Building an Outdoor Fireplace: The Essential Checklist
Building an outdoor fireplace will encourage you to linger in your garden, enjoying the ambience of the outdoors.
10 April, 2018
Essential Checklist for Building an Outdoor Fireplace
We often spend more time outdoors during the day when the sun is shining only to resort indoors when the chill in the air sets in. By building an outdoor fireplace you can ensure your garden comes to life after the sun has gone down. You’ll be maximising your outdoor space and creating more ambience.
Outdoor fireplaces come in different styles and sizes depending on your space and lifestyle requirements. From mobile and grill-style units to large, stone masonry structures, there are plenty of options to choose from.
In this guide, we’ll share with you a few of the key design considerations. As well as some options you may come across while researching the perfect outdoor fireplace for your space.
Building an outdoor fireplace can be an effective way to aesthetically enhance the architecture of your home. An outdoor fireplace also has the benefit of providing a focal point in your outdoor space. Depending on the design, it also can improve the outlook from within your home if placed in the appropriate position.
If you already have a chimney, you could consider building an outdoor fireplace in this location. Otherwise, if you are looking to install a fireplace elsewhere, here are a few aspects you’ll need to consider:
- Views from your house
- Focal points
- Prevailing winds
Make the Fireplace Blend with Your Outdoor Space
As with any well-designed space, a feature element or structure will tie in with the surrounding aesthetic of the garden and architecture. The same is true of any outdoor fireplace. Ideally, your fireplace should marry with the style of your outdoor space whether that’s through design, materiality or location.
It should also be scaled to fit with the size of your garden or surrounding structures. Too small and your outdoor fireplace will lack visual impact and generate an inefficient amount of heat. Too large and it will dominate the space, leaving little room to circulate around.
Making your fireplace blend with the existing elements of your outdoor space is often easy to do by using the same or complementary materials to those used in the architecture. For example, cladding the chimney in the same natural stone used on the façade or the stone tiles used on the interior floor can form a visual connection between the home and the outdoor features.
Choosing between a permanent or mobile unit
When deciding on an outdoor fireplace, you may want to consider whether a fixed or mobile unit will best meet your needs.
A traditional outdoor fireplace is a unit, typically made of stainless steel. It is permanent and surrounded by a variety of materials including natural stone, brick or tile. Some styles will require a chimney, however, others can be incorporated into your outdoor space such as in your outdoor kitchen.
While not traditionally referred to as a ‘fireplace’, there a couple of other ways you can add the fire element to your outdoor space without creating a fixed structure, namely fire pits and chimineas.
Fire pits have become incredibly popular as they are a cost-effective option for enhancing the atmosphere of an outdoor area and adding warmth. There are several different options of fire pits from stand-alone steel dishes to those built into a table.
Read our essential guide to outdoor firepits here.
Chimineas are both effective at giving off heat and for outdoor cooking. There are a wide variety of styles, shapes and sizes of chimineas typically made of clay or cast-iron. Like a fire pit, these can be an inexpensive alternative to a permanent fireplace and suit renters or those looking to move home in the near future.
The fuel source
When building an outdoor fireplace one of the main considerations beyond the look will be how it functions. Typically, gas or wood is the most popular fuel sources. As you can see below, there are pros and cons for both.
Wood-burning outdoor fireplaces generate a great deal of heat. They also create a beautiful atmosphere with the smell of burning timber and the crackling sounds that are similar to that of a campfire. Wood-burning fireplaces are also optimal if you’re visualizing toasting marshmallows or making s’mores on a cool evening.
On the negative side, wood-burning fires are usually harder to start and tend not to be as safe. They require a masonry chimney to be built and depending on your outdoor space, smoke emissions can be an issue. You’ll also need the space to store the timber, however, there are some aesthetically pleasing wood stacking products which can add interest to your outdoor area.
Gas-fuelled prefabricated outdoor fireplaces are straightforward to light and tend to be safer than wood-burning fires as you won’t need to contend with flying ashes. They also don’t require chimneys as they don’t produce smoke which can reduce their installation costs.
Generally speaking, gas-fuelled outdoor fires don’t produce as much heat as the wood burning alternative. Another drawback of a gas-fuelled fire is that it will need a gas line to be installed. They are also not considered as authentic or attractive as the wood-burning fires.
Before you consider building an outdoor fireplace and which style is right for you, be sure to check local codes and regulations. Guidelines vary from location to location and may determine for you which style will be appropriate for your outdoor space.
If you are choosing a wood-burning outdoor fireplace, it’s worth considering screens especially if you have young children. These will protect you and your guests from flying ashes and smoke that comes with wood-burning units.
To ensure optimal safety, outdoor fireplaces should be located well away from landscaped areas, children’s play spaces and any other high-traffic areas. Always take prevailing winds into consideration and, above all, use common sense when operating outdoor fires to keep your evenings safe and enjoyable.
For more advice and inspiration all things outdoors, explore our Learning Library.