Pros and Cons of an Outdoor Fireplace

From on April 23, 2008 in Landscaping

Outdoor FireplaceOutdoor fireplaces can be quite appealing; they bring warmth and the often sweet aroma of burning wood on cool spring evenings. They draw family and friends together to talk, celebrate longer days, and take regular sun breaks. But is an outdoor fireplace really what you want? Is it a good idea for your family, your home? Before you go out and purchase a new outdoor fireplace, consider these essential facts:

PROS

  • The big one I’ve already mentioned. Fireplaces can make your patio your favorite place and a popular hang out for friends and family.
  • The aesthetic value of a real-fire smell and the soothing sound of a crackling fire.
  • The exercise and satisfaction of building your own fire and chopping your own wood if you choose to go out and harvest it yourself.
  • Also, outdoor fireplaces are often the only way to legally have a fire on your property. If you live within city limits there may ordinances against having fires that are not enclosed.

CONS

  • Safety. Safety is always the most important responsibility around any fire. You must be willing to keep an eye on your fire as long as it is burning, especially if you have children who may be prone to putting their hands in and on hot surfaces.
  • Maintenance. Maintenance regimens will vary in time and intensity depending on which type of fireplace you purchase, but it will be a consistent and necessary task regardless. You will need to empty and haul ashes and cast iron fireplaces will need regular care (such as high temperature stove paint) to halt the onslaught of rusting.
  • Smoke. If you purchase a fireplace with a pit design and no chimney or flue then smoke may hover at head level and cause annoyance to you and your neighbors. Fireplaces without a flue burn less efficiently and tend to smolder much more due to lack of airflow.
  • Location. When you’re thinking about buying an outdoor fireplace, take into consideration where you’ll be using it. Use on wood decks or in close proximity to flammable material can be hazardous, especially for clay fireplaces which are known to fail and break without warning. Cast iron fireplaces tend to stain the surface they are placed on.


There are several different types of outdoor fireplaces. Cast iron, although it requires more maintenance, and cast aluminum are probably your best bets. These are the most durable and sturdy of fireplaces. You may be enticed by the price tag on thinner, cheaper made fireplaces but these will only increase the severity of outdoor fireplace drawbacks. Light fireplaces can tip easily and become an instant health and property hazard. Another factor to consider is the size of the fire bowl. Many fireplaces have small pits and this can make loading wood quite a hassle. If you are buying wood from a retailer, and you have a small size fireplace, you may have to special order wood at a higher cost. You can also purchase full-view, 360 degree fireplaces. With these you will need to note wind direction and flying embers. You will also want to make sure it comes with a cover or you may end up with ash all over your patio furniture, deck, or even house when its windy and/or rainy.

Most of the above mentioned Cons are more just responsibilities and tips on how to properly use your outdoor fireplace. With just a bit of forethought and awareness you can enjoy your outdoor fireplace for seasons to come.