Who doesn’t love the flicker of flame, the hiss of smoldering wood, the warmth of an open fire under the stars? A backyard fire feature can turn any landscape, deck, or patio into an outdoor warming spot, favorite gathering place for friends and family, or haven in which to commune with nature.
From fireplaces, pits, bowls, tables, and cauldrons, outdoor warming options are seemingly endless. Fire features may be permanent or portable, wood burning or gas, freestanding or built-in, and accommodate any budget—a big-box-store fire pit can cost less than one hundred dollars, while custom fireplaces can run upwards of $20,000.
Joe Zawistowski of Green Hill Landscaping finds today’s homeowners desire the use of mixed materials in their fire features—brick, fieldstone, and granite, for example. Most homeowners opt for stone fireplaces for enclosed outdoor rooms, raised fire pits for landscapes (helps to keep little ones safe), and modern, contemporary lines. “Free-form features have given way to more simplistic, minimalistic designs,” he says. “And homeowners tend to place fire features on the edges of their patios as opposed to the once-popular center.”
Placement is key. Fire features should be far away from trees and located in a space that suits their function. “Thousands of years ago, fires were used to provide heat and cook. Today, homeowners typically want those areas separated,” he says.
Consider function before placement: do you want ambiance, an artistic statement, a cooking apparatus, or simply a place to wind down and warm up?
No matter how you go about creating your family’s outdoor warming retreat, Zawistowski insists you just do it: “Get a fire going and get outside in nature.”
Fan of flames
An outdoor warming retreat offers so many options for maximum enjoyment:
- Grill on it: borrow a metal grate from your grill or oven and place over the fire to create an instant outdoor kitchen.
- Gather around it: nothing says intimate more than a circle of friends communing around a fire. Add hot cider or spiked wassail and call it a party.
- Summon the campground: roast marshmallows, tell ghost stories with the kids, and pitch a tent nearby to create a fall “staycation.”
- Impress your neighbors: an installation, like the one pictured, in which fire dances across water may not serve any purpose other than to be a dramatic conversation piece. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
CAULDRONS VS. KETTLES
by Lynn Greenlaw
The South has a long history during the antebellum period with its syrup kettles. Syrup or sugar kettles were used to process everything from soap to hogs to sugar cane. If you’ve ever watched a classic western film you know about the campfire cauldrons. No chuck wagon would be complete without one.
Each of these vessels is typically hand-crafted and both have become the modern-day alternative to the backyard campfire. Multiple options are available for each from two companies who are experts in the field: Carolina Kettles, located in Walterboro, SC, (carolinakettles.com) and the Cowboy Cauldron Company in Salt Lake City,Utah (cowboycauldron.com).
Because both types of firepits will serve the same purpose, once you compare them, the choice will most likely be one of aesthetics, the coolness factor, or a desire to stay with the historic choice for your geographic area.[ezcol_1half]
- hand-cast out of ductile iron
- available in 30-, 40-, 60-, and 80-gallon pots
- can be customized with a name of your choice on the kettle lip
- can be used as firepits, for cooking, as fountains, Koi ponds, and planters
- can be setup in numerous ways on a stand or with brick, stone or concrete surrounds
- a variety of accessories are available
- range in price from $1,225 to $1,950 [/ezcol_1half]
- forged from solid, seamless, high tensile plate steel
- available in 30” diameter, 36” diameter and 42” diameter
- typically used as fire pits and for cooking
- offered in three packages: Starter, Chuck Wagon and Architect’s Dream
- a variety of accessories are included in each package
- range in price from $1,495 to $3,825