DIY Delight: How to Design and Build an Outdoor Fireplace

Building an outdoor fireplace in your backyard is a perfect way to enhance your outdoor living space, adding both warmth and a cozy ambiance. Whether you have a large yard or a compact patio, a well-designed outdoor fireplace can become the focal point of your gatherings and provide a year-round spot to enjoy the outdoors.

Here’s a quick overview to get you started:

  1. Plan Your Location: Choose a safe, accessible spot, away from overhanging trees and flammable structures.
  2. Check for Permits: Contact your local permitting office and check for any codes or restrictions.
  3. Gather Materials: Be sure to have cinder blocks, veneer stone, refractory mortar, and essential tools like a trowel and level.
  4. Build the Foundation: Lay a sturdy, level concrete slab.
  5. Construct the Structure: Stack cinder blocks for the base and firebox, then finish with veneer stone for a polished look.
  6. Safety Features: Ensure proper ventilation and use a spark arrestor to prevent fires.

Fireplace Building Process - how to build a fireplace infographic step-infographic-4-steps

I’m Bob Berriz, and with over 30 years of experience in custom home and outdoor space design, I have helped many homeowners realize their dreams of building stunning and functional fireplaces. I’m excited to guide you through the steps to create an outdoor fireplace that enhances your space with timeless beauty and quality craftsmanship.

Planning Your Outdoor Fireplace

Choosing the Right Location

Selecting the perfect spot for your outdoor fireplace is crucial. Start by considering the backyard or patio area where you want to place it. Ensure the location is at least 10 to 30 feet away from your home and 10 feet away from your property line to comply with general safety regulations.

Next, think about the wind direction. Position the fireplace so that the smoke flows away from seating areas and your home. This will make gatherings more comfortable and safer.

Also, consider the proximity to the house. A fireplace closer to the house can make it easier to run utilities, but it might limit design options. A spot further away offers more freedom but may involve extra costs for utility extensions.

Obtaining Necessary Permits

Before you break ground, check with your local permitting office for any local regulations. You may need to obtain a building permit and adhere to specific building codes. Some communities have air quality measures that restrict wood-burning fireplaces during poor air quality conditions.

Don’t forget to call 811 before you dig. This free service will mark underground utilities to prevent accidents. It’s not just a good idea—it’s the law.

Design Considerations

When planning your outdoor fireplace, think about both aesthetic and functionality. The design should complement your outdoor space and meet your practical needs.

Materials are a key factor. Choose durable, fire-resistant materials like brick, stone, and mortar. For a polished look, consider veneer stone.

Size matters too. Your fireplace should be proportionate to your space. A fireplace that’s too large can overwhelm a small patio, while a too-small fireplace might not provide enough warmth or visual impact.

Safety is paramount. Ensure proper ventilation and use fireproof materials. Install a spark arrestor to prevent embers from escaping and causing a fire hazard. Be mindful of overhanging trees or structures to avoid potential fire risks.

Outdoor fireplace setting at modern holiday home - how to build a fireplace

By carefully planning your outdoor fireplace’s location, obtaining the necessary permits, and considering key design elements, you’ll create a cozy and functional space that enhances your backyard’s appeal.

Next, let’s dive into the materials and tools you’ll need to bring your outdoor fireplace to life.

Materials and Tools Needed

Building an outdoor fireplace requires careful selection of materials and tools to ensure safety and durability. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need.

Essential Materials

Bricks and Stones
These are the backbone of your fireplace. Choose durable, weather-resistant options like fire bricks or natural stones. They not only provide structural integrity but also add aesthetic appeal.

Mortar
Mortar is the glue that holds your bricks and stones together. Opt for a high-temperature, quick-set mortar to withstand the heat from your fires.

Fireproof Materials
For areas directly exposed to flames, such as the firebox, use fireproof materials. Cement backer boards and fire-rated bricks are excellent choices.

Metal Components
You’ll need metal flue caps and steel angles. These provide structural support and help manage smoke and heat. Rebar is also essential for reinforcing the concrete pad.

Required Tools

Trowel
A trowel is essential for applying and smoothing mortar. It ensures that your bricks and stones are securely bonded.

Level
A bubble level helps you keep everything straight and even. This is crucial for both the foundation and the structure.

Saw
You’ll need different types of saws for various cuts. A circular saw for wood, a hacksaw for metal, and a masonry saw for bricks and stones.

Drill
A drill is necessary for securing metal components and attaching veneer stones to the cement board.

Safety Gear
Protective gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask are non-negotiable. These will protect you from injuries and inhaling harmful particles.

