Charming Outdoor Fireplace Ideas for Arizona Homes

November 26, 2022

Outdoor Fireplace Ideas

A fire feature such as a fireplace 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 adds a touch of elegance to its surroundings and can bring immense value to your home.

In this blog post, we talk about outdoor fireplace ideas and how you can create a design you and your family will enjoy for the years to come.

Table of Contents

Fireplace vs. Fire Pit: Is There a Difference?

Homeowners considering 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 on a non-combustible vessel where you can make fire. They 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.

An outdoor fireplace and a fire pit are warming this lovely patio simultaneously

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. It also has the hearth and fireplace opening.
  • Smoke chamber: delivers the combustion byproducts to the fireplace outlet.
  • Outlet: can be a chimney, flue or vent. A chimney runs upward and can be several floors high. A flue is an unlined chimney and can be vertically or horizontally oriented. Chimneys and flues can handle very high temperatures, so they’re suitable for any fireplace type. Vents cannot endure extreme heat, so they’re not for wood fireplaces. Vents may also run vertically or horizontally.

Front of a Typical Fireplace

Rear of a Typical Fireplace

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.

Types of Outdoor Fireplaces

There are many kinds of outdoor fireplaces, classified in many ways.

Number of Faces

An outdoor fireplace can have a single or multiple faces. Both designs go centuries back, although the latter is more associated with modern style.

A single-face fireplace opens only to one side. The reflected heat from the firebox warms up the surroundings immediately. The absorbed heat allows it to stay hot and radiate heat for hours, even after the fire has been extinguished.

A single-face stone outdoor fireplace

By comparison, a multiple-face fireplace has at least two firebox openings. Since a huge surface is left without an efficient energy absorber and reflector, much of the heat it generates escapes into the atmosphere. Multiple-face fireplaces are less powerful warmers, but their architectural appeal is nonetheless irresistible.

Energy Source

Fireplaces can operate on different kinds of fuel. We explain the most commonly used ones below.

Wood

Wood produces lots of heat. A wood-burning fireplace is easy to use as it has only a few mechanical parts. However, the following are the downsides of using a wood fireplace:

  • It takes a while to heat up.
  • It is less energy-efficient than a gas fireplace.
  • It is a fire hazard. Wood flames are difficult to control, especially when windy.
  • Burning wood produces soot, smoke, ash, and debris, requiring frequent cleaning.
  • It’s labor-intensive. You have to replace logs and stoke the flames repeatedly.
  • Arizona has “no-burn days,” or days when you can’t burn wood, making wood-burning fireplaces impractical here.

The smell, sight, and sound of wood burning create drama and nostalgia. So despite their drawbacks, wood fireplaces are the most popular in most US states. The case is different, though, in Arizona because of local wood-burning restrictions.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is made of hydrocarbons, mostly methane. Natural gas fireplaces 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 fireplaces are usually not as stunning as their wood counterparts. Installation can be costly without a pre-existing natural gas pipeline. They also emit small amounts of poisonous carbon monoxide, which can accumulate in poorly ventilated places.

Electricity

Electric fireplaces are inexpensive. They are easy to regulate and generally require little upkeep. Electric fireplaces 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.

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 fireplaces have nearly the same advantages and disadvantages as natural gas fireplaces.

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 fireplaces make better ornaments than warmers.

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 fireplaces have the same advantages and disadvantages as regular gas fireplaces, though well-designed ones can look as immaculate as a wood-burning type.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, a metallic fireplace may be made of steel, cast iron or aluminum. Giving it a masonry finish can make it look more luxurious. It’s usually cheaper than a masonry fireplace, but it’s rust-prone, heat damage-prone and lasts only several years.

A freestanding masonry fireplace is built under a large pergola. This outdoor living room is refreshing on sunny days and cozy on chilly nights

Function

An outdoor fireplace 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. So you may see some outdoor fireplaces with attached pizza ovens or grills.

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 fireplace 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.

A Metallic Chimenea

Fixed outdoor fireplaces are either freestanding or built-in. A freestanding outdoor fireplace has its own support. A built-in one is set up on an existing wall, e. g. of a covered patio or outside the house.

Manner of Installation

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

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

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

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

Size

The fireplace’s opening determines its inner and outer dimensions. It should be big enough to warm your outdoor space but not too big that it poses a fire hazard.

Firebox openings can be as small as 2 feet wide and 2 feet tall and produce enough heat for 4-6 people. Large ones measure up to 15 feet wide by 15 feet tall. 

Style

Outdoor fireplaces are found in various cultures, so the styles are practically limitless. The most common ones can be classified as either masonry, metallic or mixed.

The following are examples of masonry fireplaces:

  • Traditional-style: constructed from stone or brick, with rectangular bodies and arched openings. Earthy colors are common.
  • Southwestern: made of adobe or stucco. They look like inverted cones, having more rounded bodies. 
  • Mediterranean: similar to traditional-style fireplaces in structure but embellished with color and Mediterranean geometric patterns.

An outdoor fireplace completes this ardent Arizona landscape

The following are examples of metallic fireplaces:

  • Celtic-style: made of cast iron, with rectangular or square bodies and high-arch openings. Celtic geometric designs adorn their exterior.
  • Oriental-style: also made of cast iron. They come in various shapes and have Asian art embellishments.

Meanwhile, the best example of a mixed masonry-and-metallic fireplace is the modern, industrial-style fireplace. It has metallic interior parts and a masonry finish. Straight lines, not curves, predominate the design. 

