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The weather is getting colder, and the nights are getting longer, which means your summer backyard probably needs a tune-up if you want to keep enjoying some quality outdoor time at home. If so, it’s time to embrace the greatest outdoor feature for winter: the fire pit. Whether you already have a fire pit or you’re looking into having one installed this season, now’s the time to have the work done before the snow and ice take over the yard! There are plenty of options available, whether your yard just needs a bit of a refresh or you’re starting with a fire feature and renovating everything around it.

Is your fire pit just sitting unloved in the back garden?

Not only does a lovely fire pit provide much-needed warmth during the cold Ontario winter, but it also gives your yard an approachable, comfortable ambiance in the darkening afternoons and evenings. If the fire feature already installed in your yard doesn’t check any of these boxes, you should seriously consider an upgrade. If there’s no fire feature at all in your outdoor space, it’s definitely time for a design change! An aesthetically pleasing fire pit or fire table will improve the quality of your own time spent outdoors and add value to your home.

Fire pit ideas can fit any space—and if you don’t believe us, take a look at some of the fire features we’ve built in the Niagara area already! A simplistic stone-ringed fire pit suits any space, small or large, minimalistic or over-the-top—but our designs have a lot more range for you to choose from. Have you thought about installing a traditional fireplace and chimney outdoors? How about a fire-burning stove inside a patio kitchen island? Your fire feature can literally occupy the ground, the walls or structures that don’t even exist yet, so don’t feel any need to limit yourself.

Great fire features for small backyards

If designing for a small backyard, your mind probably jumps right to the old classic, that circular brick fire pit. It’s a solid option! Classics are built to last through weather and landscaping trends, so this will always work for you. Stone and brick designs are popular and traditional, while concrete and glass are more fluid material that designers with a modern aesthetic often prefer.

Whether your fire pit is made of concrete, stone, brick, glass, ceramic, steel or mixed materials, we’ll make sure that strength and durability are second to none. If you aren’t sold on the classic pit design, consider a fire urn or fire bowl. The urns are tall and slim, so there is less square footage taken up by the feature and any surrounding seating. A fire bowl can come in many sizes and will certainly accommodate a smaller yard.

You could also use a portable fire pit if you don’t want a permanent feature in your garden. These are usually quite small and lightweight so that you can bring them in for a season or take them with you on a camping trip. For a flexible yard design that changes with the spring, summer, fall and winter, portable gas fire pits are a great option.

Fire pit, fire table or chiminea?

Consider all your options before pinning down the design that works best for your outdoor space! Ask yourself whether the fire feature you want is mostly for atmosphere, warmth, cooking, or all three. You should also think about seating around the fire, and make sure to choose a fire feature that doesn’t just burn at your feet—or in your face—when seated. Three of the most versatile fire features we work with regularly are the classic fire pit, the fire table and the chiminea.

Despite its name, an outdoor fire pit doesn’t usually consist of a hole in the ground—it’s more of an above-ground pit, or bowl (or contained circle) that sits at ground level. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a below-ground pit, too! In fact, a sunken fire pit could be just what you need to make an otherwise average-looking garden space really pop. Doing so creates a natural space for seating along the edge of the sunken ground, which can be used as-is or reinforced with pavement, tile, stone, etc.

A fire table is quite literally a table that holds gas-burning fire in its centre. These can either be functional as snack or drink tables around the edges, or more decorative. Round, square, rectangular, large, and small, fire tables are a lovely option for cozying up your outdoor space during the colder months. Set at a height that compliments the average height of your backyard chairs and couches, these are perfect for lounging and chatting into the evening.

A chiminea is a tall fire-burning structure that draws fresh air directly into the flame and exposes of smoke and ash through the top. Designed for warmth and a clean-burning flame around which to gather, the chiminea isn’t a great choice for outdoor cooking. In Ontario, a traditional chiminea may not follow your area’s official fire zoning, so if you like the look of these fire features, try to find a gas-burning version.

Fire pits and recreational fires in Ontario

Recreational fires are carefully legislated throughout Ontario to prevent urban fires and forest fires. In almost all cases, a wood-burning fire pit is a no-go for your backyard—however, gas-burning pits, tables and even chimineas are all acceptable (with a permit) unless there is an active fire ban in your area. In most parts of the province, rules must be followed throughout fire season, which runs April 1 – October 31.

The Ontario government website contains all the information you need to know about fire zones and starting fires in the wilderness. To find out your region’s exact rules concerning open air fires and permits, go to your municipal government page. Some cities, such as Toronto and Niagara Falls, have banned recreational fires—but most municipalities allow small fires for warmth and cooking, so long as they are gas fueled.

Maintaining your fire feature and making it last

To keep your fire feature working efficiently and also prolong its life, the most important thing you can do is keep it clean. This should be done regularly to prevent debris from building up, blocking any of the pipes and staining the outer structure. If you have a gas-burning feature, do not try to wash it with a hose or bucket of water, except on the outside (on the outer bricks, cement, etc.). For wood-burning fire features, you’ll need to scoop out all the ash, wood, and other debris right down to the bottom, using a shop-vac if you prefer.

To clean the inner mechanisms of a gas-burning fire pit, use a damp cloth with soapy water and only wash the exposed piping and interior. Be careful as you do, so as not to loosen any screws or dislodge fixed pieces. If you see any pieces rusting or coming apart, you’ll need to have those replaced. Dry the interior and then wash the exterior of the structure the same way afterwards.

When not in use, your fire pit should be tightly covered with weatherproof wrapping so that water, snow and other wind-borne objects don’t get inside. This will keep everything clean, dry and resistant to mould and rot. It will also keep out nesting rodents looking for somewhere warm to spend the winter!

Tips to keep your fire pit working for years to come

  • To keep your fire pit in use for as many years as possible, use it as it is intended.
  • Do not douse the fire with water to put it out. The rapid change in temperature could cause the structure to crack and need replacing far sooner than it should.
  • For gas-burning fires, keep water well away!
  • Use seasoned wood whenever possible in wood-burning fire pits to avoid building up residue.
  • Remove ashes within a few days of having a fire to prevent rainwater turning it into lye and damaging the structure.
  • Season your metal fire pit with oil when cold to protect it from the elements and prevent rust.
  • Use an ember catcher for a cleaner wood or charcoal burn and to collect embers for cooking.
  • Never burn leaves/twigs/wood on your gas burning fire.
  • Don’t cook on a gas fire unless it was designed for it.
  • Keep your gas supply shut when not in use.

Ready to bring the heat?

Try out our landscape project budgeting tool today to find out what your budget can bring to the yard! At Tree Amigos, we’ve made it easy to plan out a large- or small-scale outdoor project to see where your budget will get you. If you’re looking for more customised advice about fire features, an outdoor kitchen, a catio, etc., just give us a call at (905) 468-9557 and we’ll help you figure out all the details. We’re ready to turn your ideas into bricks and mortar (or glass, steel, concrete, and wood) ASAP.