MAINTAINING A HOME
How a fire pit can boost your alfresco entertaining game
19 August 2020
The perfect gathering place for outdoor entertaining, a fire pit will bring bags of character — as well as warmth — to your backyard. Here’s all you need to know about these flaming beauties.
It’s fair to say Aussies have turned outdoor entertaining into something of an art form. But, as more and more of us are discovering, adding a fire pit takes your al fresco game to a whole new level.
Guests will gravitate drink-in-hand to those dancing flames and crackling logs to indulge in Sunday-night singalongs, cosy conversations and marshmallow marathons.
But, before you install a fire pit, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. Do you want a portable pit or a permanent fixture? Where’s the best place to put it? What kind of fuel should you use? And what are the laws around fire pits in your area?
Our handy guide will help light the way.
First things first
Fire pits come in all shapes and sizes, from portable braziers and ornate chimeneas to gas-fuelled feature pits. The price can depend on size, material and — if you’re having one built — labour costs. Landscape architect Hugh Burnett advises that whatever you decide, a mobile unit is the best option for beginners. “Start with a fire pit that can be moved around or put away when not in use,” he says. “Use this for a while and make sure it’s not a novelty that will wear off before [opting for] a permanent fire pit.” When it comes to making your choice, “good-quality steel is the best material for an un-fixed fire pit,” says Burnett, while bricks or weather-resistant steel will work best if you’re looking to add a permanent fire spot in your garden.
Position makes perfect
Space is the biggest factor in positioning your fire pit. If you’re on acreage, pick the patch with the best view of the surrounding landscape; if you’re on an average suburban block, a private nook in the backyard is ideal. “Fire pits are typically used as a gathering spot, so having them exposed in a front garden wouldn’t usually work,” says Burnett. “It’s best to place them in a spot protected from wind, but far enough away from trees, hedges and the garden so plants don’t singe or suffer from the heat.” The same applies to your house: you don’t want ash and smoke dirtying your windows and walls. Avoid installing a pit on a deck for fire-hazard reasons, cautions Burnett, and directly onto a patio. “Consider the surface below the fire pit – the ash and rust from the steel will stain a porous stone,” he says. Instead, sit durable pavers beneath the unit or, if you’re positioning it in the garden, lay some crushed granite or gravel first.
Fire and the law
Every council has its own laws on fire use, so check local and state restrictions before you begin burning. This can also determine where you place your pit, and whether you choose a permanent or portable version. “In many parts of Australia, open fires are banned for a lot of the year, so the time they can be used is limited,” says Burnett. There are also rules around the types of fuel you can use. While timber is still the most popular choice, clean-burning ethanol and gel fuels are a less labour-intensive option — though sadly they don’t produce that comforting wood-burning smell. Our advice: get as much information as you can from your council, and then make the big decisions.
Plan your budget
Getting the perfect fire pit in place isn’t something you want to cut corners on — especially if you’re installing a permanent one that should last for years to come. For a bigger job like this, making a budget in advance can make all the difference.
Luckily, Suncorp can help!
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