After a long day at the beach or in the pool, there’s no better way to relax once the sun goes down than sipping a glass of wine with good friends around a backyard firepit or fireplace. But who has the time to dig the ditch, collect the stones, and get enough wood and lighter fluid to get those flames going – let alone lay brick and put in a hearth?
Luckily, all-in-one outdoor firepits and fireplaces are easier to get installed and more popular than ever before. But how do you choose? We checked in with Matthew Lawrence, whose family has been selling firepits and fireplaces at Taylor’s Hearth and Leisure on Hempstead Turnpike in Franklin Square since 1995, to get the low down on how to get your backyard fired up.
What’s the Difference?
This is the simplest question you need to ask yourself. And we’re here to help.
Outdoor fireplaces are for people looking to sit in front of a fire instead of around it. Their design is more elegant, and they tend to be more of a statement in your yard. They are more expensive to install, as they include a chimney for the smoke to be directed up through, but it can still take up less space, as it is usually built up against a wall as opposed to being centered on a patio.
A firepit is more conducive to gatherings in that “cooking-hot-dogs-around-a-campfire” sort of way. As such, they are built to be more interactive, allowing for the production of s’mores, for instance, and allowing for seating around it.
Gas or Wood?
Firepits come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing is certain when you’re lighting it up: it needs a source of carbon to burn. The three choices in today’s firepits are good old-fashioned wood, natural gas like the stuff pumped into your home to run your stove, or propane, which usually comes in those refillable metal tanks they have outside of your local hardware store every spring.
Each has its own advantages, but Lawrence says that for the sake of convenience, it’s best to spend the extra money on gas or propane, which can save on aggravation down the road.
“With gas heaters, you can choose from a variety of firepits, outdoor fireplaces, infrared wall mounted heaters, standing infrared heaters, standing pyramid flame heaters, and more,” Lawrence said. “These units can be hooked up directly to a natural gas line or to a portable propane tank. Some even include hidden storage features for an external propane tank.”
Though gas heaters cost a bit more, the luxury of not having to put too much work into maintenance is always a plus.
Still, some prefer an old-school feel for their fires, and for that, nothing is as rustic and comforting as the scent wafting from a wood-burning firepit, which also comes in many shapes and sizes.
“You can choose from custom or factory-built outdoor fireplaces,” Lawrence said. “It can be as simple as plug and play, or it can be completely custom-built.”
After you’ve chosen your heater’s source, you can choose what you want out of your heating element.
Relaxed or Pumped
Firepits can create an ambiance that can get your guests in relaxation mode, but new firepit technologies can also get the blood – and the music – pumping.
New musical firepits can actually be party starters.
“Some are sound reactive and come with a full sound system with multi-colored LED accent lights,” Lawrence said. “The flames move to the beat of the music.”
And the music isn’t limited to firepits. Outdoor fireplaces now also have the option of getting a groove on while giving off some heat.
“Accompanied by a vivacious and eye-catching flame, the units are offered in a polished stainless-steel finish for outdoor applications,” he said.