patio fireplace

This charming fireplace helps create a comfy outdoor living space. ATTRIBUTION: Texas Custom Patios (Flickr)

An outdoor fireplace can really help to create a cozy ambiance in your backyard. Available in a wide range of styles, sizes, and materials, outdoor fireplaces add both function and aesthetics to landscaping. For many of us, a roaring fire also has entertainment value. You can roast hot dogs or marshmallows, tell ghost stories, or install a grate and grill pizzas, fresh veggies, and other yummy foods. Here’s a look at some different types of outdoor fireplaces.


A chiminea is a freestanding fireplace with a single open mouth and a chimney that fuels the fire with fresh air. The bowl-shaped base holds the wood and creates a barrier that prevents outdoor winds from extinguishing the fire. Just like the originals that date back to the 17th century in Mexico, many modern chimineas are handmade using raw, wet clay.

Chimineas are a popular type of outdoor fireplace, as they are highly affordable, retain heat well, and blow smoke upward instead of into your breathing space. They also add a decorative element to your yard. Due to their weight, shape, and fragile nature, chimineas can be hard to move. They also require regular maintenance, such as cleaning and sealing.

Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces often mimic the look of indoor fireplaces, creating a cozy outdoor living space. Most outdoor fireplaces consist of a permanent structure with a fire box to contain the flames and a chimney to create efficient ventilation. Like indoor fireplaces, outdoor varieties may contain additional features like a mantel and extended hearth.

Depending on the type of outdoor fireplace you build or purchase, you may have the ability to burn gas, propane, or wood. Due to their size, an outdoor fireplace can block the wind and also offer additional privacy. However, outdoor fireplaces can be costly and typically require you to obtain building permits and meet code regulations.

Fire Pits

Fire pits are one of the most popular types of fireplace options due to their availability and affordability. While most fire pits burn wood, others use propane, natural gas, or gel fuel. Fire pits can be purchased in a kit, built with concrete blocks, stones, or other noncombustible materials, or purchased pre-built for portability.

With a fire pit in your backyard, you can build and maintain a small fire without much effort. Fire pits are also great for making s’mores and other campfire goodies. One of the biggest disadvantages of a fire pit is the inability to regulate the size of the flames. The smoke emitted from a fireplace can also be bothersome.

Wood-Burning Stoves

Outdoor wood-burning stoves provide the best of both worlds. Use the heat from the stove to keep your family and guests warm while relaxing outdoors. Add an insert to use as a cooktop surface to warm or cook meals. Typically made of metal, steel, cast iron, or a combination of these, wood-burning stoves are durable and effective at heating.

After the initial cost of the wood-burning stove, this type of fireplace is relatively cheap to use. Wood-burning stoves are available in a variety of styles and sizes to meet all tastes and budgets. The one downfall is that many of these fireplaces are heavy and bulky, making them difficult to move.

Patio Heaters

Patio heaters, also referred to as umbrella or mushroom heaters, are a type of radiant heating appliance that generates thermal radiation. These heaters typically run off of electricity or propane and can be found in stand-alone, tabletop, or mounted styles. When they are placed on your patio or deck, you can enjoy your outdoor space year-round.

Patio heaters are popular, as they heat up quickly, have a low operating cost, and are effective for frequent use. While useful, most heaters can only heat up a small space. There may also be some restriction on where they can be used, especially if they run off of electricity. Patio heaters also get very hot, which can be a safety hazard if you have small children or pets running around: As with any of these heating options, make sure to use them safely.