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Prehistoric fire pits a very brief history
When man discovered fire they were already practicing safety first because there was a fire watcher that was designated to watch so a fire would not spread or even more importantly not going out.
In the Nomadic culture they would cut the turf above a fire pit and later replace it to hide the fact that there was a fire pit there.
Imagine that early man was practicing leave no trace!
It may have been for a different reason than why we do it today, they may had to hide their presence from a competing enemy.
Remains of these ancient fire pits told a great deal about their culture and carbon dating from the charcoal would tell scientist when a particular area was populated.
The bones and seeds discovered in these fire pits would provide evidence as to the type of diet that civilizations ingested during the relevant time period.
One thing was for sure the focus was around the fire.
Benefits of having a backyard fire pit
For the most part you can use a fire pit all year long but especially when the evenings start to get cool in the early fall.
Depending on the climate where you reside you may have a cooling off period even in the heat of summer.
In fact when you are experiencing the heat of summer you can cook your meals outside so you are not using your stove in the house.
The main benefit of a fire pit in your backyard is it will be the social gathering area whether with a special loved one or friends and family.
There is something very calming about gathering around a fire and letting the warmth wash over you and just stare into the flames.
It is actually a form of meditation that we will describe in detail a bit later.
If the idea of a fire pit and its benefits sound interesting to you then the first item of business is to study the different types.
Just to be clear a fireplace and a fire pit are two completely different items we will cover the different kinds, shapes, functions and cost of an outdoor fire pit.
Stop right there!
The first step of your backyard fire pit designs journey is actually city hall or at least their website to check if there is a zone ordinance that describes what type of fire pits are allowed in your city.
More than likely there will not be a major issue but it is a good idea to check before you invest in an expensive system that you can’t use.
Check out some backyard fire pit ideas.
The portable backyard fire pit designs option
The portable option is just as it implies it is portable, meaning you can move it around your backyard or patio area some models even have wheels to make it easy.
Portable units are usually made of some type of light weight metal and feature a round design however, you are not just relegated to your backyard another feature of the portable unit is you can take it with you.
So the next camping trip, a day at your local park or even a barbecue at your neighbor’s house can include your portable fire pit.
This type of fire pit is the most common and the marketplace is usually flooded with them at the first hint of fall.
The permanent backyard fire pit designs option
This type of fire pit is a permanent structure in your backyard or patio area usually custom built using rock, concrete, brick or stone.
These fire pits usually complement your outdoor living space so it looks like it is part of your overall design.
Generally speaking these units are 1-2 feet off the ground and feature a middle-of-the-road diameter of approximately 36 inches for function and safety.
They can be wood burning or gas and usually will be far more expensive than a portable model but will look amazing in your backyard living space and add value to your home.
Deciding on shape or design
More than likely once you decide which design option you want permanent or portable will decide the shape.
A portable unit will usually be a round bowl shape (not always) be made of metal or copper and some will even feature a metal stand.
Another feature that is common is the portable unit will have wheels so you can move it around your backyard or patio area with ease.
Your firewood will be stacked in the bowl unless you decide on a gas model, fake burning coals or ceramic logs either way there will likely be a protective screen top for safety.
Another type is the Chimeras which is also from the portable category featuring the antique wood-burning stove look, they are very decorative but do not radiate much heat.
We mentioned that most pits are round but there are also rectangular and square units that work just as well but offer a bit more design flair and personality.
Opting for wood or a gas model
Permanent or portable fire pits may be gas or wood burning if you decide on a wood burning model you want to make sure you know what type of wood it will burn.
Most pits burn regular firewood logs only and ideally they should be aged rather than green wood, if you happen to have a fireplace in your home you can use the same wood.
To maintain a good pit and for safety reasons it is not a good idea to burn the pressed wood or fire log in your fire pit.
These types of fire logs are made of sawdust materials and burn much hotter that the firewood your pit was designed for.
The other option is to go with a gas burning fire pit it is much cleaner usually featuring some type of fake burning coals or ceramic logs.
Depending on the model they can provide as much warmth as a wood burning pit so it may get down to your own preference.
Backyard fire pit tables
The outdoor fire pit is a great place to gather friends and family on a chilly night but you can also have an outdoor dining experience with a fire pit table.
