An outside entertainment area can extend your home space and an outdoor fireplace will bring a fantastic ambience to your alfresco meal or BBQ party – or just make eating in the great outdoors that little bit more special.
Investing in an outside fireplace will allow you to make full use of your deck or patio area, as you won’t need to retreat indoors when the sun goes down or when the evening turns a little chilly.
Most outside fireplaces are of course intended as source of heat, although you’ll find some which are made almost solely for their decorative function.
So, what should you look for when contemplating an outside fireplace?
1. Do you prefer the traditional look or contemporary? Many garden designers are producing fabulous futuristic landscapes and are using modern materials to create that fashionable minimalistic look. Choose a modern widescreen design of fireplace if you don’t want to go out of date quickly. Consider the energy source. The main choices are Natural gas, LPG, wood or bio-ethanol. Natural gas will be the most convenient as it can be permanently piped in, is the least expensive running-cost option unless you have a free source of wood, is the cleanest both in use and for the environment – and in most cases won’t need a chimney or flue. LPG is a great option if you have somewhere to conceal the cylinder, but it will be more expensive to run than natural gas. Burning wood is romantic, but bear in mind there will be ashes and dust to clear, the fuel is expensive if you have to pay for it and it has to be stored somewhere. It can be smokey in windy conditions. Bio-ethanol gives little heat in an outside situation, but flames always look great whatever the fuel!
2. What will the cost of installation be? We would recomend a permanent installation to get the best out of your investment and athough a bio-ethanol fireplace will need no installation at all, it won’t give the same heat output as wood or gas – and is quite expensive to run. Both gas and wood-burning fireplaces should be installed by a qualified engineer. Think about the setting for your fireplace. Will you set it into a wall, or build a suitable enclosure? Kits are available for built-in, so you can just clad with your preferred choice of stone, tiles, brick or appropriate matching deck material.
3. Durability. What material will your fireplace or fire be made from? Even the driest climate may have an effect on the longevity of your fireplace. If it’s a traditional design, it could be built from stone or brick and only the fire-burning area may incorporate metals, which may rust or deteriorate over time. Preferably, invest in a stainless steel gas fireplace, which won’t rust over time and will always stay looking good with minimal maintenance. Just make sure it comes with a weatherproof cover for the worst that winter may bring.
4. Lighting; how will you light the fuel in your new fireplace? Lighting wood can be frustrating unless you know how to light a wood-burning stove. Never use petrol! An outdoor gas fireplace will be the most convenient, if it has built-in electronic ignition. Just flick a switch! Bio-ethanol is usually lit with a match or taper, but be safe – and keep young children away from such portable heaters.
5. Finally, the cost. What will you invest? Installing an outdoor fireplace may be a part of a larger garden refurbishment project and so the fireplace could be just a small proportion of what you are preparing to spend overall. Buy the best you can afford, it will provide more heat, be more convenient, stay looking great and will last a lot longer. Spend wisely if you don’t make regular use of your outdoor space. The best gas fireplaces will add value to your home, but if you have a very limited budget consider a firepit or chimenea instead.