Thinking of putting a fire pit in the backyard? You’re in good company! From kings to cavemen, humans have always been drawn to the warmth and comfort of a roaring fire – and fire and fire pits have always been a central feature in the outdoor living space. That’s even more true here in Chicago, where cold winters make a fire pit one of the best ways to enjoy outdoor living every month of the year.
Before you purchase or design a fire pit, here are 3 questions you absolutely need to ask. Trust us on this one – we’re landscape architects.
- What kind of fire pit is the best for your lifestyle?
There are four ways to make fire work outdoors – from temporary (and cheap) structures like a simple campfire or a portable fire pit, to more permanent (and safer) installations like a masonry fire pit or a full-on outdoor fireplace. The right solution for you depends on a number of factors, most of them personal. Why do you want fire, and how will you use it? Do you need something beautiful, functional – or both? Is safety a concern? These are the kinds of questions a good landscape architect will ask before designing a project for you.
- What kind of fuel is best?
There are wood-burning fire pits. There are pits with gas logs, or gas burners that car burn through crushed glass, stone or lava rock. And then there’s the hybrid approach – a pit that burns wood but has a gas starter for easy ignition. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but it’s also important to know what your municipality requires. In Naperville, Illinois, for example, you can’t burn wood within 50’ of your house – but a gas pit only needs to be 15’ away. If you’re not relying on a landscape architect to know these concerns and design for them, you’ll need to do your own research before you start.
- What construction materials are best?
Safety is an obvious concern here, too – but it’s also important to design a fire pit that complements the overall aesthetic of your home. Here at Hursthouse we take stock of the “material vocabulary” of your home before we make a plan. For example, if your house is built of a particular brick or stone it makes sense to use that same material in your fire pit.