It seems these last few months of showing homes for sale in Calvert, Anne Arundel, & St Mary’s County in Southern Maryland, that no longer will a wood deck with a barbecue do for most buyers. They wish to enjoy their back yards a little more and extend their living space through these colder months. Only a small percentage of the homes that we toured actually had a desirable feature like this in the backyard, and it seems every time we came across a home for sale that showcased one of these unique elements, especially in the photos and marketing, it caught the eye of each of my clients.
These days, exterior accessorizing, home staging, and home maximizing includes amenities like ponds, flower beds, vegetable gardens, outdoor kitchens, and, increasingly, these fire pits that crackle and glow…and, you don’t have to break the bank to get one.
A fire pit can extend back yard use through cool summer evenings, fall, and winter. Buyers and homeowners are especially interested in features that make entertaining more appealing. In fact, fire pits have become so popular that some builders construct them as part of the package for their higher-priced homes and they are an added attraction for prospective home buyers. So, grab some marshmallows and let’s check out a simple and inexpensive way to create this in your own backyard!
Things to consider when adding a fire pit
Of course, a fire pit can be had without spending top dollar. Because styles, sizes, and materials abound, your choices should be based on your space at hand, budget and, of course, local ordinances.
Here’s what else to consider before planning a fire pit and dreaming of cool, moonlit nights with some s’mores:
How much to spend.
Costs can be as low as $100 if you plan for a small fire pit, buy your own stones and dig the hole yourself; or if you purchase a simple unit at a big box store. But they certainly can also go up to several thousand dollars, especially when seating is added. Still, they’re less costly than an outdoor fireplace (another growing trend), which can run upwards of $10,000, depending on construction method, height, width, and materials.
Permanent vs. portable.
A good way to begin planning is to think in terms of permanence, says Landscape Designer Laurie VanZandt. Do you want a fire pit that is built in — a focal point in the yard — or something that’s lightweight and potentially portable, so you can take it where you want your gathering?
For a built-in design, you generally want to match materials in the garden or house. You can do a DIY job and assemble materials yourself; go with a pre-made kit from a big box store that comes with everything you need; or go fully custom, with a landscape professional or contractor doing the design and building it.
The options for portable fire pits are equally varied. There are fire bowls that come in a variety of materials — copper or stainless steel bowls are usually lighter, but heavier cast iron bowls also do a nice job of radiating heat. Fire tables are similar to bowls, but are often made at coffee table height. There are also chimney-style options (freestanding pieces with a chimney-style vent) that come in a range of materials.
Regardless of which way you go, you need to ensure that you’re using proper stones and materials (something that shouldn’t splinter when the fire heats up). Make it proportional to the size of your yard, and be sure you have room for seating and circulation.
Wood or gas.
While there are alternate fuel types like gel fuels, wood or gas seem to be the most common choices. Those who favor a true outdoor smell usually prefer burning real logs, but that requires keeping flames going (and not letting them escape), says VanZandt, who recommends a screen in that case. It also requires a steady supply of firewood.
An alternative is to use gas or propane for an instant fire—maybe even powered with a remote switch–though it’s not as hot as a wood fire and you don’t get the same crackle and smoke, explains VanZandt. Some dual-fuel fire bowls and tables let you do both; and you can design a built-in fire pit to do the same if you have the inclination and budget.
What to set it on.
It’s best to set a set a portable fire pit atop a natural surface such as concrete, stone, gravel, brick, slate, or a fire-resistant composite, the experts say. Putting it on a wood deck can be dangerous if embers fly. A permanent fire pit is typically built on a base of gravel somewhere in the back yard.
Where to set up your fire pit.
Many communities require a minimum of a 10-foot distance from your house and neighbors’ yards. Some don’t require a permit if the fire pit fits within set size requirements; others require a site inspection from local fire officials to make sure your proposed location is safe (away from fences, structures, overhanging branches, etc). And, some communities have outright bans on open fires. Check with local officials before you do anything.
How to create the right ambiance.
To get maximum night enjoyment, consider installing outdoor lighting near the pit. Make it subtle to avoid destroying the camp-fire mood, advises VanZandt. Energy-efficient LEDs can be plugged into a nearby outlet without making it necessary for you to hire an electrician, she says. And consider seating: Maybe metal chairs in a classic Adirondack style, or a low stone wall that’s at least 18 inches high, 12 inches wide, and 2 feet from the pit for safety.
Here are easy how-to instructions on building your own stone fire pit:
Cost: $1200 (for an appox. 15×15-foot patio with a 66-inch fire pit)
Tools and Materials
- Marking Paint
- Wooden stakes
- Paving stones
- A fire pit kit
- Industrial adhesive
- Push broom
Hammer a stake in the center of the area that you have selected for the patio/fire pit area.
Attach a string to the top of it and then roll it out to outer edge of the desired width and cut. While holding a can of spray paint and the string walk in a circle and mark the outer edge with spray paint.
Dig out four inches of soil from the entire area.
Add two inches of gravel and compact it into place then add two inches of base sand and compact it. If you desire the top of the paving stones to be level with the ground, then you will need to add the thickness of the paver to the depth that you dig out.
Lay out your pavers in the desired pattern. Pour finishing sand on top of the stones and work into the joints with a push broom. Keep adding sand till all of the joints are filled to the top.
Hint: Figure out the radius of your circle by measuring from the center point to the outer edge. Now to find the square footage of the circle you will need to multiply 3.14 x radius x radius = square footage. Now figure out the coverage of each paver and divide that into your square footage to find out how many pavers you will need.
Layout your pavers in the desired pattern. Pour finishing sand on top and work into the joints with a push broom. Keep adding sand until all of the joints are filled to the top.
Drive a stake in the middle of the circle, where you want the fire pit to be. Lay the first course of blocks 24 inches from it.
Continue till you complete the circle. Place the next two rows with the blocks staggering the intersection of the two blocks on the row below.If your kit came with a metal ring, place it inside the circle
Now remove one block at a time from the top row and glue it to the two blocks below. You can use an industrial adhesive such as Liquid Nails.
For a list of homes for sale in Dunkirk, Owings, Sunderland, Huntingtown, Chesapeake Beach, North Beach, Prince Frederick, Lusby, Saint Leonard, St Leonard, Port Republic, Broomes Island, Solomons Island, Hughesville, California, Leonardtown, Lothian, Crofton, Gambrills, Deale, Rosehaven, Traceys Landing, Annapolis, or anywhere in Maryland, please contact Jessica Adams with RE/MAX 100, Full-Time Realtor & Real Estate Agent, or SEARCH MLS on this website (without OR without firepits 🙂
Some Information/Photos Courtesy of www.homedepot.com (home depot) and http://blog.allstate.com