Outdoor fire features, such as fire pits or fireplaces, have become all the rage for homeowners and home buyers alike. It expands your entertainment opportunities and allows you to extend the use of your outdoor living space way beyond the warmer months. Here are some of the ways an outdoor fire feature can benefit you, your family and your home.
Increase Home Value
Outdoor living spaces are becoming increasingly important to anyone who owns a house or is looking to buy one because they increase the value of the home, just like a swimming pool or an outdoor kitchen. These types of features not only upgrade your outdoor space, but they also give you an excuse for entertaining and spending more time outside, making your home more appealing to potential buyers.
Create a Focal Point
An outdoor fire feature acts as a focal point for the entire design of your landscape. It directs the viewer’s gaze and provides an anchor for the other elements of your outdoor space, such as a deck or a patio. Having a focal point can help bring together your whole outdoor design and make it more cohesive. It also enhances curb appeal, which further increases home value.
Having a beautiful outdoor living space is the perfect excuse to invite people over. A functional outdoor space increases the number of months that you can realistically entertain and spend time outdoors. An outdoor fire feature provides welcome warmth on a cool summer night or an even cooler autumn evening. An outdoor fire provides the perfect space to entertain guests year round.
Enjoy Family Bonding
In addition to entertaining guests, your outdoor space is a great place to spend quality time with your family. With the craziness of life, chances are you don’t see them nearly as often as you’d like to. Light up the fire and roast some marshmallows together. Talk about your day, your week, your future plans. Laugh, sing, and enjoy one another’s company. A fire pit is very conducive to family bonding!
Extend the Outdoor Season
Numerous studies prove the positive benefits of spending time outdoors. Having an outdoor fire feature, like a fire pit or fireplace, will extend the amount of time you spend outside. You can keep a fire burning long into the evening and long into the fall and winter months. A fire generates warmth that can keep away the chill of cooler weather, greatly extending your outdoor season.
Roast and Grill Outdoors
What is a get-together without food? An outdoor fire provides a place to roast things like marshmallows, hot dogs, kabobs, or anything else that can be easily cooked over a fire. Adding cooking as an activity makes your outdoor space even more fun and efficient.
In a world where droughts and wildfires are a common occurrence, very few places allow you to burn unprotected fire anymore, and controlled outdoor fire features, like fire pits and fireplaces, have since become the solution that allows people to continue to build fires without breaking the law or causing unnecessary danger.
Fire pits are a great way to add a little charm and character to your outdoor living space. Coming in many shapes, sizes, and styles to fit your preferences and needs, they and are the perfect way to entertain family and friends year-round.
If you are going to get a fire pit, remember:
- Gravel, rock, concrete, and dirt are the best materials to support your fire pit.
- People and pets should stay at least 3 feet from the fire at all times.
- Fire pits should be placed at least 10 feet from neighboring properties, houses, sheds, and fences.
- Make sure you have everything necessary for putting out a fire before you start one. If you have a gas-powered fireplace, consult the owner’s manual.
- Check your city’s ordinances and local housing codes before building any fires or installing a fire pit. Some homeowners’ associations and local jurisdictions have rules against fires or may limit the times of year when you can have a fire.
Fire pits can take many shapes, from resembling a wood-burning stove to being little more than a bowl with a screened lid. When you are ready to choose yours, you will need to decide if you want a custom-built fire pit or a ready-to-use fire pit from your local hardware store. Before you decide, however, take a few minutes to get familiar with the choices available to you, because being informed will help you get exactly what you want, leading to many years of outdoor fire enjoyment.
Build vs. Buy
Already made fire pits come in many shapes and sizes, or you can be creative and design and build your own. A basic, pre-made pit is little more than a bowl for you to build a fire in while building one gives you the ability and freedom to use your imagination and be creative. Consider the look you’re going for, the purpose of the space and your family’s needs and expectations. Before you make a decision, be sure to check the local codes and restrictions in your area. There may be rules for you to follow as you design your outdoor fire space.
Charcoal, Gas or Wood?
The type of fuel you plan to use will play a part in the type of fire pit you have, and whether or not building your own is the way to go. Charcoal is readily available anywhere, but it can very expensive if you use your fire pit often. Wood is more commonly used in fire pits, but it can be difficult to get if you live in a metropolitan area. Another drawback of wood and charcoal alike is the fact that both fuels emit smoke that can be annoying or even harmful to some people or animals.
Advantages of propane or natural gas include:
- Burns cleaner
- Easier to control
- Readily available everywhere
- Less expensive
- Safer than wood or charcoal
Another advantage of gas over wood is that gas burners can be hidden beneath fire or gravel to create a romantic or even mystical fire setting. Even better, some sand or gravel choices will cause the flames to burn in different colors, something that is not possible with other conventional fuels.
Metal, Brick, or Stone?
Fire pits can be constructed from various materials, ranging from molded metal to chimney bricks to stone pavers. If you have an abundance of natural stone available, you can even use granite, shale, marble or whatever type of rock is nearby. Prefabricated fire pits are usually smaller and more portable, while fire pits you build yourself can take any shape or size you choose.
