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September 21, 2013 8:30 AM CDT

Outdoor living trends heat up

Homeowners are lighting up their outdoor spaces


Homeowners are lighting up their outdoor spaces, bringing fire features to their patios as one of this summer’s top outdoor living trends and then reaping the rewards year round.

“Fire features are a great way to bring both aesthetics and function to outdoor spaces,” said Ken O’Neill, senior vice president of marketing for Belgard® Hardscapes. “Fire features present a visual focal point, plus provide a year-round cooking station and cold-weather warmth. They are one of the most popular additions to outdoor living designs we’re seeing this year as homeowners see fire features as an investment that pays off with their extended patio use.”

Outdoor living areas are becoming extensions of the home, replicating indoor spaces with modern conveniences for everything from relaxing to cooking. This year’s Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects shows that three of the top five Outdoor Living Features are fire features, with fire pits/fireplaces taking the top spot. It’s a trend that’s popular throughout the country.

“Fire features get a lot of use in summer, when kids can enjoy late nights roasting marshmallows and families tend to do all their cooking outside,” O’Neill said. “The greatest benefit, though, is how fire features extend the outdoor season by providing a heat source that makes being on your patio pleasant in late fall, and, in some places, throughout the winter.”

Among popular outdoor living features are patios with outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, fire pits, fire tables and built-in grills, all complementing amenities and social spaces such as eating areas, bars, pool decks, and built-in seating.

“Choosing fire features is a fun step in designing a patio, but there are certain considerations that should go into the selection process that ensure safety for your family and synergy for the space,” O’Neill said.

  • When selecting fire features, consider the foliage surrounding your outdoor space. If it’s a heavily-wooded area, a fire table works well in a small space and still gives the visual benefits of the flame.
  • Make sure the flooring underfoot is appropriate for a fire feature, both in its weight-bearing properties as well as its fire-resistance.
  • If your fire feature will also be a cooking station, ensure the flooring is easy to clean and won’t contribute to slippery situations. A textured surface can make spills less hazardous.
  • Think through how you’ll use your space once you add a fire feature. A fire pit can accommodate a large group gathering for a marshmallow roast, while a few chairs pulled close to a fireplace create a relaxing setting for a small group.
  • Consider your home’s architectural style and patio’s features, and design in sync with those characteristics. For example, when adding an outdoor fireplace to a Victorian home made of stone, choose red or brown hued pavers to add contrasting warmth to the home’s façade and repeat the curves of arched windows in the fireplace’s shape.
  • Manage your budget without limiting your design goals by selecting modular fire features; the pre-built pieces are economical and install quickly.

About the Author

Since 1995, a nationwide network of Oldcastle manufacturing facilities has produced Belgard interlocking pavers, paving stone and garden wall products. These products include the traditional and antiqued paver and wall series. All Belgard products have a long history of successful applications on thousands of residential and commercial projects throughout the United States and Canada. Contact Belgard Hardscapes, Inc. at


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