Prefab and Modular Outdoor Fireplaces

Get all the info you'll need on prefab and modular outdoor fireplaces, and prepare to install a convenient and economical fireplace in your external living space.

Prefab Outdoor Fireplace

Prefab Outdoor Fireplace

The unique linear design of the gas fireplace complements the contemporary design of HGTV Green Home 2011.



By: Sean McEvoy

If you've got outdoor fireplace fever, but the thought of a complex, costly and custom-built model gives you cold sweats, you may want to explore the many available options for prefab and modular outdoor fireplaces. These convenient and cost-efficient units are available in just about any design style from your local home improvement store or any number of online or local specialty retailers. They can burn wood, gas or propane for fuel, and they offer the cozy comfort of a built-in outdoor fireplace—often at a fraction of a cost. And best of all, contrary to their built-in brethren, prefab or modular outdoor fireplaces can be moved around your outdoor living space, offering the flexibility to shift their location over time.

In all likelihood, a custom-built outdoor fireplace will require you to hire a skilled stone mason (unless you are one yourself, or happen to have one in the family who owes you a big favor) and command a serious budget. Prefab and modular outdoor fireplaces, on the other hand, are both widely available and comparatively quite inexpensive. As a rule, most kits will cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500 through the low- to mid-range pricing tiers. Higher-end versions are available—these may include special cooking features like pizza ovens, built-in lighting components and higher-quality materials.

In terms of their appearance, most prefab or modular outdoor fireplaces resemble indoor fireplaces, but with one major difference. They usually feature a base, fireplace, and chimney— but while in a home, the chimney rises all the way through the roof, outdoor fireplaces usually feature a stubbier chimney that simply opens a few or several feet above the fireplace. This offers greater convenience when moving the unit, and it also reduces the safety risk of contact with low hanging branches or bushes.

When it's time to choose materials for your prefab or modular outdoor fireplace, you'll have a wide array of options, with one fairly consistent feature: most modular or prefab outdoor fireplaces feature a façade-style "finish" over their base. This simply means that a thin veneer of stucco, stone, ceramic, brick or metal has been attached to the face of the fireplace (as opposed to the entire fixture being built from the material). This approach allows for greater portability, as the unit is lighter, and it also reduces cost. You may choose a finish for your prefab or modular outdoor fireplace that syncs with your overall outdoor living space and home design, or you may want to diverge slightly from the overall design and add some unique visual interest via the fireplace. Whichever design direction you choose, you'll have plenty of options to peruse, and likely experience no trouble finding the style that's the perfect fit for your external living space.

Most prefab or modular outdoor fireplaces fall into one of three functional categories: wood-burning, gas or propane-fired. If you choose a wood-burning fireplace, you'll need a steady supply of wood, a safe location and a tolerance for smoke. Gas fireplaces require a gas line but offer a cleaner and more environmentally friendly burn. Finally, a propane outdoor fireplace requires that you hook a gas line to a propane tank—which you'll need to fill from time to time.

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