Many decks go sorely unused, home to only a smattering of chairs, a table and a bug-repelling candle or two. Yet if done right, a fireplace can transform a seldom-used deck into a popular gathering place for everyone in your household. It can also add unparalleled ambiance, lighting, heat and marshmallow-toasting functionality to your outdoor entertaining area. Plus, the fireplace can make the space functional during the frosty winter months, when it would otherwise be totally abandoned.
Although deck fireplaces can be built or commissioned in a variety of styles and price ranges, they do tend to be much more expensive than fire pits or portable fireplaces. Since installing a fireplace is such a significant investment, do your homework first to make sure that you get exactly what you want. Once installed, a fireplace is pricey and difficult to replace. Keep reading for our tips to help you get on the right track to toasty warm entertaining.
Survey the Scene
If you're contemplating a deck fireplace, take a close look at the area you have to work with before beginning the design process. Unless your home is a mansion of Hilton-esque proportions, be realistic about your deck space and dimensions and how much room there is to work with. The fireplace you choose should be large enough to heat the space adequately, but small enough that it doesn't completely overwhelm.
Keep the fireplace from sticking out like a sore thumb by taking pains to incorporate the design into the surrounding space. Be sure to take foliage and existing décor into consideration. It doesn't have to look exactly the same as the existing house, but shouldn't clash with it, either, so choose a style that complements your home. Placement of the fireplace is a key issue, since it will affect the overall look of the deck. Where it ends up might be influenced by zoning codes, however, because they often require a fireplace to be a certain distance from the house. It's also important to think about how the fireplace will impact your view and aid your desire for privacy.
Consult an Expert
When it comes to home improvement projects, it's sometimes about as cost-effective to hire a professional as it would be to do it yourself. True outdoor fireplaces can cost thousands of dollars when you factor in masonry, gas line installation and other construction issues, which contractors can often handle more cheaply and efficiently than a regular Joe. Just make sure to obtain multiple quotes to get the best bang for your buck. Project quotes are generally free, so you'll surely get a lot of great ideas from the experts you consult without spending a cent.
Another major plus to consulting a professional is that they tend to be in the know about local permit requirements and other regulations that may affect your fireplace. For example, in certain areas chimneys must often be under a certain height, or you might have to obtain a burn permit to use the finished product. Plus, the odds are that you can't or shouldn't install a gas line yourself, so a pro is going to be necessary at some point, anyway.
Settle the Burning Question
Wood and gas-burning fireplaces both have their benefits and drawbacks. For example, wood-burners have to sport chimneys, so they're taller. Plus, they tend to be larger in the hearth area because they have to hold logs. Plus, they emit more heat than gas-burners. However, when it comes to outdoorsy authenticity, wood-burners are the front-running choice.
By comparison, gas fireplaces feature exhaust vents, which take up less space than the standard chimney. However, a gas line is required for functionality, which can be pricey and require maintenance by a professional. On the upside, gas burners are easier to light and use than their wood-burning counterparts.
Decide on Style
For those of us with an appreciation for beauty and style, the exterior of any deck fireplace is nearly as important as all of the functional components. Fortunately, there's no shortage of options when it comes to fireplace design. They can be constructed using stone, stucco, brick and even ceramic tile accents. A talented artisan can present you with sketches of contemporary, rustic or high-end fireplaces using the material of your choice, or you can troll the web for examples that will mesh well with your existing home and deck area. Fireplaces can be constructed in any manner of architectural style, from traditional to modern or with a regional twist, like Southwestern or Mediterranean.
As with most projects, these decisions will be impacted by the amount of money you're looking to spend. For example, stucco is the cheapest, but also has a tendency to crack over time, plus it doesn't look as impressive or craftsman-like as stone or brick.
Choose the Bells and Whistles
The typical fireplace requires a base (usually a concrete slab), firebox and a chimney or vents. Once you've nailed down those boring bits, survey your budget and decide if you have enough wiggle room to add a few fun extras! For example, consider making your fireplace a multi-functional entertaining mecca by including a built-in grill, sink or bar. Permanent bench seating with removable cushions can give your guests extra space to relax, or you can dress up the area with potted plants or other outdoor décor. Wood storage is another logical extra that will make starting a wood fire much less labor intensive.
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