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Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Design Ideas for Phoenix, AZ Homes—A Comprehensive Guide

November 16, 2023

A fire feature is a great addition to any outdoor living space. It inspires intimate interactions while keeping everyone warm on chilly Arizona nights. An impeccably fashioned outdoor fireplace or fire pit adds a touch of elegance to its surroundings and can bring immense value to your home.

Outdoor Fireplace Design from Straight Line Landscape

In this blog post, we talk about outdoor fireplace and fire pit ideas to liven up your yard.

Fireplace vs. Fire Pit: Is There a Difference?

Homeowners thinking of having an outdoor fire feature for the first time sometimes confuse a fire pit with a fireplace. Both fixtures are superb choices for beautifying your outdoor area, but they’re different in form and function.

Fire pits are depressions on the ground or a non-combustible vessel where you can make fire. The fire bowl and fire table, a.k.a. fire pit table, are examples of fire pits in non-combustible vessels.

Outdoor fire pits come in round and angular shapes. These fire features don’t have covers blocking the view, so you can talk to anyone around the fire. Modern fire pits make breathtaking decors but emit less heat than standard-size fireplaces.

Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Built by Straight Line Landscape

In contrast, a fireplace has a more complex structure made of the following basic parts:

  • Base: the foundation and hearth support
  • Firebox: the area where fuel is burned; also has the hearth and fireplace opening
  • Smoke chamber: delivers the combustion byproducts to the fireplace outlet
  • Outlet: can be a chimney, which is usually vertical, or a vent, which can run vertically or horizontally
Parts of an Outdoor Fireplace. This stone fireplace was designed and built by Straight Line Landscape.

The materials making up the firebox absorb some of the heat and reflect the rest. Both absorbed and reflected heat radiate outward to warm up the room. So a fireplace is more energy-efficient than a fire pit, which can lose heat to the surrounding air. While fireplaces are good for overall aesthetics, they can have more uses than just keeping your outdoor place cozy.

Outdoor fireplaces can have single or multiple faces. A single-face fireplace opens only to one side, preventing you from seeing the people behind it. A multiple-face fireplace has two or more firebox openings. Like an outdoor fire pit, multiple-face fireplaces let you view people from an opposing seating area.

Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Ideas to Consider for Your Phoenix, AZ Home

Below are some outdoor fireplace and fire pit design ideas that are popular among Phoenix homeowners.

Backyard Fireplace as a Patio or Deck Centerpiece

If you’re working with a smaller plot of land, you can optimize the space available by making the outdoor fireplace the center of your patio or deck. With an elegant stone, brick, or marble structure surrounding it, you’ll be amazed at how a seemingly small change makes a huge impact.

Outdoor Living Room with a Fireplace Built by Straight Line Landscape

Create a cozy seating area by adding a new set of furniture, such as a chaise, hammock, or full table-and-chair set, near the fireplace.

Inside a Pergola or Ramada

A shade structure such as a pergola or ramada can shield you from the sun in the daytime. But desert nights can get chilly, too. That’s why one of the best backyard fireplace ideas for Phoenix, Arizona homes is building one under a shade structure.

Shaded Outdoor Kitchen with a Fireplace. A stone fire pit is built outside the covered area. From Straight Line Landscape.

If the shade structure is big enough, you can also include an extra outdoor activity space under it, such as an outdoor kitchen or recreation room.

Open Backyard Fire Pit Area 

Arizona’s steady climate means you’ll have the opportunity to sit outside frequently, whether you want to gaze at the stars or simply take a breath of fresh air. You can create an evening bonfire feel to match the ambiance by building a fire pit-warmed patio living room.

Gas Fire Pit in an Outdoor Living Room Built by Straight Line Landscape

Couches and a coffee table designed to stand up to the elements can help complete the look, tying it all together for an entertainment space you can easily be proud of.

Fire Pit Seating Area in a Garden

Alternatively, you can build your fire pit amid your garden living room to warm up this part of the landscape at night. The fire feature can add dramatic lighting to such an intimate scenery.

