Do you love to entertain? Do you love to sit on the patio after a hard week, with a cold beer and some good music? Do you love to cuddle under the stars? If you answered yes to any of these, then why not add a beautifully crafted outdoor fireplace to your backyard, porch or patio.
From stone to steel, from propane to wood, the outdoor fireplace is a wonderful way to stay warm on those chilly nights when you just need to get out of the house, but not too far out of the house.
Relaxing in the open air, having stimulating conversations with friends, or just reading a book while having a glass of wine by moonlight and firelight, your backyard decor and landscaping scheme can only be improved by putting in a well crafted backyard fireplace.
What defines an outdoor fireplace?
As opposed to a fire pit, which is simply a hole created by stones or bricks in which fires are lit, an outdoor fireplace is very much resemblant of an indoor fireplace. It is freestanding, made of stone, steel or both, and is most often fixed in place. The only exception to these are the portable outdoor fireplaces, but they are more rare than the more permanent style.
They can be built to suit your existing patio stones, barbecue area, or outdoor furniture. They can be built to suit the exterior of your home. Or, they can be designed in a way that you desire, completely different from everything around it, an outdoor fireplace with its own story.
Another option that is quite different from the hearth-and-chimney style outdoor fireplace, is what is called a Chiminea. Looking like an old-style clay oven, the Chiminea is a freestanding unit that can come in a multitude of materials, including clay, cast iron, steel, and pewter, just to name a few. They have a pot-belly with a hinged screen door, and a chimney.
Why do I need an outdoor fireplace?
There is something special about having friends over for a barbecue, only to have the evening spoiled by a chill in the air, sending everyone home. WIth your very own outdoor fireplace, the party can keep going into the wee hours, giving new life to your evenings at home. Plus, a well crafted, custom designed outdoor fireplace is a conversation starter, and will make you the envy of the neighborhood.
If you burn logs, the smells will waft into the air, a scent of times camping with family, bringing back fond memories. The nostalgic tranquility as you stare into the flames, remembering roasting marshmallows, singing songs and telling jokes, and finally falling asleep under the stars.
What are the types of outdoor fireplaces?
As far as accelerants go, wood and gas are evenly split throughout the industry. Both have their merits, the ultimate decision being entirely the user's preference.
While the outdoor fireplace market is almost exactly even in the debate of wood versus gas, the most common you might see is the wood burning variety.
Flames dance on wood freely, and that freedom instills a comfort that eases the spirit of anyone who watches the delicate ballet within. The trademark crackle, the shifting of logs, the coals that seem to pulse like a heartbeat, can have a simple, visceral calming effect. Even the action of adding a new log to the fire invites the peace of control over the slow burn.
As natural gas has become cheaper, and the environmental impact of chopping down trees has begun to ebb to taboo, more gas outdoor fireplaces are entering the market, poised to overtake their wood counterparts.
With controlled flames still giving warmth and comfort, without the mess of charred wood remnants, and the clean, smoke free emissions limiting their carbon footprint, anyone who wants the fireplace look without all the fireplace hassle, leans toward the simplicity of a gas outdoor fireplace option.
A lesser known subset of outdoor fireplaces, is the electric models. Reap the pros of both gas and wood burning fireplaces, without the hassles. Electric outdoor fireplaces light fast, burn clean, and are very easy to install, but electricity costs might be an obstacle.
What materials are used to make an outdoor fireplace?
Most models are made of steel, stone or brick.
These are typically a square body, with a tapered roof to a short chimney. They typically have four legs, keeping the unit elevated a few inches, so the heat from the fireplace doesn't scorch the ground.
Stone and brick
Resembling an ornate version of an indoor fireplace, these have the luxury of being contained in a way whereas they can be built flat on the ground. The stone, or brick, insulates the surrounding structure from the heat of even the most roaring fire.
One more possibility in the stone-like category is the cement cast style. Instead of many stones or bricks making up the unit, these appear as a solid piece of seamless stone. They can be manipulated in the casting process to suit the custom desires of the builder, and the future owner.
What is a linear outdoor fireplace?
A linear, or line, outdoor fireplace, is a sleek, modern take on the gas fireplace option. They are often encased in glass, similar to indoor gas fireplace models. The lines are clean, all right angles, and can be installed into many outdoor gas fireplace spots with a little modification. Instead of special gas fireplace logs, linear units often can be seen with clear or colored rocks, from which the flames emerge.
What accessories are available for my outdoor fireplace?
As with indoor fireplaces, outdoor fireplaces have tool choices.
A tool and stand combo, with the standard shovel, broom, poker and tongs. Additionally some sets can also have an ash rake.
A wood grate is designed to elevate your logs off the fireplace floor.
A weather door is a good thing to have in place when the fireplace is not in use, to keep the interior safe from the elements.
A drain tray catches ashes and other burned bits, making clean up a snap.
Great for electric and gas models, an on/off remote control can light your outdoor fireplace, so it's ready when you are.
A log caddy is a great place to store your pre-cut wood, off the ground and near the unit, saving many back-and-forth trips to the wood pile.
How do I clean my outdoor fireplace?
To ensure your wood-burning outdoor fireplace works optimally and lasts for years to come, routine cleanings are a wise decision.
Removing creosote buildup. Creosote is a byproduct of the burning of wood logs. A coating of creosote can accumulate, clogging up the chimney and making the flue difficult to maneuver. Burning what is known as a creosote sweeping log every so often, helps to break up that accumulation, making it easy to remove.
Remove all ash left within the hearth. It is recommended to remove the ash as often as possible, so whatever ash exists during cleaning should be minimal.
Use a broom or outdoor wet/dry vacuum to suck up debris.
Use a brush and warm soapy water and give the interior a thorough scrubbing. This should be done at least once, annually.
More for maintenance than cleaning, if any brush, weeds, or other foliage is growing in the area, cut them back, lest it accidentally catch on fire.
For cleaning a gas outdoor fireplace, both open and linear:
- Turn the gas off.
- Brush off the gas logs (if you have them as a media). A soft paint brush works well for this.
- If you use lava rocks, vacuum them. They are heavy and will not suck up into the vacuum. For clear and colored stones, because they are smaller and lighter, do not use a vacuum. Remove and bath in a soapy solution, then dry.
- Clean the interior with a vacuum, using the hose attachment.
- Clean the protective glass if it has any. Special fireplace glass cleaner is best.
- Wipe it down. A damp cloth is more than sufficient.
- If tough build up occurs, a mild liquid dish soap will work to remove it.
Electric outdoor fireplaces are the simplest to clean.
- Remove screws that hold the glass front plate.
- Remove glass.
- Clean glass with fireplace glass cleaner
- If electric fireplace logs are used, wipe them with a damp cloth.
- Reinstall glass front plate and screws.
It is also a wise recommendation that you have a professional inspect and clean your outdoor fireplace once a year to further ensure it is kept in top condition.