Finding the Perfect Outdoor Fire Feature: A Beginners Guide
Let’s be honest; who couldn’t use a little extra room around the house? Whether you’re gathering with friends, enjoying a family dinner or relaxing with a book, an outdoor living space is the perfect way to expand the square footage of your home. Moreover, adding a fire feature, like an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, extends the time you have to enjoy your outdoor space. But where to begin? With so many options available, finding the perfect fire feature for your home seems overwhelming. That’s why we rounded up the most important considerations to make in beginning your fire feature search.
First and foremost, look at the space you have to work with. Here are a few important questions to ask:
- How big is the space? Pull out the tape measure and define the area you’re working with. We like sketching out the space, with specific dimensions, because it creates a sort of canvas, which we then use to create different layouts.
- Are there existing elements in place, like a concrete patio, or deck? If you’re starting from scratch the world is your oyster! If you already have a deck or patio, consider using or adding to them to create the ideal floor plan. Just remember to keep your fire feature clear from things that may obstruct ventilation or could catch fire, like low hanging tree branches and awnings.
- How involved do you want the installation process to be? Some fire features, like wood burning chimineas, require minimal set up. However; others, like gas fire pits, and electric fireplaces, require professional installation. We recommend checking local city codes for any permits or restrictions before making any final decisions.
- Is mobility important? Natural gas fire places and fire pits, are most commonly fixed structures, which is perfect for an outdoor living room feel. If you’re looking for versatility, wood burning fire pits and ethanol fireplaces may be a better option.
Next, consider which type of fire feature will best fit the space. Categorizations differ from brand to brand; so, for the sake of simplicity, we like to sort fire features into 4 main types.
- Fireplaces Although many types of outdoor fireplaces exist, the most common is a three sided, vented structure. Wood and natural gas are traditional fuel sources for these fire features; however, electric and ethanol models are gaining popularity. An outdoor fireplace is ideal for creating a clearly defined living space because it will most likely be fixed into place. If you’re looking for a smaller or mobile fire feature, that still has the feel of a fireplace, a chiminea may be the right choice.
- Fire Pits These fire features come in a plethora of shapes and sizes, but a 360° view of the flame is what makes a fire pit, a fire pit. You may hear terms like fire bowl, fire column, or fire table; but, we like to think of them as one in the same. Fire pits most commonly use wood, natural gas or liquid propane as fuel. Wood burning and liquid propane models offer mobility, while natural gas requires the fire pit to be fixed in place.
- Portable Fire If you’re looking for versatility, a portable fire feature is the answer. These compact, mobile fire features are great for small spaces and allow you to enjoy a fire in almost any outdoor space. Portable fire features traditionally use wood or liquid propane fuel; however, ethanol models, sometimes referred to as tabletop fireplaces, are another great option.
Another important decision is the type of fuel the fire feature uses. Comparing fuel types can get fairly involved; so, we'll just cover the basics in this post. Fire features typically use one of five fuel sources:
- Wood: The classic fuel for an outdoor fire is dry, seasoned hardwood. Wood burning fire features are great for cooking, require minimal installation, and only call for simple, straightforward maintenance.
- Natural Gas: Another popular fuel for fire pits and fireplaces is natural gas. Creating a roaring fire with the flick of a switch is what makes this fuel type so desirable. A natural gas fire feature requires its own gas line; so, you’ll need a professional’s expertise for proper installation.
- Liquid Propane: Considered a cleaner fuel option, propane is one of four gases found in natural gas. Liquid propane fire features function similarly to natural gas; however, they do not require a professionally installed fuel line. Instead, the fire pit will come with a hose that connects to a small fuel tank.
- Ethanol: A newer fuel option for outdoor fireplaces is alcohol-based ethanol. Also considered a clean burning fuel, ethanol fireplaces do not require fuel lines or tanks to function. Rather, there is a fuel reservoir beneath the burner and the flame ignites with the use of a barbecue lighter.
- Electricity: Another new fuel addition to outdoor fireplaces is electricity. Electric fireplaces offer a unique and customizable experience as they do not produce real flames. Instead, electric fireplaces use a vented fan system and internal heated coils to warm the air and circulate it throughout the space. Although these fireplaces do not directly produce emissions, electricity production methods vary widely from city to city. So, if sustainability is a top concern, keep in mind electric doesn’t necessarily mean zero emissions.
Finally, it’s time to choose aesthetic and material that works best for you. Believe us when we say there is a fire feature for any style. So, think about the ambiance you want to create in your outdoor living space. Some of the most common materials for an outdoor fire feature are natural stone or concrete, metal and glass. However, prefabricated fire pit forms and fireplace inserts are a great option if you have a specific finishing material in mind or want to create a custom shape.
We hope this beginners guide gives you the tools to make informed choices in your fire feature search! Remember, always check your local ordinances regarding the installation of outdoor fire features and if you have any questions check out our FAQ page here or feel free to reach out to us.