Thursday, June 19, 2014

Outdoor Firepit Planning Essentials

Homeowners were always content with just a wood deck and a barbecue to enjoy their outdoors. Today, outdoor living is all about flower beds, ponds, outdoor kitchens, and fire pits. In fact, the  outdoor patio firepit has become so popular that some builders make them as part of the package for high-end residences. But, of course, you can still get one without spending all that much.
Firepit Buying Considerations
With the various styles, sizes and materials available, your choices should be based on your available space, budget, and local ordinances. Here are some important things to consider before planning a fire pit and dreaming of cool nights enjoying  s’mores with family and friends.
How Much to Spend. You can spend as little  as $100 if you want a small fire pit by buying your own stones and digging the hole yourself, or by buying a simple unit at a big box store. They can also creep up  to several thousand dollars, especially when seating is added. Still, they are less expensive than an outdoor fireplace which can be as much as $10,000, depending on width, height, method and materials.
Permanent vs. Portable. A great way to start planning is to think in terms of permanence is to think if you want a fire pit that is built in, or something that is lightweight and potentially portable, so you can take it where you want. Regardless of which way you go, you need to make sure that you are using the proper materials. Make it proportional to the size of your yard, and make sure you have room for seating and circulation.
For a built-in design, you would want to match materials to  the garden or house. You can go “DIY”  and assemble the materials yourself; use a pre-made kit from a big box store; or go custom, with a contractor or landscape professional doing the design and building it.
Portable fire pit options are just as varied. There are fire bowls that come in varied materials; copper and stainless steel like the Stainless Steel Urn Fire Pit by Well Traveled Living are mostly lighter, but cast iron bowls do a great job of radiating heat. Fire tables are the same as bowls, but are usually made at coffee table height. There are also chimney-style options.

Wood or Gas. There are many alternate fuel types like the Nest Firetable - Square by American Fyre Designs, that is wood, which is the most common choices. There are those who prefer a true outdoor experience, but this requires flames to keep it  going. It also requires a steady supply of firewood.

An alternative is to use propane or gas for an instant fire, although it is not as hot as a wood fire and you do not get the same smoke and crackle. There are some dual-fuel fire bowls and tables that will let you do both; and you can design a built-in fire put to do the same if you have the budget and inclination.
What to Set It On. It is best that you set a portable fire pit on to of a natural surface like slate, concrete, gravel, brick or stone. Putting it on a wood deck can be dangerous if embers fly. A permanent fire pit is mostly built on a base of gravel somewhere in your  back yard.
Where to Set Up. Many communities require at least a 10-foot distance from your house and neighbors’ yards. Some do not require a permit if the fire pit fits meet the set size requirements; while others require a site inspection from local fire officials to ensure that your proposed location is safe. In some communities, there is an outright ban on open fires. Check with your local officials before getting going with your plans.
How to Create the Ambience. To get maximum night enjoyment, consider installing outdoor lighting near the pit. Make it subtle so you do not destroy the camp-fire mood. You can plug energy efficient LEDs into a nearby outlet without making it necessary for you to hire an electrician. Also consider seating, like metal Adirondack chairs, or a low stone wall.
In some parts of the United States, like those prone to wildfires, disclosing your fire pit might be required for your homeowners’ insurance policy. It might also be a good idea to check in with an insurance agent to understand any potential impact a fire pit may have on your coverage.

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