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All fired-up about an outdoor fire pit?

Carson Arthur

Carson Arthur

One of the most popular additions to the backyard is the outdoor fire pit with seating around it. Having an area for entertaining that is separate to the patio table has been featured in magazines, websites and all types of social media. Even the designs that I’ve been doing for homes in downtown areas seem to always include high-end wood or gas burning fixtures.

It makes perfect sense to highlight some of the things you may not have thought about when setting up your own backyard hearth.

Before you go any further in exploring if an outdoor fireplace is right for you, check your municipal bylaws. Some areas ban outdoor burning altogether. Others allow outdoor fireplaces, but regulate the smoke to ensure that your neighbours are not disturbed. Some municipalities require that grills be in place so that these fire pits fall under barbecue laws. Just because a store in your area sells you a fireplace doesn’t mean that you can actually use it.

outdoor-fire-pit-carson-2If however you’re like me and love the smell of burning wood, the sound of crackling logs and can spend hours watching flames and coals, then there is nothing like an outdoor wood-burning fireplace. That said, burning wood always comes with lots of risks and rewards. Live fires are unpredictable and as a result, can be dangerous if not handled properly.

When it comes to fire safety, make sure that you allow for at least six feet of space between the edge of the fireplace and the chairs. Sparks can easily fly from natural burning fires. If you don’t have sufficient clearance, choosing a natural gas or propane option would be a safer solution. If you do go with wood burning, then make sure you have either a source of water or a fire extinguisher nearby.

Also consider where the best spot is for your fire pit and what surface it is going on. The best surface solution is always stone. Whether its manmade pavers, natural flagstone or even gravel, stone is perfect for dispersing heat or flying sparks.

I have created fireplaces on wood decks but I always make sure that the area under and around the fire pit is either gravel or concrete. When it comes to locations, wood-burning fire pits need to be away from the house. Smoke always seems to get into open windows or patio doors. Also choose a spot that is away from large trees or anything that is burnable.

Having an outdoor fireplace can be an amazing way to spend an autumn evening or even host an après ski party. Just make sure you do a little research first.


-Landscape designer Carson Arthur is host of HGTV’s new Home to Win show. He is also the outdoor expert with City TV’s Cityline and wrote the sell-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living in 2015. More at
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