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Beautiful Backyard Renovations: Outdoor Fireplace with Chimney, Masonry & Stone

In this post, you will learn:

  • The benefits of an outdoor fireplace with a chimney
  • The cons of an outdoor fireplace
  • Ideas for an outdoor stone fire pit
  • Why do you need a chimney
  • The best design for an outdoor fireplace with a chimney
  • How to furnish your fireplace area
  • Tips for care and maintenance for an outdoor fireplace with a chimney
  • If an outdoor fireplace is worth it
  • If there is a better option
  • About the MagikFlame electric fireplace alternative

Light up your backyard landscape with the beauty of an outdoor fireplace. A stone fireplace with a chimney not only enhances the natural decor of your outdoor living spaces, but it also directs any unpleasant smoke and ash away from your cozy seating area.

A simple remodel with a fire bowl or a backyard fireplace kit takes only a weekend or two. Once your project is complete, your family will have a new gathering place throughout the seasons.

The Benefits of an Outdoor Fireplace with Chimney

A cast iron fire pit, a portable chiminea and a stainless-steel fire bowl are popular buys at hardware stores like Home Depot. They’re relatively easy to set up and a nice addition to your home decor. However, a masonry and stone fireplace with a chimney is a better choice for a number of reasons:

  • Stone and mortar will not rust, dent or corrode, no matter the weather.
  • The chimney directs smoke and debris up and away from you and your guests.
  • The chimney shields your fire on windy days, so you can use your fireplace more often.
  • You can damper down the flue to adjust the heat.
  • Stone fireplaces add permanent value to your home.
  • They act as space dividers/privacy screens for a cozier environment.
  • A spark screen keeps your fire contained, which is safer than an open fire pit.
  • They add style to your backyard landscaping.

The Cons of an Outdoor Fireplace with a Chimney

  • One primary drawback for most homeowners is the higher cost of a stone and masonry fireplace.
  • If you are building a new home, your architect or builder may not want to take on an added project.
  • If you are doing a remodel, a stone fireplace with a chimney is likely too difficult to DIY.
  • You have to plan your outdoor fireplace ahead of time and it takes longer than a weekend to have a pro build it.
  • An outdoor fireplace with a chimney takes up room, so it may not work for a smaller outdoor space.

Ideas for Your Outdoor Stone Fire Pit

One way to build an outdoor stone fire pit is to start with a basic kit. Before the build begins, though, you need a flat, fireproof surface to put it on. A cement slab or brick patio are both suitable platforms for an outdoor fireplace or chimenea.

Various types of fireplace kits like Sunjoy and Sundaze Decor brands include firebrick for the lining of your fireplace. They also provide the cinder blocks for building the outside walls and chimney.

If you have some masonry experience, this type of kit may be a doable DIY project, but a masonry contractor is likely a better option. Once the firebox and chimney base are in place, your contractor can add flue sections as needed to achieve a chimney height that meets your local building code.

Then it’s time to add the façade. Stacked stone, river rock, and stucco are all great-looking additions to your basic fireplace.

Stacked stone provides rustic appeal. Your contractor can create a custom hearth that lends decorative contrast while offering a flat space to put your fireplace tools, a wood rack or a touch of decoration.

A river rock façade is ideal for an outdoor fireplace. Smooth, rounded stones recreate the aura of a country cottage tucked into a grove of trees.

Masonry materials like stacked stone, river rock, and brick absorb some of the fire’s heat and radiate it back into your seating area after the fire is out. Such thermal mass is important in the colder months, making it possible for you and your guests to enjoy the outdoors longer.

Cement, bricks, plaster, and tile also have a capacity for thermal mass. Thicker materials like natural stone and textured materials like adobe hold more thermal mass too.

Other materials that make the most of your fire’s heat while looking good in your outside living space include:

Limestone – Elegant and traditional for fireplaces but porous
Granite – Many color choices, durable with contemporary style
Marble – Presents a sleek surface with eye-catching veins of color but is vulnerable to scratches and discoloration
Travertine – Versatile material that you can use as tile or stacked stone but vulnerable to scratches and staining
Slate – Rustic and durable
Adobe – Great for a pizza oven and fireplace combination

Why Do You Need a Chimney?

An indoor fireplace, whether wood-burning or fueled by natural gas or propane, must have a chimney to vent the byproducts of combustion, such as carbon dioxide, to the outside. Otherwise, your indoor air would not be healthy for your family.

A wood-burning outdoor fireplace also exhausts a significant amount of toxins. In fact, an older woodstove spews as much air pollution as five older diesel trucks. You certainly don’t want your family breathing that kind of pollution.

Both wood and gas-fueled fireplaces draw oxygen through the chimney. If not for the chimney, your fireplace would deplete the air around you, making it unhealthy as well.

