Enjoy Summer Nights with an Outdoor Fire Pit

by Marcus Pickett

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    Few childhood experiences bring back more good memories than sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows, and telling ghost stories with friends and family. A fire pit installed on your deck, patio, or elsewhere in your backyard, makes it possible for you to enjoy that same experience night after night, right out your own backdoor. And with a wide range of styles available to choose from, there's sure to be an outdoor fire pit that will catch your fancy and look great incorporated into your overall landscape design.

    The Outdoor Fire Pit
    Digging a hole in your backyard and lining the rim with rocks might sound like the best way to get in touch with your more primal side, but it's actually against the law in most municipalities. And for good reason: What seems like bureaucratic over-reaching is, in truth, very grounded in legitimate fire hazards and city fire codes. In most urban and suburban areas, outdoor fires are required to be contained in a raised structure covered with a protective screen. These structures usually consist of a metal barrel or basin, raised up on legs. The precautions help prevent sparks and ashes from spreading to other yards and buildings.

    Fortunately, even basic fire pits are built to meet those requirements. That said, how simple, or elaborate, an outdoor fire pit is will be determined mostly by your taste and budget. From simple, black coated steel to polished copper with cut out wildlife designs, there is a pit out there to fit just about any landscape. And since most are portable, you can always move them around at the whim of your inner landscape designer.

    Chimineas
    For some homeowners, a freeform pit doesn't quite fit the bill. If that's the case with you, you might look into chimineas as a fireplace alternative. Chimineas are miniature ceramic or steel fireplaces, perfect for use on decks on and patios. There's not much difference here from a basic pit design, with the exception of a chimney that channels smoke up and away from late night revelers. There are drawbacks, however. Chimineas usually only open to one side, making them fine for when you have a few choice guests over, but somewhat limiting for large gatherings.

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    Movin' On Up: Outdoor Fireplaces
    If your budget allows, and you're really looking to turn heads, you might want to consider an outdoor fireplace for your backyard. An outdoor fireplace installed by a talented builder can serve as both a focal point to your patio and landscaping, as well as a classic barbeque. The one downside of an outdoor fireplace is that they're serious structures, and permanent additions to your patio or yard. Once you install one of these bad boys, there's no turning back. Of course, with the wide array of styles, materials, and designs, this is a landscape design feature you'll want to show off, not keep under wraps, so permanence usually isn't an issue.

    Gas Fire Pits
    If you like the idea of having a fire to sit around and roast marshmallows over, but don't like the thought of stockpiling wood or smelling like campfire when you head inside, then you might want to look into a gas fire pit. These units hook up to your natural gas or propane gas line, and produce a clean burning, safe, gas fueled flame instead. You won't have to worry about keeping a stockpile of wood around, and since there are no sparks or ashes, you also remove fire danger from the equation. If you're not nostalgic about wood fires, then a gas fire pit is definitely the way to go.

    If you're interested in an outdoor fire pit, outdoor fireplace, or a gas-fired model, talk to a service professional or landscape designer experienced in working with these additions about the best way to create the perfect campfire atmosphere in your own backyard.

    Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.