Enjoy your backyard living space a little longer with an outdoor fireplace or fire pit.
By Sarah F. Ehrhardt
On a crisp fall evening, you step onto your patio, breathe the fresh air and appreciate the absence of mosquitoes. Too bad the air is just a little too cool for you to sit and enjoy the sunset.
An outdoor fireplace or updated fire pit can help you to enjoy your yard well into autumn and even winter, making your patio seem like another room of your home. More than just a place to burn twigs and leaves, a fire lets you gather friends or relax on your own with a mug of tea.
Time was, you needed a skilled mason to build an outdoor fireplace, and the mortar and technical labor could cost a bundle. These days, less expensive pre-built units in many styles and colors can be delivered right to your home. For a few dollars more, you can choose patterns and extra products to make your fireplace a one-of-a-kind centerpiece. If you don’t want to burn wood, you can install a gas log kit.
A fireplace can be incorporated into the edge of an existing patio, or designed as part of a new or renovated one. Companies that sell pre-built fireplaces generally offer full lines of paving and wall products to match; seat walls, pillars and planters can add function and define the new “room.”
More modest budget? You can still get that cozy, intimate feel with a built-in or portable fire pit. Built-ins, made of natural stone or other traditional fireplace materials, can be located at the edge of a patio or in the center. A footrest around the perimeter can keep feet toasty. When not in use, a raised built-in pit can become a low table by adding a wooden top. With a portable unit—these are usually metal—you can bring it out for fireside gatherings and store it the rest of the time, freeing up patio space for other functions.
Either type of fire pit creates a unique social space separate from the dining area for guests to congregate to relax and chat.
Before buying any kind of outdoor fire feature, it’s a good idea to check with your fire department about any local ordinances regulating their placement or use; this is fire and you’ll want to take safety precautions.