Major manufacturers of hardscaping products, such as EP Henry and Techo-Bloc, first introduced packaged outdoor fire pit kits around 2009. Prior to that, fire features were limited to portable options, such as Chimeneas, and complex custom installations. Since the first kit was introduced, kits have evolved to offer a variety of colors, textures, fire options and even alternate use options such as water features.
Outdoor fire pits can be built from a wide variety of materials (see our article on fire pit basics for an overview). However, kits are definitely the easiest, fastest, and safest approach. Most outdoor fire pit kits consist of concrete manufactured wall material which assembles in to a circular “pit” and a set of accessories which contain the fire protecting the concrete. The accessories include a screen which can be placed over the dwindling fire to prevent sparks from escaping.
The wall material forming the outdoor fire pit comes in a variety of textures. Each manufacturer tends to select a finish and a set of colors that will match their major sitting wall products making it practical to add a fire pit to an existing patio or to build a sitting wall around an existing outdoor fire pit. The accessory kit usually includes either a bowl or a liner. The bowl option also includes a grate on which to build a fire generally suitable for warmth, ambiance, and perhaps toasting a marshmallow or making a s’more. The liner option shifts the fire down to the bottom of the pit making larger cooking projects possible.
The accessory package is usually at least half of the total cost. That is because the metal inserts are specially designed to dissipate the heat and protect the pit wall. The wall / pit may usually be purchased without the insert but in that case the wall must be protected with fire brick and fire mortar or fire clay. Although not expensive options, fire protection installed in this way can be messy and may detract from the appearance of the fire pit.
Fire pit kits are generally a perfect circle, meaning that once tightly in place, nothing is going to move the wall block. Consequently, no gluing is necessary. The insert sits on the top of the pit and can be easily removed. This presents the opportunity to use the “pit” area for other applications when summer heat does not inspire building a fire. Other outdoor fire pit uses include planting, installing a water feature, and creating a cold drink cooler.