Photo by Jesse Milan

By Dan Fritschen

The warm, gentle weather of the summer months is gradually beginning to wind down, and this is the time when most people pack up their outdoor furniture and close up their outdoor spaces for the winter. It’s a shame that for many people our outdoor patios, decks and gardens are unusable for up to half the year – so if you’re looking for a great way to continue enjoying your yard through the winter months, why not add a firepit?

Adding a firepit can be as easy as buying a ready-made kit, which is a steel bowl that can be easily moved around. The advantages to this lightweight firepit are that it can be stored away, is low-cost and can be transported to wherever you want it. It also doesn’t involve any construction costs or labor.

Adding a bigger, permanent structure creates a nice focal point where you and your loved ones can gather round at any time of year. Before you consider constructing a firepit, check your neighborhood’s homeowners’ association guidelines and any local building ordinances in case the building of firepits is banned or has certain restrictions. Checking with local utilities companies for buried cables is also a wise precaution to take.

If you’re free to continue, first you must select a spot which is fairly sheltered from high winds. An area where smoke is likely to blow back into your home or into your neighbor’s yard is going to cause problems! A good idea is to choose an area and put a flagpole on the spot for a few days to record the wind direction.

The spot you choose should be away from any potential hazards, and a distance of 20 feet from structures and property boundaries is generally recommended; a location a good distance from the house and garage, away from low-hanging tree limbs and wild shrubbery, while not being near to any sheds, fences or garden structures such as gazebos will be safe. You can’t build a firepit directly onto a wooden surface such as a deck, so choose a stone patio or graveled area.

Firepits can either be sunken or raised above the ground, so depending on what you think looks good or which design you really like, you can have it either way. A sunken firepit tends to be a safer option as the hot coals, wood and flames are self-contained; a raised firepit will need to have well-constructed stone walls for safety.

Deciding on the dimensions of your firepit also depends on a number of factors; small, mobile firepits are great because they are compact and easily moved, but a larger firepit can be great for big parties and getting a really good winter fire going. But you’ll also have to take into account the size of your outdoor space and the proximity to hazards – if you want a huge pit but it’s just too close to property lines, then you’ll have to scale back your plans. Ideally, you’ll want your firepit to be between 3-5 feet in diameter for a cozy entertaining space.

The fun part can be choosing materials; facing brick chopped in half will provide a nice curved effect and will also insulate the fire well. However many people prefer to use natural stone for an earthy, natural effect – and with something as primitive as sitting around an open fire, why not go for a rustic theme?

So whether you want an easy, mobile firepit for use whenever you need it or a larger stone pit for entertaining large groups, adding a firepit is a great way to continue enjoying your outdoor space throughout the autumn and winter months.

Check out our Pinterest page for plenty of firepit designs, as well as many more winter home design ideas!