In the last five years I have seen a huge increase in the number of people trying to add distinctive hardscape features to their existing landscape or new landscape plan. One the most frequent requests is for a fire pit or fireplace. Most people who want a fire pit or fireplace either can’t have one or are going about their design the wrong way. Here are a few helpful tips which should help you determine whether or not an outdoor fire pit or fireplace is for you. Let’s start with fire pits. Most of my clients who want a fire pit imagine a comfortable area where they can entertain and gather their friends around the fire. If you are going to have a fire pit I recommend that it be placed on a satellite patio which is more or less dedicated to the fire pit and that it is at least thirty feet away from the house. If you have teenagers you may want to make it one hundred and thirty feet. The chance of catching your house on fire is not the main reason for this rule. The smoke is dispersed from the top of the fire pit and goes the direction of the wind. A light breeze can blow the smoke back towards the house or party quickly and make your outdoor get together an uncomfortable mess. If your property can support a satellite patio (preferably uphill) a fire pit can be a great aion to your landscape. Sometimes it is best to purchase a portable fire ring/fire pit for your space and see how much you use it and how it will work in the space before committing to a built in permanent feature. An outdoor fireplace is a much more expensive endeavor but adds a much more upscale look to your patio. Distance from the house is not crucial due to uncomfortable smoke but due to drafting. For a fireplace to work properly the chimney must be a certain height above or distance away from competing structures in order to draft or draw smoke up through the chimney properly. Placement is also crucial. The hearth of the fireplace needs to be visibly faced in order for the fireplace to provide a maximum aesthetic benefit. An effective yet significantly more expensive, way of getting the outdoor fireplace or pit feel without all the smoke is having it outfitted for natural gas.
Direct feed natural gas lines are becoming a popular solution for outdoor kitchens as well. Another consideration for fire pits and fireplaces are community zoning restrictions. Check with the correct resources and homeowner associations for any restrictions before you start your project. As always, take the time to plan all the aspects of your outdoor living space. Proper planning insures a good long term return on your investment.