Fire pits or fireplaces turn patios into living spaces
You can enjoy cool afternoons and evenings outdoors, and it can trump indoor comforts, if you just apply a little heat. A fireplace or fire pit not only keeps things toasty, it pulls everything together as the focus for your outdoor living space.
For our family, the fire’s warmth creates a welcome natural hangout at the end of a day. We spend time catching up while watching the dogs play.
Fire pits are very popular and there are hundreds of choices, from the chiminea that started it all a few years ago, to stone fire pits, polished fire bowls, and tables with fire in the center. These fire pits burn wood, natural gas, propane, or alcohol-base gel. There are options for any pocketbook.
Portable fire pits
The simplest choice is a fire pit. If you go this route, consider location first. Never locate fire on a wooden deck. You might be surprised how readily stray embers can burn through a deck. Stone, brick, or concrete surfaces are best. You can find rugged copper fire pits and even modern stainless designs at many hardware stores. They start at about seventy-five dollars.
In-ground fire pits
With the right fire pit, you can relive those campfire experiences of many a summer camping trip – and skip the pit toilet routine entirely.
Making one is as easy as digging a hole in the ground, filling the bottom with gravel, and lining the sides with stone.
So find your spot, not too close to the house and away from overhanging branches, and begin.
- Step 1: Draw four-foot diameter circle with spray paint.
- Step 2: Dig down one foot, keeping the sides of your pit vertical and the bottom smooth. Then, return to the center and dig another hole, this one one-foot wide and one-foot deep.
- Step 3: Fill the hole and base with 6 inches of ¾-inch drainage gravel from the hardware store. Level the gravel. It will be the base of your stone walls.
- Step 4: Line the inside walls with large stones. They should rise above ground level about one foot.
Finally, stack wood in the center, ignite, and enjoy.
Items needed: Shovel, drainage gravel, large stones. The project can cost as little as twenty dollars or as much as a hundred and take a day to complete.
My most recent fire pit was built of fieldstone right in the middle of a concrete patio. If you’re short on space, build near the edges or on a corner. If you want a natural gas starter, it must be installed first, work that requires a licensed professional. Consult with a knowledgeable landscape designer or stone professional before you go forward.
The outdoor structures serve as a handsome anchor for your gathering spot and can be freestanding or attached to your home.
You can use a fireplace to screen an undesirable view. Make sure to coordinate it with your home’s exterior in both its style and materials.
Search the web for ideas, and then create a plan to fit your outdoor space. You will need to work with a pro to build your fireplace, and the cost can mount to a few thousand dollars.
When selecting a design, consider adding side walls to the fireplace to create extra seating, or if you like to barbecue, make one side a grill, with a propane tank and additional storage.
This can be the best time of year to spend time outside. The right fire feature can make it perfect.