Buyer's Guide To Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces a welcome addition to your home

.A fireplace in the great outdoors evokes visions of good times with good company.  In making it happen, however, you’ll need some practical guidelines.  First, two factors to think about:

Gas or wood?  

The charm of a roaring fire may be dampened by a local ban on burning; if you’re more concerned about convenience and safety, use gas.  If there are no laws against it and you’re more the pioneering spirit, start stacking the cordwood.  

Moving or staying? 

If you don’t plan on moving it around, you can opt for a heavier construction material, such as concrete or cast iron.  But if it has to be portable, consider a clay or aluminum material—with wheels.   

Next, let’s get in style; here, there are four basic ones; each has its own use, look and purpose.  So, before you cruise the canyons of your local home improvement megastore, know why you are investing time and money to warm up the landscape.  Let’s list out each style:


These inverted Mexican “light bulbs” are best suited in the yard, on something solid away from wooden decks, where flames love to feed.  Again, that assumes there are no local laws prohibiting open burning.  Since their fireboxes are smaller, you’ll get a lot of exercise chopping up your wood to make it fit.   If your geography is milder, consider a clay version; the harsher elements can crack them.   Otherwise, a cast aluminum alloy or cast iron type is best.   As they usually have no grill, this would be your option if atmosphere is your main purpose here.

Fire pit. 

These come in most any style, shape and size. Once again, beware any local laws preventing their usage. If you opt for a raised model, get one with a lid, or you’ll have Mt. Saint Helens all over your patio when it rains. And get one with holes or it will also turn into a swimming pool.

Fire ring. 

This metal enclosure keeps campfires or pit fires safely enclosed. Again, if you can legally burn openly, this can be a safe way to enjoy a roaring campfire.

Traditional hearth.  

Of the outdoor fireplace type, these have two advantages.  They burn more efficiently and cleanly than fire pits or rings and anti-burn laws are not an issue. If your fuel is wood, make sure that the fire area is large enough to allow a decent size log.

Then, there’s the material to choose from:


It may crumble without warning.

Cast iron. 

Rust is pure evil to this metal, which means more upkeep and it may stain what it stands on.

Cast aluminum.  

Easy to maintain, lasts a long time, won’t rust or warp and, because it is lighter than cast iron, is easier to move about. .


It looks great initially but time may bring tarnish and rust.

Sheet steel.

Its thinness makes it the “disposable” version; once rust sets in, it’s time to visit your hardware man.

There’s more to know, but these are the basics.



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