Considering an Outdoor Fireplace? Here are the basics.
Anchor your outdoor living space with an authentic outdoor fireplace, where guests can sit around the warm glow of the flames and relax as they engage in conversation. Outdoor fireplaces have become popular features for homeowners looking to add some ambiance to their backyards. If the idea has sparked an interest in you, we’ll walk you through how to get started on your own backyard fire feature project.
Before you get too far along the design process, be sure to check local ordinances and codes before you begin any sizable construction project. Apply for any permits and licenses that you may need. Regulations regarding fireplace style, setbacks from structures and allowed fuel types may vary by location. Some outdoor fire features may also require updating your homeowner’s insurance policy.
What are you looking to do with your new outdoor fireplace? Heat? Ambiance? Cooking? The role of the fireplace will dictate some of the design decisions. For example, if you’re mostly interested in the ambiance and not the heating, a traditional enclosed fireplace with a firebox and chimney might work best. If you want both ambiance and temperature control, an open pit fireplace would be better suited to the task. If you plan on using your fireplace for some simple cooking, consider what size grate will be appropriate for your needs. For a fuller range of cooking and baking, you may want to add an oven to the design.
Look around your outdoor living space for a few key characteristics. The ideal location should be:
- A safe distance from any existing structure, generally at least 10 feet (the exact distance might be set by local zoning codes)
- On relatively level ground
- In a favorable wind direction
- Away from trees and any overhanging vegetation
- Clear of any underground cabling, wiring or pipes (you may need to call your utility)
You may choose to build on an existing structure, like a deck, but ensure that the structure can support the weight. Wood decks could also present a fire hazard, so consider covering the area around the location of the fireplace with a different material, like stone or concrete. If you’re considering installation in an enclosed area, make sure you have proper airflow and ventilation to prevent smoke buildup.
In addition to the safety considerations, make sure the location is suitable to the use you have in mind. Take into account the distance from the interior of the home and the path or paths guests will have to take to get to your outdoor fireplace. If you’re looking to do any kind of cooking with the fire feature, proximity to your kitchen or food prep area might also be important.
Keep an eye on the style of your home’s architecture and your decorating style when you are choosing the look of your new, outdoor fireplace.
Finally, it’s important to make sure you have enough room to maintain at least three feet of space between the seating around the fire and the fire itself.
A wood-burning fireplace adds an authentic, rustic appeal to any outdoor living space. The crackling and popping of burning logs cultivate an ambiance that you don’t get with a gas fireplace. Wood-burning outdoor fireplaces are also easier and less expensive to install.
Natural gas-burning outdoor fireplaces burn cleaner than wood and produce little if any smoke. They are much easier to light, with many involving the simple press of a button to start. Natural gas also requires less maintenance than wood, as natural gas-burning fireplaces do not create creosote buildup in the chimney or ash that needs to be cleaned up afterward. While you don’t have to haul logs from a storage shed or worry about rain ruining your fuel supply, the installation of a gas line to your chosen location may add a significant amount of time and money to the project.
You may have a supply of timber on your property, but even if you have to buy wood, the cost is often cheaper than what you would pay for natural gas.
Custom Design or Prefab
Outdoor fireplaces come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors that is only limited by your imagination (and budget) if you or a contractor want to run free with a custom design. More and more quality prefabricated kits are becoming available, however, making it much easier and much less expensive to build an outdoor fireplace even without significant experience with these kinds of projects. With these prefabricated kits, you can skip the time-consuming brick-laying and chimney construction and still be sure to get a unit that will efficiently provide heat and smoke exhaust.
Whether you choose a custom design or a prefabricated kit, you will need to pour a solid concrete foundation to anchor the outdoor fireplace and set your finish elevation of the surrounding surface.
Construction or installation
Hiring a qualified contractor is always recommended, but some prefabricated kits might be DIY-friendly enough for the adventurous homeowner to undertake on their own. Just understand that you are literally playing with fire – if you aren’t comfortable with the work, you should always turn to a professional to handle it safely and efficiently. To find out more about our contracting services, contact us and we’d be happy to help.
Before you light your first fire, add some finishing touches to the outdoor living space with seating, tables, art and anything else that might elevate your backyard experience.
Invite friends or family over to kick off the first of many evening spent basking in the satisfying glow of your outdoor fireplace!
Ready to Get Started?
Check out our free step-by-step guide to planning your outdoor entertainment area.Download Our Planning Guide