Everything You Need to Know About Building Fire Pits in Your Southern California Backyard

There is something ancient and primal about gathering around a fire. Human beings have always been drawn to fire – drawn to the warmth, to stories shared and memories made in front of flickering flames as the day draws to a close.

It’s no surprise that building fire pits in Southern California is a regularly considered outdoor improvement. A fire feature can make your backyard comfortable for entertaining year round, and with creative designs and building materials, the possibilities are nearly limitless.

If you’ve been wanting to enhance your outdoor living experience by adding a fire pit to your landscape, here are a few things you need to know about building fire pits in Southern California.

Are fire pits legal in Southern California?

With air quality concerns and even periodic burn bans in effect in portions of the state, some homeowners ask whether or not fire pits are even legal in Southern California?

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The short answer is, yes! Fire pits are legal in most cities, however each city in Southern California has different ordinances for building fire pits, and it’s good to check the laws for your city before building.

While wood burning fire pits provide a great ambiance as well as the pleasant aroma of burning wood,  propane and natural gas fire pits are also a good option. In fact propane and natural gas are a more environmental alternative to wood burning fire pits. They burn cleaner and therefore aren’t affected by the burn bans that sometimes impact Southern California.

A knowledgeable designer and a landscape company will research fire pit ordinances Southern California municipalities require. They will be happy to walk you through the process of building a great fire pit at your home that meets all the requirement in your city, without any of the headaches.  

Size and Placement of Fire Pits

There are several major considerations that factor into designing a fire pit that will be both versatile and functional. No two fire pits need to be exactly the same, but there are some common questions that can help you decide what sort of fire pit you would like to include in your backyard getaway.

How close can a fire pit be to my house?

When building fire pits in Southern California, remember that most communities require a minimum of at least a 10-foot distance from your house and from the neighbor’s property, but some instances the distance must be 30 feet or more. Each city has different laws about where fire pits can be placed, so checking your local ordinances is an important first step.

What size fire pit do I need?

The size of your fire pit should be determined by the size and scale of your outdoor living space as well as the entertaining needs you have for the space.  Fire pit builders in Southern California may choose a smaller pit only three feet in diameter for a simple patio, with large fire features exceeding 6 feet in width or even more in a massive outdoor setting.

How deep should my fire pit be?

Fire pits can be dug into the ground, but more typically modern fire pits are actually built above ground to a height between 12-14 inches. However,  if you want to be able to use the edge of the fire pit as additional seating when it’s not in use, a height of 18-20 inches will be more comfortable.

backyard patio with artificial turf

Which is Better? Stone Fire Pits or Brick Fire Pits?

The two most common materials for custom designed fire pits are stone and decorative concrete bricks. Fire pit builders in Southern California can complement the look of your home and your landscape with materials that accent the features of your home.

Concrete bricks come in all shapes and colors, that can often be matched with existing patios or retaining walls. Decorative concrete bricks are often more temperature resistant than stone when building a fire pit, something that is important especially in wood burning fire pits.

Concrete brick fire pits are normally easier and more cost-effective to install, but each landscape design has different needs, and stone masonry fire pits can sometimes be a good option as well.

When You Want a BIG Fire Pit or Feature

The most spectacular fire pits can be the focal point of your whole landscape, and bring it that “wow” factor you’ve been looking for. For homeowners who really want an eye catching fire pit, it’s time to think BIG! Building fire pits in Southern California can often lead to larger fire pits or similar “fire features” can be 6 feet or more, and aren’t limited to a circular shape.

Combining fire pits with water features like pools, fountains, and waterfalls, creates a sizzling contrast with flames reflecting off the surface of the water to create an otherworldly glow that enhances the evening appeal of a water feature. Other options include designing built in seating around the fire pit to accommodate entertaining family and friends.

Creative building materials can be eye catching as well. Granite, Marble, and Slate slabs can heighten the sense of luxury and old world charm of a dazzling fire feature.  Inside the fire pit itself, rugged lava rocks or bright glass pebbles can add another layer of visual intrigue.

Fireplace - Woodland Hills, CA

Trusted Professional Fire Pit Builders in Southern California

Having a trusted landscape company like Pacific Outdoor Living involved in both the design and construction of your fire pit can be a big advantage to you as the homeowner.

Our experienced and knowledgeable designers will ensure that fire pits ordinances in Southern California municipalities are followed to spare you of future problems. A team of in-house installers will follow detailed plans to make sure your fire pit is built for long lasting quality and enjoyment.

Whether it’s a small area or part of a large, encompassing design for a backyard retreat, a fire pit can add that signature touch to your home that provides warmth and relaxation for many years to come.

Fire up your imagination by checking out more of our fire features in our gallery and contact us for a free consultation when you’re ready to start creating the fire pit of your dreams.