5 Questions to Ask When Designing a Fire Pit Area at Your Bozeman or Big Sky, MT Home

Written By: Mason Shaffer

Jun 26, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Adding a fire pit area to your outdoor living space can add ambiance, warmth, and light. Fire pits are communal and instantly become a gathering spot when family and friends visit—or even when you just want to spend time with your immediate family.

We want to be clear that we’re not talking about purchasing a movable fire pit from a local big box store. We’re talking about a professionally designed and installed fire pit area that becomes part of your outdoor living space.
Therefore, like any aspect of an outdoor living project, there are decisions to be made about a fire pit design which will impact the space as a whole. When you’re building a fire pit into a complete space, you want to be sure that you’re happy with considerations such as its placement or it’s size. If you’re not, it’s going to negatively impact your entire experience.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some questions to ask when designing a fire pit area at your Bozeman or Big Sky, MT home. Asking these questions and pondering these fire pit ideas prior to building will ensure that you’re making wise choices.

1. How many people will use the fire pit area?

This is one of the first questions we like to ask as it’s key to determining the size of the space. Are you someone who likes to often host guests? Or, do you foresee the fire pit area as primarily being an intimate spot for your immediate family?

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intimate fire pit area

Sometimes, homeowners can foresee themselves doing both. But it would be difficult to have 8 or 10 people around a teeny tiny fire pit that was designed more as a cozy spot for a family of 4. So, it’s helpful to know how many you’d like to be able to host at your largest gatherings. Then, we can plan the size from there.

Getting a sense of the number of people you foresee gathering around your fire pit can also help determine whether you might want extra built-in seating space in the form of a seat wall. Do you picture family and friends pulling up a chair or do you want some built-in seating? How can we maximize the number of guests that you can have seated at one time?

There are lots of considerations to keep in mind as we think through various fire pit ideas and how they’ll work for you.

2. What direction does the wind blow on this property?

Homeowners often don’t pay attention to what direction the wind comes from on their property but when designing a fire pit area, we’ll specifically ask them to take note of this. This is really important information when it comes to choosing the location in the fire pit design as it will help determine the direction smoke will blow. You don’t want it blowing directly in everyone’s face.

Of course, we recognize that on some properties, wind patterns can blow in multiple directions, especially over time. Wind patterns are impacted by existing structures, topography, landscaping, and more. But it’s helpful to take as much of this information into account as possible.

If you have a very windy property where wind is constantly blowing and perhaps often changing directions, then it’s possible a fire pit may not be the best choice for you. You may want to consider an outdoor fireplace where smoke is directed up through the chimney and the flame is protected on three sides from the wind.

3. Where, in relation to the rest of your outdoor space, do you envision your fire pit?

This is one of those questions that some homeowners have some very specific ideas on and others want a lot of guidance. The best designs are usually a combination of both. We obviously want to take your wants and needs fully into account but sometimes we also have ideas to make a space look or function better.

fire pit area off of patio

Still, we’ll start the fire pit design process by figuring out where you envision it in relation to everything else. If you’re going to have a hot tub, do you want the fire pit visible from that hot tub area? Do you envision having the fire pit on your patio with everything else, or do you picture it as its own little area, off the patio? Maybe it’s accessible by some stepping stones, away from the patio in its own remote space. Some homeowners like the idea of having a completely separate fire pit area so that they can use their patio space for other features that they intended. A separate spot also makes the fire pit feel more intimate and private.

Again, we might have suggestions that could make the space even better. We’ll have to take things like wind direction into account when planning the location. We’ll also consider how the fire pit might impact foot traffic. Does it make the space functionally difficult to navigate? Where would the fire pit best be located to keep everything looking and functioning smoothly? All of these points are important in creating the perfect design.

4. What views do you want to see from your fire pit area?

This question is taking question 3 a little further. In addition to where you envision your fire pit spatially, we also want to know what types of views are important to homeowners from their fire pit area.

Fire pit area with amazing view

Do you want to be able to sit at the fire pit to enjoy certain scenery? After all, fire pits can be a great choice since they don’t cause “view obstruction” the way that a tall (and vertical) outdoor fireplace can.

That being said, some homeowners specifically want their fire pit area tucked away. They want to feel secluded and private when gathering at the fire pit. They foresee themselves getting cozy and staring at the fire, so they aren’t worried about views.

These feelings related to the fire pit experience can really differ from client to client so we definitely want to talk about what’s important to you. How do you envision your fire pit experience? Private and secluded or out in the open where you can enjoy expansive views of nature? This will help us to determine the ideal location (while also factoring in considerations such as the wind).

5. Do you want a wood-burning or gas-powered fire pit?

When you think about your fire pit, do you picture a campfire style experience where it burns real wood? We have a lot of clients tell us that they love the charm of a wood-burning fire pit. It has the crackle and pop sound that they love and nothing beats the smell.

However, there’s something to be said for the convenience of turning a fire pit on or off at the push of a button with a gas-powered one. With a wood-burning fire, there’s time involved in building a fire, keeping it going, and watching it safely burn out. But with gas, you can have immediate ambiance.

In most cases it’s personal preference. However, in some cases, our clients’ decision is made for them because they live in an HOA. Some HOAs do not allow wood-burning fire pits so we have to go with gas.

Working with a Pro Who Knows Fire Pit Designs

The fact is, there’s more to fire pit design than you may have realized. Lots of homeowners have many of their own fire pit ideas when they start the process, but they don’t always consider all of the important points.

Talking through questions, such as the 5 we’ve included, with a landscape designer can help you make smart decisions regarding your fire pit. Oftentimes these questions will lead to others and we’ll work through the process of finding the perfect fire pit design.

private fire pit area design

Of course, not all landscape designers are going to take the time to get this detailed. They might simply suggest adding a fire pit where it’s most convenient and easy for them to build. But when they don’t take into account factors like how many people you want to sit around it, or what views you want to be able to enjoy, you can end up with a space that doesn’t really meet your needs.

That could mean that you don’t end up spending a lot of time there. Or even worse, you might be disappointed or feel frustrated any time that you do hang out there.

That’s why it’s so important to work with a landscape designer that works through the process and takes the time to get down to the specifics. This should not only be true for your fire pit area but for your outdoor living area as a whole. If you find a designer who’s taking the time to get that specific with your fire pit area, then you’ll know they’ll bring that level of attention to the whole space.

At Blanchford Landscape Group, we want you to end up with a fire pit area that you love. That means one that works within your space while meeting your wants and needs.

You can also count on us to always answer your questions as we go through the process. We are available to be your guide and to help you make wise choices. When you’re taking the time to work through the options with a professional guiding the way, you know that you’ll be happy with the finished project.

Are you ready to get the process of designing your fire pit area at your Bozeman or Big Sky, MT home? Let’s connect and talk about your project. Then, we can meet and begin talking about your ideas! We can’t wait for you to be able to enjoy your amazing space.

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Topics: Landscape Design, Hardscaping

Posted by Mason Shaffer

Mason has earned both a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture prior to joining our team in 2011. Outside of work, you will find Mason spending quality time with his wife and two little girls. They will likely be exploring the outdoors, camping, fishing, golfing, planting, or just playing in the dirt.