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How To Enhance Your Outdoor Living Space With Outdoor Fireplaces

Updated on May 26, 2010

Many families across the country are turning to their own backyards when they want to find a space to relax, enjoy each other's company, and entertain their friends. Outdoor living spaces are a great way to extend living space and explore one's inner designer continuing the interior design scheme or express oneself by introducing totally new elements outdoors.

There are many ways to enhance outside areas. In prior days, most outdoor areas were typically denoted by lawn and patio furniture, but today there are many options to create an outdoor living room. The best way to enhance outside areas is by creating a focal point to anchor a design and create a unified outside space.

Outdoor fireplaces are the perfect piece to anchor that design. Outdoor patio fireplaces come in a wide variety of styles and options.

Traditional Outdoor Fireplaces

An outdoor space can be designed to extend one's living space for dining and entertaining. A fireplace can be placed on an exterior wall of the house, detached garage, or carport to define a room. Larger spaces can accommodate a secondary area in the backyard, which can be anchored by an outdoor fireplace. Without a large budget or investment of time, an outdoor fireplace can be introduced as an open invitation to gather. When laying out a space, considerations of noise and privacy can be addressed as features are incorporated into the plan.

Traditional exterior outdoor fireplaces are a focal point that adds value to the property. Both custom and prefabricated hearth sets can be placed outside to emulate the look and feel of an indoor fireplace.  Feel free to build any type of outdoor fireplaces that you can imagine, from concrete to masonry or exotic stonework to complement the home’s exterior. While these options are typically more expensive and require a contractor, they create a permanent focus on an outside area and replicate the comforts of inside spaces with an outdoor setting.

Kits and modular designs are typically the most affordable way to own outdoor patio fireplaces. These kits do not require motor and are instead assembled with interlocking stone and concrete pieces and can be put together in a matter of hours, not days of construction. This do-it-yourself method for constructing outdoor fireplaces allows for user customization and even the addition of extra stone work for a unique look which blends with the property’s existing hardscape. The advantage of the ability for disassembly makes outdoor fireplace kits an attractive option should needs change or relocation be required.

Multiple door options and body styles help to differentiate models. Different types of outdoor fireplaces are available such as barbeque units, styles with three screens, and see-through fireplace units. Outdoor spaces with lounge chairs adjacent to a dining area would benefit from being able to view a see through fireplace from multiple sides. Each combination also accompanies either gas or wood burning elements to suit any desire. Other kits feature aged concrete finishes for an old world look or utilize metals such as copper or stainless steel for a contemporary look that is weather safe. Flexibility and choices in materials make these a great alternative to elaborate built-in outdoor fireplaces allowing one to gain a personalized outdoor retreat.

Outdoor Fireplaces - Fire Pits And Fire Bowls

Fire pits and bowls are an easy way to incorporate outdoor fireplaces into an outdoor space. Their design serves as the anchor for a sitting area, inviting guests to relax as the fire keeps everyone cozy and comfortable. They do not require elaborate construction, custom work from contractors, or even a do-it-yourself kit. Outdoor fireplaces come in an array of styles and dimensions making great use of the available space-Designs range from a copper cocktail fire pit as a bronze fire bowl with spirals to a Tuscan tile square pit or even a bronze finish cocktail table fire pit, the list is really endless. Shapes include low, square pieces, upright bowls, fire rings, plus every manner of bowl and basin. Approximately three feet of clearance should exist between the fire pit and the outdoor furniture to let you and guests safely pass. The portability allows these to not only be relocated to another part of the outdoor space but to a new backyard should the need arise.

Fire pits and fire bowls are typically portable and can come with optional covers and accessories made from a number of different materials and decorated with a multitude of colors, patterns, and designs. There is no limit to what kinds of design can be used to create the perfect atmosphere with outdoor patio fireplaces and pits. The many choices here also mirror the ability to have classic looks along with modern pieces, formal pieces or casual center pieces, and even eclectic choices like fire domes. All of these choices make it easy to coordinate with furniture, home style, and any other design elements.

Both wood and gas are good options for fuel sources. Wood is again the traditional choice for the sights and sounds of burning wood. Other homeowners go with gas for convenience; gas units are easy to light and maintain while they do not create ash and soot to clean up. Before you purchase make sure you research your county and city fire codes regulations to avoid any hefty fines. Wood burning bowls and pits are best used on stone and concrete floors for safety reasons while units can be placed on a fire mat if you have a wood deck.

The Chiminea - Classic And Contemporary

The chiminea is a unique option for outdoor fireplaces. The classic look came out of the American southwest and Mexico and looks like a potbelly stove with a built in chimney. Chimineas have also been adapted to modern design sensibilities with contemporary colors and styles.

The classic style is made from ceramics, clay, and even wrought iron for a sturdy, solid construction. These outdoor fireplaces have been used to heat, cook, and comfort families for countless years. The classic design incorporates a unique shape and chimney structure that keeps smoke out of people's faces while maximizing the heat output without burning excess fuel. The enclosed body cuts down on winds that can spoil a fire or make it hard to light. Overall, classic chimineas are the perfect statement for creating a rustic, down home look and matches perfectly with southwestern themes or any other country motif.

For backyards that are striving to keep a contemporary look, chiminea outdoor fireplaces also come in modern design styles. The modern design uses a metal construction, typically steel or stainless steel, combined with bold colors and sharp lines. The same basic design principle of an enclosed body and chimney gives all of the benefits of a classic model with a contemporary look.

No matter which style of outdoor patio fireplaces are chosen, there are a few concerns to keep in mind. Chimineas can be placed directly onto stone, brick, and concrete surfaces. When being placed on a wooden deck or patio, a fire resistant pad, stand, or barrier is required since the underside will get very warm.

The fuel source used here can be wooden logs, charcoal briquettes, or solid fuel. Burning logs best complements the classic look, but either fuel source works well for creating atmosphere along with cooking as well as putting off comforting heat. Inserts could also be utilized inside of chimineas, but this guide will cover inserts in another section. In the end, both looks are perfect design elements to create a total ambiance.

More Ideas For Enhancing Outdoor Living Spaces

To define an outdoor living space, it's common to have some sort of boundary set. A large outdoor area rug works in open spaces. If the space isn't covered by the home's roof, gazeboes, awnings, and pergola roofs can define spaces outside and create focal points, especially when combined with outdoor patio fireplaces. When covering the space, it's important to consider venting options. Always be mindful of what stands above outdoor fireplaces. Burning wood or charcoal will release soot to cover anything above the chimney or flue. Both gas and wood will also release water vapor that can condense and become trapped on overhead coverings. For these reasons, it is often best to have ventilation in closed coverings so smoke and soot do not accumulate in high points.

Also be careful of the surfaces below outdoor fireplaces. As mentioned above, any unit that heats up the area underneath a fuel source is not well suited for wooden decks and patios. On the other hand, stone surfaces from brick and stone to concrete are able to withstand the heat from outdoor patio fireplaces. If a homeowner really wants to use a wooden deck, fire resistant pads, stands, and barriers can be used to protect the underlying wood. Outdoor fireplaces create a focus point of outdoor spaces while providing warmth and comfort.

Questions? Comments?

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    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 

      8 years ago

      Some of these are absolutely beautiful. Our neighbors just extended their patio and have a stone half wall with a fireplace in the corner. Now I'm envious!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Ahh! I love these!! We entertain a lot and have a great backyard but we definitely need more 'hang out spaces.' I've been checking out fire pits in the stores - but these are so much cooler than the ones I've seen - love it!!!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub! I live in California and almost every model home has an outdoor living room with a fireplace. I am planning one for my patio right now!


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