Outdoor Fire Pits
Fire Pit ShapesIn our Kansas City climate, a fire pit or fireplace adds warmth to a living area, often extending the season for use in the fall, winter, and early spring months. A Kansas City fire pit design is typically circular, square, or rectangular in shape; however, free-form shapes also are used. In our Kansas City fire pit designs, the shape of a fire pit is generally configured around the home itself, the feel of the space in its setting, and the desired usage.
For example, a large family with kids may prefer a fire pit with seating all around, so a circular fire pit works well for maximum seating. If the home itself has a very linear design in its architecture, the radius fire pit must be used with caution, so as not to compete. Circular fire pits are usually placed in a circular part of a patio, often with a small, built-in seat wall on one end. In the case of a square fire pit, the patio area around the fire pit will generally be square with a seat wall around it or in the middle of a larger patio space. The circular shaped fire pit feels either more natural or slightly modern (depending on the setting, elements used to detail the pit).
Fire Pit HeightThe height of a fire pit is typically 12″ to 18,” although a lower fire pit design is also used. The typical benefit to using a 12″ height on a fire pit is that one can rest one’s feet on the hearth around the fire pit with ease. It’s also a comfortable height for kids, which offers both safety and accessibility to the fire pit. The relative low setting allows more heat to emit to the surrounding area than taller fire pits. The 18″ height is generally used when a client is “ambitious” about their fires and wants to move into bonfire mode. It’s also preferred when natural wood is used versus gas as it knocks down wind and retains ash better. The lower fire pit height lets more heat out to the surrounding area, but can be problematic somewhat with wind if using wood instead of gas.
Fire Pit ModesIn Kansas City, fire pit modes are wood-burning, gas, and combination. About half our clients have us install wood-burning fire pits. The ambiance and fun involved in stoking the fire, watching the flames and coals, and even cooking over an open wood fire is unmatched. The wood-burning fire pit requires cleaning of ash on occasion and can be limited due to wind. Yet, the fragrance of burning hickory or oak on a fresh night and the warmth around a crackling fire is what generally leads our clients to choose a wood burning fire pit.
The gas fire pit in Kansas City can be used even in windy conditions. The consistency of the gas flame, along with the ease of control of the heat and not having to clean up ash is what draws our clients to a gas fire pit. Gas fire pits can be filled with custom burners made from iron, burners hidden under lava rock, natural stone, and even stained, crushed fire-proof glass. So, gas fire pits are used frequently when a somewhat artistic, abstract, or even modern design is desired.
Fire Pit DesignIn Kansas City, each of our fire pit designs is intended to connect with the features and feel of the home, the setting of the back yard, and the desired use of the client. A client with a century-old home along Ward Parkway will typically use brick or stone (both are found commonly in the architecture) to build the fire pit. In South Johnson County, some of our clients want a more modern and/or clean look so we finish the fire pit with stucco and implement a strong geometric shape to the fire pit. A fire pit that is set in a backyard with a more natural feel may be built using natural stone. On almost all our fire pits, we use a native limestone for caps and hearth seating. Typically, fire pits are designed within a couple meetings; however, complex shapes and sizes and applications may require formal, engineered plans. Either way, the client is involved through the design process so that the fire pit feels like a part of the original home design.
Fireplace Design and ConsiderationsKeeping in mind all of the aforementioned, fireplaces are a much more substantial structure with some unique benefits. First, outdoor fireplaces can knock down the wind and be a wall of sorts. In addition, the majority of the smoke is carried away in the flue. The structural nature of the fireplace can be tied in with the home in such a way that really feels like it’s an extension of the home. Lastly, fireplaces have a certain ambiance that fire pits have to a lesser degree. Fireplace hearths are generally at seat height and are typically over-sized for comfy seating.
With the climate in Kansas City, fire pits and fireplaces add many days of fun and warmth for any outdoor living area.
Check out our firepit and fireplace photo gallery!