Choosing the Best Types and Designs for Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor Wood Burning Fireplace

Outdoor fireplace designer/contractor, Scott Cohen will show you different types of outdoor wood burning fireplace designs as well as some gas burning designs. Scott will explain the advantages and disadvantages to the different types to help you decide which design might be best for you.

No matter what style of outdoor wood burning fireplace you choose, from the elegant custom concrete designs to the the simple outdoor fire pits for sale at your hardware store, there is nothing like the atmosphere that can be created by an outdoor wood burning fire. With an outdoor fire you and your family can have the campfire experience and transform your backyard into a living space to relax, entertain guests or cook meals.

The first thing to consider with an outdoor fire or any fire is safety. Assuming outdoor fires are allowed in your location check with your local fire department and local officials for fire safety procedures. Outdoor fires should be kept away from wood or other flammable decks, walls and overhangs. Use common sense and keep fire a safe distance from anything you don’t want to burn.

Tips for Selecting an Outdoor Fireplace

There are different styles to choose from, fireplaces, fire pits, chimineas and different materials they are made of to choose from. A simple outdoor wood burning fire pit can be anything from a ring of rocks on the ground to a metal bowl that is elevated off the ground and sometimes even placed in the middle of a table top.

A fireplace like a chiminea has the advantage of having a smoke stack that draws air into the fire and helps it burn more efficient and clean. It also vents the smoke above head level. Fire pits without smoke stacks tend to smolder more than a well designed chiminea. Without the venting the smoke can linger and become annoying or blow into people sitting around the fire. Anyone who has spent any time around a campfire knows what that’s like.

The size of the outdoor wood burning fireplace may be more important than you think. It may be tempting to choose one that is small in size because it may costs less. But a smaller fire pit may end up costing you more money or more work in the long run. In order for wood to fit in a small fireplace it will usually have to be cut into smaller pieces. This will usually mean either more work for you or more expensive wood if you are buying it. You may actually save money buying a larger fireplace. Even if you only want small fires you can still use a larger fireplace, just put less wood in.

Outdoor wood burning fireplaces that are made of thin metal are light, inexpensive, and easy to move, but they may not last long. Enamel finishes don’t last and the exposed metal can rust, burn through, and some may even melt if they are thin enough and the fire gets hot enough. Thin metal fireplaces do work but consider them to be disposable.

Cast iron will rust on the surface, but if it is thick, it will still last a long time. A little maintenance, like occasionally coating it with high temperature stove paint, can slow or stop the rust and make it last longer. Some models come with a cast iron body but the neck or chimney will be sheet metal. Eventually you may end up with a fire pit with no neck because it rusted away.

Cast iron is heavy and durable so it will take a lot of abuse over a long time. The weight makes it difficult to move but this can be a good thing if you want it to stay put. It is not going to blow away or be as likely to disappear when someone else decides they want it more than you while you are not looking.

If you do go with cast iron, the heavier it is the better because thicker metal will last longer. Rust from iron will stain whatever surface you put it on so keep that in mind if you were thinking of putting it on a deck.

Cast aluminum can be a great choice if you want the advantages of cast iron but you don’t want the weight and want it to last long. Cast aluminum alloy is lighter and easier to move, doesn’t warp and has a melting point only a few hundred degrees lower than cast iron.

Cast aluminum outdoor fireplaces and chimineas are a good low maintenance choice. They are usually cast from the same molds as the cast iron models so they usually look similar. Since they don’t rust they won’t stain the surfaces they are on. They are light enough to be portable so you can take them camping or to any other outdoor event.

Clay chimineas are a popular type of outdoor wood burning fireplace since they are inexpensive and attractive. But they can and do fail. Repeated or sudden heating and cooling and moisture can cause them to crack and fall apart. This can be dangerous if it happens while a fire is inside. For this reason avoid using a clay chiminea on a wood deck or around anything flammable.

Copper Fire Pits

A copper fireplace can last the longest of any of the metals. Copper is durable, has a higher melting temperature and doesn’t corrode like iron or steel. Copper has a beauty and classic look that has a lot of appeal. But don’t expect it to keep the shiny copper color that it comes with. After use and being out in the weather, copper will develop an oxidized coating or patina on the surface. Some people like the patina look but with some work the copper can be restored to its original look. The main disadvantage of copper is the higher price.

Fuel for Outdoor Fireplaces

Some outdoor fireplaces are designed to burn propane, natural gas kerosene or fuel gel. This may be all you have available or are allowed to use. But for the real experience burning real wood burning fireplaces are the only way to go. People are naturally drawn to a wood fire, its like a primal part of humans. Wood is also natural, renewable and provides a better flavor for cooking.


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