No artificial light source matches the comforting glow of a controlled fire. Fire brings instant coziness and extends your deck’s potential for use. Firelight is most appealing at night, encouraging after-hours use of your outdoor room. Fires also take the chill out of spring and fall evenings. Most homeowners don’t think about including a fireplace or fire pit when planning their deck. But it’s easy enough to do, in either new or existing installations.

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An outdoor fireplace makes an excellent addition to an outdoor room. Unlike interior fireplaces, which are built into a wall, most outdoor fireplaces are freestanding, although some are built into walls or hillsides and double as retaining walls. Made of mortared brick or stone, outdoor fireplaces resemble conventional fireplaces. A hearth provides a fireproof safeguard against burning embers that tumble out. Andirons hold logs in place. A fire screen contains sparks that fly from burning logs and exploding embers. A damper controls drafts. If you like, include a rotisserie and a brick-lined warming oven in the plan, and use your fireplace for cooking and keeping food hot.

Build the outdoor fireplace to suit the way you use your outdoor living area—as a warming place near the pool or the backdrop for an outdoor room. Whether you construct your fireplace of masonry, firebrick, or other material, it should match the style of your home. Choose a rustic look with a wide stone ledge mantel for a log home. Or design a neat brick structure if your home is more traditional Cover masonry with a stuccolike finish, if you prefer, but consult a contractor about fire retardation before applying finishes. Cap the chimney as you would a house chimney and screen it to keep out birds and animals. Dress up the mantel with potted greenery, flowers, and natural treasures such as driftwood and attractive stones for summer appeal when the fireplace is not in use.

An overwhelming Accent?

Outdoor fireplaces are imposing features that draw attention year-round. Remember to treat your fireplace as a focal point so its presence doesn’t overwhelm vour deck. Position it where it won’t compete with other accents.

Follow this guideline: Step into your proposed or existing deck space. Glance around. What do you see! An outdoor fireplace and chimnev will probably dominate the scene. If that’s the case, plan to put other items of interest, such as a sculpture, a fountain, or outstanding specimen plants, where people won’t see them within the same initial glance.

Fires and codes

Before building a fireplace or fire pit into your deck plans, check local regulations first. Many communities have setback and construction requirements as well as seasonal burning rules. Arid, fire-prone areas may restrict outdoor fires altogether.

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