How Do Wood Firepits Compare to Propane? Cost, Function, Safety


Sitting by a warm fire, especially in cold weather, produces such a satisfying feeling. Firepits come in different sizes, types, and shapes, but the most common are wood and propane firepits. Which is better?

Wood and propane are the common firepit variants. Wood firepits are more affordable and don’t require additional gas line and tanks. Propane firepits are more expensive but burn cleaner. The correct choice depends on your circumstances, as neither type will be out of place on a deck.

Both variants have their pros and cons, but it can be confusing to decide between the two. There are a few areas of comparison between the two which we’ll cover today. By the time we are finished, you’ll know exactly which type is for you!

Cost: Propane Firepits Are More Expensive

Placing the cost of both variants side by side, a wood firepit comes cheaper than a propane firepit. While the average wood firepit ranges from $500 – $1300, the propane firepit costs between $900 to $3800.

Portable propane firepits will often cost much less than the larger permanent versions. Often allowing you to enjoy a fire for less than $300.

A portable metal bowl can be as little as $50.

This shows there is a big price difference between built-in more permanent fire outside or a portable option. 

The exact price depends on the aesthetic factor. Expensive ones are obviously more beautiful and appealing on sight. However, if you care more about functionality and nothing about the beauty factor, you may opt for the lower prices.

Functionality: Propane Burns Cleaner

Both the wood and propane firepit are functional. They will give you the decent amount of warmth that you need. However, approaching it scientifically, propane burns clean and produces fewer harmful products after combustion as opposed to the wood variant.

When propane burns, it turns into water vapour and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is something our bodies produce naturally (we exhale it), but in high concentrations, it can still be deadly. Never burn a propane fireplace (or any fire) in an enclosed space without good ventilation.

On the other hand, wood produces lots of harmful chemicals after burning, especially if you don’t treat it appropriately. If you have trees on your personal property, then an option is to cut them yourself and burn your own wood.

Wood will also make smoke, making the air near the fireplace harder to breathe, thus making it unsuitable for those with respiratory conditions.

Safety: Wood Fireplaces Require No Gas Line

When it comes to lighting each fireplace, it’s about a wash. Both can be lit safely and dangerously, so it’s up to you to be safe.

You are a little more exposed to the wood firepit than the propane variant, so you should be careful. Having kids around an open wood firepit is not the best of ideas, especially since they are usually sunk into the ground. Propane firepits can be equally dangerous, but are usually constructed in such a way that it’s harder to fall in or hurt yourself.

The construction of a wood firepit is simple and doesn’t require any extra gas hoses or compartments. 

Propane firepits, on the other hand, need a gas line from the mainline at the house or a refillable tank. Limiting placement of a propane firepit.

Small portable propane can be installed yourself after careful reading of instructions. 

For more permanent propane firepits a professional should be hired to do the hookup. This also needs to be done if you upgrade to a natural gas firepit not requiring endless refills but does need to be plumb into your home’s natural gas.

A word of warning. If gas is not installed properly, there may be leakage. If not detected before lighting up the firepit, it may result in a serious catastrophe.

On the bright side, the chances of you facing such a case are next to zero if a professional installed the propane firepit — minimizing the chances of improper installation. 

Ease of Use and Maintenance: Propane Is Easiest

A propane firepit is easier to use than the wood variant. It is easier to light it up; a simple flip of the button does it. However, lighting wood may prove a bit difficult depending on the kind of wood you are using. Being a more modern variant, propane firepits have a clear advantage.

Wood firepits also require a bit more extra cleaning. Every enjoyable evening by the fire will need to be followed by the chore of cleaning out the firepit of ash. Hauling away the ashes and scrubbing out the bowl at times. 

A propane firepit doesn’t include any of this extra work..

Fuel: Depends Where You Live

This depends on your location. Perhaps you are in a somewhat rural area with easy access to firewood, so getting a wood firepit might be the better choice.

On the other hand. I was just out shopping at my local Lowes this morning and a bag of firewood was selling for $12. It may last an hour if your lucky. 

If you stay in a modern area where propane is easily found at the store, then propane firepit often will be easier and cheaper.

Cooking Options: Wood Fires Cook Better

The wood firepit comes up top in the cooking aspect. You can cook almost any meal on the wood variant. You can also grill stuff that you usually do on a barbeque. It is a versatile option that comes in handy.

As for the propane firepit, you are a bit restricted with what you can cook. Anything that can drip liquid is not suitable for the Propane Firepit. They can accumulate in the gas pipes and clog them with time.

Also, the wood Firepit keeps bugs away when you are around because of the smoke. It reduces the chances of anything getting into your food or disturbing you while bringing warmth. Propane Firepit, being a cleaner source, doesn’t render anything to keep bugs away.

Fun sad fact. Mosquitos are actually attracted to carbon dioxide. The very thing that fires produce and we do by breathing. 

Can I Use a Wood or Propane Firepit on a Wood Deck?

Some say you should not use either the wood or propane firepit on a wood deck. You could bend the rules a bit, but it is not advisable to use a firepit directly on a wood deck. Use a protective surfaces like fire pads or sand beneath your firepit to protect the wood deck.

Click the link to read my full article about fire pads for decks. They are essential to enjoying a fire on your deck. Both wood and composite.

Fire might drop on the wood deck and, in turn, damage it. You should also keep flammable materials far away from it. Always be vigilant of any large coals or embers that pop out of the firepit.

Also, you should avoid using your firepit in rough weather, especially on a wood deck. In windy conditions, air may blow the fire to your floor. Stay safe and only use it in calm conditions. Air stokes fires and the last thing you need is for it to stoke that fire right into your house!

Conclusion

Wood and propane firepits both have their strengths and weaknesses. The type of fire and warmth produced and your enjoyment of it. Oftenboils down to personal preference.

Personally, I love the crackle of a wood fire and the heat that comes off it but in regards to safety on a deck. 

Propane is much safer. without sparks flying from the fire. That crackle of wood has its drawbacks. Propane is also easy and quick to adjust the amount of heat and flames. A great benefit when enjoying with friends. Whichever you choose, don’t forget to just get out there and enjoy it! Cook some s’mores, enjoy a relaxing fall evening or invite friends over for a firepit BBQ.

Ryan Nickel

A Red Seal carpenter, passionate about building decks to be enjoyed.

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