Beyond Campfires: Types of Outdoor Fireplaces Beyond Campfires: Types of Outdoor Fireplaces

It used to be if you wanted to have a fire outdoors, you would have to go camping or tolerate a large brown spot in your backyard. Those days are long over. Nowadays there are much more attractive ways you can enjoy a fire outdoors with an outdoor fireplace.

Essentially, there are two types of outdoor fireplaces: chimineas and fire pits. Both varieties, like indoor fireplaces, are available in wood-burning and gas-burning versions. The difference between chimineas and fire pits lies in the design. Chimineas are shaped sort of like a bottle and, as its name implies, has a small chimney. Fire pits do not.

When making a decision on what type you want, you should consider where you want to place it and how it will be used. Fire pits are usually used as the centerpiece of a seating arrangement, while chimineas can be placed off to the side.


Chimineas date back hundreds of years to Mexico as a method of heating and cooking. Traditionally made out of clay, recent popularity has sprung quite a few new varieties of chimineas such as aluminum, copper, and cast iron.

There has been considerable debate over which is better: metal or clay chimineas. Some report that metal chimineas get much hotter than clay ones. However, even a clay chimineas can become hot to the touch. A metal chimineas is about as safe to have around the patio as a metal grill. Metal chimineas are also tougher than clay versions, especially in cooler climates. If you are considering a metal chimineas, it should be noted that cast iron have been known to rust if not properly maintained, but aluminum chimineas do not. Also, cast iron chimineas are heavier than their aluminum counterparts are.

The shape of a chimineas allows it draw fresh air into the fire but then directs any smoke or fumes away from it. This insures that a gust of wind won't blow smoke into your eyes. A chimineas will radiate heat about two to four feet, so you might want to consider your landscape when deciding on where to place your chimineas. If you use a patio block or build a proper hearth pad, chimineas can be placed safely on wood deck.

Fire Pits

Basically, a fire pit is just a campfire raised up. Fire pits are usually metal and are available in a variety of styles and finishes. If you are looking for a more traditional "campfire" look to your outdoor fireplace, fire pits are usually the best way to go. Fire pits can also be built-in and become a permanent fixture in your backyard.

Unlike chimineas, most fire pits cannot be used on a wood deck as they can cause damage. When deciding on a fire pit, look for one that sits low to the ground and has sturdy legs. A fire pit that is too light and not sturdy might tip. Fire screens are also good additions to a fire pit, as they will offer protection from any flying sparks.

Anyone considering purchasing an outdoor fireplace should check with their local fire department to see what fire codes exist in your area. Fire codes could dictate how close the fire place can be placed to walls, decks and home, as well as what type of construction materials are acceptable for outdoor fireplaces. Finally, no matter what type of fireplace you use, make sure you use it safely. Always have a fire extinguisher or water source available when using it and never leave a fire unattended.

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