In-Ground vs. Above-Ground Fire Pit: Which is Right for You?

A fire pit in a backyard with a fence.

Igniting Backyard Dreams

Ever found yourself dreaming of cozy nights around a crackling wood-burning fire pit in your outdoor space?

Or perhaps you’ve envisioned hosting epic summer parties with an outdoor fire pit as the centerpiece?

Fire pits have become a sought-after addition to many homes, especially in the Reno, Nevada, area.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of fire pits, exploring the pros and cons of in-ground and above-ground options.

By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make the best choice for your outdoor living space installation in Reno, Nevada.

Types of Fire Pits

In-Ground Fire Pits

Blazing fire in an in-ground fire pit

In-ground fire pits are essentially recessed areas dug into the ground, often lined with fire-resistant materials like bricks or stones, where a fire can be safely built.

They offer a unique aesthetic and functional appeal, making them a popular choice for many homeowners, especially in places like Reno, Nevada, where outdoor gatherings are a staple of local culture.


Natural Look

One of the most significant advantages of in-ground fire pits is their ability to blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.

Imagine a backyard in Reno with a lush green lawn, a few trees, and a natural-looking fire pit right in the middle.

The fire pit doesn’t protrude or disrupt the view but rather complements the natural surroundings.

It’s as if you’ve discovered a secret spot in the woods to light a roaring fire and share stories.

Wind Protection

Reno is known for its occasional gusty winds.

An in-ground fire pit, due to its recessed nature, offers a level of protection against these winds.

The flames are less likely to be blown about, ensuring a more stable and consistent fire.

For instance, while an above-ground fire pit might struggle on a windy evening, the in-ground counterpart would still allow for a comfortable gathering while the fire burns.


The design of in-ground fire pits inherently offers a safer environment.

Since the flames are below ground level, there’s a reduced risk of embers or sparks flying out and causing accidental fires.

This is especially beneficial during the dry months in Reno when the risk of wildfires is heightened.


Permanent Nature

The commitment to an in-ground fire pit is long-term.

For example, if you decide after a year that you’d prefer the pit to be closer to the patio or in a different part of the yard, relocating it isn’t as simple as just picking it up and moving.

It’s a fixed feature in your landscape.

Water Collection

Reno might be dry, but it does get its share of rain.

Without proper drainage, in-ground fire pits can become mini ponds after a heavy downpour.

This not only disrupts your plans for a cozy fire but can also damage the pit’s lining over time.

Seating Limitations

While gathering around an in-ground fire pit can feel intimate, it can also be a bit challenging, especially if the fire pit is deep.

Guests might find it hard to comfortably lean over and roast marshmallows, for instance.

It’s different from an above-ground fire pit, where the fire is easily accessible to everyone seated around it.

Safety Issues for Small Children and Pets

While the recessed nature of in-ground fire pits can be a safety advantage, it can also pose a hazard, especially for small children and pets.

Curious toddlers or pets might not recognize the fire pit as a danger zone and could accidentally stumble into it.

It’s crucial to ensure supervision and perhaps even install a temporary barrier when the fire pit is not in use.

Above-Ground Fire Pits


Above-ground fire pits are popular choices for those looking for flexibility and style in their outdoor spaces.

Unlike their in-ground counterparts, these fire pits sit above the ground and come in a variety of materials and designs, such as fire pit tables.

Whether you’re in the heart of Reno or on the outskirts, an above-ground fire pit can be the centerpiece of many memorable evenings.



One of the standout features of many above-ground fire pits is their portability–at least for some wood-burning metal fire pits and portable propane options.

Imagine having a wood-burning fire pit in your backyard.

One evening, you might place it near the pool for a swim-and-sizzle party.

The next, you could move it closer to the patio for a more intimate gathering.

For those who rent homes or frequently rearrange their outdoor spaces, portable propane fire pits offer the flexibility to change the setting without any heavy lifting.

For instance, during Reno’s Artown art festival, you could easily shift your fire pit to the front yard to enjoy the festivities with some warmth.

Design Variety

The world of above-ground fire pits is vast and varied.

Whether you’re a fan of the rustic, old-world charm or have a penchant for sleek, modern designs, there’s something for everyone.

You could opt for a copper bowl design that patinas over time, giving it a unique aged look.

Or perhaps a geometric steel design that becomes the modern focal point of your yard.

The choices are endless, and with local Reno artisans crafting unique pieces, the sky’s the limit.

Elevated View

There’s something utterly hypnotic about watching flames dance.

With above-ground fire pits, this mesmerizing view is elevated, literally.

Whether you’re seated on Adirondack chairs or standing, the fire is at a comfortable eye level, allowing for an unobstructed view of its beauty.

It’s like having a personal campfire show every evening.


Wind Issues

Just as the elevated view is an advantage, it also brings with it a vulnerability to wind.

In areas like Reno, where gusty winds can suddenly pick up, an elevated fire pit’s flames can become erratic.

This not only poses a safety risk but can also make it challenging to maintain a consistent fire.

For instance, if you’re trying to cook or roast marshmallows, the unpredictable flames can be a hindrance.

Tipping Potential

Stability is crucial for any fire pit, but especially for those that are above ground.

If placed on uneven terrain or a surface that’s not sturdy, there’s a risk of the fire pit tipping over.

