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Is an Outdoor Fireplace on Your Wish List?


Have you noticed that outdoor spaces, nowadays, are getting the same amount of attention that the interior spaces in our homes have always received? It is very exciting to imagine all the extra living space that can be added to family living by including outdoors spaces.

The list of amenities that can create beautiful and inviting outdoor living spaces seems to be growing rapidly. One of the big items on many homeowners wish list could be an outdoor fireplace, and it could actually be more accessible than one realizes with a pre-engineered outdoor fireplace.

If you think about how much usage and enjoyment a homeowner would get from an outdoor fireplace, it may prove to be a wise investment. Such a feature could be used at least three seasons of the year. And in some regions, it can be used year round.

 

What is a Pre-Engineered Outdoor Fireplace?

There are companies that manufacture high quality pre-engineered outdoor fireplaces. These fireplaces are designed with modular masonry components that install with mortar for a durable and permanent structure.  This modular design makes it easier to add this outdoor feature to your outdoor living space, in terms of time and money.

The unfinished pre-engineered fireplace structure starts around $1600. They are typically available in 36” to 50” widths (inside wall to inside wall). Note: these are approximate widths, each manufacturer will vary.

 

This is the bare-bones of the modular pre-engineered fireplace structure (our photo is a second generation photo so the resolution is poor quality). Photo credit: FireRock

 

This basic masonry structure is the bare-bones of the fireplace. The finished look can be any style the homeowner desires, and that will fit their budget. Veneers such as brick, natural stone, stucco, or manufactured veneer stone (a concrete product) can create a beautiful finished surface.

 

This is a veneered display model of a 36″ pre-engineered outdoor fireplace at a local stone company. It has a beautiful terracotta color fire brick lining.

 

These fireplaces are not a DIY project. They will require a qualified installation contractor.

Installation Requirements

Any outdoor fireplace would need to have a foundation. The pre-engineered outdoor fireplace will require a level and stable 4” (min.) concrete foundation for the entire length and width of your fireplace project, including the hearth in front of the fireplace. Typically, a fireplace requires a hearth by building code. If your fireplace design includes a raised hearth, the structure for the raised hearth can be built with courses of concrete masonry units (CMU) installed on the concrete foundation.

The base plate component of the pre-engineered fireplace is installed directly on the concrete foundation, or on the courses of CMU, if a raised hearth is used. All the pre-engineered components are installed with mortar and checked for plumb as the fireplace is assembled. The interior of the fire box opening is finished with fire brick.

 

Close up of the fire box opening and the fire brick lining. The concrete slab under the fire box is the base plate component and will be hidden by the fireplace hearth.

 

Detail of finishing materials. A manufactured veneer stone that remarkably resembles natural stone was used.

After the concrete foundation has been placed and cured, these fireplaces can be installed in about 2 working days, including the installation of the finishing materials.

Before starting your project, check with your local building department to comply with code, and for any permits your project may require.

Cost

Obviously, the final cost of your fireplace will be determined by the size of your overall fireplace design and the finish materials you choose. The manufacturers of pre-engineered fireplaces suggest that the cost of installing a pre-engineered fireplace is about half the cost of having a masonry contractor build a hand-laid fireplace from scratch. If you are having an outdoor living area custom designed, these pre-engineered fireplaces can easily be incorporated into the design.

We got a cost estimate for materials from a local stone company who is a distributor for a manufacturer of pre-engineered outdoor fireplaces. The photo above shows one of their displays for a 36” wide (inside wall to inside wall of opening) model. The cost estimate for materials (in 2011) for just the freestanding model like this would be:

Materials: (not including the foundation)

  • – $1600 for the pre-engineered outdoor fireplace (unassembled)
  • – $240 for the manufactured veneer stone (a concrete product – the veneer used here is     one that resembles limestone)
  • – $ 143 for fire brick lining
  • – $132 for mortar

Total: $2115.00. You will have the additional cost of installation labor, and the fireplace foundation that you use, both of which you would need to include in your overall project cost. Other expenses may include (but not limited to): delivery of materials, any taxes, and permits.

You can weigh your alternatives in terms of labor costs for a custom design hand-laid by a skilled masonry contractor vs. installing a pre-engineered outdoor fireplace. It is always a good idea to get several estimates from reliable contractors, including a masonry contractor.

A good place to get acquainted with this product is at your local stone company who is a distributor for high quality pre-engineered outdoor fireplaces, and manufacturers like FireRock.

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