Outdoor Fireplace: 6 Things to Consider

Spring is on the way and there is not a better way to spend the cool nights than by the campfire, but having a campfire on the lawn can harm the grass and be annoying to clean up. Having an outdoor fireplace is a great way to add some new aesthetic to your backyard and keeps the heat off your lawn. Each have their own flair and style, so it can match your personality and home. Before you purchase your outdoor fireplace make sure you know a few things about them.


Style

There are 4 different styles: traditional, Mediterranean, modern, and southwest. You should have an idea of what style you are looking to accomplish before you begin building your fireplace. 


Traditional

The traditional style usually has a lot of stone or brickwork. They normally have an open arch and mantel along with an extended hearth. Traditional style fireplaces are well fitted for a ranch or colonial style home. This is one of the most popular styles of outdoor fireplace. 

Mediterranean

This style of outdoor fireplace originated from Morocco. This fireplace usually has a very simple structure but has lots of colorful flair from different ceramic tiles that frame the firebox. This style of fireplace is great for a home with a beach or Aztec aesthetic.

Modern

Modern outdoor fireplaces have become the fireplace that a lot of families are building. They are known for their clean lines and industrial feel. They have little to no embellishment and are usually rectangular in shape. Unlike other fireplaces, modern outdoor fireplaces do not narrow at the chimney. The entire build maintains a cube like shape. Homeowners typically choose grey concrete or stainless steel build to them.

Southwest

These outdoor fireplaces have a lot of different options. Since many are styled after a kiva, a Mexican bread oven, Southwestern style outdoor fireplaces tend to have a round shape. Some designs have a stair step structure to replace the straight chimney style. You can add some colorful tile around the firebox and edges to add some great texture.


Location

Now that you have an idea of which styles are available to you, there are some other factors to consider. First, where is your fireplace going to go? Where you place your fireplace will determine different spaces and focal points. The fireplace should be somewhere that has easy access and adjacent structures. These structures could be the house, guest house, or pool house. If you are adding an outdoor fireplace to your pool, spa, or hot tub area make sure it is close to their sides. This will add extra light and warmth to the poolside. Family and guests that come over for a swim in the evening will gravitate to the light and warmth after a dip.

If you do not have a pool and you are going to be adding an outdoor fireplace, consider attaching it to the outside of the home or deck. This will create an intimate space and make your yard the focal point. You can also consider building your patio out further from the house and adding your outdoor fireplace there. Doing so will extend the amount of space you have for entertaining and the fireplace will become the focal point.

Size and Function

Size is the next thing to consider after the location. Depending on the area you have picked and the amount of people you plan on entertaining, the size will change. If you only want to have a small group of people over to enjoy the warmth of the fire, then a smaller unit will do. There are outdoor fireplaces that are about 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep. This can seat about 4-6 people in front of the warmth, but if you plan on having larger gatherings then you might want to have a larger firebox and hearth. This way there is room to move around and fit numerous people within the area of warmth.

Function is also important when shopping for an outdoor fireplace. If you plan on having a smaller group, then a few comfy chairs to curl up in will do the trick. If you want a large dinner party by your fireplace, then you’re going to need a larger area, fireplace, and table. Now, if you want to cook on your fireplace this adds a few new elements. First, your fireplace will need to be designed for cooking. Many are enclosed and are not built to cook. Others use fuels that make cooking on them unsafe and unhealthy. You will also need to create a space around the fireplace that allows you to cook, chop, and set your utensils.

Materials

There are fireplaces that are already built and ready to be installed, but some home owners have a specific plan set in their minds and would rather have their outdoor fireplace built from scratch. If this is what you are planning on doing, knowing which materials are needed can help you get a rough estimate on price. Depending on the style you are going for, your materials are going to vary. For example, if you are going for a traditional look, lots of brick will be necessary. Some materials include brick, firebrick, and brick veneer.

Firebrick comes in many colors and textures, brick does not give you too many options, and veneer will give you less material to work with. If you want a more modern feel, grey concrete or stainless steel are your best material options. Using concrete also cuts your building time in half, compared to the time it takes to build with stone. Stone is also an expensive option, so if you want the look and feel of rock without the price, try stone cladding. Lastly, if you want that Southwestern look that was described earlier, try stucco. This building material comes in a bunch of different colors and has a lot of textures available as well.

Fuel

Unlike the old days, wood is no longer the only option for fueling a fire. Today we have propane, gas, and the classic wood. Depending on which fuel source you choose, the location might have to change. If you get a wood or propane fueled fireplace your location options are endless. The fuel source is either placed into the fire or built into the structure. Wood will give off more heat, but cuts the convenience down since you have to feed the fire. Wood burning fireplaces also require a large chimney. Propane fueled fireplaces only require venting.

Gas operated outdoor fireplaces add a little more of a twist. These fireplaces will need to have a gas line put in. They do not require a chimney and will only need a small vent pipe which cuts some cost. You will need your local provider to come out and check the area that you are planning on building your fireplace to ensure that there are not dangers or restrictions for that location. Next, the yard will need to be trenched and piped for the gas line that will attach to the house.

Safety 

Being around a fire, regardless of fuel, is potentially dangerous and the safety of your family, guests, and home should be paramount. Your outdoor fireplace should be close to your home for convenience, but never so close that you risk catching your home on fire. Keep gardens and brush trimmed back and away from the fireplace. This lowers the risk of a spark catching something on fire. Never build your fireplace in an area that has a blocked airway. Make sure it is well vented and have a fire extinguisher close by at all times.

You also need to make sure that you research the building code and regulations in your area. There are many locations and towns that are very strict about what is built. Have a professional builder help you along in the process to make sure that the fireplace is built correctly, safely, and legally.

Have Fun 

Once of all the decisions, designing, and building, are all taken care of you can enjoy your outdoor fireplace. Even though all of the above is extremely important, having fun with your new outdoor fireplace is the most important part. Bring the family outside and have friends over to show off the new addition.

Photo source linked within photos

Sources: 1, 2, 3.

Craig Scott

I love to spend all the time I can outdoors and find every excuse to leave my house. I write about everything from backyard DIY projects to gardening. If you can't get a hold of me I am probably on a trail or a boat.

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