Fire Pit in a Garden Entertainment Space. One of Straight Line Landscape’s gorgeous backyard fire pit ideas

Make the surroundings pop with colors by adding flowery native plants in this area of your home.

Straight Line Landscape can turn your backyard into your sanctuary from crazy-busy workdays. Our designs range from classic to modern or a mixture of both, using materials and plants that thrive in the dry climate.

Types of Outdoor Fire Features

There are infinite ways to classify outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. We discuss the most important ones below.

Energy Source 

Fire features can operate on different kinds of fuel. Below are the most popular examples.

Wood

Wood produces lots of heat. A wood-burning fire pit or fireplace is easy to use as it has only a few mechanical parts. Wood fireplaces are preferred in various regions in the US. However, Arizona has wood-burning restrictions that can make wood fire features impractical to build in Phoenix homes.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is made of hydrocarbons, mostly methane. Natural gas fire features are less hazardous because the flames are easy to regulate. They don’t produce debris and smoke, so they’re low-maintenance. They reach warm temperatures quickly. They’re also energy-efficient and durable.

However, gas fire features are usually not as stunning as their wood counterparts. Still, they are preferred over wood in Phoenix as they pose fewer environmental hazards.

Electricity

Electric fireplaces are inexpensive. They are easy to regulate and generally require little upkeep. These fixtures are not fire hazards unless the electrical wires are faulty. 

The main downside of electric fireplaces is that they produce less heat than their wood and gas counterparts. They are also energy-inefficient, less durable and less elegant-looking. Overall, they add little to your home value, though they can easily inflate your energy bills.

Technically, electric fire pits are gas fire pits with an electric ignition.

Propane

Propane is a natural gas denser than methane. It is processed into liquefied petroleum gas and supplied in portable tanks. If you don’t have a natural gas line, propane is a good alternative. Propane fire features have nearly the same advantages and disadvantages as natural gas fireplaces.

Poolside Combo Fire-and-Water Features. This magnificent outdoor fire pit idea is from Straight Line Landscape.

Ethanol

Ethanol is biofuel sourced from plants. It doesn’t produce smoke and debris, though it emits carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide when burned. Ethanol is a much weaker heat source than wood and gas, so outdoor ethanol fire features make better ornaments than heaters.

Gas Logs

Gas logs are ceramic logs made to look like burning wood. Fire is created by natural gas or propane flowing by its sides. Gas log fire features have the same advantages and disadvantages as their regular gas counterparts, though well-designed ones can look as immaculate as wood-burning types.

Less common energy sources used in outdoor fireplaces include charcoal, coal, and coke. Check local restrictions or ask a reliable custom outdoor fireplace designer if you want to use these alternatives.

Materials

Fire features are made from non-flammable materials classified as either masonry or metallic.

A masonry fire feature is fashioned entirely from bricks, concrete blocks, clay, natural stone and other masonry materials. It can withstand extremely high temperatures. Masonry fire features are more expensive than metallic ones, but they look classier and can remain sturdy for decades.

Meanwhile, a metallic fire feature may be made of steel, cast iron or aluminum. Giving it a masonry finish can make it look more luxurious. Metallic fire features are usually cheaper than masonry types, but they’re rust-prone, heat damage-prone and last only several years.

Function

An outdoor fire feature can be:

  • Purely ornamental if it does not produce enough heat. Some have a water feature, such as a fountain, attached to the side.
  • Used as both an architectural focal point and outdoor space warmer.
  • Used for heating the surroundings and food. 

Regardless of how you use a fire feature, you must always observe fire safety precautions when around one, especially if it’s lit.

Portable vs. Fixed

An outdoor fire feature may also be portable or fixed.

Among portable fireplaces, the most common kind is the chimenea. Chimeneas are only a few feet high and don’t take up much space. Most are made of clay or metal. Meanwhile, the portable fire bowl is an example of a portable fire pit. 

Pergola-Covered Outdoor Fireplace. This is one of Straight Line Landscape’s many lovely outdoor fireplace ideas.

