DESIGN/BUILD  |  MAY 15, 2015

Tips for Building an Outdoor Fireplace

by Allison Becker & Contributing Author - Jay Cheesman


The craze for all things outdoors is in full swing throughout the United States.  People are rediscovering their own backyards, transforming them into outdoor family rooms.  A lawn is no longer just a lawn, it’s a refuge and a gathering place.  A place to surround yourself with family and friends.  Perhaps around a warm fire from your very own outdoor fireplace.

If you are thinking about adding an outdoor fireplace in your outdoor space or you are ready to update your existing structure, remember that some early planning will save you in the end.  It is always best to start with a good plan.  In many communities that means checking with your local officials to see what may or may not be allowed by code and what, if any, permits you may need. 

Check with:
• City officials about local ordinances and building codes
• Your homeowners association
• Your homeowners insurance agent/policy

Before any construction occurs survey the area where you want to build.  Are there any hazards to consider, such as—proximity to your home and surrounding plants, prevailing wind in the area, irrigation lines, or utility lines. 

Once you’ve assessed your space and chosen a safe location, you can decide which material to use for your fireplace.  These days there is such a variety of materials that can be used, just about any style and taste can be accommodated.  Natural products, such as: granite and marble create a polished look; or cultured products, such as: concrete or wall stone create a rustic, natural look.  If the product you choose can’t naturally withstand the heat, it should be lined with fire brick. 

There are green choices such as propane and natural gas, which offer a huge convenience to the homeowner but often lack the heat a wood burning fireplace will bring.  By contrast, the wood burning fireplaces will require some upkeep to remove ashes. 

The nice thing about outdoor fireplaces is that you can create one that fits your design.  While it is highly recommended that a professional install your fireplace, you can do-it-yourself with a number of pre-made kits. No matter what you decide to build in your back yard, it is an investment in your family and friends.  The time you spend with your family and friends is priceless.