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10 Tips for Planning an Outdoor Fireplace

Planning for an Outdoor Fireplace? Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits create a warm and inviting area where guests can comfortably mingle and relax. An outdoor fireplace is a focal point of your backyard, perfect for entertaining. If you’re considering an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, Borst Landscape & Design in Bergen County, NJ, can help you plan, design, and construct it. Borst Landscape and Design has over twenty years of experience in creating the perfect fireplace and fire pit features for homeowners in northern New Jersey. There are fireplace options for every homeowner and every budget.

Outdoor Fireplace vs. Fire pit, which one is right for you?

There are endless opportunities to enjoy an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. So, which is best for you? An outdoor fireplace can be specifically designed to block an unsightly view, add privacy, or create a statement in your yard. The downside? They take up more space, cost more to build, and seating is limited to one side. By contrast, an outdoor fire pit is more casual and less expensive to construct. However, since it’s open, smoke drifts are more difficult to control and cooking options may be more limited.

Outdoor fireplaces can be custom built, prefabricated, or portable. Custom built fireplaces are more expensive and designed from the ground up, but are great for a permanent backyard addition. A portable fire pit is ideal for those who like to change their yard around. Prefabricated kits are a consideration for those who like a certain design and desire to build around that design at a reduced cost. Here is the list of 10 Tips for Planning an Outdoor Fireplace you can afford.

1. What Is the Purpose of Building an Outdoor Fireplace?

Outdoor fireplaces are perfect for entertaining, cooking, and adding ambience to a backyard. Think about the type of atmosphere you want to create. You’ll need comfortable seating and tables when entertaining and dining. If cooking on your fireplace, incorporating a space for cooking utensils and storage is necessary. Colorful plants, flowers, waterfalls, and fountains are visually appealing and create soothing sounds around an outdoor fireplace. Select plants that look natural in your existing landscape and complement the colors in your fireplace, furniture, and adjacent structures. Choose outdoor lighting styles that don’t detract from the glow of the fire. Low voltage lighting fixtures with soft down-lighting enhance the fireplace and surrounding landscape.

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2. What Are the Utilities of an Outdoor Fireplace?

Outdoor fireplaces use wood or propane and can be constructed almost anywhere in the backyard. They are typically free-standing permanent structures that don’t require any utility connections. A wood burning fireplace is cheaper to operate than a gas fireplace and produces more heat, but it may not offer the same convenience. A wood outdoor fireplace requires a chimney that’s large enough to provide an adequate draft to let the fire burn correctly. A gas fireplace requires proper venting and a gas line. Have your local gas provider, in Bergen County, NJ, look at the fireplace site to make sure there are no problems or restrictions with a new gas line. The gas line has to be trenched and piped to a connection point at the house. The longer the gas line, the more it will cost in materials and labor.

3. What are the Best Materials for building an Outdoor Fireplace?

The construction of the fireplace should complement the architectural style of your home and adjacent structures. Non-combustible materials for an outdoor fireplace include concrete, stone, brick, slate, tile, stucco, and rock. The cost of the outdoor fireplace construction is based on the price of selected materials, the amount of materials required, and labor costs. When using high-quality building materials, the majority of your project expenses will be the cost of materials. An outdoor fireplace must be installed on a hard surface, preferably masonry, concrete, or stone for fire safety. A hard surface creates a strong, secure, and level foundation as soft ground and settling can cause the fireplace to crack or fall.

4. How to Choose the Right Location for Your Outdoor Fireplace?

Planning an outdoor fireplace location that meets your needs for entertainment and relaxation, while considering potential safety issues, the environment, and overall appearance is necessary. The fireplace should be close to the house for convenience, without presenting a hazard.

If you have a small yard, a fireplace may be attached to the house, patio, or deck allowing the landscape to be the focal point of the backyard. If you have a large yard, consider a separate patio or terrace further from the house with a large outdoor fireplace. The fireplace becomes the focal point of the outdoor setting with additional space for entertaining. Also, placing a fireplace near a pool, spa, or hot tub provides additional warmth and light.

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5. How to DesignSize and Shape of an Outdoor Fireplace?

The size, design, and overall appearance of an outdoor fireplace should be proportioned to comfortably fit the size of your yard. The fireplace should enhance the landscape, not compete with it. Custom features like a mantle, extended hearth, decorative tiles, and wrought iron can be added for convenience and style. If you plan to entertain large groups of people, consider a large outdoor fireplace with an extended hearth and adequate room in front of the fireplace for guests to move around. If you plan to entertain smaller groups, or have a small yard, a small fireplace, providing an intimate setting, may suffice. A larger fireplace with more built-in accessories increases materials and labor costs; however, if the firebox is too small, the fireplace won’t produce adequate heat and firewood will have to be cut down into small pieces to fit the firebox.

