Choosing an Outdoor Fireplace: Wood Burning vs. Gas Fireplace

June 16, 2023 | Blog, Outdoor Living Spaces

Are you dreaming of your next outdoor project? If you’re ready for more fresh air while cozying up by the fire, it could be time to invest in an outdoor fireplace. This beautiful backyard element is the perfect way to warm up evenings with friends. But how do you go about choosing the best outdoor fireplace? The James Barton Design-Build team weighs in on wood burning, gas, and electric options.  

Outdoor Wood-Burning vs. Gas Fireplaces 

When choosing between gas- or wood-burning fireplaces, there are a few key differences to help determine which makes the most sense for your lifestyle.

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are growing in popularity, and it’s no surprise why — there are some significant benefits to going in this direction. With the click of a button, you can have a beautiful, roaring fire for you and your guests to enjoy all evening long. That way, you can enjoy your time with friends instead of struggling to light a fire, keeping it going, or worrying about properly putting it out at the end of the evening.

“You really can’t beat the convenience of a gas fireplace. They’re so easy to use and maintain, especially if you have a hectic schedule,” says Sydney Monson, one of JBDB’s designers. 

However, you’ll want to consider: 

  • Outdoor gas fireplaces don’t offer as much heat. You might need a few extra blankets to keep everyone cozy.
  • With this option, you also miss out on those aspects of a fire that can be so lovely: the smell, the crackles and pop, and the embers. 
  • If you don’t already have a gas line that extends, you’ll also need to factor that into your decision-making. How far will your fireplace be from a gas source, and will you have to go through an existing brick or concrete patio to get there? Some backyard setups may be more complicated depending on the ultimate location of the fireplace.


That being said, the flexibility of a gas fireplace allows your design team to get more creative with the materials in and around this outdoor feature, including stucco, stone, tile, brick, or stainless steel. Having a gas fireplace allows you to go as traditional or as modern as you like!

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Meanwhile, wood-burning fireplaces offer their own exciting attributes. After all, there’s a reason why wood fireplaces have remained popular for centuries. First off, they provide much more heat. And you don’t have to worry about installing a gas line or whether or not the pilot light is on. 

“Personally, I love the look and feel of a wood fireplace. It provides such a beautiful and atmospheric addition to an outdoor space,” says Kayleigh Queoff, another designer at James Barton Design-Build.  

However, you’ll want to consider:

  • It takes longer to start a wood-burning fireplace than a gas one.
  • You’ll need a supply of dry firewood and either matches or a lighter – and some patience – to get your fire going.
  • There can be specific regulations when it comes to wood-burning fireplaces. Your design team can research local regulations to ensure everything is executed correctly.

With a wood-burning outdoor fireplace, you’ll want the surroundings to be expertly designed to keep everyone safe. Our designers at James Barton Design-Build have extensive experience building stunning outdoor areas that prioritize safety without sacrificing style. 

What About Outdoor Electric Fireplaces? 

Outdoor electric fireplaces are another option you can consider for your backyard space. These fireplaces are particularly good if you have kids or pets running around because they don’t have an open flame. To replace those dancing flames, electric fireplaces use LED lights to recreate the look of a fire without the accompanying safety concerns. And with wall-mounted and freestanding options, your remodeling team can integrate your electric fireplace into the rest of your design choices.

Are electric fireplaces worth it? 

It all depends on your lifestyle and preferences. For some, an electric fireplace might be the best choice. For others, it might be better to invest in wood or gas fireplaces. Our team will learn about your needs, style, and budget before making a recommendation for your very own outdoor living space.

Which outdoor fireplace is right for me? 

Deciding which option is right for your upcoming remodel can be overwhelming. We put together these quick pro-cons lists for you to make things easier. 

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

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Ambiance. The nostalgic crackle, smell, and look of a wood fire can be a big draw.  Messy. Wood fires can produce ash and soot you’ll need to clean regularly.  
Reliability. With fewer moving parts to break down, wood-burning fireplaces have a long lifespan.  Requires dedicated attention. Wood fires need constant tending, which isn’t ideal for some people.  
Heat production. Wood produces lots of heat which can be great for chilly Minnesota evenings.  Specific regulations. You’ll need to watch area regulations and no-burn restrictions. 
Affordable. Depending on where you live, firewood can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you have access to your own stockpile.  Firewood costs. If you’re in an area with limited wood, firewood can be costly. 

Outdoor Gas Fireplaces 

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Easy start. You can get a roaring fire going with the click of a button.  Less adaptable. Gas-burning fireplaces aren’t as easily modified compared to wood-burning or electric ones.
Efficient and safe heating. Gas burns predictably, making it easier to tend.  Potential CO2 hazard. Routinely maintain your gas fireplace to avoid a safety issue. 
Affordable. Natural gas is low-cost here in Minnesota. Gas hookup. If you don’t have access to natural gas, you’ll need to invest in a gas hookup for your home. 
Minimal upkeep. You don’t have to work too hard to keep your gas fireplace in great condition.  Gas line complications. Depending on your configuration, it might be hard to get a gas line to your ideal fireplace spot. 

Outdoor Electric Fireplaces 

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Affordable installation. Installation is relatively quick and easy.  Increased energy bills. Using electricity for your outdoor heat source could generate a higher utility bill. 
Safe burns. Without an open flame, electric fireplaces can be safer, especially if you have kids or pets running around.  Less efficiency. It can take more electricity to produce fire than it does wood or natural gas. 
Long Lasting. Electric fireplaces can have a long lifespan, lasting 10-20 years, with proper maintenance.  Require upkeep. Without routine care, electric fireplaces can burn out and break down. 
Portable options. Specific models can be moved to your liking or to work within new configurations.

Enjoy the indoors and outdoors in one blended area. 

Here in Minnesota, the weather can change on a dime. JBDB can design and build spaces that blend the indoors and outdoors, so you never have to worry about the cold or the heat interrupting your plans. Learn more about our approach. 

Make Your Outdoor Fireplace Ideas Come True 

This season, enjoy time around an outdoor fire with your loved ones. James Barton Design-Build can create a gorgeous design for those who love to entertain outside or spend time under the stars. 

Take a peek at our outdoor design projects, and fill out the form below to begin your own! 

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