The best fire feature designs bring both literal and metaphorical warmth into an outdoor living space. Dancing flames are visual and aesthetic, but fire should also serve a designated functional purpose for optimal use of your outdoor living space. This post includes questions to ask yourself and factors to consider for incorporating different types of outdoor fire features into your backyard design.
How Do You Want To Use Your Fire Feature?
- A conversation spot. A fire pit is great for keeping a conversation going among groups, small and large. Whether you create built-in seating, arrange chairs on all sides, or do a combination of both, a fire pit allows guests to communicate more easily with everyone.
- A statement piece. Any outdoor fire feature will draw attention, but a stately outdoor fireplace is one way to really anchor your outdoor living space around a central focal point. Outdoor fireplace walls or foundations can also merge with and blend into the surrounding elements of your space—from stone or concrete patios to retaining walls, pergolas, pool decks, waterfall features, outdoor kitchens, or other landscaping elements.
- Mood lighting. If your outdoor living space includes an outdoor kitchen and dining area for hosting smaller dinner parties, a sleek and modern fire pit table can elevate your entire dining experience.
How Do You Determine Where To Locate It?
- Safety considerations. When planning the perfect fire feature for your backyard, choosing its location is an important first step. You’ll need a flat and level spot at least 10 feet away from your home and three feet from other structures or lower-hanging trees to prevent fires from spreading into unwanted territory.
- Convenience. Whether it’s part of a deck, patio, pool area, bustling outdoor dining space, or secluded courtyard escape, you’ll want your fire feature in a location convenient for foot traffic, seating, and entertainment. If you’re starting an entire backyard project from scratch, you should approach laying out different “rooms” of your yard. Before speaking with your landscape architect or designer, get an idea of how you want to use the area. Try dividing it into spaces designated for different activities: swimming, yard games, dining, an outdoor kitchen and grill area, gardens, and of course, the space for conversations and gathering around a beautiful fire feature.
- Yard fit. Map out the entire area around your proposed fire feature location, bringing out lawn chairs to check the seating space and sightlines for your eventual fire feature area. When you are challenged with narrow spaces or a small yard, consider compact fire bowls as fire accents.
- Seating room. Regarding the seating surrounding your space, allow for at least 18 to 24 inches of room between your fire feature and your furniture. Rounded fire pits may be best suited for Adirondack chairs, while square or rectangular options work great with built-in benches or outdoor sectional furniture.
What’s Your Style?
- Modern elegance. Are you establishing a luxurious, formal elegance? Choose a long, sleek fire table or a cozy conversation pit with a wide lip for seating and hosting your drinks, dinner, or snacks.
- Rustic. If your yard already highlights natural materials such as stone and wood structures, building a fire pit to fit right in will be easy. Outdoor fire features can create that rustic feeling of being in touch with nature—even in the city.
- Contemporary classy. To highlight modern outdoor features such as a pool, stone paver patio or retaining wall, or other accent areas, smaller and self-contained fire bowls offer a high-impact visual appeal.
Wood-Burning or Gas?
- You love nature, even when it’s messy. Traditional wood-burning fire pits and outdoor fireplaces bring you closer to nature. The crackling noises and wood smell are unmistakably outdoorsy. While you will need a steady supply of dry logs to burn, it’s hard to beat the experience of cozying up to a “real” fire.
- You love the look of fire but not the build or cleanup. A natural gas or propane fire feature is elegant, easy to maintain, and won’t result in smoke blowing into anyone’s face. If natural gas is available, it’s generally less expensive than propane and doesn’t require swapping out or filling up tanks. However, installation for a natural gas fire feature may require a larger initial investment, as a fuel line must be run underground to the location. Natural gas also burns slightly cleaner than propane, prolonging the inevitable soot buildup that requires occasional cleaning. If you prefer the ease of propane, there are many clever, creative, and luxurious ways to hide your propane tank from view. Some fire pits can hide a propane tank within the feature itself, eliminating the need to camouflage or accommodate a fuel line.
How Much Maintenance Will Be Required?
- Very little upkeep. A small fire bowl or fire table will require as little upkeep as possible. The only thing homeowners may want to do is cover the features to protect them from the elements when not in use.
- Moderate maintenance. Outdoor gas and wood fireplaces, just like their indoor counterparts, should be cleaned out every six to 12 months, based on their frequency of use. Homeowners can easily clean and sweep the firebox; however, a professional should handle larger chimneys.
- Regular maintenance. Fire pits will require the most ongoing maintenance, as debris and ashes should be cleared regularly. However, they won’t require the help of a professional to clean.
How Do You Get Started?
No matter the size or style of outdoor fire feature you choose, and however it’s accentuated by surrounding elements, any fire feature can become a magnificent addition to an outdoor living space. By planning ahead with your landscape architects and designers, you can create an extra-cozy and functional focal point you and your family and friends will enjoy for years to come.
Not sure where to start? Get in touch with our team today to discuss outdoor fire features that fit your family’s needs, dreams, and the rest of your backyard living space.