Decorating & Design

March 17, 2009

Outdoor Fireplaces

From small portable fire pits to grand built-in fireplaces, there are several types of outdoor options available to add charm and warmth to exterior living areas.


A variety of free-standing fire pits are available on the market today. Most pits are constructed of metal and consist of a bowl that sits on a footed stand. An important consideration is whether the metal is rust-proof or if it will require repainting every season. Look for copper or fire-resistant metal pits; some come with domed screens, a great addition for keeping the sparks contained when children are around. Before making a purchase, be sure to check your local by-laws pertaining to the use of outdoor firepits in your area.


Clay fireplaces or “chimeneas” are freestanding outdoor fireplaces that offer a more southwestern feel and are available in a variety of sizes. Metal varieties are also available for a woodstove look outdoors.


A stone fireplace is another option to add some heat to your outdoor space. For a challenging weekend project, build your own fireplace: Either dig a pit and surround the edges with stone, or for a more architectural result, collect various rocks (large flat rocks are best) and be your own mason.

Make sure to choose a safe, open area for the fireplace, allowing for plenty of space around and above the fire. Once a spot has been established, lay large, flat rocks in the desired shape and size of the structure and keep layering up until the walls are about 24” high. Some patience is required, but puzzling the rocks together is a fun project that results in a beautiful, cozy way to enjoy a fire in your backyard. Since the rocks are only stacked and not adhered to each other by grout or mortar, care is required when using the fireplace.

A built-in outdoor fireplace is the most permanent and costly to achieve. But if your budget and space allows, a brick or stone fireplace in a garden or by the pool adds an element of cottage life to your home’s exterior.