There are all shapes and sizes so there is one that is sure to match the design of your outdoor living space.
Most are going to be gas burning because the last thing you want when you are dining out is to have smoke in your eyes.
A fire pit table has all the entertaining elements in one, a beautiful night sky with the warmth of the flames and an excellent dining experience.
The quality of a 5 Star resort right in your backyard.
The fire pit as a work of art
If your idea of a fire pit is a hole in the ground with some rocks around the perimeter then the idea of it being a work of art may not appeal to you.
There is however true artisans that create handcrafted works of art that would transform your outdoor living space into a gallery especially when there is a fire burning.
Some of these one of a kind units may be hand cut and equipped with a numbered metal plates, each fire bowl is unique and one of a kind.
The quality units often feature 1/4” thick or more American made steel and a rust patina finish, with a rain drain at the bottom of this fire bowl assures that water won’t pool inside.
When it comes to design ideas the sky is the limit of course the more elaborate the design the more expensive the unit.
What will a fire pit cost?
When you are considering the cost it will always be determined on one factor and that is quality, a well built portable pit will cost far more than a thin metal unit.
You can usually find them on sale at your local home improvement stores in the early fall for as little as $50.00 or if you opt for a high quality unit they could be in the thousands.
This is where the old adage you get what you pay for comes into play, do you want a cheap unit that you will need to replace every season or a high quality unit that may be a once in a lifetime investment?
Of course if you opt for the permanent solution then the sky is the limit because you can go crazy with design options and features.
Custom built units usually require a professional contractor that is well suited to do a job that will last your lifetime or at least as long as you are owners of the property.
The bottom line is no matter which way you decide the quality fire pits are going to cost a bit more but will be worth it in the long run.
If you are going to opt for a permanent fire pit then you will need to contact a professional for a set of blueprints and cost.
Unless you have some mad DIY skills and can build your own pit.
The DIY option of backyard fire pit designs
If you are handy with tools and have some mad DIY skills then you can also create your own fire pit, it can be as simple as a fire pit ring and some stones from your local home improvement store.
This option will not require any specialty tools other than a shovel to dig out the area where you want to place the fire ring, and then it is just a matter of circling the ring with your favorite type of stone.
This would also be referred to as an in-ground fire pit and you can simply use your favorite rocks or stones for the outer perimeter of the fire hole.
There are also pre engineered enclosures you can use and then place your own favorite stones on the outside or use a fire brick kit.
You are only limited by your imagination, if you use a kit designed for this purpose you will be sure it will be safe as long as you use some common sense when it comes to placing stones on the outer surface.
Using a fire pit kit takes the guesswork and potential risk out of building your own fire pit from the ground up.
The fire pit wood and its importance
It is wise to only burn natural wood in your device and it may be tempting at times to burn your garbage but there may be hazardous fumes coming off the items in question.
If you care about what you burn then here are just a few reasons it is a good idea they include the performance of your pit, your health, ease of cleanup, cost and even ecology.
A very common mistake is burning green wood that is wood that has not been seasoned and thoroughly dried.
If you are lucky enough to get it lit the green wood is going to have excess moisture in it and it is going to create a tremendous amount of smoke for you and perhaps your neighbors.
Having dried or seasoned wood makes it easier to start, it will generate much more heat and you won’t need a respirator to breath.
Freshly cut wood is going to be about 70% moisture whereas properly seasoned wood is going to be about 20% moisture which is what is needed to burn properly.
Properly seasoned firewood is usually cut in 16” lengths stacked off the ground so the air can circulate and then used after approximately nine months.
How to tell your firewood is well seasoned
It will not smell like wood most of the woody scent it puts off is caused by moisture.
It will appear dull in color seasoned wood will look grayish.
It will not be heavy again the water makes up as much as three-quarters of the weight of a green piece of wood.
The ends have been cracked as the wood dries out; it becomes very brittle and will often split on the ends.
The bark is missing or comes off easily when the moisture goes; the bark usually goes with it.
It sounds hollow when you hit it against something try taking one log and hitting against another.
So what is the best firewood for an outdoor fire pit?
One key factor is the wood density the greater it is the higher the energy content and you will be getting more heat from a dense wood.
