The Backyard Transformation
Outdoor fireplace design was on my mind from the beginning but how it happened was luck on my part. Sometimes an opportunity to step into the do it yourself (DIY) world leads to a fantastic learning experience and you have to grab it by the horns.
I was standing in my house years ago looking out the window into my backyard and I knew something was missing. We had even worked on the backyard for a couple years and felt done. I walked out the sliding glass door onto my drab grey patio and took it all in. My backyard is exactly 60’ wide and 60’ deep. Our 5′ tall cinder block perimeter wall is the usual property division method in southern Arizona.
The primary addition to the backyard was a pool which was surrounded by brown landscape rock. Flagstone was laid down as the extension of the concrete patio at the back of the house. At the back corners of the flagstone were knee high planters constructed from stackable prefab blocks. The right side of the yard was bare and needed something else. The planter looked a bit out of place and it wasn’t that interesting. I needed balance and aesthetics.
Outdoor Fireplace Design Explained
My wife and I had seen outdoor fireplaces and fire pits on image searches while perusing landscape websites and I strongly considered one of these fire structures. I had knowledge of masonry construction but had never built anything large scale. We decided that a fireplace largely outweighed the fire pit idea after discussing our backyard layout. We wanted the larger focal point so the fireplace was our decision.
I called several masonry contractors and to my surprise, the costs were a lot more than I thought they would be. The contractors provided quotes for thousands and thousands of dollars and I frankly couldn’t afford that. I subsequently ended up using some of my computer drawing skills to sketch a fireplace. My wife massaged the design a bit…well, actually a lot. In the end, we had a beautifully drawn corner design with interesting angles and cool curves. It had an arched firebox and large side shelves along with a wide stance hearth, which led to a great looking design.
The Construction Begins
A week later were ready to build and we started prepping the space. First, the planter was removed followed by cutting the edge of the flagstone patio off with a diamond blade. I then poured a concrete pad for the fireplace foundation after framing up the footprint of the structure. We then bought the block and mortar needed. Construction started and before we knew it, we had a great looking partial structure in grey form. Mortar stains, pieces of cut block, and the occasional cut finger were all part of the process. We ultimately cleaned up the mortar, collected the block remnant, and applied the Band-Aids. Soon, the naked grey structure was approaching rough build completion. The firebox was lined with firebrick and then wires were routed for the low voltage lighting.
My wife found a great veneer from El Dorado Stone and subsequently that was added to the front vertical surfaces. I applied stucco to the sides and back of the structure because cost savings were important. This two-material approach to the outside of the structure definitely made it so the veneer portions of the fireplace became the focus.
We painted the stucco with a nice earth tone color that complimented the backyard and grout was added between the veneer stones. Smooth cut flagstone topped the seating surface and four lights were added to the hearth for that extra nighttime pizzazz.
Time for Relaxation
Our first fire was amazing and the fireplace drafted beautifully.
This was a decade ago and the beginning of Backyard Flare, LLC, helping other homeowners in outdoor fireplace design. In conclusion, start your planning and design and figure out if a fireplace is right for your outdoor space. It is a great experience.
Author – Dan Heston
Backyard Flare, LLC
Check out www.backyardflare.com for some great outdoor fireplace design ideas and construction plans that will help you get over the hurdle of figuring it out on your own.