Living in the Bay Area, we’re fortunate to have the privilege of enjoying our outdoor spaces year round. A fire feature is a design element that enhances the landscape and the time we spend there. They provide heat, light, and ambiance, the perfect combination for a natural social gathering space. The campfire-like atmosphere promotes conversations between family and guests. Fire features also serve as a focal point within the landscape that can be viewed from interior spaces. There are many options to consider when selecting the perfect fire feature for your application. Such as a custom built-in fire pit or a prefabricated fire table, gas or wood burning, rectangular or round. At Terra Ferma Landscapes we specialize in landscape design of fire pits and features. Below are options to think through when deciding on the perfect fire feature for your landscape.
Built-in Fire Features
If opting for a built-in fire feature, you have the luxury of customizing it to fit your landscape design. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of finished materials that compliment other hardscape elements such as concrete, metal, stone, or brick. Built-in fire features don’t necessarily have to be square or round; they can have an L-shaped configuration, can double-duty as a fire table, or can be an outdoor fireplace. When sizing your new fire feature, keep in mind how many guests you expect to entertain, the size of the structure, circulation adjacent to, and seating arrangement.
Prefab Fire Features
A prefab fire feature is a more cost effective alternative to a built-in fire feature. The installation of a prefab fire feature can be as easy as finding the correct location. In most cases, a pre-fab fire feature can be purchased in a finished state, complete with stone, steel, copper, or concrete facing and cap. Certain pre-fab fire features have the option of running a gas line from your residence to the fire-feature. A plumber can run the gas line from your residence; however running a gas line conduit beneath existing paving can be a difficult task. Other pre-fab fire features have the option of utilizing a liquid propane tank that is concealed within the fire feature itself. The tank is usually accessed by a discreet door. Prefab fire features have the design flexibility of being moved to different spaces within the landscape.
Wood vs. Gas Fueled Fire Features
Wood is the most traditional fuel for fire. Wood burning fire features provide an atmosphere of glowing embers and crackling wood that reminds us of sitting around a campfire telling stories and making s’mores. However, there are drawbacks to wood burning fire features. Wood burning produces smoke which can migrate with changing wind directions and may irritate the eyes of guests. It’s difficult to control a wood burning fire feature compared to a gas fueled fire feature, but wood burning generally produces more heat compared to gas. Wood burning also produces stray embers which can potentially become a fire hazard in certain landscapes. Some municipalities don’t allow wood burning fire features so it’s best to check with your city or town’s planning department.
Natural gas or propane fueled fire features have become the most popular choice. Gas fire features light easily and can be controlled by turning the gas supply up or down. Gas does not emit smoke, sparks, and embers like wood and there is no cleanup of messy ashes. Generally, gas fire features produce less heat than wood burning fire features. In most cases, a gas supply line will need to be run from the residence to the fire feature. Coordinating the installation of the gas supply line prior to construction will save time and money. Installing a gas supply line beneath existing paving can be difficult, so consult with a landscape architect prior to construction. Portable liquid propane tanks are also an option. Liquid propane tanks are generally associated with prefab fire features. The tank is concealed within the fire feature and can be accessed by a small door within the unit. Propane is a great choice for installing a fire feature within an existing outdoor patio space.
Source: Terra Ferma Landscapes