Outdoor fire pits and fireplaces are natural gathering spots, so how you incorporate yours into the landscape – where you put it and what you surround it with – are important considerations when you're creating a backyard space that can serve multiple functions. Before you begin your planning, be sure to check with your town or city to determine if you need a permit or if restrictions will limit where you can put your fire feature on your property. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind during the design process.
Location, location, location
Whether you want your fire feature in a patio adjacent to the house… in your backyard away from the house … or enclosed in a stand-alone outdoor room, visual balance is important, both for the yard and the patio. You don't want to put everything on one side of the space you're creating. Sometimes a dominant visual space can be softened by an opposing feature, such as a secondary seating area or a small fountain located across from the fire feature.
Remember that while the fire feature has a practical function, adding warmth to an evening, it also serves as a focal point. If possible, consider locating your fire feature where it can be seen comfortably from inside the home. That way, it can still be enjoyed even if the weather prohibits gathering around it.
And be sure to consider wind direction before you commit to a space for your fire feature. Nobody likes smoke in the eyes. If you have a strong crosswind in your desired location, you may need to plant a windbreak or build a protective wall. Even with a gas fire feature that doesn't create smoke, a strong breeze can direct the heat flow, making it uncomfortably hot for some guests and chilly for others.
Whether your fire feature is in-ground, on patio or freestanding, size counts. Will you frequently be entertaining groups? Make your fire feature up to six feet wide, including the walls, with an additional six feet or so on all sides for easy guest movement. Thinking it will mostly be just the two of you sipping wine by the fire? Downsize to around 3 feet wide for a more intimate experience. And remember that real wood fire features should be bigger than gas ones, giving you the room necessary to generate the embers needed for warmth.
Above ground fire features should typically be 12-14" tall – a few inches shorter than standard patio furniture seat height. If you're wanting to use the ledge around your fire, or coping, as a foot rest, lower the height to anywhere between 6-12". Want guests to be able to sit on the coping? Raise the fire pit height to no taller than 18-20". Otherwise the heat will be held in and it will be harder to enjoy the fire from surrounding chairs. And make the coping ledge at least 14" wide to easily accommodate peoples' bottoms.
Some designers believe people will only sit around half the fire pit. They will build a semicircular wall for seating, or alternately, place chairs on only one side of the fire feature. Others will surround the fire feature with seating, using either chairs or benches. Whatever you choose, a good rule of thumb is to allow 3 feet of clear space around furniture.
Wherever your fire feature is located, it's important to connect it visually to your home. Consider using the same brick as that of your foundation to face your fire feature, or choose stucco or flagstones in colors that pick up the colors of your siding or trim.
Here at Hearth Products Controls, we've been fire inspired since 1975. That's why we provide our dealers with the broadest gas product line to ignite inspiration, including individual burners, inserts, burner systems, fire and fire/water bowls, enclosure packages, and more, all for natural gas or liquid propane – and all CSA or UL- approved for optimum safety. Working with our dealers gives you the most choice for gas fire pit design, as well as reliable advice from experts. To locate a Hearth Products Controls dealer near you, go here.