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Shopping tips for firepits

The Cast Iron Dish wood-burning firepit by Terrain starts at about $400.
The Cast Iron Dish wood-burning firepit by Terrain starts at about $400. New York Times

A firepit is more than just a place to roast marshmallows. Choose carefully and it can be a sculptural feature in the yard even when it is not in use, as well as an open invitation to family and friends.

“It’s a focal point, and the node to a gathering space or a conversation area,” said Stephen Eich, the urban studio director at Hollander Design Landscape Architects, in New York. “They’re naturally things that draw people out into the landscape.”

A circular firepit is ideal for intimate gatherings, surrounded by seating for four to six people, Eich said, while a long, linear one could anchor a larger seating area with an outdoor sofa. And firepits with a wide lip, he added, provide a place to set a drink down or put your feet up.

And best of all, a firepit helps maximize the time you spend in the garden. By providing heat on cooler days, “it extends the season,” Eich said. “It provides the flexibility to work in the fringe seasons: the late fall and early spring.”

Here are some questions to ask as you begin the shopping process:

▪ What type of fuel should you use? Firepits can be designed to burn wood, natural gas, propane or ethanol, and each type has pros and cons.

▪ What material is best? “We tend to stick with things that are a little more natural,” Eich said, like “cut stone and raw metals like Cor-Ten steel and zinc.”

▪ How far from the house does it need to be? A firepit should be at least 15 feet from any combustible surface, Eich said, including plants and decking.

Firepit options

Flo: $3,692. Concrete firepit table for natural gas, propane or ethanol. Brown Jordan Fires: 888-374-4560 or brownjordanfires.com.

Red Ember Basin: About $140. Round cast-iron wood-burning firepit. Hayneedle: 866-530-4155 or hayneedle.com.

Caldera: From $3,600. Cor-Ten steel firepit for wood, natural gas or propane. Paloform: 888-823-8883 or paloform.com.

Geometric Fire Pit: From $956. Wood-burning carbon steel or Cor-Ten steel firepit with optional grate and cedar tabletop. Plodes: 281-468-5520 or plodes.com.

Cast Iron Dish: From about $400. Bowl-shaped wood-burning firepit with stand. Terrain: 877-583-7724 or shopterrain.com