Other Tools
Tamper: For compacting soil and gravel.
Tape Measure: To ensure accurate measurements.
Masonry Hammer: For shaping bricks and stones.
Concrete Trowel: To smooth out the concrete pad.
Shovel: For digging and mixing materials.
Square: To ensure right angles in your structure.
Hoe: For mixing mortar and concrete.
Mortar Mixing Pan: To mix your mortar evenly.
Wood or Metal Stakes: To secure your concrete form.

By gathering these essential materials and tools, you’ll be well-prepared to start building your outdoor fireplace.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Build a Fireplace

Building the Foundation

The foundation is the backbone of your outdoor fireplace. It must be strong and level to support the entire structure.

  1. Dig the Area: Clear and excavate a section in the ground, typically 70 inches long by 56 inches wide. Flatten and level the ground.

  2. Add Gravel: Spread about 2 inches of gravel over the area and tamp it down using a tamper. This helps with drainage and provides a stable base.

  3. Build the Form: Use two-by-sixes to create a concrete form. Cut two sections to 68 inches and two to 40 inches. Nail them together to form a rectangle. Place the form on the gravel and ensure it is square using a bubble level.

  4. Pour the Concrete: Mix quick-set concrete in a mortar mixing pan. Pour half of the concrete into the form, lay rebar around the perimeter, and then pour the rest of the concrete. Smooth it out with a concrete trowel.

  5. Cure the Concrete: Allow the concrete to cure for at least 4-5 days. Remove the form after 1-2 days.

Constructing the Fireplace Structure

Now that your foundation is ready, it’s time to build the fireplace structure.

  1. Lay the First Course of Blocks: Start with a U-shape using seven full-size cinder blocks for the back and sides, and two half-size blocks at the ends. Mortar these onto the concrete pad.

  2. Add Additional Courses: Alternate the blocks for the second course so the seams straddle the middle of the blocks below. Repeat this for the third course, ensuring the structure remains level.

  3. Create the Lintel: Cut a steel angle to 68 inches and place it across the front of the wood box for support.

  4. Lay the Hearth Blocks: Mortar two hearth blocks on top of the wood box, ensuring they are securely in place.

  5. Build the Firebox: Construct the firebox on top of the hearth blocks using the same method as the wood box but on a smaller scale. Add a steel angle cut to 48 inches for additional support.

Installing the Chimney

Proper ventilation is crucial for safety and efficiency.

  1. Install the Flue Vent Liner: Attach a pulling cone and rope to one end of the flue liner. Drop the rope down the chimney and feed the liner down from the top while a helper pulls the rope from below.

  2. Attach the Vent Adaptor: Connect the vent adaptor to the end of the flue vent liner at the fireplace opening.

  3. Add the Chimney Caps: Place two chimney caps side-by-side on top of the firebox. This helps prevent rainwater from entering the chimney.

  4. Ensure Safety Measures: Make sure combustible materials are at least two inches away from the chimney walls. By code, the chimney top must be 2 feet higher than any part of the roof within 10 feet.

Adding Finishing Touches

The final steps will make your fireplace both functional and beautiful.

  1. Apply Mortar: Mortar and add veneer stone to the cement board for a polished look.

  2. Install the Mantel and Hearth: Attach a mantel above the fireplace opening and ensure the hearth extends 18-20 inches beyond the fireplace for safety.

  3. Paint or Stain: Choose a finish that complements your outdoor space. Ensure that your paint or stain is heat-resistant and compliant with safety guidelines.

  4. Add Veneer: Apply brick or stone veneer to give your fireplace a traditional look. This not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but also adds an extra layer of fireproofing.

By following these steps, you’ll create a stunning and functional outdoor fireplace that will be the centerpiece of your backyard.

Next, we’ll explore tips for maintaining your outdoor fireplace to keep it in top condition for years to come.

Tips for Maintaining Your Outdoor Fireplace

Regular Cleaning

Keeping your outdoor fireplace clean is essential for both safety and longevity.

Ash Removal: After each use, remove the ash from the firebox. Too much ash can restrict airflow and make future fires harder to start. Use a metal shovel and bucket to safely dispose of ash.

Soot Cleaning: Soot can build up on the interior walls and chimney. Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub away soot. For stubborn spots, a mixture of water and vinegar can help.

Tool Recommendations: A basic fireplace cleaning kit includes a shovel, brush, and metal bucket. For deeper cleaning, you might need a chimney brush and a vacuum designed for ash.

Annual Inspections

An annual inspection ensures your fireplace is safe and functional.

