POOLS, SPAS & PATIOS ARTICLE: GOOD FOOD AND WARM FIRE PART #5
Good food and a warm fire: Design and material considerations
One of the first considerations you will make when installing a fireplace feature in your backyard landscaping project is the type of fuel it will use. Wood is traditional and provides the most heat output. In fact, wood-burning fireplaces can be positioned where a gas line is impractical or too expensive to install. On the downside, however, they require a chimney and from a positioning standpoint, they are not as easy to incorporate into a backyard design as gas unit. This is due to building restrictions like setbacks. They are also a little messier with respect to wood debris and ashes that you will need to clean up periodically.
Gas units have the convenience of instant on/off functionality, sometimes even with a remote control, and are clean burning. Current units are direct vent, which means they draw combustion air from the front of the unit, eliminating the need for a chimney. In this regard, clearances and positioning is often less restrictive, as well.
Gas and wood-burning fireplaces can use a manufactured insert, which allows them to be built into a structure made from a combination of traditional wood framing with other zones made from fire-rated materials such as cement board and steel studs. These setbacks are outlined in the manufacturers install guide. The exterior can then be finished in cultured stone, tile, brick veneers, or stucco—a choice that is often dictated, to some degree, by your home’s design or perhaps the architectural controls for the area.
In Calgary, for example, cultured stone is common on home exteriors and on interior features such as fireplaces as well, so it makes a good choice for a finished material. Caps, hearths, and mantels can be made from the same ‘family’ of materials for a finished continuous look. If you choose a wood-burning fireplace, it is a good idea to incorporate wood storage as well as a hearth into the design so you will have a place to perch when preparing the fire. Otherwise, there are many other design elements than can be added like a nook for an art piece, a surround detail comprising contrasting stone, adding a pergola, or a variety of profiles for the overall shape.
Many homeowners also want to display a piece of art on the face of the fireplace or add other individual touches. At this stage of the design, 3D software can really help to bring these intricate details to life.
Grill station material and construction is similar to fireplaces, as care must be taken to construct the required portion around the grill from fire-rated materials. Counters can be made from a variety of materials, but solid surface materials such as granite typically provide the best results. Granite is a hard, durable material in the outdoors and is low maintenance.
Darker colours are recommended as they tend to be the densest and, therefore, least permeable, but you should note your countertop may also feel warmer to the touch than lighter colours on hot days. Applying a leather finish to granite is another good option, as it gives the surface a texture and more matte finish, which reduces the appearance of dirt or smudges, and is not as reflective in bright sunlight. This process is done after the stone is honed and shaped to it’s final dimensions by buffing with diamond bristle pads of varying grits. This removes the softer stone leaving the harder stone, like quartz, behind resulting in a leather-like texture. The suitability of a leather finish is quite subject to the stone chosen, but there are usually lots of options available for that.
Finally, one option that is available on some outdoor kitchen stations is an under-grill cabinet. These are worth considering as they provide a space where all the necessary connections can be made, as well as provide storage, often drawers, in a unit that is simple to install and results in a clean, finished look.
Whether you choose a gas or wood-burning fireplace or a deluxe grill over a smoker, you will not regret outfitting your backyard landscaping project with these special lounge and entertaining features. Food and a warm fire never go out of style.
Originally published in Pools, Spas & Patios - 2018 Annual Issue.
Download the entire original article. Pool and Spas 2018 fire.pdf1.37 MB