As with any fixture exposed to the elements, fire pit maintenance is required to keep the unit fully functional and a pleasing addition to your outdoor living space. Since open flames and high temperatures are involved, fire pit maintenance is also critical to safe operation.
Be sure to keep encroaching shrubbery, weeds or high grass at least 10 feet away from the pit. Be aware of overhanging tree limbs, and choose the location of your pit carefully and wisely. Always make sure it is kept clean – remove ashes, soot, and residue, scrubbing the lining and masonry with the appropriate materials to prevent corroding and rusting, and always clean up after cooking food over your fire. Finally, make sure your fire pit is covered when not in use. This helps prevent leaves and debris from settling into your feature in times when it’s less utilized.
Nothing draws an indoor gathering outdoors like the warmth and aesthetics of a fire pit. Fire pit maintenance keeps this most appealing enhancement to outdoor living safe, attractive and long-lasting.
Perhaps you caught the fever after staring at a chiminea a few times. It was nice but so small! You want something larger and more useful for an outdoor fire. The drama and flexibility of an outdoor fireplace make it an ideal element for entertaining and relaxing.
Expand the Season
Who doesn’t love sitting by a cozy fire? With the recent surge in outdoor fireplace popularity, more and more of us are enjoying this time-honored leisure moment outdoors, in our own backyards.
But an outdoor fireplace is not just for summer relaxation. With an outdoor fireplace custom-built to your needs and ideally situated in your yard, you can enjoy the fiery fun well into the fall and early winter, and begin again in early spring, when neighbors are still bundling up inside.
Imagine happy Halloween hauntings, marshmallow roasting as part of fall football feasts, or flame-licked hot dogs with the neighbors in celebration of the World Series.
Dining Al Fresco
Whether you’re dining in style or roughing it, with a custom-built outdoor fireplace, whatever you enjoyed celebrating inside can have a new look and feel outside.
- Hobo pies using pie irons
- Foil-wrapped stews cooked in the coals
- Popcorn—remember to buy the old-fashioned corn popper with a long wire handle to hold in the outdoor fireplace
- Peppers—these can be stuffed with all sorts of fun items and cooked in foil or roasted whole over the open flames
- Nuts, fruits, tomatoes, and other hand-sized items can be roasted or broiled easily while preserving a lot of nutrients
Add accessories to your outdoor fireplace to expand cooking options:
- A rotisserie allows chickens, turkeys, pork, and beef roasts to gently cook over open flames
- Add a grille or grate for chicken breasts, fish, and thick, juicy steaks
With all the festive entertaining, remember that an outdoor fireplace can also be a charming and intimate backdrop for more tender moments. The gentle light of a glowing fire under a starry sky is irresistibly romantic. Whether for a quiet dinner for two or a moment to relax after the day’s events, an outdoor fireplace will set a memorable mood for both of you.
Location, Location, Location
Built free-standing in your backyard with ample seating around, an outdoor fireplace becomes a gathering spot for friends and family and makes a natural photo setting. Built into the wraparound wall of a patio, an outdoor fireplace makes a bold statement and keeps guests nearby. Consider an outdoor fireplace under a pergola or patio cover to extend your adjacent living or dining room. Check out our photo gallery for more ideas.
Custom Versus Prefabricated
Outdoor fireplaces can be purchased almost completely out of a box, but keep in mind, you do get what you pay for. A custom-built fireplace will combine all the features you want and provide a location that suits you. You can select from configurations that emphasize seating, cooking, striking visual effects, or a simpler background ambiance. By working with a design professional, your outdoor fireplace can emphasize the aspects of a fire that are most important to you.
Gas or Wood?
Another advantage of a custom-built installation is your selection of natural gas or wood fuel. With gas, you simply push an ignition button and you have flames. Natural gas prices rise and fall, but it is generally considered one of the least expensive fossil fuels.
Some barbecue fiends swear by a wood-burning outdoor fireplace. With wood fuel, you can experiment with various woods and even toss in specially seasoned chips for specific recipes. The beauty of an outdoor fireplace is its versatility.
Building fires at home – even building them in fire pits or fireplaces – entails a certain amount of responsibility and caution. Being aware of the most common dangers can help you avoid turning your fireside BBQ into a disaster of epic proportions.
An open fire—whether in a National Park or your backyard—is dangerous if unattended. Always keep these tips in mind:
- Keep children away from fire
- Discourage rough play near fire
- Always use potholders and mitts to pick up foil-wrapped food and pots on the fire
- Keep ground around fire features moist or wet to prevent the spreading of fire
- Always burn in an open, well-ventilated area
- Keep loose clothing, furniture or other flammable materials away from the fire area
- Never burn trash or yard debris
- Accidents happen. Keep a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit nearby
- Never leave a fire unattended. Disaster can strike in seconds.
No matter which combination of styles, materials and uses you have in mind, adding a custom fire feature to your outdoor living space is sure to create the perfect environment for making lasting memories with family and friends year-round.