Softwoods will burn much faster and will not create a very good bed of coals and as you become more experienced at fire pit burning you will understand the importance of a bed of coals.
With an excellent bed of coals when you place another log on the fire you will not likely get any smoke or very little.
Some of the best hard woods for burn ability and less smoke include: hickory, dogwood, beech, white oak, ash, pecan, hard maple, apple and red oak.
Of these apple is the most desirable.
Some of the best softwoods include: fir, southern yellow pine and spruce.
The firewood stacking options
There are several different ways to stack firewood whatever method you use the most important factor is to allow for proper air flow.
There are several different types of firewood racks, these are the easiest option because they will keep the wood off the ground and provide a frame to keep the wood stacked properly.
They will also allow excellent circulation if you are stacking green wood because it will take several months for the wood to dry properly.
Some of the firewood racks can be taken down when the wood is gone so you can get it out of your way and not have to look at an empty rack.
Another option is a DIY rack that is in kit form and just requires some 2x4’s from your local home improvement store.
A major advantage of this system is it will allow you to make the rack any size you desire as long as it is properly supported.
Taking care of your fire pit
Depending on which fire pit you decide to invest in will determine how much maintenance it will require, just now there was a collective moan at the sound of the maintenance the word.
Not to worry it is not that involved just some common sense.
This is where the importance of properly seasoned wood will really pay off and not burning garbage from the house in your pit.
More than likely the unit you invest in will be some type of metal and the number one enemy of the metal pit is rust.
The sun, rain, ice and snow will take a toll on even the high quality units however, there is one thing that you can do that will protect your investment and that is covering it up!
If you are not going to be using your unit for long periods of time if possible the best thing you can do to preserve it is to put it inside.
Of course it goes without saying that you should remove old ashes from your bowl as soon as possible making sure they are completely out to prevent any fire hazard.
An important tip it is not wise to use water to put out your fire and should be avoided unless it is some type of an emergency and if that is the case then remove the wet ashes as soon as possible.
If you are using your fire pit as a grilling station then of course you want to make sure your clean the grates and all surfaces that may come in contact with food or grease.
Will a little common sense and some elbow grease you will be able to enjoy your outdoor fire pit for many seasons.
The absolute worst thing you can do to your fire pit investment is use it then put the ashes out with the water hose and then leave it sit and rust.
You will not be getting very many seasons out of it.
The fire pit covers and their importance
One of the best ways to protect your fire pit investment beside cleanly it after each use is to get a cover for it.
There are a plethora of different covers you can choose from and ranging in price from economy to luxury.
The entry level covers are usually made of vinyl and may last several seasons depending on your climate and how it is used.
However, the high quality covers are made of high quality polyester or similar materials and are designed to last a very long time.
Of course they are offered in a wide range of sizes and shape just like the massive selection of different fire pits.
Using a fire pit to relax and meditate
What do the Healing Arts and a fire pit have in common?
Both of them can help relieve stress, if you are asking what the heck the Healing Arts are they include: reflection, meditation, sanctuary, tranquility and the ever popular yoga.
However, you can use the combination of the Healing Arts and your fire pit to super charge your stress releasing process.
Have you ever found yourself staring into the flames of a fire to the point where you almost felt you were in a trance?
Well you may have been somewhat.
The process may have been part of the reflection or meditation element of the Healing Arts.
This is not some fairy tale idea it has been proven over and over again that the Healing Arts can help someone relax and it can be done without taking harmful medications.
A great number of health issues that we face daily can be traced back to stress, whether it is our lifestyle, the career or other sources of stress in our lives.
We can help eliminate stress by creating an atmosphere where we are completely relaxed and our body will respond.
Final thoughts on your backyard fire pit designs
Regardless how much or little money you spend on a fire pit system one thing remains the same and that is they all have the same relaxing result and that is flames.
Those flames will provide warmth on a chilly night help you relax after a stressful day and let you escape into another world if only for a moment.
The system you decide on can be as simple as a fire ring or a complex multipurpose pit and grill where you can prepare meals.
Regardless you will be able to enjoy the flames!
Remember the scene in Castaway when Tom Hanks said I made this?
He understood the power and magic of the flames now it is your turn to make fire!
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