If you’re looking to improve your backyard, deck, or patio by installing an outdoor fireplace, but you’re not thrilled at the idea of paying a stonemason or contractor to build you a custom unit, you may want to explore the many DIY outdoor fireplace options out there. From building an outdoor fireplace unit from scratch to investing in one of the many prefabricated outdoor fireplace kits available, you’re sure to find the DIY approach that’s right for your budget and your skillset.
There are three main functionality categories for DIY outdoor fireplaces, which are;
- Wood burning outdoor fireplace.
- Gas fireplace.
- Propane outdoor fireplace.
While it’s the case that installing a custom-built outdoor fireplace will almost certainly require you to hire a stone-mason (unless you’ve got stone cutting chops yourself, of course) and likely demand a large budget, DIY outdoor fireplace kits are available for purchase from just about any local or national hardware retailer, both online and in-store. In general, DIY kits will cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500 for the low- to mid-range units at least. Higher-end DIY outdoor fireplace kits are available with various extra features, including fancy amenities like pizza ovens, ambient lighting, and higher-quality stone.
Outdoor Fireplace vs Indoor Fireplace
In general, most outdoor fireplace kits have an appearance similar to that of an indoor fireplace—they feature a base, a fireplace, and a chimney—but in contrast to in-home fireplaces, in which the chimney rises all the way through the roof, DIY outdoor fireplace kits generally feature a chimney that’s a bit snub-nosed in comparison, only rising a few feet above the fireplace. This contributes to greater maneuverability and also keeps the chimney away from any low-hanging branches or bushes.
Consider Your Budget
If installing an outdoor fireplace is on your agenda, but you’re not looking to break the bank on a big-budget, custom-designed fireplace, you may want to explore the many available options for outdoor fireplace kits. Currently available in just about every design style, and ranging from traditional wood-burning to gas and propane fired, outdoor fireplace kits offer the warmth and cozy elegance of an outdoor fireplace, often at a fraction of the cost of a custom-built fireplace.
Whereas an installed and custom-built fireplace will require you to hire a stone-mason (unless you’ve got serious stone-carving skills yourself) and likely cost you a pretty penny, outdoor fireplace kits are available from a wide array of local and national hardware retailers, both online and in-store. In general, full kits will cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500, in the low to mid-range pricing tiers. Higher-end kits are available with various amenities, including cooking features like pizza ovens, lighting, and higher-quality stone.
For the most part, outdoor fireplace kits resemble an indoor fireplace—they generally feature a base, fireplace, and chimney—but whereas the chimney rises all the way through the roof in a home, outdoor fireplaces usually feature shorter chimneys that simply open a few or several feet above the fireplace.
Materials to Use
When it comes to choosing materials for your outdoor fireplace kit, you’ll have several options, with one common limitation: in general, outdoor fireplace kits feature a stone “finish” over their base. This simply means that a thin veneer of stone has been attached to the face of the fireplace, as opposed to the entire fixture being carved from stone or created wholesale from brick, for example.
While this can work for in-home fireplaces or even fixed-location outdoor ones, fireplace kits by their nature need to be portable, and therefore this design ensures that they won’t be too heavy to transport from the retailer to your home, and then, if you so desire, to multiple locations within your backyard or outdoor living space. The finish you choose for your outdoor fireplace kit can match your overall outdoor space design, or you can choose a more daring design—but you’ll have plenty of options, from all types of stone to many ceramics, brick, and even metals.
Outdoor Fireplace Cost
Outdoor fireplaces can be small or big investments. According to national estimates, the average cost to professionally install an outdoor fireplace ranges between $1,400 and $20,000.
Approximate Minimum Cost of a Professionally-Installed Outdoor Fireplace: $1,400
Approximate Maximum Cost of a Professionally-Installed Outdoor Fireplace: $20,000
More often than not, the biggest cost factors are labor (installation) and fireplace type. Pre-fabricated fireplaces will require very little work and can be completed in a matter of minutes by a fireplace professional. However, constructing a customized fireplace can be incredibly expensive, and it’s not unusual for homeowners to spend just $1,000 on materials and then up to $10,000 on the labor needed for the installation.
Homeowners who have their heart set on an outdoor fireplace will have one significant decision to make: whether to invest in a customized fireplace or purchase an already-constructed fireplace that simply needs to be installed in the right location. Pre-fabricated fireplaces, which are often made from a strong and durable reinforced concrete, can be delivered to an outdoor space and then be ready to use within a few hours. The pre-fab fireplace usually costs somewhere around $1,500, although that number can certainly depend on factors like materials and size. The far more expensive option is a fully customized fireplace, which can cost upwards of $8,000, but it may be worth it for the unique and upscale look it brings to your home.
How to Build an Outdoor Fireplace
If you’re a DIY enthusiast and ready to take on a challenging outdoor project, we’re happy to give you a helping hand. Below are all the necessary steps to build a brick or stone outdoor fireplace. For more details or if you’re a visual learner, check out the video below.
- Gather your fireplace insert and measure it. Use measurements to make the frame.
- Add hoses and other accessories.
- Cover frame with tar paper
- Attach metal lath to tar paper with a nail gun.
- Cover metal lath with mortar.
- Mix more mortar and add to the back of stone or brick. Then, attach it to the fireplace. Hold each in place for 30 seconds.
- Fill in gaps with mortar.
Building an outdoor fireplace is no easy feat, especially if you’re going with wood, gas or propane. With electric units, you just need to buy and plug-in. With all others, real installation is required.
Like most fireplace projects, we highlight recommend you call in the pros. Given the nature of the project, the dangers and complexity with custom fireplaces, it’s safer to let pros who have been in the business for years handle it.
Outdoor Fireplace Location
The position of an outdoor fireplace can make a big difference in how often it’s used, how problematic the smoke is and even the privacy enjoyed by those gathered around the fireplace. When choosing the right location for an outdoor fireplace, these tips are the best place to start:
- Check and confirm the prevailing wind direction.
- Choose a private location that still offers scenic views.
- Check local zoning laws to ensure the fire is far away enough from any structures.
- Pick a space large enough to accommodate seating.
Pros of an Outdoor Fireplace
With all the costs out of the way, we can jump into the fun reasons you should install an outdoor fireplace. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that it can turn a day-use area into a space perfect for nighttime gatherings. Whether simply for casual gatherings where children make s’mores and adults enjoy a drink in the back of the flame, or for more formal entertaining, an outdoor fireplace truly does make the great outdoors a little more inviting and welcoming.
In addition, an outdoor fireplace allows residents to cook, which is a big help during hot summer months. Rather than sweating over a hot stove in the kitchen, it’s easy and convenient to cook steaks or even pizzas in an outdoor fireplace. Finally, it’s impossible to overlook the aesthetic appeal that a fireplace can bring to an outdoor space. Even during the day, a large outdoor fireplace serves as a focal point and an eye-catching detail that enhances the look of the entire area.
Disadvantages of an Outdoor Fireplace
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to installing an outdoor fireplace. For many homeowners, the biggest problem is simply the expense. Even pre-made fireplaces can easily cost upwards of $1,000, and that amount may simply not fit into the budget.
Safety can also be a significant issue, as children will need to be watched carefully whenever an outdoor fireplace is lit. The smoke may also be unpleasant, particularly if there is no wind blowing or if the air happens to be especially stagnant. People with respiratory problems or asthma may want to avoid outdoor fireplaces for this reason. Finally, another drawback of the outdoor fireplace is that it requires significant maintenance to ensure it’s always functioning and looking great.