There are really three key points to consider when you're choosing a fireplace for an outdoor space. We lay them out here.
- Fireplace vs Fire Pit
Truth be told, we usually recommend Fire Pits over Fireplaces for outdoor use. Why? They’re more sociable; you can get the whole group around them, instead of being limited to a few people in front of a fireplace and everybody else getting cold in the nosebleeds!
Also, Fire Pits are “plug-and-play” - there’s no real installation. With a fireplace, generally you’ll have to have some kind of custom firebox or housing built to install it outside ($$$$).
BUT that’s not to say fireplaces are a bad choice - we just don’t recommend them to most of our customers. Fireplaces are especially useful when built into a dividing wall to split a space into two separate areas. You can even install a see-thru unit to accommodate to both of those areas, which is always a nice touch. If you love all things custom and unique, fireplaces are for you. Find a great contractor and design something stunning to house your new outdoor firebox or burner!
- Wood vs Gas/Propane
Again, a general recommendation here; in most cases you’ll want to go with Natural Gas or Propane fire pits and fireplaces over wood burning, but both have their benefits.
If your space is out in the open and exposed to wind, you’ll definitely want to consider Propane or Natural gas. When it’s windy, wood burning fires have a tendency to interrupt intimate moments with a thick gust of smoke!
Each fuel type also has a different level and pattern of heat output - wood burning fires are initially very hot, losing their heat very quickly, while Propane and Natural gas fires have a constant and variable heat output. If it’s cold, you can crank it up and stay toasty all night.
So why do people buy wood-burning fireplaces? Simply for the charm and the ambiance of a real fire. Some people feel that it’s a completely different experience, and that especially outside, wood-burning fireplaces are a whole lot more fun. As they always say, “light a fire, and everyone’s a storyteller.”
This sounds obvious, but a lot of people buy fireplaces without thinking about the space they’re intended for! This is especially important with outdoor spaces, because we have to pay attention to the surrounding nature. Make sure your fireplace is going to fit in!
My conclusion: Although fireplaces and wood-burning have their merits, in most cases I recommend a Natural Gas or Propane fire pit for outdoor spaces; for their sociable atmosphere, versatility, ease of installation, and consistent heat profile.