A wood burning outdoor fireplace needs a chimney for additional different reasons too. First, an unprotected fire bowl is subject to changes in wind direction. It isn’t very pleasant to have the smoke from your fire blow into your faces when you’re entertaining guests.

Secondly, a chimney helps your outdoor fire burn better. A chimney provides a pathway for the hot air to naturally rise, drawing toxic exhaust away from you while pulling in more oxygen. This makes for a robust burn and a far more enjoyable experience.

Last but definitely not least, a chimney carries smoke, ash, and toxic chemicals up and away from neighboring dwellings. That means you can feel free to enjoy your outdoor fire pit without disturbing your neighbors. You can even invite them over for a cozy fireside chat. You might say that good chimneys make good neighbors.

What’s the Best Design for Your Outdoor Fireplace?

A chiminea profile is one of the most popular designs for outdoor fireplaces. Basically, the firebox is the widest part of the structure. As it rises, the fireplace narrows gradually. The chimney itself is a relatively narrow tunnel leading your combustion byproducts up and away.

You can get some great design ideas from photos online and in magazines. If you want something a bit different than a chimenea, see what other homeowners have built.

The materials you use for the exterior of the fireplace should coordinate well with the outdoor environment. For example, if your backyard has a retaining wall made from stacked rock, use a similar stone material for the fireplace or lintel. If your landscaping is reminiscent of an English garden, consider cobblestones for the fireplace surround.

Another design element to think about is built-ins. Your stone fireplace structure can incorporate dry space for wood storage. It can even double as a pizza oven with a few tweaks.

This is a great project for personal touches, like contrasting stone elements that enhance the design. If you need ideas, ask your interior designer to help. Your masonry fireplace will be the centerpiece of your outdoor living area, especially if it has a pizza oven, so it should be attractive as well as functional.

Your home builder, architect or masonry expert should meet the standard sizing for your chimney according to the area of your fireplace opening. This will help make sure that your chimney has a strong enough draw for an efficiently burning fire, no matter the fuel type. You’ll find a chimney sizing chart for your own information here.

Following are some additional dos and don’ts when you are sitting and designing an outdoor wood-burning fireplace:

  • Do put your fireplace on a permanent, weather-resistant base such as cement or brick
  • Don’t place furnishings closer than 10 feet unless they are fire-resistant too
  • Do have 10-15 feet of clearance between the fireplace and other structures
  • Don’t put your fireplace beneath a patio overhang or other roof
  • Do use a spark screen to minimize fire hazard
  • Don’t place a fire pit beneath tree branches

If you are getting a natural gas or propane fireplace insert, the location must be near a gas supply line. You don’t want a connecting line to be a tripping hazard, so keep it short. If you are just putting in a patio, consider some gas connection options, such as placing the line beneath your patio slab.

Furnishing Your Fireplace Area

Bring some interior design principles into full sunlight when you furnish the outdoor fireplace seating area. The fire will be your focal point, so arrange your seating for the best views.

Avoid combustible materials like wicker and wood when you’re choosing your furnishings. Instead, look for fire pit furniture designed specifically for fire safety.

For example, polyethylene seating with a wicker texture is heat-resistant and attractive. When paired with waterproof cushions, it makes a comfortable place to enjoy a cozy fire. This material is also resistant to water and ultraviolet radiation, so it is a durable, all-weather option. It’s available at Home Depot as well as online.

Sofas and chairs with rust-resistant metal frames are another durable choice for your fireplace seating. Cushions with all-weather, waterproof covers ensure you and your guests can relax and enjoy the dancing flames without the discomfort of a hard metal seat. Matching metal end tables provide a place to set your cups or glasses.

Wrought iron and stainless steel are heavier than aluminum. This is a benefit when the wind is blowing. However, if you want to rearrange your seating frequently, a lighter metal is a better choice. Also, keep in mind that iron rusts while aluminum does not.

Whatever type of seating you select, be sure to maintain it regularly and cover in when not in use. This will keep it looking as good as your fireplace for years to come.

Care and Maintenance for an Outdoor Fireplace with Chimney

Maintaining an outdoor fireplace and chimney is every bit as essential as maintaining an indoor fireplace. If your fireplace is wood burning, you need to remove the ashes in the firebox frequently. Otherwise, the wind will take care of that for you, blowing them into your seating area.

You should take special care to keep the area free of wood chips, bark, and sawdust. A cleaner area around the fire helps reduce the risk of flying sparks.

It is also very important to have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned once per year. You don’t want any soot or creosote buildup. That’s a recipe for a chimney fire.

