Cozy up and stay warm by an outdoor fire this winter in Arizona
Nov 9, 2023, 3:00 PM
A Burning Choice.
Hooray! Winter in the desert is coming soon! Even on the coldest of desert days, it is possible to enjoy the out-of-doors with the help of a warm fire! Who doesn’t love huddling around a fire?
What is the best way to stay warm?
Start by asking yourself, “Why do we want a fire? Do we want to huddle around the warmth of the fire and enjoy watching the flames dance around? Or do we love eating or playing board games at the patio table and would do it more if it was warmer?”
Here are some choices to warm up your outdoor spaces.
A fire pit is typically a built-in masonry pit or a stand-alone metal dish that contains a fire. Either way, a fire pit usually needs open space around it for standing or sitting. This space also allows us to escape direct smoke. How many times have you sat around the campfire, convinced that you are a smoke magnet?
The fire pit is a common focus of outdoor relaxing spaces. Folks gathering around the fire pit tend to interact with each other. After all, y’all are facing each other! This gathering space feels like a campfire and all the good feelings that come with it. The fire pit is conducive to campfire activities such as storytelling, making s’mores, and visiting with friends and family. Sing-alongs are fun, too! Your neighbors may want to join in if they like your singing. If this lifestyle strikes you as a good goal, make the space and get the circle going.
An alternative to a fire pit could be a chiminea. Chimineas are small stoves with a pot belly and a stack on top. Originally, chimineas were used in the home for heating and cooking. They were placed by an open window or in the center of a space with a hole in the roof to allow smoke to pass through.
Traditional terracotta chimineas need to be seasoned. They must be broken in with a couple of small fires before lighting a roaring fire. Keep your chiminea dry when in use. A chiminea that is damp from rain can crack when a fire is started; dousing a fire or hot embers can crack the vessel as well.
Place chimineas on a solid surface of brick or concrete and keep little ones and pets away when using them, as they are very hot to the touch. Chimineas are also available in steel, cast iron, and aluminum.
Chimineas are often used in smaller areas like closed-in patios. These traditional ovens lend to the ambiance we often seek outdoors.
A traditional fireplace or a fireplace insert are popular back porch choices. Fireplaces set a more formal ambiance to your outdoor space.
A big advantage of a fireplace is the chimney, as it can direct the smoke up and away from the folks sitting by the fire.
Becky Derendal, owner of Arizona Chimney Sweep and Air Ducts, tells us it is important to have outdoor fireplaces cleaned regularly, especially if the fireplace is attached to the house or is located close to a tree. A fireplace should have a good visual inspection to check for mortar cracks and structural integrity. She also recommends installing a spark arrestor on every fireplace because they keep sparks from leaving the chimney and ending up on the roof or in a tree. An arrestor will also keep the rain out and the birds from making a nest.
Outdoor fireplaces make the space around it feel like an outdoor living room. Add an outdoor TV over the fireplace, and you have a great place to watch your favorite movie or cheer on your favorite sports team. The patio, warmed by a fireplace, is a great gathering place for family and friends.
What type of fuel is best for your outdoor firepits and fireplaces?
If you are going to use natural wood logs, give some thought as to the species you are using. The denser the wood, the longer and usually cleaner the burn. Mesquite, oak, and juniper are great choices.
Cottonwood burns hot and fast. Pine trees tend to burn faster and typically leave more residue in a flue if you have a fireplace. That means more frequent cleaning.
Synthetic logs are becoming more attractive to folks living in cities. They are readily available and tend to be more environmentally sound when burned. They are made from all manner of post-industrial products, such as sawdust, grain chafe, agricultural products, and even cardboard.
Gas, both natural and propane, are other fuel sources and, for some applications, might be the best choice. You will not have to spend time on the cleanup of ashes. Starting your fire can be as easy as flipping a switch.
It is a good idea to have all gas connections checked by a plumber for leaks once a year.
Check your municipality for “No Burn Days”. Restrictions are implemented for indoor and outdoor fireplaces when the Valley suffers a spike in pollution.
There is something primal and ethereal about sitting around or in front of a fire. We would love to hear your favorite fireside story. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources regarding burn activities and safety.
Join Rosie on the House every Saturday morning from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. on KTAR News 92.3. If you’d like to send us questions or comments, email email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook. For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program. Call 888-767-4348 with questions & comments