What’s the Difference Between a Fire Pit, a Fire Table, and a Fire Bowl?
You’ve done lots of searching for outdoor fire products and you keep seeing different terms—sometimes it’s “fire pit”, other times it’s “fire table”, and still other times it’s “fire bowl”. So, are these all the same thing, or are they different? The short answer is yes, they are different! In this article we’ll briefly touch on the distinctions between each, and in what scenarios they are the best choice.
The ledge of these fire pits, though wide, is only large enough for drinks, snacks, and putting your feet up.
The most commonly used term of the three is definitely “fire pit”, which you may also see stylized as “firepit”. Fire pits come in every size, shape, and material imaginable, with the only distinctions between them and fire tables being the width of their ledge, which is sometimes called a lip or rim , and their height.
The ledge of a fire pit is normally large enough to set a drink down or place an accessory such as a glass wind guard, but it’s not large enough to enjoy a meal around. As a general guideline, a fire pit has a ledge of anywhere between 2” - 5”. In addition to this, fire pits can really only be found in two heights: occasional and chat height. Occasional height fire pits are very low to the ground, just around 19” or so, which puts them just under the height of an average adult’s knees. Chat height fire pits are much more common, as they stand around 25” or so—just above knee height. These chat height fire pits are so called because when paired with patio furniture they are the perfect height to see your guests while still enjoying the warmth and beauty of the fire.
One additional note we’d like to make is regarding what sort of heat you can expect from a fire pit. Because fire pit sizes are so varied, so too is the heat they can provide. The size of your fire pit’s burner, as well as your selected fuel, will either increase or decrease the heat of your flames. For more information on how size and fuel impact a fire’s heat, which is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs) check out our Guide to BTUs.
Whether you’re planning on creating an intimate space for a couple or want to craft a central location for your friends and family to gather around and roast marshmallows, a fire pit will do the trick. If you’re not sure of what size fire pit will best suit your space, our How Big Should My Fire Pit Be? article provides guidance. Or, if you’re just beginning your journey and aren’t too sure of where to start, we have a comprehensive Fire Pit Buying Guide to assist you in fine tuning your requirements.
Short occasional height fire tables (left) and tall bar height fire tables (right) are both ideal for socializing and dining fireside.
Second in popularity, “fire tables” or “fire pit tables” also come in every size, shape, and material imaginable. Their unique features are their wide ledge, which is definitely large enough to set down a plate or two, and range of heights.
A fire table’s ledge, which is often also called a tabletop, will generally range from 6” – 12”. In some cases these tops are even large enough to hold a full three-course meal! Fire pit tables come in four height options, though two are more common than the others. These fire features can be found in occasional, chat, dining, and bar or counter heights. Occasional and chat heights we discussed under the fire pits section, and those same guidelines apply here—below knee and above knee height, respectively. Dining height is just as you’d expect—the height of a regular dining table, around 29”. Paired with some outdoor dining chairs, a dining height fire table becomes the gathering spot for every outdoor occasion. Finally, bar or counter height fire tables stand exceptionally tall, around 38”, and are best paired with barstools. These extra tall fire tables are a great place to enjoy a meal and an adult beverage—out of any children’s reach.
Despite fire tables having a wider range of tabletops, their heat remains the same as a normal fire pit’s. Though the tabletop is larger, the size of the burner is not, so you face the same restrictions as you do with a shorter and thinner fire pit.
Adding a burner cover or tabletop turns any fire pit or fire tables into a classic, multi-purpose table.
Though fire tables can be used in casual settings, they shine brightest in scenarios where entertaining will be happening, or when snacks will be a must. Whether you’re gathering your family and friends for a relaxing evening full of chatter and drinks, or if you’re keeping kiddos busy with arts and crafts during the day, a fire table is versatile enough for both. The addition of a burner cover, which is sometimes referred to as a tabletop, allows your fire table to become a simple, versatile outdoor table when you don’t want to enjoy a fire. Burner covers can also be purchased for fire pits, if you’ve fallen in love with a fire pit but crave the functionality of a fire table.
Fire bowls are frequently installed near pools, where fire and water bowls such as these add a great touch.
Less popular than fire pits and fire tables—but just as delightful—, “fire bowls” tend to be relatively small. They are normally 36” or smaller in diameter, occasional or chat height, and are only found in round or square shapes. The materials used for fire bowls, however, are just as varied as fire pits and fire tables. In addition to the size and shape distinctions, fire bowls also have little to no ledge.
Because there is no room for placing drinks or snacks, fire bowls are best used as accent pieces in your outdoor space. Something to note about fire bowls, too, is their lower heat output. Because they are generally smaller than fire pits and fire tables, they have smaller burners and produce less heat, supporting their use as atmospheric lighting rather than warmth. We find that fire bowls look especially good near pools and other water features, which is why you may also see fire and water bowls, which include fire as well as a water element. It’s common to see both fire bowls and fire and water bowls installed on columns or pedestals to give a regal appearance to the pool area.
Distinct, But Similar
With the knowledge of best uses for different fire features, selecting the right style for your needs will be a breeze.
These three types of fire features are very similar, but with this new info in hand you’ll be able to distinguish between them much more easily. If you’re looking for a fire to hang around casually, go with a fire pit. If you’re in need of space to enjoy a meal around, opt for a fire table. If you’re focusing on atmosphere, a fire bowl will be perfect. And if you’re on the fence about which way to go or have any other questions about our fire products and accessories, our team is happy to assist you. Please give us a call at 866-578-8538, live chat us, or fill out our contact us form.
Main Image: Chat height fire tables make for great casual dining.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Starfire Direct's Ecommerce Coordinator, Emily works closely with the marketing, ecommerce, and development teams on continuously improving the site and it's products. When not working, she enjoys tending to her many indoor plants, spending time curled up with a good book, and going on adventures with her dog, Sophie. She is an NFI certified Hearth Design Specialist.