By: Michelle Laurie
Outdoor fire pits have become the must-have backyard accessory. What could be better than a stay at home camping experience, complete with roasted marshmallows and s’mores? Sitting around a fire is such a primal part of us. The fire pit is a place for family gathering, story telling, and relaxing outdoors under a starlit night.
What happens when non-stop drought turns your lush grass into a brown wasteland, and any wayward spark could spell disaster for your home and that of your neighbors? Add to that the pollution caused by wood smoke and you’ve got a moral dilemma – how to recreate those summers of your childhood, yet still feel like you are protecting the environment from unnecessary damage?
Let’s start with the basics – the fire itself. If you’re starting from scratch, you can tie in a gas line outside to the main line in the home. You get the warmth and feel of a wood fire without the nastiness of smoke pollution – and you never have to worry if it’s a “Spare the Air” day.
Photo Credit: Simi Designs
Laurie Pirini, who owns Warm Solutions in San Francisco, agrees that by thinking ahead and installing a gas line when you’re renovating is the best approach. “You never run out of gas that way, but make sure your plumber allows for proper pressure. We recommend a one-inch line for the best pressure and flame.
Pirini says if you want to be even more earth-friendly, Biofuel is the way to go. Made from ethanol from fermented sugars, there is no smoke pollution, it’s clean burning and completely renewable.
Just like an indoor fireplace the materials surrounding should not be flammable. Colleen recommends a stainless steel interior box/igniter set up that is designed to drain properly, with a surround made of stone or concrete with a stone veneer.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture
Don’t forget seating areas . There are many companies that make nice outdoor furniture from classic to very contemporary. If you’re using cushions, find a fabric that can handle damp nights and intense sun. We absolutely love this fire area next to the ocean – what better way to listen to the crashing waves
Photo Credit: design-dautore.com Punta del Este, Uruguay
Some low-level landscape lighting is important not just for getting to and from the house, but creates an ambience for those round the fire stories. Lighting, though needs to be integrated into the design right from the start.
Terraces are usually stone or decomposed granite. This one is reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest and is definitely fire resistant.
Photo Credit: TopInspired.com
However you set up your outdoor fire area, make it comfortable, earth friendly and above all, inviting – it’s an extension of your home, so make it somewhere you want to be.