If you’re still thinking of beach bonfires or overnight camping trips when you hear “fire pit,” it might be time to expand your definition. These days, homeowners and their guests are gathering around fire pits in their own yards and gardens. And, they don’t need to wait for spring and summer to enjoy them.

A fire pit with a seating area helps you expand how you enjoy your property. It can give you and your sweetie a cozy place to swap dreams in front of the flames. It’s a place to throw an outdoor party in the cool months. You can use your fire pit right up into November some years, or even consider using it as a warming station during snowy play dates in early winter.

A fire pit is also an outdoor structure that will improve your home’s resale value. In addition, it will help you enjoy your garden spaces more, and add interest to your landscape. Also, building one is a great DIY project for adults.

So, are you sold on the idea of a home fire pit? Whether you opt for a pro’s services or go the self-help or out-of-the-box route, here are four facts to guide your fire pit selection:

Do You Have a Safe Spot for a Fire Pit?

While seeing a cute arrangement in a neighbor’s yard or online might make you fall in love with the fire pit concept, it will only work in your yard if you have somewhere safe to place it. You’ll need to put it a safe distance from a wood porch, windows, fences and even the eaves of the house. Also, keep in mind that you’ll also need enough room for seating. Some experts recommend a minimum of 10 feet, but the preferred distance is 25 feet away.

First, You Need a Non-Flammable Surface

If your property involves lots of hills, you may be out of luck, since a fire pit needs to rest on a flat surface. On the other hand, you can use a fire pit on those spots where grass can’t grow or turn an awkward smaller spot into a focal point, like a side yard or behind the garage.

With any of those choices, you’ll also need a fire pit location that has a non-flammable surface, perhaps cinder blocks or poured concrete. Always avoid grass and wood decks.

Wood or Gas Fuel?

There are pros and cons to either wood-or gas-fueled fire pits. Some homeowners favor that crackling fire smell you get with wood. Also, it doesn’t require any added plumbing or a connection to a gas line. Of course, you do have to chop or buy wood, which can reduce the times a year you get to use a fire pit.

And if a family member has respiratory issues, wood is out. Some areas have ordinances that restrict wood-burning fires, too. Be sure to check your local laws regarding outdoor fire pits.

While the installation tends to cost more, gas is clean burning. But only you can decide if the lack of a smoky, campfire smell is a plus or a minus. Another advantage is you can place it a bit closer to wood structures or trees with low limbs than you could a wood-burning fire pit.

Fire Pits Should Have Good Looks and Longevity

When you consider fire pit models and designs, make sure the materials fit in with your home’s landscape and other garden features, like arbors or gazebos. Also, consider which materials are the most rust-resistant and heat-retentive.

Remember, it’s not worth investing the effort or the purchase price if you’re not going to like the way your fire pit looks. And it’s not one of those easily altered projects, either. Fire pits can be heavy and bulky to move or replace if you make your initial choice too quickly.

Lastly, remember to take the time to enjoy your fire pit. It’s a great spot to enjoy a glass of wine and snacks after a hard day’s work in the garden. Invite your family, friends and neighbors over for a singalong session or enjoy some solo relaxing.