Outdoor fire pits are not for everyone - or every place. They're warming and create a unique ambience after dark.
They also present a hazard if not used properly.
Outdoor fire pits include chimeneas, hearth styles and rings. They're wonderfully welcoming on cool evenings and just as enjoyable for their good looks during summer, too. Before you begin shopping, you may wish to consider the space available for a fire pit. Construction is a second consideration as each of the materials on today's market has different maintenance pros and cons.
Safety Always Comes First
When you're ready to enjoy the warmth of a fire pit, location is first and foremost. These units need to be placed well away from any structures or overhangs. That includes tree branches and vegetation. A stable surface is also ideal to prevent tipovers. If you have active young children, these might not be the best idea, either.
Cast aluminum and cast iron are the most popular materials in chimeneas and pits for many reasons. The former is lighter in weight and an economical investment for home use. The latter is generally popular in commercial locations. They'll last much longer, but are not as easily relocated when the wind changes direction or you want to cart it to another location. Cast iron will eventually begin to rust while cast aluminum does not.
Copper is another choice that is very beautiful when new and as it develops its characteristic patina. Any of the above choices is excellent for longevity and minimal care.
Clay chimeneas may provide plenty of ambience, but they're simply not as safe to use as other material choices. They also require careful maintenance, or they'll disintegrate. You can still enjoy this great style along with hearths and pits, though.
Some models also include grilling racks, so you can throw on hot dogs or other foods over an open fire.
Find Your Style
Chimeneas as very decorative and bring traditional Mexican appeal to your outdoor decor. Because of their taller chimney stacks and single openings, smoke drifts up and away, making it more pleasant to sit and enjoy the heat. Beware smaller stacks as they won't be as efficient in wisping the smoke away.
In many ways, chimeneas are much safer than pits and hearths, which makes them generally legal to use about everywhere. A sudden gust won't cause a spray of sparks due to the closed bulb design.
Hearth styles can be enclosed with a single opening or feature an open "surround" design. Everyone can enjoy the flames from every angle. The drawbacks are smoke and faster heat dissipation, which means more work tending to the logs. This is also part of the fire hazard as wind can send dangerous sparks flying. The same applies to open ring styles. Check with local authorities to be sure these are not illegal to use in your area.
Consider a propane or gas unit, if you have the facilities, and you can enjoy fake logs - not the real thing, but much safer. Gel inserts can also give you a glow. If you're grilling, briquettes will provide a fast and hotter fire.
Wood - the Real Deal
The aroma wafting from a wood-burning fire is so enticing. You should use only firewood that would go in an indoor fireplace or be acceptable for a smoker. That means seasoned hardwoods only. Never use green wood, treated lumber, or evergreens.
More Information on Firepits & Chimeneas
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