Imagine having a metal fire pit on a sloping part of your yard; a slight nudge or strong gust could topple it, posing a significant safety risk.

Heat Distribution

Science tells us that heat rises.

This principle means that while the top part of an above-ground fire pit might be blazing hot, the warmth might not be as intense at the seating level.

If you’ve ever sat around an elevated fire pit on a chilly Reno night, you might have noticed your head feeling warm while your feet remained cold.

This uneven heat distribution can sometimes make it less comfortable for guests, especially during colder months.

Safety Precautions

Whether you opt for an in-ground or above-ground fire pit, safety should always be a priority.

  • Proper Installation and Leveling: Ensure the fire pit is stable and level to prevent any mishaps.

  • Safe Distances and Positioning: Place your fire pit away from flammable objects and structures.

  • Supervision and Behavior: Always supervise children and pets around the fire pit.

  • Proper Extinguishing and Wind Considerations: Extinguish the fire properly and avoid lighting it on windy days.

  • Safety Equipment and Tools: Have a fire extinguisher and other safety tools on hand.

Professional vs. DIY Fire Pit Installation

The allure of a DIY project is undeniable.

The thought of crafting something with your own hands, the satisfaction of seeing a project come to life, and the potential cost savings can be very appealing.

However, when it comes to fire pits, especially in a place like Reno with its unique climate and landscape, there’s more to consider than just the initial appeal.

Let’s delve deeper into the pros and cons of both approaches.

DIY Fire Pit Installation

DIY fire pit


  • Cost Savings: One of the primary reasons homeowners lean towards DIY is the potential for cost savings. By sourcing materials yourself and eliminating labor costs, you might save a significant amount.

  • Personal Touch: Building your own fire pit allows for customization at every step. Do you want a unique shape or a particular stone pattern? You’re in control. This personal touch can make the fire pit feel even more special.

  • Learning Experience: If you’re someone who enjoys learning new skills, building a fire pit can be a rewarding challenge. You’ll learn about materials, construction techniques, and safety precautions.


  • Time-Consuming: A DIY project, especially one as significant as a fire pit, can take a considerable amount of time. This is especially true if you’re learning as you go.

  • Potential for Mistakes: Without professional experience, there’s a higher risk of making mistakes. These could range from aesthetic issues, like uneven stone placement, to more serious concerns like improper ventilation.

  • Safety Concerns: Fire pits, by nature, involve open flames. If not constructed correctly, they can pose significant safety risks.

Professional Fire Pit Installation

A patio with a fire pit and seating area.


  • Expertise: Professionals bring years of experience to the table. They’ve likely encountered and overcome many of the challenges that might stump a DIY enthusiast.

  • Safety: A professional will ensure that the fire pit is constructed safely, considering factors like proper ventilation, safe distances from structures, and appropriate materials.

  • Time Efficiency: While a DIY project might stretch over several weekends, a professional team can often complete the installation in a fraction of the time.

  • Longevity: Thanks to their expertise, professionally installed fire pits often last longer and face fewer issues over time.

  • Creation of an Outdoor Living Space: Some professional fire pit installers, such as Grand Design Landscape, can help you create an entire custom outdoor living space with the fire pit as the centerpiece. They can help you select other features to enhance your backyard, such as a paver patio, a pergola, outdoor lighting, and much more. You can learn more about the cost of an outdoor living space here.


  • Cost: Professional installation comes with labor costs, which can make the project more expensive upfront.

  • Less Personal Involvement: While you’ll have input, you won’t be as hands-on in the creation process.

Materials for Fire Pits

A circular fire pit in a backyard.

Choosing the right material for your fire pit is crucial, not just for aesthetics but also for functionality and longevity.

The material you select can influence the pit’s durability, maintenance needs, and overall vibe.


Stone, brick, and paver fire pits offer a timeless look and are incredibly durable.

However, they can be more expensive and permanent.


Metal fire pits, whether made of cast iron, steel, or copper, are durable and can offer a modern touch.

Steel may also rust over time.

They’re also portable but can get very hot to the touch.


Concrete fire pits are sleek and can be molded into various shapes.

They’re durable but can crack over time if not properly maintained.

Fuel Types for Fire Pits

a fire pit with four chairs around it.


Wood-burning fire pits offer a traditional campfire experience, complete with the crackling sounds and a smoky aroma.

However, they require regular cleaning and can produce sparks.


Natural gas fire pits are convenient and clean-burning.

They offer consistent heat but require a gas line installation, which can raise overall costs.

You can learn more about the cost to install a fire pit here.


Like natural gas, propane fire pits are a great smokeless fire pit option.

Propane fire pits are usually portable and don’t require a fixed gas line.

They’re easy to use but rely on propane tank refills.

Crafting Your Fire Pit Dream with Grand Design Landscape

a patio with chairs and a fire pit.

In the end, whether you choose an in-ground or above-ground fire pit, it’s all about enhancing your outdoor living experience.

At Grand Design Landscape, we’re passionate about turning your backyard dreams into reality.

With our expertise and commitment to quality, we can create a fire pit that not only meets but exceeds your expectations.

Ready to ignite your backyard dreams?

Fill out our contact form today, or give us a call. We’re here to help!

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