Adding a firepit can transform an ordinary space into one that is inviting and warm, keeping you outside on cool summer nights
If you enjoy fireside entertaining – or simply staring into flickering flames as the moon rises – you probably recognise the need for a fiery focal point in your outdoor landscape design.
A firepit is an obvious and affordable solution.
“They provide warmth, light, a cooking source and an ambient atmosphere for entertaining, unwinding and appreciating nature,” says Cape Town architect Liz Davies.
How do I choose what to install?
Adding a fire feature can be as cost-effective and basic as a firepit made from brick, concrete or stone or as elaborate as a marble-encased fireplace – it depends on the look you are after and how much you are prepared to spend. Another practical solution for urban areas is a brazier, a portable, elevated firebowl with a wire or mesh screen that can be used in a variety of spaces to add instant atmosphere.
Decide whether your outdoor space is more suited to a built-in firepit or a portable one that can be moved, depending on weather conditions and activities.
“While portable firepits offer flexibility, built-in firepits offer a better variety of finishing materials, such as concrete, stone and brick,” says Davies.
Small, round firepits are the most popular because they encourage guests to sit around them and chat, while square firepits look classy and are useful for formal, structured gardens. Rectangular firepits are best as backdrops for a water feature or a swimming pool and they’re generally big enough to warm large groups.
A firepit’s multi-functionality adds to its appeal. Instead of simply being a decorative heat source, some firepits can be temporarily converted into a grill. More solid, permanent versions of the traditional pit can be converted into tables when not in use by simply placing a sturdy cover over them.
But aren’t they dangerous?
When used properly, firepits should not present a fire hazard. They should be built with sturdy walls that help to contain the heat and flames. Many homeowners worry about placing firepits on their wooden decks. Gas models shouldn’t pose a problem on these surfaces but make sure you’re aware of – and stick to – the gas installation regulations.
For safety’s sake, put your outdoor firepit in a position that’s sheltered from prevailing winds. You’ll also want open flames a safe distance from the house, any other buildings and overhanging trees. Finally, choose a spot that’s fairly level and well drained.
And what about storage?
Whether your fire feature is a firepit in the garden or a formal fireplace on a veranda or patio, think about how you’re going to store your wood. Choose to keep logs in weatherproof baskets or recessed wall shelves but bear in mind that storage should be considered a part of the overall theme of the fire area. Not only does stacking timber add an interesting element to your outdoor space, it keeps it dry and close to hand.