The thing is, you don’t have to limit yourself to these styles. Your landscape design team can help you create one suited to your taste.

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What Factors Should You Consider When Designing an Outdoor Fireplace?

Below are the most important factors impacting an outdoor fireplace design.

Location

Think of safety, function and aesthetics when choosing an outdoor fireplace location.

A patio or backyard fireplace must be at least 10 feet away from low-hanging combustible materials. It must open opposite the normal wind direction in your neighborhood to prevent large fires.

If you want to use it for cooking, you can make it the focal point of your outdoor kitchen or dining area. These locations enable efficient cooking and serving.

Freestanding fireplaces can be in any safe location, but they might obstruct your outdoor view if placed in a bad spot. Built-in ones can visually enhance a patio or outer wall of the house. If you plan to use one for cooking, put it where it can enhance efficiency.

Brick walls protect this patio fireplace from the wind

Fuel Source

Your fuel choice determines the capacity, price and location of your outdoor fireplace.

Wood, natural gas and propane are best if you expect to entertain large groups.

Wood-burning fireplaces are the most expensive when compared to same-size alternatives. Natural gas and electric fireplaces are best built near the house to reduce installation costs.

Also, keep in mind Arizona’s no-burn days, which can make wood-burning impractical during the holidays.

Style and Materials

You can be as lavish as you want in your choices here. Get a first-rate landscaping team to make sure you get all the elements of an excellent outdoor fireplace design.

Function

It can be a mere outdoor decor, a simple heater or one that warms both your outdoor living room and edibles. Homebuyers usually place greater value on an outdoor fireplace that serves a purpose other than embellishment—it creates another cozy nook while enhancing the place’s allure.

Crowd Size

This will determine the size and warming capacity of your outdoor fireplace. If you expect big patio gatherings in the cold months, gas is your most energy-efficient option and may be the only one on no-burn days.

Maintenance

If you’re not too excited about frequent fireplace upkeep, you may like a low-maintenance type like gas or electric.

Laws

Aside from no-burn days, Arizona cities have outdoor fireplace construction and safety codes. Check what permits you need for your desired fire feature. If you work with Straight Line Landscape, you won’t miss any critical paperwork in building your outdoor fireplace.

Future Home Improvements

These may also impact the fireplace’s location and style. For example, if you don’t yet have a patio or swimming pool but are thinking of having one, your design should take its future inclusion into account.

Budget

Your budget determines your design limitations. Working with a reputable landscaping team will help you get the most value for your money.

Sourcing the Materials

You can buy materials locally or outside the state. Going local minimizes shipping costs.

Your Outdoor Fireplace Design and Construction Team

Renovating your outdoor living area by yourself is always an option if you want to cut costs. But without extensive construction experience, you may end up having an outdoor fireplace that neither flatters your exterior nor is safe to use.

When you have a reliable landscaping team working with you, you’ll surely get the outdoor fireplace of your dreams.

Outdoor Fireplace Design Ideas

An outdoor fireplace can serve you for many years, so finding the right design matters. Get inspired by some of our work:

  • standard kitchen
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A TV entertains guests in the outdoor living room. The fireplace and fire pit provide warmth on cold nights. The patio’s stone finish makes everything look even more relaxing and homey.

Our highly experienced crew can turn the plainest backyard into a lifestyle magazine centerfold piece. Contact us so we can help you bring your outdoor fireplace ideas to life. 

Add Warmth and Sophistication to Your Outdoor Living Space

An outdoor fireplace can transform an unappealing patio or backyard into a vibrant outdoor room. It can be the focal point that sets the mood and sparks conversations in this area of your home. To get your perfect outdoor fireplace, your best move is to have one custom-built by landscaping experts. A custom outdoor fireplace is definitely worth the investment and unforgettable moments.

Building an Outdoor Fireplace FAQs

Does an Outdoor Fireplace Add Value to a Home?

It 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.

In terms of energy sources, wood and gas fireplaces are appraised highly, being the most powerful warmers. But in Arizona, not everyone prefers wood over gas because of the periodic no-burn restrictions.

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Outdoor Fireplace?

That depends mostly on your materials and supplier.

Prefabricated types and unfinished contractor models cost the least to build, followed by fireplace kits. Sourcing them from local suppliers reduces shipping costs tremendously.

Custom outdoor fireplaces 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 Fireplaces Safe in Arizona?

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

Custom-designed fireplaces 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 fireplace is at least 10 feet away from flammable materials.
  • The fireplace 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 fireplace.
  • Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the fireplace.
  • Extinguish the fire when the fireplace is not in use.
  • Hire experienced people to design and build your outdoor fireplace. This ensures proper assembly of its parts and fire code compliance.

fireplace-pool

The Straight Line Landscape Building Process

If you’re ready to take the first step in creating your ideal outdoor living space, get in touch with us.

Our design process starts when you fill out our online project inquiry form.

Next, you’ll have an on-site meeting with our design consultant. They will talk in-depth about how you want your outdoor space enhanced.

After that, we will present you with the project details. We will also provide you and your HOA with the building plans.

We will begin construction after you and your HOA approve the plans.

Then, the construction phase.

When it is all done, we’ll provide you with maintenance instructions and warranty information while you start enjoying your newly-remodeled outdoor living space.

You dream it. We design and construct it. You enjoy it.

Here at Straight Line Landscape we are experts in custom landscape design and construction. From the creative design and selection of materials to installation and construction, you’ll recognize quality and attention to detail from start to finish.

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Very professional. We loved working with their guys, they did a great job. They held up their end of the bargain, even during the warranty period.

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