The magic of a year-round outdoor fireplace: Tips from EP Henry

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Visions of fireside dining at elegant restaurants and hosting parties for 20 with a wood-burning fireplace at the center of the action have become a distant memory as the pandemic continues to restrict normal activities. For some homeowners eager to preserve the literal and figurative warmth of these traditions, an increasingly attractive option is to build an outdoor fireplace.

Visions of fireside dining at elegant restaurants and hosting parties for 20 with a wood-burning fireplace at the center of the action have become a distant memory as the pandemic continues to restrict normal activities. For some homeowners eager to preserve the literal and figurative warmth of these traditions, an increasingly attractive option is to build an outdoor fireplace.

“What I'm finding is that people have decided to invest in their homes and create a ‘staycation’ in their own backyards,” says Glenn Porto, president of The Landscape Architects Inc. “The magic of an outdoor fireplace is that it creates a dramatic focal point and cozy space for relaxing, extends outdoor living throughout the seasons, and gives people motivation to be outside even in cooler weather.”

Outdoor fireplaces can set a romantic scene for couples wanting to hibernate from the world or serve as a luxurious backdrop for small family gatherings. They also act as a visual barrier by providing privacy from neighboring properties and as a physical barrier that can block the wind when positioned properly.

“When building a pavilion or pergola, we often include an outdoor fireplace to complete the setting,” notes Porto, a Pennsylvania registered landscape architect whose Richboro-based design build company services Greater Philadelphia. “The main considerations are to respect local building codes and exercise care when building near combustible surfaces.”

Even when using an experienced contractor to build their outdoor fireplace, homeowners should make sure they understand the safest place to locate it. When situated with sufficient distance from trees, fireplaces generally present a lower safety risk than fire rings and fire pits because smoke and sparks are drawn up the chimney (though safety extinguishing plans are still necessary).

Fireplace kits can make the work easier, offering homeowners the choice of a larger, elegant kit or a more compact one to fit a smaller outdoor space. Custom-built fireplaces can use modular systems as a solid starting point. Options from Isokern, for example, come in standard and larger sizes and can be customized with Cast Stone Wall finishes.

It’s smart to calculate labor, materials and permit costs upfront to determine if the installation makes sense as a DIY project or is better suited for a contractor to handle. When weighing the expense of creating a permanent outdoor fireplace, homeowners should also remember to factor in the likelihood that the amenity will boost property value if they choose to sell their home in the future.
Either way, the magical rewards are immediate, adds Porto. “Given the current climate,” he says, “what's better than being outdoors roasting marshmallows with family or spending a relaxing evening outside curled up near the fire?”

About EP Henry
EP Henry is the oldest American family-owned and operated manufacturer of unit concrete products in North America. Based in Woodbury, New Jersey, EP Henry manufactures a wide range of Hardscaping paving stone and retaining wall products, including Solidia ECO pavers and ColorTech™ integrally sealed paving stones offering advanced protection and enhanced color. EP Henry also offers outdoor kitchen kits, garden wall solutions, design ideas and more to homeowners throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. For more information, visit EPHenry.com or call 800-44-HENRY (800-444-3679).

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