There’s nothing like crisp fall nights with friends and family gathered around the fire. Telling stories, roasting s’mores, making memories that will last a lifetime. If you want to make the most of your time together this year, it doesn’t get any better than an outdoor fireplace or pit. But to get the setup that’s right for your family, there’s a few questions to ask before calling your landscaping professional. In this blog we’ll share 3 things to consider before building an outdoor fireplace or pit.
Why Have An Outdoor Fireplace?
Before we get into the details, there’s this question to consider: why should you be building an outdoor fireplace to begin with?
To put it simply, because fireplaces make great gathering spaces.
They serve as a focal point to your yard, drawing people together and encouraging them to pull up a chair and share a few laughs. There’s a warmth and a magic to fireside chats that you just can’t find anywhere else.
Speaking of warmth, outdoor fireplaces have some incredibly practical benefits. Because they give off heat, your guests won’t mind staying outside even when the nights grow chilly. And because fireplaces are their own glowing light, your family won’t mind staying out late into the evening.
3 Things to Consider Before Building an Outdoor Fireplace or Pit
1. Fireplace vs Firepit
Some people use the terms fireplace and firepit interchangeably, but there are some important differences.
A fireplace typically resembles what you would see on the inside of your home. It will be a structure that diverts smoke up and out of a chimney. You will sit in front of it rather than all around it. Often they are part of an elegant architectural structure and can be part of a larger patio.
Firepits meanwhile, often resemble what you’d see camping. They are open and people usually will sit all around them (except for wherever the smoke goes!). But these structures aren’t just holes in the ground. They can also be beautifully designed and built from a variety of materials. Often they are incorporated into a larger patio.
So fireplace or firepit, which is right for you? If you’re hoping for a more interactive experience — guests all around — opt for a firepit. If you’re more interested in ambiance — a classy place to enjoy a drink with friends — a fireplace is likely the better option. But of course there’s no rule that says you can’t have both! With the right design you can incorporate both a fireplace and firepit into a beautiful patio.
2. Wood Burning or Gas
Next, before building an outdoor fireplace or pit it’s important to decide what material you want your fire to burn. Here there are typically two options:
Wood is the traditional fuel for fire. It has a rustic feel and purists will say you can’t beat its crackling sound and pleasant aroma. By changing the size and amount of logs, you can also control how big your fire grows and how long it burns. While you will have to chop and light those logs yourself, you won’t have to worry about a gas line. That means your fire can be situated anywhere in the yard and your project will typically be less expensive up front.
Natural gas brings a touch of magic to your fireplace. You can light a roaring flame with the simple press of a button. And you never have to purchase wood or struggle with a match. Many people appreciate a gas fireplace for that ease of use and they like the consistency of the automatic flame. They also like that since a gas fireplace is easier to start, they can use it on breezy or sometimes even rainy nights. However, gas fireplaces don’t provide the same sensory experience as a wood burning fire. There isn’t the same sound or smell. You will also need a gas line so your fireplace may need to be in a specific spot or may require a little extra work in the building phase. Often that means natural gas fireplaces are more expensive up front.
So which is right for you, wood burning or natural gas? Again it’s a question of experience. Do you enjoy the traditional smells and sounds of a wood fire? Or do you prefer the magic effortlessness of a gas fire? If you don’t mind the maintenance and want the traditional feel, you’re better off building a wood burning fireplace or firepit. But if you prefer convenience over the traditional way, you’re more likely to enjoy a gas fireplace.
Note: While there are some exceptions, most firepits are wood burning. If you opt for a pit, you may need to stick with wood. However, if you choose a fireplace, both options are available to you.
3. What Design Suits You Best?
Now that you know how you want your fireplace or pit to operate, it’s time to decide how you want it to look. Here there are an incredible number of options. To make it easier, consider these categories:
A fireplace or pit will typically match the design of your home. You can go for more rustic or opt for a modern look. Your landscaping professional will be able to advise you here to make sure everything matches and flows well. But to get started, check out this list of design ideas and see which options interest you.
The design you choose when building an outdoor fireplace will help you determine the right materials to use in the surround. Generally a rustic style may encourage you to choose natural stone or stucco or opt for traditional brick. A modern design, meanwhile, may lead you towards concrete, steel or tile. Each material has its own pros and cons. Some will be more expensive and some may be easier to keep clean. Ask your landscaper which material makes the most sense for your needs and budget.
Size is both a practical and an aesthetic concern. Do you want a minimalist fireplace or are you interested in building a large focal point for your yard? Will your fire be its own structure or do you want it built into a larger patio? In general, the bigger your fireplace, the more expensive it will be.
What’s Your Vision?
If you’ve stuck with us throughout this article you’re likely well on your way to building an outdoor fireplace. You’ve answered the three biggest questions:
- Fireplace or firepit?
- Wood burning or natural gas?
- What design suits you?
With your thoughts on these three in tow, you’re ready to talk to a landscaper. Use these main categories to share your vision and your landscaper will be able to help you build the fireplace or pit you’ve been dreaming of.
And if you’re in West Michigan and looking for the perfect design to keep you warm on those fall nights, with our team at Torchwood Landscaping. We’ll set you up with the perfect place to entertain before all the leaves have fallen.