If you find that your fireplace smokes but the chimney is clean, it might be due to the outdoor temperature. Chimneys operate on the concept that warm air rises. If the air outside is too warm, your chimney won’t draw properly.

Other reasons for a smoky fire include the wood itself. If it is not completely dry, it won’t burn efficiently.

You also have to keep an eye on the top of the chimney. If you haven’t used the fireplace recently, a bird may have nested in the chimney top. Leaves in fall can also cause a clog up top that affects the fire down below.

Prevent this chimney woe by checking for obstructions frequently. Also, make sure your chimney has a cap that keeps birds and detritus out.

A natural gas firepit also needs maintenance on a regular basis. Like a wood fireplace, you should have a pro inspect it once a year for any issues. Professional cleaning is also a good idea.

A thorough cleaning ensures that all the gas jets are clear and functioning, which is critical to a robust fire. Also, dust collects on the gas logs, log grate and glass doors, which not only affects combustion but also degrades your view of the flames.

Another issue to watch for is condensation. Air temperature, wood moisture content, and weather can all contribute to moisture in your fireplace. Condensation can encourage the growth of mold and mildew on your log set and firebrick interior.

If you do notice water drops inside your firebox, dry it out right away. If the condensation seems excessive, call your chimney pro. It is sometimes a sign of chimney issues that need repair.

In between professional service, keep the following safety tips in mind during DIY maintenance:

  • Wait until the fire has been out 12 hours and the unit is completely cool.
  • For a gas appliance, disconnect the fuel supply before working on interior components; better yet, leave that task to a professional.

Is an Outdoor Fireplace Worth It?

When you add a masonry fireplace to your outdoor living space, you are making a significant home investment. You’ll end up spending anywhere from several thousand dollars to upwards of $30,000. An outdoor fireplace design blueprint, quality stone materials, and professional masonry services are not inexpensive, but you’ll end up with a good-looking backyard addition.

If you opt for an outdoor fireplace kit, you’ll spend far less. It all depends on your budget and your goals. A quality custom build will not only provide an outdoor gathering space but also add to your home’s resale value.

However, be sure to figure in potential problems when you are weighing the pros and cons of an outdoor fireplace. Chimney draw issues could render any added value insignificant, for example, if you can’t enjoy a fire.

Is There a Better Option?

If you are looking for the appeal of crackling flames without the potential issues of an outdoor environment, consider adding a fireplace indoors. You can create a cozier gathering space that is easier to heat and maintain.

One of the best options is an electric fireplace. Models like the MagikFlame Trinity are ideal for easy installation. They require only a standard electrical outlet. You won’t need a gas line because the fireplace runs on electricity. You don’t need a chimney, because it does not produce any exhaust.

What’s more, all of the 5,200 BTU MagikFlame models heat up to 1,000 square feet with a 5,200 BTU infrared heater. In comparison, an outdoor fireplace needs to have outputs of 30,000 to 100,000 BTU to warm the surrounding space.

Seasonal weather, especially in winter, directly affects outdoor heating. If you find the heat is less than optimal, you may have to add patio heaters to make the space habitable.

Clearly, you realize big energy savings with an indoor fireplace. In addition, due to its 100 percent efficiency, an electric fireplace is even more economical. In contrast, the average efficiency of an outdoor wood-burning fire pit is only about 20 percent. That means that 80 percent of your fuel cost goes up the chimney.

A gas fireplace may be far more efficient but still falls short of 100 percent. The waste products include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other toxic fumes.

A MagikFlame fireplace does not emit any toxins. Because no combustion takes place, there are zero byproducts. It is a vent-free appliance. Instead, you can enjoy the cozy ambiance of 30 realistic flame styles, the real sounds of a crackling fire, and heartwarming infrared heat without stepping outdoors. The secret behind the realism that makes MagikFlame unique is its patented HoloFlame technology.

MagikFlame Electric Fireplace Buying Guide

Each freestanding MagikFlame electric fireplace comes complete with a furniture-quality wood surround with classic design elements. The Trinity, for example, features elegant fluted side posts topped with triangular corbels and bull-nose edge details.

Find out more about all of the MagikFlame freestanding fireplaces as well as the electric fireplace insert. See the buying guide for all the details on this environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient fireplace.

When comparing the outdoor fireplace options with a MagikFlame electric indoor fireplace, consider that MagikFlame:

  • Is UL-certified for safety
  • Emits no fumes and requires no venting
  • Poses minimal to no fire danger
  • Is safe around children and pets
  • Is an all-season alternative, with or without heat
  • Is maintenance-free

Once you know all the facts, the final decision is yours. Even if you opt to go ahead with an outdoor masonry fireplace investment, be sure to add a MagikFlame indoors too for lower fuel bills, lovely ambiance and years of trouble-free enjoyment.

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