Material Choices For Your Outdoor Fireplace
There are few things better that you can enjoy in your yard than an outdoor fireplace. An outdoor fireplace is much more than just heating up a space. It creates ambiance, coziness, and serves as a great focal point when not in use.
Imagine sitting outside on chilly evenings with family and friends, enjoying a few drinks and conversation when most neighbors have retreated indoors. There is something about an open fire that you can never get by sitting indoors watching TV. (See here for more on how to get the most out of your backyard when it gets chilly.)
So what sort of materials can you use to build an outdoor fireplace? There are tens of options out there - from completely custom made to outdoor fireplace kits. It depends on what you want your finished fireplace to look like. A kit will limit you to what you can find; whereas having one built specific for your style and location will enable you to create whatever you want.
Either way, the basis for most outdoor fireplaces is either concrete or reinforced concrete, together with firebrick for the firebox itself. For the exterior parts - which is what you'll be enjoying, you need to choose materials which can turn it into an object of beauty.
Natural Stone Fireplace
Although natural stone can be the most labor intensive, it's often the best one for blending with the exterior of your home, especially if it, too, is clad in stone. The choice of colors and patterns of natural stone is huge, and it can come in a variety of thicknesses, in some cases as little as 1/2". Choosing a thin natural stone veneer is the best bet for cladding an outdoor fireplace—anything 2" thick or more would be cumbersome, more expensive per square foot, and heavy!
You can be certain that natural stone is extremely hard-wearing and will last a lifetime. It is of course, fire resistant as well as environmentally friendly since there is no firing or manufacturing process other than cutting it to shape and size.
Stucco is made largely of Portland cement plaster combined with aggregates and can be as smooth looking as plaster or can have a rougher finish using larger aggregates. In terms of style, stucco has the advantage of being able to be colored onsite, making it extremely versatile.
Stucco is quick and easy to apply, and is less expensive than materials such as brick and natural stone. However, the color may fade when exposed to UV light for over many years. It also has a disadvantage if you are using wood for your fuel, because the soot can affect it and discolor it. Its a good idea to consider stucco for gas or propane fired outdoor fireplaces.
Veneer Stone Fireplace
Veneer stone is a manufactured product designed to look and feel like natural stone. Much like concrete pavers are for your patios and walkways, cultured stone is the go-to for great durability, consistency in design, and a wide variety of colors and shapes for vertical elements. Veneer stone isn't fireproof but of course firebrick inside the fireplace chamber provides protection.
Eventually, it comes down to a matter of personal preference, together with your budget. An outdoor fireplace is not something that you can knock together for a couple of hundred dollars, but then the pleasure that you will get out of it cannot be measured in terms of money.
Related: 5 Ideas for the Perfect Fire Pit
Image: Landworx project in Bethel, NY