An outdoor fireplace is a fantastic way of amping up your otherwise boring garden. Moreover, an outdoor fireplace offers many practical benefits, other than just aesthetics.
During winter, it’ll provide you that much needed extra warmth and be the perfect gathering place to entertain guests or spend quality time with family. Alternatively, you can sip your favourite cup of tea or coffee and spend some alone time in your own outdoor area. Add to that scenic views or a good book, and you’ll never want to leave your outdoor living space.
Unlike an indoor fireplace, an outdoor one can even transform into a cooking area or barbeque pit. You’re practically killing two birds with one stone.
Building a DIY outdoor fireplace can be tricky and if you don't have the proper guidance, you’ll just end up wasting your time and resources. Looking for the right guide to build your very own DIY outdoor fireplace? We’ve got you covered.
Here’s our expert easy guide on how to build an outdoor fireplace and spice up your patio in no time.
The Basic Essentials Of Building Outdoor Fireplaces
For the best results, you need to have a thorough understanding of what it takes and what is required for building an outdoor fireplace. As such, here are the basic essentials you need to know before you build your outdoor fireplace.
DIY Outdoor Fireplace Vs. Store Bought Outdoor Fireplace
When it comes to building your own fireplace, the first thing you need to consider is whether to purchase a fireplace kit or build your very own.
When it comes to store-bought fireplace kits, they may be more convenient and comparatively easier and quicker to install. On the other hand, store-bought outdoor fireplaces offer very little room for customisation, and most importantly, they might not be the right size for your garden.
On the other hand, DIY fireplaces offer many customisation options in regards to the design, size and even materials used. However, they can be challenging and time-consuming to build when you don't know where to start. Therefore we have compiled a step-by-step guide on how to build your very own fireplace, as well as some guidelines to take into consideration.
Location Of Your Outdoor Fireplace
The first thing to consider is the amount of space you have at your disposal. If your space is large, you need to choose the right place to position your outdoor fireplace. If your garden is small, you may not have enough room. Therefore, you need to ensure you have sufficient space to build it and that you choose the optimal placement for the fireplace.
In some cases, it may be more convenient to position it near your kitchen so that you don't need to take long tours, if you're planning on doubling the fireplace as a bbq.
However, if the view is much better far away from your house, you can consider the best vantage points to place your outdoor fireplace. After all, you will want to create a beautiful atmosphere when sitting around your fireplace.
You must keep in mind that your outdoor fireplace is a fire hazard. You don't want to burn down your house. That's why, you need to make sure that you build your outdoor fireplace a minimum of 10 meters away from your home or any combustible materials including trees, bushes or other structures.
Local Codes And Permits
You need to check local codes and restrictions for the area/country you live in. In some places, you might need to obtain a permit to build an outdoor fireplace. However, in most cases, you just need to install a spark arrestor. Always check what your local authority requires before building any fire pit or fireplace.
Wood/Outdoor Gas Fireplace
Both wood and gas outdoor fireplaces have their advantages and disadvantages. Gas units are more convenient, but you might prefer the rustic vibes of an outdoor wood fireplace.
An outdoor gas fireplace is comparatively easier to control as you can do so with just a turn of the knob or press of a button. On the other hand, it’s also riskier as gas leaks can be very dangerous. For outdoor gas fireplaces, it is essential that they be placed closer to your home, otherwise you'll need to install a long gas line, which is quite expensive.
On the other hand, fireplaces which burn wood are considerably more pocket-friendly especially if you live in a wooded place. However, it can be tasking just to get the fire started. You need to provide a covered place with good ventilation to ensure dry wood storage. After that, there's the whole process of actually getting the fire started which can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour.
Another option is a modern outdoor electric fireplace.
Size is another important consideration. If you’re buying an outdoor fireplace kit, the size will be fixed. If you’re building your very own, you need to consider how much outdoor space you have.
Most outdoor fireplaces can be the same size as indoor fireplaces or can even be larger if you have more garden space.
Components Of Outdoor Fireplaces
Generally, an outdoor fireplace consists of a chimney, firebox and base. The size of the firebox will determine the size of the chimney and base. The chimney is responsible for redirecting the smoke from your unit's firebox to the outdoors. Ideally, the chimney should be two feet higher than the structures within a 10-foot radius to prevent the soot from covering the fireplace. The base of your outdoor fireplace is the high temperature concrete slab that is responsible for supporting the whole structure.
