Building an outdoor fireplace is a very Kiwi tradition. Go to almost any home with an outdoor area and you'll like see a home-built outdoor fireplace there. Many will look pretty professional too.
This isn't a DIY fireplace
Even though they're cheap to build and kick out a bit of heat what are the downsides to building your outdoor fireplace, and why might buying one be a better long-term option?
Most outdoor fireplaces lack the steel firebox that a professional fireplace will have. This means that a lot of the heat is lost through the bricks and will heat those bricks up as the fire continues. This is good in a house, where the bricks trap the heat and release it long after the fire has gone out. An outdoor fireplace, however, doesn't need to dissipate the heat once the fire has gone out so this is wasted energy.
Chimney to firebox ratio
The width and height of your chimney will effect how much air it can pull up from the firebox, drawing smoke up and away from the people sitting around the fire. A chimney that is too small, for example, won't draw enough smoke. A chimney that's too wide will suck too much heat and air up through it. Either will result in a fireplace people don't want to hang around for too long! A professional fireplace has an ideal chimney to firebox ratio, neither burning too quickly or allowing smoke to dwell low.
If you've ever sat around an outdoor fireplace and seen flames coming out the top of the chimney then the fireplace has not been built correctly. This may look impressive but it posts a number of hazards, and is a clear indicator that the fire isn't working efficiently. More wood is being burned to produce the same amount of heat, 3-5 times more wood in some cases. Even if you're able to access firewood at little or no cost it still means more time putting logs on the fire, and less time sitting and enjoying the fire!
The materials you use need to be heat resistant or able to handle excessive heat exposure. Without the proper protection many finishes will crack leaving a finish that looks shoddy, or needs to be redone multiple times. For peace of mind, and usually a guarantee, you're best to buy from a reputable source.
Safety & compliance
A boring subject, we know. But what's the fun in building an outdoor fireplace if it has to come down later because it doesn't meet local laws, or is unsafe for children and guests? Mesh doors are a great ways of making sure small hands don't reach in and grab hot coals when you're done using the fireplace. But not many home-built fireplaces have a door that will fit. There are many areas in New Zealand where only compliant wood fires are permitted, have you tried to self-build a gas fireplace?
If you buy all you need to do is pour a concrete pad, or have a friend do it. Then the fireplace is delivered and set on the pad leaving you to finish it in brick, render or stone, light it and enjoy. Building might seem like a fun project, but there are probably a dozen other things you could be doing with your time.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we know but many home-built outdoor fireplaces lack that style element that makes them a true centerpiece. When selecting a professional outdoor fireplace you're looking at the same fireplace that designers, stylists and architects choose for their homes. A real outdoor fireplace should draw a crowd even when it's not lit.
Tried & Tested
Sometimes you don't know what you don't know. Professional fireplaces have been tried and tested in a variety of environments and have withstood those tests. When you build your outdoor fireplace is it going to stand the test of time?
Cooked to perfection
Our fireplaces come with a cooking grill so you can sizzle some delicious appetisers over the fire while your guests get settled. Building a removable grill into one you build yourself will be a bit of a hassle.
Partner SAFE & CHEAPER
Avoid hearing "I told you we should have just bought one" if anything ever goes wrong with the one you built. If you get your fireplace from us you can even pretend it was your idea. Have no regrets about hidden costs.
If you're looking for efficient, reliable and affordable then look no further than a solidly built outdoor fireplace. Possibly even one from us!
Sources - Chimney Safety Institute of America