By Jeff Ronhaar.
Few things are as fun—or as Canadian—as a night outdoors, with friends, drinks, and maybe some marshmallows, s’mores or other comfort food roasted over a crackling fire. There’s almost a deep primal joy we get from gathering around in a circle sharing old stories and jokes, strumming a guitar and huddling together for warmth. So, why do we limit our campfire experience to camping and cottage trips?
The main reason we don’t have fires at home is that there are restrictions, especially within city limits. While home fire pits are a great way to enjoy a fire in the comfort of your own backyard, there are some things you’ll need to know before you jump in. Here are some tips to get you started.
In the same way that you need to follow the rules of the campground when you have a fire away from home, backyard fires need to be managed in a responsible, environmentally friendly way.
If your home is in a remote or a rural area, you're pretty much free to create a firepit in your backyard any time you like (be sure to check local fire bans)! However, in urban areas, the rules around backyard fires vary. Some municipalities don’t allow for fire pits at all. Other locations permit fire pits but have safety requirements that need to be followed closely.
If you're thinking about a backyard campfire for recreation, or even as a landscaping feature, you'll first need to look at both the local bylaws for your area of residence as well as provincial laws to see what your situation is. Our area, Haldimand County, requires that fires must have 10 metres of clearance from any combustible objects or structures on all sides, and they must be at least 4 metres away from any adjacent properties. On the other hand, if you live in Vancouver, British Columbia, while grills for cooking are allowed, fire pits and chimineas are not! So, always consult your local laws regarding fire pits first!
Making the Right Choice
Once you've picked out a good, legally permissible spot to put a fire pit, what kind do you want? If your area allows backyard fire pits, you’ve got a variety of options. Fire pit design has come a long way from just building a circle of stones and throwing some wood and kindling in the middle. So, what do you want to see in your backyard campfire?
Wood Burning Fire Pits
The classic has stuck around for a reason, so it's not surprising that many Canadians would consider this option first. An old-fashioned, wood burning fire pit comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. So you've got a lot of options here in terms of balancing functional preference with aesthetic ones. Do you want a round, open pit on legs, so you can have it on your patio without damaging the stones? You can get that. Do you want something square, with a fine grate that allows flames but contains sparks? You can get that, too!
A Natural Gas Pit
If you want the flame without the mess, a gas burning fire pit is another great option. While the debate about gas grills versus charcoal will continue, no one will deny that gas grills are faster and easier to start and maintain than charcoal. The same goes for a fire pit that burns gas instead of wood. Depending on your preferences, you can have these directly hooked up to a natural gas line, or you can choose one that uses a tank.
For people who really want to go all out, the outdoor fireplace is a visually striking option. Unlike the other options, an outdoor fireplace actually has a chimney to contain smoke and is often quite a sizable centrepiece as far as landscaping features go. A fireplace is an excellent choice for people who want something unusual, but also don't want a completely exposed, open flame. In some cases, an outdoor fireplace may be the option that allows you to circumvent restrictions on open flames in your backyard!
Need More Help?
If you’ve still got questions or concerns about having a fire pit in your backyard, or you want to know what your best local options are, reach out and talk to Jeff's Outdoor! We're always happy to help you.
Jeff Ronhaar started Jeff's in 1994 with a single borrowed mower. Jeff's Outdoor now includes around 30 reliable and trustworthy landscaping professionals.
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