weight in your decision: cost, aesthetic and function.
From a cost perspective, a wood burning pit will be far cheaper. Running a gas line from the source can be costly and adding an ignition kit at the pit isn’t free. Other items often used in a gas pit are a fire ring and lava rock or glass shards. Very generally speaking, a gas pit will cost approximately 50% more than a wood burning feature and, while a fire pit is unlikely to be a huge factor in the cost of the entire project, it’s still something you should be aware of.
The aesthetics aren’t terribly different. Generally, you will have a row of firebrick on the inside of a wood-burning pit and weep holes at the bottom. Neither of these items will have a large impact on the final look. All of the same stone and brick can be used on the façade and the cap. The biggest difference is the top of the pit. A wood-burning pit will generally be wide open but a gas pit will have a fire ring and lavarock. It’s a cleaner, more modern look. Which one you choose is entirely dependent on your own preferences.
The function of the pit is where a gas pit usually wins out. The three functional items which are most problematic with wood burning pits are smoke, cleanliness and time. While the smoke of a wood-burning fire smells wonderful, it can be painful on your eyes and make for a pungent smell the next day. A wood burning firepit will need to be cleaned out after use or the ashes and wood debris can make a mess during a heavy rain as they wash through the weep holes. The third functional benefit of gas is time. You can light it when you want it, without needing wood on hand, and it will light immediately, every time. While lighting wood can be fun, it can also make for a frustrating evening.
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