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Add A Spark to Outdoor Living

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Add A Spark to Outdoor Living

HOMELiving Magazine, September 2015

By Beth Behrendt

The cool evenings of fall are just around the corner. Maybe it’s time to consider extending the backyard’s function?

There’s no denying that a space to gather around fire is a hot commodity in landscape design. Craig Good of Fort Wayne Rocks explained, “There’s been a big increase in interest in outdoor living areas. They definitely add value to a home.” According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, “fire pits or outdoor fireplaces are the No. 1 requested design feature.” Phil Rutledge from Planscape Inc. concurred. “Anybody doing any significant backyard project has it on their wish list,” he said.

Fire Pits and Fireplaces

Fire pits, Rutledge said, “are appealing to folks who like to have a large group gather around.” He explained that fire pits are gnerally less expensive to install than outdoor fireplaces, though they can get as elaborate (and as expensive) as the homeowner’s imagination allows. Good suggested, “think about what fits the space.” A large fire pit may suit a big open space, while a fireplace may complement a smaller, more contained area.

Local homeowner, Doug Schenkel, chose a fireplace for a recent backyard upgrade. He liked the privacy provided by a fireplace at one end of the outdoor living space. Another plus is that smoke and sparks are controlled. The chimney directs it well above face-level, rather than guests “having to spend the evening moving their chairs around as the wind shifts,” he said. But his very favorite thing is that the fireplace “gives my son and me great father-son time, just hanging out and talking by the fire.”

Also consider:

  • A gas line can be run to provide a starter for wood or for gas flames (and less mess).
  • Facing materials vary (e.g. stone or concrete). “Natural stone will give you an authentic, natural look, but (existing structures) may dictate which look is best,” Goode said.
  • Goode also advised, “make sure it fits the area; not too big or too small.”
  • Rutledge stressed courtesy to neighbors when consider the placement, and “definitely check local codes and if the subdivision has restriction,” he said.
  • “Talk to different sources,” Schenkel suggested. “I was surprised at the price variances, but also got some different design ideas.”
  • Building a fire pit following directions from the Internet or a local home improvement store is an option as well. Remember to give serious consideration to the site. “If not properly graded and drained, a fire pit can quickly turn into just a big pot for rainwater,” said Rutledge.

Fire Bowls and Chimineas

Both of these options are well-suited for smaller spaces or for the homeowner who wants something portable for just occasional use. A fire bowl (also known as a portable fire pit) can be simple — a large metal bowl with a screen cover — or elaborate in a range of finishes and designs with accessories like grill tops and decorative stands. They can also use other fuel sources like charcoal, gas or gel alcohol.

Chimineas are wood-burning outdoor “stoves” typically made of clay, though copper and steel options are available. They don’t give off a lot of heat and aren’t intended for cooking, but they still bring the charm of firelight and the crackle of burning wood to outdoor spaces.

Whatever the source, gathering with friends and loved ones around a blazing fire never goes out of style.

Recommended Sources:

Felgers Peat Moss, Fort Wayne, 260.639.3134, felgerspeatmoss.com

Miller Stove, Bremen, 260.426.2699, millerstove.com

Nob Brick, Fort Wayne, 260.483.2126

Old Fort, Fort Wayne, 260.373.1919, oldfortsupply.com



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