Add heat to your summer nights with fireOne of the hottest new trends in home decorating is also one of the oldest - the "outdoor room."
By: Wendy Johnson, Cloquet Pine Journal, Superior Telegram
Increasingly, home owners are taking their entertaining spaces outside, to decks, pool areas, four season rooms and open-air porches. And one of the centerpieces of many of these spaces is the outdoor fireplace.
Once relegated to the living room or family room, the home fireplace is beginning to find its way back out into the great outdoors. Today's outdoor fireplaces range from a simple fire ring available at Wal-Mart for as low as $89.99, to a self contained fire pit such as Target's copper fire bowl for $119.99 or granite fire pit for $169.99, to a full-fledged stone or brick fireplace from Brenny Dahl of Cloquet or Great Lake Stone Supply on Rice Lake Road in Duluth for several thousand dollars.
Outdoor fireplaces serve a dual purpose-- increasing the aesthetic appeal of spending time in the great outdoors (not unlike the appeal of sitting around the traditional campfire) and providing a source of radiant heat that directly warms people instead of the air. In addition, outdoor fireplaces make it enjoyable to linger in a home's outdoor spaces later into the evening, and they also make it possible to extend social time spent outdoors later on into the season of a Minnesota autumn.
Most outdoor fireplaces are built just like indoor fireplaces, except that you don't need a damper.
If you're planning to construct one of your own, it's important to remember you do need to use hydraulic-setting, non-water soluble refractory mortar so the clearance-to-combustibles and other code issues are generally easier to follow.
Many pre-made models are available as well and can be delivered directly to your home by your local dealer. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that many outdoor fireplaces can weigh up to 3,000 pounds or more, so you should carefully consider the foundation of the area where you're planning to locate yours.
Any outdoor fireplace may smoke in the breeze, so it's a good idea to keep in mind a location that will shelter the fireplace from the wind and to build the chimney as tall as you can, with the fireplace opening a little lower down to improve the draft. If you find your chimney is not tall enough to alleviate the effects of the wind, you might want to consider adding a "chimney pot" to increase the effective height of the chimney.
The chimney pot opening is often smaller than the effective area of the flue liner in order to reduce the effect of wind on the draft.
Outdoor fireplaces can be built from a variety of materials, from classic brick to stucco, river rock or field stone. The liner is traditionally built of fire brick to withstand direct heat, and many different custom design features are available. Some, such as the Outback Fireplaces available at Great Lakes Stone Supply, feature special water features, where a circulating pump in the back of the fireplace sends a steady stream of water either curling down a pair of chains on either side of the fireplace or spilling over a waterfall at the center of the mantle, creating a dramatic backdrop for the flaming fire within.
Some outdoor fireplaces feature gas logs, cooking grills to increase the fireplace's functionality, or custom-made doors that reflect the homeowner's special passions.
Outdoor fireplace options can be as permanent or portable as your lifestyle, and they can serve as a dramatic and practical extension of your everyday living space.