Outdoor Fireplace Kits
There's a good reason why outdoor fireplaces are growing so popular. They lower cost and speed installation time. In the past, it took a great deal of time and masonry skill to build a brick-and-mortar fireplace from scratch, which made them too expensive for most projects. Manufacturers have developed generic core fireplaces that feature all the hard-to-build structural parts prefabricated for easy on site set up. These are known as a kit.
Components of a fireplace kit are primarily the firebox itself and the chimney that will be clad in stone, brick or stucco depending on the project. The composite materials include pumice and refractory cement that do not absorb heat but radiate it outward. This is compared to all brick and mortar which not only absorbs heat but in time uneven expansion and contraction of mortar and masonry can degrade its structural integrity. A good quality kit should feature:
- 100% interlocking joints to ensure proper strength.
- Lightweight composite materials used throughout are more lightweight to move assembled.
- A refractory chimney and good throat design guarantees it draws properly.
- Properly angled back wall of the fireplace increases heat radiation.
Adam Heath of Mid Atlantic Enterprise, Inc says, "Fireplace kits are a great asset for the industry. Prefabricated kits aren't cheap, and a finished fireplace is still $12,000 to $20,000. Other kits are less expensive, $3,000 to $5,000. They aren't great looking but get the job done. It ships in on a pallet with all materials cut and ready to install. You have to customize the fireplace with the landscape pallet and accessories.”
Kit OptionsThe best part about kits is that they are UL tested and approved to similar standards as indoor units. This testing ensures they draw well and function as intended.
The most variable part of the kit is its design. The firebox opening can be square, rectangular or feature an arch. Typical sizes for the firebox are 24, 36 and 48 inches, although larger units can be found. Due to the way these kits are assembled, there must be a foundation in place in order to anchor it as the manufacturer specifies. This is important with freestanding fireplaces because their height makes them more vulnerable to high wind damage.
Fully Finished Fireplace KitsSome manufacturers have taken the outdoor fireplace kit one step further. They have expanded their basic kits to be available finished with stone or artificial stone cladding. Artificial stone is light weight and thin natural stone is too, making these a suitable option for shipping the finished unit intact. This drives up shipping costs if not locally made, and the heavier finished unit can be difficult to place without a crane or other heavy equipment. Once it is set, the fireplace needs only be anchored and piped for gas if desired, and the unit can be fully functional as a weekend project.
This option is not often used by landscapers because there are fewer options for matching the finish materials specified for a landscape. For example, a patio with stone structures such as an outdoor kitchen or grill island needs a fireplace that's a perfect match. The only way to obtain this is to clad a kit on site so that everything, from stone size to shapes and grout joints are all fully integrated throughout the project.