6. How to Landscape Around an Outdoor Fireplace?

Before building your fireplace, it’s important to discuss the desired fireplace location with a landscape contractor to avoid any unexpected landscaping costs associated with slopes, overgrown trees, and utility lines. If your backyard isn’t level, the landscape may need to be graded to provide a level surface for the outdoor fireplace area. Heavy equipment and skilled workmen are required on landscaping projects that involve grading and resloping. If trees and shrubs are overgrown in the desired fireplace location, a professional landscape contractor must remove them or cut them back as they are a fire hazard. When installing a gas fireplace in Bergen County, NJ, gas lines require special permits. They must be professionally installed according to city building codes and regulations to ensure safety.

7. Does an Outdoor Fireplace Need Proper Drainage?

An outdoor fireplace should be constructed in a dry spot and will require proper drainage if it’s not covered. This will prevent the accumulation of standing water which can weaken the fireplace foundation and cause cracking, crumbling, and structural damage. Waterproofing your fireplace protects it from excessive rain, snow, and ice that can cause structural damage over time.

8. Why We Prefer Building An Outdoor Fireplace Near Storage Areas

Storage areas should be incorporated close to an outdoor fireplace to accommodate grate and fire tools, a spark screen, artificial logs, cooking utensils, and cushions. Additionally, your outdoor fireplace should have a convenient storage area for wood or propane. The fireplace structure should also include areas for: burning the fire, a fire extinguisher, and cleaning supplies.

9. What Safety Concerns Should I keep in Mind While Planning An Outdoor Fireplace?

We have included safety in the list of 10 tips for planning an outdoor fireplace because safety should be your first priority while planning an outdoor fireplace for your home. The fireplace should be close enough to the house for the convenience of use, but should never present a safety hazard to the house, nearby structures, or the neighborhood. An outdoor fireplace needs proper ventilation and should ideally be surrounded by a concrete, brick, or stone patio preventing sparks from igniting nearby brush or structures. Always store a fire extinguisher near an outdoor fireplace in case of an emergency.

10. Does Building an Outdoor Fireplace need Code and Regulations?

Because regulations often vary by region, it’s important to check building and fire codes for your Bergen County, NJ home. There are building codes for chimney height, flues, gas lines, and ventilation. Specific regulations may impose height restrictions for the fireplace and property restrictions for your home. Permits will add to the outdoor fireplace construction cost, but they are mandated. An outdoor fireplace must meet fire standards for the area, and all fire regulations must be obeyed to avoid fines. When using an outdoor fireplace, caution must be exercised to prevent a fire hazard to your home and neighborhood. Any outdoor fireplace with faulty construction or construction that doesn’t meet code standards can quickly become a fire hazard which could destroy your home and property.

Follow this list of top 10 tips for planning an outdoor fireplace and build the perfect fireplace for your home.

Tips to Build an Outdoor Fireplace in Bergen County, NJ

Laying the Foundation

Before you actually learn how to build an outdoor fireplace, you’ll need to first figure out how to lay the foundation for one. In order to lay a good foundation, the ground will need to be perfectly level. For an amateur builder, this can be difficult to determine with the naked eye. You’ll need to be familiar with how to use a level in order to know when your ground has been perfectly prepared for a foundation.

f you’re not familiar with pouring or laying concrete, you could also end up with an unstable foundation, even if your ground is perfectly level. This could cause the fireplace to lean to one side or the other, sink into the ground, or even topple after some time. You could wind up paying more money in the long run, since you would likely need to have contractors to demolish the old structure before building a new one in its place.Fireplace

Designing the Structure

Part of learning how to build an outdoor fireplace involves designing the structure. It’s important that the firebox, flue and chimney all be perfectly proportioned. That way, the fire will be properly contained, and smoke will rise rather than being pushed outward.

If you’ve never designed a fireplace before, you could wind up with a structure that doesn’t work right, or even worse, does not meet local building codes. For this reason, the planning and design of an outdoor fireplace should be left to the professionals.

Laying Brick

Bricklaying on the surface seems like such a simple task; however, the fact is that it is actually a very fine craft. A great deal of skill goes into laying brick, especially when building fireplaces. These structures must be rigid and functional; otherwise, cracked or crumbling bricks could cause injury or allow a fire to spread in your backyard.

You could even be liable for damages if your guests are injured or a fire was to spread to a neighbor’s property.  If you do decide to lay the brick yourself, make sure to spend time watching training videos, and then practice with a few pieces of old brick first. Seek the advice of a professional when choosing brick and mortar, since many materials do not stand up well under intense heat.

Professional Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Design

Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits allow you to expand your living space and entertain family and friends year-round, adding value to your home and ambiance to outdoor spaces. You can continue to enjoy chilly fall and winter evenings in a warm, cozy outdoor setting. Building an outdoor fireplace or adding a fire pit requires proper planning and professional skills. If you’re thinking about adding an outdoor fireplace to your Bergen County, NJ backyard, consider hiring a professional landscape design contractor that can guarantee a beautiful outdoor fireplace with perfect results, while working within your budget. Borst Landscape & Design in Bergen County, NJ has the expert skills and right tools to get the job done. Hiring a professional will save you time and ensure that the fireplace is constructed properly, meeting all safety and regulatory requirements. Call us now at 201-785-9400 to discuss your outdoor fireplace needs or contact us via our website.