Mistakes to Avoid When Building an Outdoor Fireplace

Posted by Michael Dougherty on Feb 2, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Custom fire pit in Los Gatos, CAAre you considering adding a fire pit, stately fireplace or a dramatic fire table to your backyard? There’s nothing like an outdoor fire feature to take the chill off fall or winter evenings, or to add fun to spring and summer get-togethers. However, before you rush to purchase and install your new backyard addition, you’ll want to do a little planning so you can enjoy it to the fullest. Here are five mistakes you’ll want to avoid when building your outdoor fireplace, fire pit or fire table:

Mistake 1: Choosing aesthetics over function

Don’t get us wrong—when it comes to outdoor fire features, you most definitely can get something that’s both beautiful and functional. But sometimes we’re tempted to choose something for the way it looks rather than the way it actually works.

Perhaps you just love the idea of a grand stone fireplace, but you’re actually most interested in having parties where large groups can gather around the fire and roast marshmallows. Or you feel like a wood fireplace is the most romantic option, but you’re not very likely to enjoy keeping a wood hearth stocked and clean. Or maybe you love the drama of a fire table, but you don’t actually like entertaining groups that often.

Before getting attached to a particular style, decide what your goals are for your outdoor fire area. A little foresight and flexibility will allow you choose the option that will give you a lot more enjoyment in the long run because it’s a better fit for your lifestyle.

And we’re confident that once you pick the option that’s actually going to serve you the best, you can find a product model or custom solution that will match your tastes perfectly!


Mistake 2: Not considering backyard traffic flow

You’ll want to make sure you choose a spot for your fireplace, fire pit or fire table that’s close to the action—but not too close. You don’t want to have a fire going right where the kids play ball, for example, but neither do you want it in a far corner of the yard where it will be forgotten about.

Think about how you use your yard and ways that traffic flows most naturally. Of course, if you have trouble deciding, a professional designer may be able to take a look and give you some helpful pointers!


Mistake 3: Using the wrong foundation

Any feature that uses fire comes with inherent risks. There’s plenty you can do to keep everyone safe and happy, of course, but you’ll have to pay close attention to where you’re placing your fireplace, fire pit or fire table.

Make sure you start with a sturdy, non-flammable base or foundation, preferably one made of stone, gravel or brick. Wooden decks are risky for several reasons (see the point about wood below). Ensure that the base is level and that the legs of your fire pit or table are sturdy. Don’t use temporary fixes like wadded-up napkins or wood chips to level out an uneven surface.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure there aren’t dried leaves or other debris that can collect under the unit over time, especially during dry weather.


Mistake 4: Not giving it enough space

Your fire pit, fire table or outdoor fireplace needs some personal space—don’t crowd it in! Keep it at least 10 feet from your home and away from overhangs.

When choosing a location for your fire feature, try to imagine what the fire could turn into during unusual circumstances. What if a wood fire suddenly flared up—what would would the flames be able to touch? What if a strong wind started out of nowhere and carried sparks some distance—are there trees or brush nearby that could catch fire?

Planning for the unexpected can help you create an extra level of safety, so you can be confident you and your loved ones will be safe in any circumstances.


Mistake 5: Building with lumber or wood

If you’re incorporating a fireplace, fire pit or fire table as part of a larger outdoor living area, you’ll want to make sure you’re not using wooden construction anywhere near the fire area. Not only is there the risk of traveling sparks, but the heat from a fire feature can dry out the wood over time. This may cause it to warp or, worse, to become a hidden fire hazard.

If you’re working with an outside builder, make sure they understand the importance of using steel, brick, and stone as base materials, not lumber!


We hope this list has been helpful for you as you plan a fire feature that will bring you joy for years to come. Need an expert opinion on how to maximize your backyard’s potential, or want to know what design possibilities are available? The backyard lifestyle experts at Unlimited Outdoor Kitchen would love to give you helpful recommendations. Give us a call at (888) 747-4554 or click the banner below to request a free estimate.

Enjoy your backyard again. Request a free design estimate.

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Topics: Outdoor Lifestyle