For the firebox, you can have it custom-made or purchase a prefabricated one. Outdoor gas and wood burning fireplaces have different firebox requirements.
The decorations completely depend on your taste and preference. Many people like to place sofas, patio chairs and other patio furniture near the fireplace. Some like the fireplace to be the focal point of their patio. Others even like to place it in a lovely gazebo or alternatively, nearby a pool for those summer pool parties. To highlight your fireplace further, you can also do some landscaping in your garden space.
The design of the fireplace itself is also up to you- you can have a stone fireplace, brick fireplace or even a portable fireplace. Customisation completely depends on your style of choice.
Materials You’ll Need For Your Outdoor Fireplace
For obvious reasons, your outdoor fireplace must be made out of fireproof and heat safe materials. For the exterior, this includes stones, concrete blocks and bricks. Stones and bricks are more fire resistant than concrete blocks. In fact, concrete ones may even explode if exposed to very high heat. As such, they are generally only used as support or protection for an outdoor fireplace.
Depending on your outdoor fireplace's size and design, you may need to opt for cinder blocks for support. On the other hand, the firebox must be constructed with fire-resistant brick/stone or steel to withstand very high temperatures.
One method is to build an outdoor fireplace with fire brick and clad the bricks with decorative veneer stone . In this way the firebox has the advantage of the fire brick with the appearance of a stone fireplace.
Materials with a lower heat resistance than fire brick such as cinder blocks for example can be used further away from the hottest part of the fire box.
If you’re going to build a traditional outdoor fireplace with a chimney, you might need a fire-resistant flue pipe that runs from your firebox’s top to the chimneys.
Budgeting when you Build an Outdoor Fireplace
Generally speaking, there are several factors to consider. The first is the fireplace's size. A second factor is the materials that will be used. In addition, the labor costs i.e. the cost of building an outdoor fireplace.
A DIY project can save you much more money if you use materials like bricks or cinder blocks, instead of concrete blocks but you will most likely need some fire bricks.
It is also cost-effective to use reclaimed wood from old barns or other options instead of buying new wood at the local hardware store. The best way to get the job done if you don't know how to use tools is to hire a contractor. However, this will add to the overall cost.
Safety And Precautions
Before you start building your outdoor fireplace or fire pit, you need to be aware of certain safety precautions so that there are no untoward incidents.
- Fireplaces can be fire hazards. Even while you’re building, some things might get caught in a flame. As such, always have a garden hose or a bucket of water nearby in case things get out of hand.
- If you have lit your fireplace, do not leave it unattended.
- When the fire is burning, keep your children and pets away from the fireplace and never leave them unattended.
- When you’re about to start a fire, make sure that the surrounding area is free from flammable materials.
- Your outdoor fireplace should never be lit by flammable liquids.
Step By Step Guide To Building Your Own Outdoor Fireplace
Now that you’re well versed with the basic essentials of building an outdoor fireplace. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build an outdoor fireplace.
Decide On Your Fireplace’s Design
Firstly, you need to figure out the design of your fireplace. For this, you need to decide whether you want a small fire table or a full-sized one, whether you want a traditional, electric or gas one, and how large it will be.
You also need to decide on whether you want a stone fireplace or a brick fireplace- the options abound.
These factors will help you envision what you are going for and have a rough idea before you begin to build an outdoor fireplace. Moreover, it will help you come up with the materials you will need and the required quantities. The designing phase is critical to ensure the success of your DIY outdoor fireplace.
After you’ve decided on the design of your fireplace, you need to collect all the required tools and materials and keep them nearby for convenience and ease of use. Here’s a list of items you’ll need to build your very own DIY wood burning fireplace:
- Mixing bucket
- Spade and shovel
- Fire bricks
- Heatproof screed
- Decorative cladding stone
- Fire rated flue pipe
- HB60 high temperature masonry adhesive
Once you’ve gathered your tools, you need to make sure that the area you want to build your outdoor fireplace is perfectly levelled. Otherwise, your outdoor fireplace will lack stability. Mark the area where you want to position your unit and use the shovel to level the area.
Prepare The Foundation
Now, you can start assembling your outdoor fireplace’s frame. Generally, people prefer to use concrete to construct the foundation. This is perfectly fine but don't put concrete directly onto the soil as it requires a aggregate base. Steel reinforcement is not recommended for high temperature applications because the metal will expand with the heat more than the concrete and cause cracking. You can put a layer of high temperature screed on top of the concrete to protect it from the heat.