Professional Inspection: Hire a licensed professional to inspect your outdoor fireplace annually. They can identify potential issues like cracks or blockages that you might miss.

Chimney Sweep: Combine your inspection with a chimney sweep. On average, a chimney sweep costs around $255. This service removes creosote buildup, which can cause dangerous chimney fires.

Safety Checks: Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, these detectors are crucial for alerting you to potential hazards.

Common Repairs

Even with regular maintenance, repairs are sometimes necessary.

Cracks: Over time, cracks can appear in the firebox or chimney. Small cracks can be repaired with refractory cement. For larger issues, consult a professional.

Mortar Repair: Mortar can deteriorate due to heat and weather. Repointing the mortar joints with fresh mortar can extend the life of your fireplace. For best results, use a mortar mix designed for high temperatures.

Brick Replacement: If bricks become loose or damaged, replace them promptly. This prevents further structural damage. Use fire-rated bricks and mortar for any replacements.

By following these maintenance tips, you can ensure your outdoor fireplace remains a safe and enjoyable feature of your backyard.

Next, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about how to build a fireplace, helping you make informed decisions for your project.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Build a Fireplace

What is the easiest type of fireplace to build?

The easiest type of fireplace to build is an electric fireplace. Electric fireplaces are DIY-friendly and cost-effective. They don’t require ventilation, chimneys, or complex masonry work. You can plug them into a standard electrical outlet and enjoy the ambiance of a fire without the hassle of burning wood or managing gas lines.

Electric fireplaces are also versatile. They can be installed in various locations, including existing homes, apartments, and even outdoor spaces. With the wide range of realistic electric fireplace inserts available, you can achieve the look and feel of a traditional fireplace at a fraction of the cost.

Can I build a fireplace in an existing home?

Yes, you can build a fireplace in an existing home, but it involves some considerations:

  • Retrofitting: Adding a fireplace to an existing home often means retrofitting. This process can be complex and may require structural modifications to support the new fireplace and chimney.

  • Permits: You’ll need to obtain the necessary permits from your local building department. This ensures your fireplace meets all safety and building codes.

  • Structural Support: A traditional masonry fireplace requires a strong foundation to support the weight. In many cases, a professional engineer may need to assess your home’s structure to ensure it can handle the additional load.

For a simpler solution, consider installing a gas or electric fireplace insert. These options are less invasive and typically don’t require extensive structural changes.

How much does it cost to build a fireplace?

The cost to build a fireplace varies widely depending on the type and complexity:

  • Electric Fireplace: Installing an electric fireplace is the most affordable option, with costs ranging from $700 to $2,000. This includes the cost of the insert and basic installation materials.

  • Gas Fireplace: A gas fireplace is more expensive, primarily due to the need for ventilation. Costs can range from $2,000 to $5,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the installation and the price of the gas insert.

  • Wood-Burning Fireplace: Building a traditional wood-burning fireplace is the most expensive option. The cost can range from $7,000 to $30,000 or more. This includes materials like brick or stone, labor, and the necessary permits and inspections.

DIY vs. Professional Installation: While DIY projects can save on labor costs, building a fireplace is a complex task that often requires professional expertise. For example, constructing a wood-burning fireplace involves masonry skills, fire safety knowledge, and adherence to building codes. In contrast, installing an electric fireplace is more straightforward and manageable for most DIY enthusiasts.

By understanding these factors, you can better plan your fireplace project and choose the option that best fits your budget and skills.

Conclusion

Building an outdoor fireplace can transform your backyard into a cozy, inviting space that family and friends will love. However, designing and constructing a fireplace involves many steps and considerations, from choosing the right materials to ensuring safety and adhering to local codes.

At Berriz Design Build, we specialize in creating luxurious and timeless outdoor living spaces. Our team is dedicated to providing exceptional customer service throughout the entire process. We understand that every detail matters, from the choice of materials to the final touches that make your fireplace unique.

Luxury and Timeless Beauty

Our approach to outdoor fireplaces is rooted in luxury and timeless beauty. We believe that a well-designed fireplace should not only be functional but also enhance the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space. Whether you prefer a rustic stone look or a sleek modern design, we can bring your vision to life.

Exceptional Customer Service

From the initial consultation to the completion of your project, our team is committed to making the process as seamless and enjoyable as possible. We provide transparent communication, personalized advice, and attention to detail every step of the way. Our goal is to ensure your experience is stress-free, allowing you to focus on enjoying your new outdoor fireplace.

Ready to transform your backyard with a stunning outdoor fireplace? Visit our outdoor fireplaces services page to learn more and get started on your project today. Let’s create a space that you and your family will cherish for years to come.

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