Outdoor Living: Firepits

Words: Alan Herrera

Words: Alan Herrera
Photo: Jason Finn

As the days get shorter and nights grow longer, the cold comes to settle in too. Humans will naturally seek warmth, and when inside becoming monotonous or stuffy, especially during quarantine or stay-at-home orders, fire pits are a good answer. They have been the hottest trend over the past several years. There is something beautiful about sitting around a fire pit with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company while drinking wine, sharing laughs, or making s’mores. There is safety and comfort in seeing your loved ones’ faces in a firelight’s dancing glow under a starry summer sky or cold autumn night. 

A firepit becomes the cornerstone of a backyard or patio, much more than a pile of rocks. It improves the social environment of outdoor living space. It comes in all shapes, sizes, and styles. It becomes the most used site of the yard, particularly after the sun sets, but of course not limited by it. It invites warmth, comfort, and instant relaxation. It is usually the center of an outdoor entertainment area which, by design, requires comfortable seating. These can be built-ins, ottomans, chairs or sofas, logs, or floor pillows.

Custom fire pits can be constructed from a wide assortment of masonry materials, like steel, brick, concrete, pavers, and wall blocks. Each of these materials can complement and accentuate an outdoor living space, so choosing a proper material to fit a space becomes the first step in contracting a stunning fire pit. 

Steel fire pits come in three types: carbon, stainless, and cor-ten. Carbon is cheap, but requires high maintenance to prevent rust; stainless provides greater rust protection, is easy to clean, but will almost certainly discolor with continued use; Cor-ten is unique because it will rust on purpose to protect from further atmospheric erosion, and is often used for more contemporary spaces. 

Aluminum fire pits are a great choice against the elements and are lightweight, ensuring easy cleaning. It is also a lightweight material which enables the option of creating a smaller, portable fire pit.

Copper fire pits are completely rust-resistant and extremely durable but are quite expensive. 

Concrete fire pits are also durable and will obviously not rust, but will discolor from wood-burning smoke, and are typically very heavy.

Fire pits can be either wood-burning or natural gas. Wood Burning fire pits used to be the norm, and certainly still can be with consistent access to firewood and appropriate knowledge on kindling. Nowadays, fire pits that use natural gas are more common due to their ease-of-use. A gas line must be run to the firepit during its construction, and then it simply becomes a matter of igniting it like a stove. Turning it off is simple, too, whereas putting out a wood-burning fire pit requires active monitoring of the logs or coals to make sure they are extinguished. It comes down to usability over aesthetics since some people prefer the sight, sound, and fragrance of burning wood, whereas others prefer to enjoy the ambiance of fire quicker. 

There is a slew of firepit styles and designs for all types of outdoor spaces.

The first style of firepit has an ice and fire aesthetic. This type incorporates shattered glass parts as a gravel alternative and can easily pair with other materials. Since glass is heat resistant, it is a perfect and unique material to use as part of the fire pit’s design. Clear glass shards will act as the fire pit’s ice-like element and will reflect the fire’s glow beautifully. 

Firepits pair extremely well when set next to a water element, like a pool, fountain, or small pond. This second style of water and fire can incorporate any material if the flame is prominent enough to reflect in the water. Water offers a mirror-like aesthetic, which ensures the fire’s glow is beautiful not only in real life but also in every wavering reflection.

Stone and fire pits offer an earthy and zen aesthetic to a backyard space. These fire pits tend to be more classic and offer a natural look. They are fashionable, trendy, and can fit into most outdoor spaces. Stones can be small and sleek, or large and prominent. Stones absorb high temperatures which makes fire pits beautiful and practical. They are typically built from the ground up, making them seem like they are naturally part of the space.

In-ground fire pits, or sunken fire pits, give the illusion of fire erupting from the ground. This makes for a unique aesthetic and provides safety. The flames are lower and less impacted by the wind. However, sunken fire pits tend not to have protective walls but can be easily rectified by adding wind-guards, which are transparent tempered glass shields that prevent flames from dancing too much. Wind guards can be added to most fire pits.

Fire tables are fire pits that, like the name suggests, second as tables. Fire tables usually have ledges on all sides to hold drinks when not in use. They often also have lids to convert them into full cocktail or dining tables that still retain their beauty in the same space due to the materials used. 

Chimineas are fire pits that look a bit like vintage stoves. They produce serious heat is typically small units, which makes them perfect for patios. These are strictly wood-burning and vary in size, from large units to tabletop versions. The way chimineas keep the flame burning creates a more efficient flame than an open fire, which will save on firewood. It also burns cleaner, so it generates less ash and smoke. When this type of firepit fully heats up, it generates heat on all sides.

Fire brings abundant ambiance, warmth, and comfort to any outdoor space. Regardless of its size or design, a firepit instantly becomes the focal point that brings people together outdoors.

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