Optionally, you can skip the concrete and start with the foundation blocks instead. However, you need to make sure that you’re doing so on solid flat ground. For this, you can use a surveyor’s level.
If you’re opting for foundation blocks, you need to start from the middle. This allows you to center your outdoor fireplace for the best placement. Glue them together once the blocks have been laid. Even though its tempting, refrain from using too much adhesive as this will make the blocks ‘swim’. In addition, gravity will keep the blocks together, so only use the adhesive sparingly.
Stack the blocks depending on the shape and design of your outdoor fireplace. Make sure that the center is hollow as this is where you’ll be placing your firebox. If you’re going to build a gas or electric fireplace, ensure provisions for the electrical wirings or the gas pipe.
Build The Firebox
The firebox is arguably the most important part of your outdoor fireplace as this is where the burning is going to happen. As such, you need to use fire-resistant bricks for firebox construction. Stack the bricks on the frame’s insides.
Generally, your fireplace needs a lintel. It’s a horizontal bar that runs along your fireplace’s length. The lintel protects the masonry and other components from the fire’s high temperature and also supports the chimney’s weight. Generally, lintels are constructed of wood but these days, they can be made of concrete, stone, and steel.
However, it’s complicated if you want to build an electric or gas fireplace. If you aren’t familiar with electric or gas units, it’s best that you purchase one from the store.
Build The Smoke Chamber and Chimney
A smoke chamber is located above the firebox and just underneath the flue. It’s the place where the smoke moves and rises up into the fireplace’s chimney. Or else, it can lead to significant smoke issues. However, your chimney must be taller than all the surrounding structures. If it's too low, soot will cover everything else around it. So, make sure that the smoke chamber and chimney are of the right size.
Give Your Fireplace A Try
Once you’ve completed your chimney, smoke chamber and firebox, and the glue has dried up completely, you can give your outdoor fireplace a try. Make sure that the fireplace doesn't have any gaps or cracks. If necessary, you can do a chimney smoke test. At times, the firebox can experience small cracks when you’re constructing the chimney and smoke chamber. If the bricks are loosely stacked, there will be gaps that can damage the surrounding masonry after some time.
Apply The Finishing Touches
Give your fireplace the finishing touches once you’re sure that it is safe to use. The exterior design depends on your preference. Most people prefer to use render, tiles and bricks. Now, all you need to do is light the fire. You must always cure your fireplace for 72 hours before it is ready for you and your family to enjoy.
This brings us to the end of our guide on how to build a beautiful outdoor fireplace. With a few materials and some equipment, you can build your own outdoor fireplace in no time. However, if you’ve never done this before, our tips should come in handy.
You could consider hiring a professional to do the job or buying a fireplace kit. However, a DIY fireplace offers many more customisation and personalisation options and there is just something satisfying about spending time around the fireplace that you have built yourself.
We hope these tips are useful and that you enjoy your new outdoor fireplace with your whole family!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to hire someone to install an outdoor fireplace?
This depends on the type of fireplace you want to install. A professional may be necessary if it's a masonry fireplace. As for prefabricated and metal fireplaces, they are typically easier to put together, so you should be able to handle them by yourself.
Which material makes the best outdoor fireplace?
Your choice of material depends on the type of outdoor fireplace you want. If you're going for a masonry fireplace, then cinder block, stone or brick would be ideal. Whereas, metal is the best option for a prefabricated fireplace because it's durable and rust-resistant.
Are outdoor fireplaces safe?
Outdoor fireplaces can pose a hazard when not properly tended to, just like any other source of fire. However, as long as you remain compliant with safety regulations, there is no need for concern.
For those who have small children, this means setting boundaries that protect them.
Also, you must put out the fire when it isn't being monitored to prevent an accidental fire from spreading outside of the fireplace.
Do I need permission for outdoor fireplaces?
This depends on where you live. You should always check with your local authorities before you build a fireplace. Usually structures which are not part of a building are exempt from smoke control regulations.
What are the various kinds of outdoor fireplaces?
Masonry, prefabricated and metal are the three main types of outdoor fireplaces. Masonry fireplaces are constructed using cinder blocks, bricks or stones. Prefabricated fireplaces are usually built in factories and come preassembled. Metal fireplaces are typically constructed with steel or aluminum and in most cases, they can be easily lifted by two people.