Finishing Your Basement

Your New Outdoor Fireplace: 5 Important Aspects to Keep in Mind

An outdoor fireplace or fire pit can add ambiance and comfort to your living space, as well as increase the value of your home. If you have never attempted to create an outdoor fireplace, however, there are several aspects you should keep in mind. Before you get started, bear in mind the following crucial factors:

1. Determine the Local Building Codes of Your Township

Depending upon your township's codes and regulations, you may be required to possess a special permit for a residential outdoor fireplace. Keep in mind that codes typically require chimney wood burning outdoor fireplaces to be of a height of 24 inches taller than any nearby formations. Simply check with the county municipality to be sure you will be adhering to their codes.

2. Consider the Design and Materials

Depending upon your personal taste and preference, as well as your exterior decor, you will want to choose the design carefully. Do you want a portable structure which can be relocated as you desire? Perhaps you would prefer a more permanent piece that is built-in? If you choose a built-in construction, you might want to hire a professional contractor to do the job right. A pro can also install lighting along your outdoor fireplace for a special glow and beauty. Illumination is something to consider if you plan on using the outdoor fireplace during the nighttime hours.

What materials will you choose for your outdoor fireplace? Cast iron is great for durability and will most likely wear well. However, cast iron is probably not the ideal choice for portability as it tends to be quite heavy. Steel will provide strength, yet it will be somewhat lighter, and aluminum will be less expensive. If a rustic, outdoorsy look is what you are after, consider clay materials. Of course, there is always concrete, brick and stucco for a more traditional look.

Finally, determine if you want a gas fuel powered outdoor fireplace or a wood burning model. With gas fuel power, you will not have the smoke, therefore cleaning and maintenance may be easier. However, gas fuel models may require the installation of a pipeline.

3. Think About Safety 

If you have small children (or plan to entertain with small children present), or if you own pets, you might want to forgo the idea of a fire pit and opt for a screened fireplace instead. The screen will provide that extra safety precaution when small kids and animals are nearby.

4. Determine the Best Spot to Locate Your Outdoor Fireplace

If you own an outdoor hot tub or swimming pool, consider placing your fireplace nearby for easy access. Alternatively, you might want to consider building a separate deck to house your outdoor fireplace. Doing so may require more effort and cost, but it can enable you to create more of a showcase for your fireplace. 

5. Inspect Your Outdoor Fireplace Regularly

Routine maintenance is a very important part of keeping any outdoor fireplace. An important component that should not be overlooked by a newbie is the refractory fire-box panels of your fireplace. With regular use, these panels may be subjected to cracks or damage, especially if you live in a cold region.

You'll want to replace the refractory fire-box panels after they become worn. This not a very complicated process for most people experienced with DIY projects. Simply unscrew the panels and replace them with new ones. If you are unsure about how to check for signs of damage, have a professional inspect it for you.

You will also want to clean the fireplace grating regularly. You can do this with a hose, but it's best to avoid power washing. Be sure you scrape away dirt, debris, and soot from the metal grates as well. Alternatively, you can use a shop vacuum to remove soot, debris, or ashes from outdoor fire pit or fireplace.

For more about this topic, talk to a fireplace contractor near you.