Choosing an Outdoor Fireplace – What to Consider
Can you have an outdoor fireplace? As long as it’s lawful in your community, you certainly can – and it’s a lot easier than you might think. But a little planning and decision-making should be done before hiring someone to do the construction or installation.
Size in proportion to the surroundings
Outdoor fireplaces can be anything from a cozy little firebox and vent to a sweeping monolith that takes up a good chunk of the fenceline. Aesthetics and proportion are important. You want your new fireplace to look good where you place it and neither take over the yard nor get lost in the shuffle. Many homeowners have their outdoor fireplaces designed to be architecturally similar to their homes so that the new unit looks like it truly “belongs.”
What about chimneys?
If your fireplace will be wood-burning, you’ll need a chimney, which many locales’ ordinances say must be two feet taller than patio covers and even the home itself. Make sure whoever builds the chimney understands how to create the proper size flue and a “smoke shelf” to protect against downdrafts. It’s critical that the size of the firebox be in the right proportion to the size of the flue. Drafting a fireplace outdoors is a little more complicated than drafting one inside the house.
What about a gas outdoor fireplace?
A gas fireplace will allow for simpler venting and greater overall ease of use. While some homeowners don’t believe that fire is fire unless it comes from wood logs, others are pleasantly surprised with the authentic look and appeal of a gas-driven outdoor fireplace. Keep in mind that many communities have considerably different code requirements for wood fireplaces than for gas appliances. Some communities will not allow a wood-burning fireplace at all. Learn your local codes early in the process of having an outdoor fireplace built.
Where will the fireplace go?
Again, you must know your local municipal or county codes before deciding where to build the fireplace. The codes will tell you how close to the home the unit can be placed and will include guidelines on side and rear property line setback and placement in proximity to slopes.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, you’ll want to set your fireplace in an area that’s reasonably close to the house and in a place where access is relatively easy. There should be no overhanging trees near the appliance. An outdoor fireplace will likely be a central hub of backyard activity, so take this into consideration during the planning stages. Also consider the amount of seating and other amenities that will be necessary.
Many United Fireplace & Stove members provide the finest in outdoor fireplace construction from scratch or with convenient kits. Use our handy store locator to contact a member store near you and learn more about building that beautiful backyard fireplace you’ve been dreaming of.