How to Build an Outdoor Fireplace

Find out how to build an outdoor fireplace, and prepare to install a cozy and comfortable new feature in your external living space.

How to Build an Outdoor Fireplace

How to Build an Outdoor Fireplace

Photo by: Image courtesy of Brian Patrick Flynn

Image courtesy of Brian Patrick Flynn

By: Sean McEvoy

If you're ready to add a warm, welcoming, cozy and comfortable feature to your outdoor living space, but you're not ready to pay a contractor or stone mason to take on the job, you may want to explore info on how to build an outdoor fireplace. Depending on the complexity of the fireplace type you're interested in and your level of DIY skills, building your own outdoor fireplace just might prove a quicker, more economical and ultimately more satisfying option.

Before you heft the first hammer, however, you'll need to determine where, exactly, your outdoor fireplace is going to go. The main requirement for any outdoor fire feature is safety—so when you're location scouting the backyard, deck or patio, first keep in mind that any area you consider should be free and clear of any low-hanging branches, bushes or other flammable elements. Once you've identified the spot or spots you think could work, it's time to start thinking about the type of fireplace you want to feature in your outdoor living space.

In general, you'll have two options when it comes to basic outdoor fireplace type: fixed-in-place or modular. The first type is built in—often adjacent to the home, or as a built-in feature of the deck or patio. It's a permanent fixture and it's not moving without demolition—so choose your location wisely if this is the route you want to go. Alternatively, if you choose a modular design, your fireplace will be portable. You can move it around the backyard or outdoor living space, assuming all locations are determined to be safe.

Once you've decided on the type of fireplace, you can consider the many styles available. Your decision making here may be driven by your desire to match the overall design of your home or outdoor living space—or, conversely, to deviate from the prevailing style and add some visual interest with your DIY outdoor fireplace. Traditional brick or stone styles are very popular, as are sleek contemporary or modern designs in granite or even metal.

When you've decided on the style you'll feature, it's time to get to work building your outdoor fireplace. First, consider the dimensions of your outdoor fireplace—its height, width and depth should be relatively proportional to your home—you don't want the home to dwarf your outdoor fireplace, or vice versa. Next, decide whether our fireplace will burn wood or be fueled by gas or propane—for any of these you may need a permit from your local municipality in order to add a backyard fire feature—and for gas or propane, it's important to note that you'll need access to a gas line.

When you've got your fuel source sorted out, it's time to build—and you'll need some serious construction and masonry chops unless you invest in a prefabricated model. You'll need to pour a foundation, lay a base of bricks or cinder blocks, build the fire box and chimney, add special features like a spark arrestor, and then add whichever stone, stucco, brick or metal veneer you've chosen. This complex project can definitely be achieved by a serious DIY expert, but, in particular because the end goal involves an open flame—it probably shouldn't be attempted by anyone with less than expert level experience with construction and masonry.

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