What Is Better In Ground or Above Ground Fire Pit (Safest Option)

an in-ground fire pit on the left built with fire bricks in a backyard, vs an above ground fire pit made from stainless steel on the right

Having a fire pit in your yard will give your yard a cozier look while also providing you and your family a new place to sit and relax. Still, since fire is nothing to play with, it is best to choose the safest option when selecting the type of fire pit you will purchase: above-ground or in-ground.

An in-ground fire pit is safer than an above-ground fire pit because it contains the flames better. However, while the risk of spreading is lower, you should make sure the fire pit is not in proximity to buildings, trees, bushes, or anything flammable.

In this article, I will explain the basic principles of fire pits, the risks involved, and safety measures to ensure you will only have pleasant experiences should you decide to get one for your yard.

Why In-Ground Fire Pits Are Safer Than Above-Ground Fire Pits

Many people prefer in-ground fire pits because they are more visually appealing and generally cheaper. However, another significant advantage they offer is safety. 

While no type of fire pit is one hundred percent safe, having an in-ground fire pit significantly decreases the chance of the flames spreading. 

When the wind blows on an in-ground fire pit, its embers are less likely to blow away. With that extra wind protection, there are fewer chances that your cozy fire will find its way to anything else that’s flammable. 

In addition, since backyards are usually filled with trees, vegetation, and other buildings, having an in-ground pit will make it less likely that you’ll set your prized garden, sheds, or home aflame.  Having an in-ground pit also creates more distance between the fire and the surrounding trees, making them less likely to catch fire.

In-ground fire pits are also easier to put out. When flooding any fire, you need to spread the ashes and coals and spray them with water. Still, if, by accident, you don’t put out the coals completely, the chances for them to cause a fire are smaller if the fire pit is half-buried.

You might find this interesting: How to keep an in-ground fire pit from filling with water?

What Are the Risks of In-Ground Fire Pits?

While in-ground fire pits decrease the chance for something flammable in your yard to catch fire or for a fire to get out of control, there are other risks associated with this type of pit. 

It’s Easy To Trip Over an In Ground Fire Pit

It is easier to trip and fall into an in-ground pit since there is usually nothing around it to contain the area. 

If possible, it is best to install a spark screen to make it less likely for anyone to trip. In addition, adding pavers or stones around the base of the pit can make it easier for people to avoid falling into it.

Children and Pets May Be At A Greater Risk of Burns

Most burn injuries caused by fire pits are attributed to young people and pets. 

According to a study published by the American Burn Association, there were 10,951 cases of young people suffering burn injuries due to fire pits between 2006 and the end of 2017. Injury cases have seen an increase in recent years. 

Since young people are playful and not so mindful of their surroundings, they are more likely to sustain such injuries. In addition, while most pets have an instinctual fear of fire and generally stay away from flames, accidents can happen. 

There are two critical aspects to consider if you own a fire pit and have children or pets: surveillance and education. 

You will need to watch over your children whenever they are in the same area as the fire pit. The same stands true for pets. Do not leave them unsupervised where the fire pit is burning. Remove toys that might get their attention near the pit.

However, education plays a huge role in injury prevention, so educating your little ones is essential. 

Furthermore, you should teach your pets not to approach the fire pit area under any circumstances, even if it’s not lit.

You might find this interesting: Does an in-ground fire pit need ventilation to meet safety regulations?

In Ground vs Above Ground Fire Pits For Safety

Overall, as I stated before, having your fire pit in the ground is safer than having it above ground. 

However, depending on your circumstances, you can place either of them safely in your backyard. 

If you want further insight, the following table will cover when an above ground or in ground fire pit is best:

Personal CircumstanceIn-Ground Fire PitAbove-Ground Fire Pit
Small yard Safest optionNot safe
Having kids Risk of major injuriesRisk of minor injuries
Having petsSafest optionNot safe
A lot of vegetation nearbyNot safeNot safe
Windy climateSafest optionNot safe
DIY or self-madeNot safeNot safe

Precautions To Take With Fire Pits

You can do several things to lower the risk of accidents if you plan to get a fire pit, whether it’s in-ground or above-ground. 

First, consider getting an in-ground fire pit if your yard has a lot of vegetation, trees, or buildings. Overall, in-ground pits are deemed safer than their above ground counterparts. 

Still, before you install the pit, there are several steps I recommend you take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe:

  • Place your fire pit in the middle of the yard, keeping at least ten to fifteen between it and anything else.
  • Check local regulations concerning fire pits and whether they are permitted in your area.
  • Place the pit on a flat surface.
  • Don’t use the fire pit during windy weather.
  • Spark screens are a must-have.
  • Don’t use wood that is rotten or wet.
  • Keep a water hose nearby.
  • When dousing the fire, spread out the coals and water them thoroughly until they are completely cooled.

You have several options when deciding what to use as fuel for your fire. You should avoid the types of wood that produce a lot of smoke and sparks. 

There are plenty of safe alternatives for firewood, but most people prefer something that makes them feel like they’re at a campfire. You can watch the following video for tips on what to use and what to avoid burning in your fire pit: 

Final Thoughts

Safety should always be the top priority when dealing with fire, so choosing an in-ground fire pit for your yard is best. 

Even if injuries associated with tripping over an in-ground pit can be significant, you can avoid them by being mindful and teaching your kids and pets not to get close to the fire. 

The other factors you can’t control, like sparks, wind, heat combustion, and hot coals, can cause more harm if you choose an above-ground fire pit instead of an in-ground counterpart.

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