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Keep these basics in mind when pitching fire pits to clients
Jill Odom | October 7, 2016
fire-pit-outdoor-living-areas

Fire pits function essentially the same as outdoor fireplaces but typically cost significantly less.
Photo: Black River Landscape Management

With autumn here, the evenings have a cool nip in the air and the sun disappears sooner, but your clients may not be ready to abandon their outdoor living areas just yet.

One of the most popular features to install in a landscape to extend the amount of time customers spend outdoors is the fire pit. This hot focal piece isn’t going away anytime soon either.

“They’re something that has really taken off,” said Kris Holland, owner of Black River Landscape Management Inc. in Randolph, New Jersey. “They do a lot for your outdoor space and make them more inviting.”

For Holland, typically three out of the four patio projects underway at any time include a fire pit.

There are four main fuel types to choose from, and each has its pros and cons.

fire-pit-patio

There are several fuel options for fire pits, each with its own pros and cons.
Photo: Black River Landscape Management

Natural gas and propane fueled fire pits’ pros are the same. They both light easily and do not give off smoke or embers. Neither are ideal for cooking or roasting, however, and natural gas requires that a gas line be installed while propane uses a tank that needs to be refilled.

Ethanol is the environmentally friendly fuel choice, with no odor or air pollutants, but it gives off less heat than propane, wood or natural gas. It is also not readily available so it’s less likely to be used.

For those wanting warmth and a flame they can cook over, traditional firewood is the best choice. It provides a special ambiance but comes with some safety considerations due to the smoke and flying sparks. It is important to check with the city planning department to see if wood-burning fire pits are allowed, as some areas forbid them.

“I like wood,” Holland said. “I like the smell better and you can roast your marshmallows. People feel accomplished when they start the fire instead of just turning something on.”

While there are a lot of nice kits out there that are easy to build, there are some important design considerations to keep in mind.

The location of a fire pit should be on level ground and needs to be somewhere the flames and sparks cannot reach combustible materials. Spacing around the fire pit needs to provide room for people to move their seating either closer or farther away from the pit.

If your client decides they want built-in seating around the pit, be careful to place them at a comfortable distance.

“Make sure they drain properly,” Holland said. “They should have proper drainage underneath them.”

For custom fire pits, Holland advises the installation of a fire ring to protect the cement from the heat and also the use of fire-retardant brick.

A common mistake that DIYers make when trying to construct fire pits is building with regular landscaping brick.

“They’re not made to handle that high heat and it ultimately causes the fire pit to deteriorate over time,” Holland said.

If you are trying to sell fire pit installation as a service, be sure to tell potential customers a fire pit not only extends the amount of time they can spend outdoors, it also increases the value of their home by making a space more enjoyable.

“My customers use their fire pits for sitting around and relaxing,” Holland said. “Some will gather around to smoke cigars. Others like to roast marshmallows.”

The added bonus of the fire pit is that is has about the same amount of use as an outdoor fireplace, but it is more affordable.

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