The outdoor fire pit has become a bit of a must-have backyard accessory these days, popping up everywhere from the fashionable yards of Long Island to the sundrenched yards of the LA hills to right here in Piedmont, SD and Rapid City, SD. Fire pits speak to something primeval in the human spirit but they’re also an excuse for homeowners, landscape architects and decorators to flex their creative muscles by finding ever more imaginative settings, materials, and shapes to fashion them from. But before you go and drop serious money on a fire pit for your backyard there are some things you’ll want to know and consider and below we’re going to highlight 7 of them.
The Many Facets of the Outdoor Fire Pit
A fire pit can be a stunning minimalist expression of pure form, or it can be an elaborate baroque pedestal reminiscent of something out of 17th century Rome, or it can be anything and everything in between. What it should never be is poorly conceived. So below we present our list of the 7 things you need to know and consider in order to make sure your fire pit rocks.
- Can you build one? - Most American cities and towns have very strict codes and ordinances governing fires: where you can have them, where you can’t and the safety measures you need to take regarding them. In more than a few municipalities fire pits simply aren’t allowed. So make sure the powers that be in Piedmont or Rapid City will let you build a fire pit before you get too invested in the idea.
- What is the ideal location for your fire pit? - Assuming you got the okay from city hall to proceed with your primeval backyard accessory the next thing you need to consider is where to put it in order for it to work practically and aesthetically. To some degree the location will be determined by those local ordinances. But once you’ve taken them into consideration you’ll also need to think of things like the surrounding flora, sight lines and proximity to other outdoor amenities like an outdoor kitchen or pool deck. Remember you’ll need at least 7 feet of space around the pit so people can push back a bit if they get too hot.
- Choosing Materials - The materials you choose need to take the surroundings into consideration. If there is an outdoor kitchen nearby with a slate floor you’ll want to maintain design and material consistency. The pit itself will likely be one of the focal points for the yard so the design should be suitable to that important role. As a general rule stone fire pits give you lots of design freedom and create a sense of permanence. If you want something portable there are innumerable designs fashioned from copper and iron that allow you to store the fire pit indoors when you’re not using it. Again though any metal choices will need to interact harmoniously with the house and other backyard elements.
- Gas or Wood? - Gas or propane fire pits make things easy. Just like lighting the gas stove in the kitchen. When you’re done you just turn off the value and move inside. But while they ensure fast dependable starts, even flames and no cleanup they don’t produce as much heat as a roaring wood fire will produce. Nor (and this is a big one) do they have the sex appeal of a natural wood fire, with the attendant smells, crackling sounds and hot sparks drifting up into the night sky. Sure wood is more work. But for most people there’s simply no other way to go.
- Furniture - The outdoor fire pit isn’t worth much if it isn’t a comfortable place for people to relax and commune with their ancient selves. Achieving that comfort means furniture. Choose the wrong furniture and people will be content to watch the fire from the backyard deck. Choose the right furniture and friends, relatives, neighbors and people you barely know will be clamoring for invites to your next soiree. Just make sure the furniture works aesthetically with the surroundings.
- Lighting - Lighting? Yes, lighting. Even though the fire will provide the bulk of the atmosphere near the pit it still pays to consider ambient lighting in the area around it and the walkway(s) leading up to it. If there’s a masonry wall around the pit area lights can be built into it to ensure that even when the flames are starting to fade there’s still a warm cozy atmosphere and enough light so that no one is tripping as they move about. Having LED lights embedded in the stone floor is another sophisticated touch everyone will appreciate.
- Cost - At the end of the day there’s no escaping costs so it makes sense to determine your budget upfront and then stick to it. The great thing about a fire pit is that it can be as affordable or extravagant as you wish. You may be able to create a DIY pit for $100. Or, you may want to create one out of marble and quartz and natural hardwoods with all the amenities that will set you back, well, let’s say more than $100. The point is it’s up to you. Keep in mind when you budget though that extras like furniture are part of the price tag as well and need to be accounted for.
The outdoor fire pit has captured the imagination of homeowners everywhere and become, along with the outdoor kitchen, one of the major domestic landscaping design trends of the early 21st century. If done right it will add a new level of interest and intrigue to the yard, give family, friends and guests another social center to congregate around during those big holiday get-togethers and add value to your home as well.
For more information on building the perfect outdoor fire pit call L&M at (605) 343-6406. We’re your home improvement specialists in Piedmont, SD and Rapid City, SD.