Fixed outdoor fire features are either freestanding or built-in. A freestanding outdoor fire feature has its own support. A built-in one is set up on an existing wall.

Manner of Installation 

Fixed outdoor fire features are installed in different ways. The way they are built largely determines the overall costs.

A prefabricated fire feature, aka prefab, has its large sections pre-made at a factory, then assembled and installed at your home. Prefabs are the cheapest to build, but their lifespan is generally the shortest. 

A fireplace or fire pit kit contains blocks and other small parts from which you can build the larger sections of your fire feature. Shipping adds to the costs. 

An unfinished contractor model is like a prefabricated fire feature but with a customizable exterior. It can look like classic masonry work with the right finishings.

A custom fire feature is designed and built from scratch. Custom outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are typically the priciest, though they’re also the most durable and best fit for a homeowner’s needs.

Size

The fire feature’s opening determines how much heat it can give off. You’d want your fire feature to be just the right size for your yard. Your landscape architect can help you determine what size is suitable for your property.

Style

Every culture has its own fire feature style—traditional western, southwestern, Mediterranean, minimalist, Asian, etc. Therefore, fire feature styles are practically limitless, making it difficult to choose. Your landscape design team can help you create one suited to your taste.

What Factors Should You Consider When Designing an Outdoor Fireplace?

The following are the most important factors impacting an outdoor fire feature design:

  • Location, as in, it should be safe and visually pleasant
  • Fuel source, especially since Arizona has wood-burning restrictions
  • Style and materials, which can impact costs
  • Multifunctionality
  • Yard size
  • Amount of maintenance you prefer
  • Building codes governing fire features
  • Future home improvements, e.g., adding a few fire pits away from a central fireplace due to yard expansion
  • Where to source the materials, which can add to costs
  • The expertise of your landscaping team

A custom outdoor fire feature can serve you for many years, so finding the right design matters. A good landscape designer can help you with this.

Wind-Protected Outdoor Fireplace by Straight Line Landscape

Add Warmth and Sophistication to Your Outdoor Living Space

An outdoor fire feature can transform an unappealing patio or backyard into a vibrant outdoor nook. It can be the focal point that sets the mood and sparks conversations in this area of your home. Getting your perfect outdoor fireplace or fire pit requires the work of landscaping experts.  

Outdoor Fire Feature FAQs

Does an Outdoor Fire Feature Add Value to a Home?

That depends on buyers’ preferences. Purely decorative fire features don’t usually have as much value as those that are both attractive and able to cozy up a chilly outdoor space. Wood-burning fire features may not be of much use in Phoenix because of the periodic restrictions on wood burning.

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Outdoor Fire Pit or Fireplace? 

That depends mostly on your materials and supplier. Prefabricated types and unfinished contractor models cost the least to build, followed by fire feature kits. Sourcing them from local suppliers reduces shipping costs tremendously.

Custom outdoor fire features are at the high end. However, with the right landscaping team, you can build one that truly brings class to your outdoor space and produces the biggest returns on your investment.

Are Outdoor Fire Features Safe in Arizona? 

The safety of an outdoor fire feature depends on its location, design and how well it is built. Poor location choice, design and construction increase the likelihood of outdoor room fires.

Lawn Fire Pit. This fire pit is mounted on pavers surrounded by artificial turf. A backyard fire pit idea from Straight Line Landscape.

Custom-designed fireplaces and fire pits are built with your safety in mind. But you can further reduce fire hazards by observing the following precautions:

  • Check local fire codes before starting your project.
  • Make sure your outdoor fire feature is at least 10 feet away from flammable materials.
  • The fire feature must open opposite the wind direction or be shielded from the wind.
  • Choose a well-ventilated area.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Consider attaching a screen in front of the fire feature.
  • Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the fire feature.
  • Extinguish the fire when the fire feature is not in use.

Finally, hire experienced people to design and build your outdoor fireplace or fire pit. This ensures proper assembly of its parts and fire code compliance.

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