An outdoor fireplace is high on the list for most backyard enthusiasts. It’s the perfect companion to your al fresco nights and creates that irresistible element of drama that urges you to linger by the flames.
They come in different shapes and varying sizes – some fired by wood, others sparked by gas. Some are made for feasting and sharing, while others lend themselves to chaperoning the quiet moments.
They extend the footprint of your home and create a trans-seasonal space you can enjoy all year round.
Not all outdoor fireplaces will suit your lifestyle, or your space. So, to help you find your fire – we spoke to Stoke Fireplace Wellington Director Jason Hague-Smith about what to consider, and look at the pros and cons of each fireplace type
“An outdoor fireplace can add a completely new dimension to a property. Areas of a backyard that have been underused can be transformed into a functional outdoor living area suitable for year-round entertaining. It can also help to create indoor-outdoor flow and give the home the illusion of being larger than it actually is”. – Jason Hague-Smith
For the traditionalists out there, the romantic nostalgia of a real wood-burning fire is the ultimate experience. It’s hard to go past the sound of crackling wood or the rustic smell of burning macrocarpa.
Aside from the allure of authenticity, wood fires pack a lot of heat and depending on the design specifics they can be relatively cheap to install.
Wood fires take a lot of work – from sourcing, chopping, and stacking wood – to lighting the fire and tending to the embers. For some, it’s a labour of love but for others, it’s a chore they simply don’t have the time or energy for.
And while the smoky sensibilities of a wood fire are charming to some, many residential areas prohibit them - and if they are allowed, there are often installation requirements restricting where they can be installed.
“It’s all about listening to our customers to find an option that suits them, their lifestyles, budget, and the style of their home. We generally always visit the site to get a feel for the space and from there the choice of fire often becomes obvious.”
If you’re looking for ease, convenience, and design freedom then a gas fireplace is for you. They may not be accompanied by sparks, but there is a lot to love about gas fireplaces.
First and foremost, they turn on instantly, there’s no mucking around with kindling and lighters – there’s no mess, and maintenance is minimal.
Unlike most wood fires, you don’t need to navigate council restrictions and because they’re generally open-fronted, with no need for a flue you can generally install them anywhere you like – including semi-enclosed outdoor spaces – they just need sufficient ventilation.
“An outdoor wood fireplace does generate fantastic heat, but it requires a lot more preparation and maintenance. A gas fireplace however operates by the touch of a button which makes it a great choice for busy urban families or couples who don’t have much time or room for wood storage”
On the other hand, installing a gas fireplace can be expensive – you’ll either need to install a line to a natural gas supply or pay for regular LPG bottles.
Gas fireplaces provide limited functionality – you can’t cook sausages or toast marshmallows on them (at least, we wouldn’t recommend it). So, if you’re looking for the holy grail, a fireplace you can cook on and bask in front of, might we suggest a cooking fire…
Nothing goes together quite like food and flame – it’s a seductive pairing and one that dates back to our ancestors too. So it’s no wonder we find flame grilling so satisfying and organic.
When it comes to a fireplace that doubles as a cooking fire, you can go big, or go bigger. Some cooking fires, like the Escea EW5000 come with a simple cooking plate – perfect for bringing back the basics of flame-grilled food.
Others, like the Escea EK Outdoor Fireplace Kitchen, take flame grilling a little more seriously, with a 13-point adjustable cooking plate, grills, meat hooks and an ember generator – and even an additional pizza oven accessory.
If you love al fresco entertaining, and you fancy honing your culinary skills on an open flame then a sophisticated cooking fire, like the EK, is a great fit.
“Cooking capabilities are often a secondary consideration, but one that becomes quite important to customers when once they know it’s a possibility.”
Of course, when you bring the kitchen to the outdoors you need to be prepared for even more maintenance, like any BBQ, the cooking grills and plates will need cleaning after use.
For the firebugs who aren’t quite ready to commit to an inbuilt fireplace – perhaps you’re renting, or you simply don’t have the space, or consent required – a portable outdoor fire table is a great solution.
“When it comes to consent, the local council will have their own set of rules and regulations, so it pays to always check with them before any work begins.”
The beauty of a Fire Table is that they’re incredibly social, with ample space for more people to get around the flames.
For those who want the best of both worlds, the Escea Fire Table moonlights as a cooking fire too, with a 360° social experience where everyone gets to cook their food the way they like it. Inspired by the classic campfire, it ensures everyone is fed before the campfire songs and the marshmallow toasting commences. It even features a cool-touch outer ring for you to rest your drinks (and your elbows) while you enjoy the flames.
Ultimately, it comes down to you, your lifestyle and your home. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to satisfy every unique requirement and bring life into your backyard.
Get to know Stoke’s full range of Escea outdoor fireplaces here.