Adding an outdoor fireplace can be a great way to liven up your backyard or patio area. Not only do outdoor fireplaces provide a unique visual aesthetic, they can also serve a functional purpose. Even though it’s outside in the open air, the heat produced by an outdoor fireplace can actually keep the surrounding area fairly warm on cool autumn evenings. Before you decide to have an outdoor fireplace installed, though, there are a few things you should take into consideration.
Depending on the look and functionality you want, there are a few different options available in regard to what your fireplace can be made of. Commercial outdoor fireplaces made of iron, steel or other metals are available for purchase and installation as-is. If you’re building the fireplace itself, materials such as concrete, brick and stone are often used. In many cases, a concrete or stone fireplace will feature supplemental components made of metal such as fireplace grates and racks to hold logs or other fuel.
Another important aspect of your outdoor fireplace is the chimney. Even though the fireplace is outside, you still need to divert smoke up and away from you and your guests as there are a number of hazardous materials found in fireplace smoke. A number of options made of metal or other heat-resistant materials are available, and it is also possible to build a chimney from brick or stone as well. Even if the chimney is constructed from one of these materials, a liner may be needed to prevent smoke from leaking out of cracks or gaps in the chimney construction.
Wood is the most popular fuel option for outdoor fireplaces, though it is not the only one. Propane fireplaces are also a possibility, though fuel lines will have to be run through the fireplace material so that the tanks can be hooked up safely away from the fire. Other less common options include pressed wood pellets, charcoal and even some forms of biofuel.
Many people who own outdoor fireplaces use them for cooking as well, allowing the fireplace to double as a rotisserie or a wood-fired pizza oven. This may restrict some of your fuel options as the fuel needs to be food safe, and the fireplace design will need to incorporate a large enough chimney to prevent excess smoke from building up around the food. Depending on the design you want, additional components such as metal cooking grates, a heat stone, rotisserie controls or other features may also be needed.
As with any fireplace, an outdoor fireplace will require periodic cleaning and maintenance. This is especially important before winter as the fireplace will be exposed to potential freezing temperatures and other inclement weather that could cause cracks or other damage to appear. The fireplace should have a visual inspection every few months for signs of problems and should have its chimney cleaned at least annually. After any period where the fireplace has not been used for more than a few weeks, the chimney should also be checked to make sure that birds or other animals have not attempted nesting or otherwise created potential blockages within the chimney.
Before installing an outdoor fireplace, be sure to check and see whether there are any restrictions or ordinances in place in the city where you live. If you’re in a homeowner’s association, you should also check to see if they have any rules concerning outdoor fireplaces. You may be restricted in the materials you can use, the fuels you can put in it, the height of your chimney and even the location of the fireplace, in regard to nearby vegetation or buildings. Installing an outdoor fireplace without checking this first could result in fines or possibly even having to remove the fireplace entirely.