Steel fire pit with moon and stars cut outs on a brick patio.
Photo: Jamie Hadley

The high-carbon steel fire pit has a heavy steel foot rest that doubles as a handle.

Fun and practical additions to your patio or backyard, little portable fire pits and chiminea fireplaces are sold in home and garden stores, through catalogs, and on the Internet. They can add warmth and ambience to your backyard, and with the addition of a grill some can be used for barbecuing.

In a cold-winter or rainy climate, you will need to store your portable fireplace in a protected indoor area such as a carport, garage, or basement.

Fire pits
Freestanding metal fire pits are often decorative as well as practical backyard assets, featuring sleek designs or even fanciful cutouts in their sides. They are available in a choice of wood-burning, propane gas–fueled, or gel alcohol versions.

Wood- or charcoal-burning fire pits come in a variety of designs, from wide and shallow copper basins on steel legs to three-legged, drum-shaped open pits of high-carbon steel. Some mesh-walled "drums" rest on tall legs with wheels.

Most portable fire pits have a sturdy wire-mesh spark screen for safety; mesh-walled models are designed with an access door. Some kettle-shaped types feature a ring of heavy steel that serves as a footrest. You can add an optional grill to some models.

Fire pits fueled by gel alcohol are glass-enclosed. Often shaped like large lanterns, they come in aluminum, stainless steel, and even copper.

The three-legged clay chiminea has become a popular outdoor mini-fireplace. Its characteristic little chimney may be integral to the squat base or sold as a separate piece. You can find chimineas in unadorned terra-cotta or in more decorative finishes and colors. Besides the traditionfire pits traditional clay, chimineas of cast iron, aluminum, steel, and copper are also sold.

These charmers range widely in price and quality; buy from a reputable dealer to ensure that yours is properly fired to withstand heat.

Most chimineas also need to be weather-sealed.

Chimineas -- most of which are made for fire-watching and not for cooking -- may burn wood or miniature manufactured logs made expressly for them. Some can be used with gas-log sets. Consult the dealer or the manufacturer's instructions for instructions on how to "cure" a wood-burning chiminea before first use and how to insulate the bowl with sand or gravel.

Accessories for chimineas can be purchased separately at home and garden centers. Along with spark screens and heatproof mats (for use on decks), you'll find protective covers, firewood holders, tool sets, and even candle holders that sit inside the bowl when you're seeking atmosphere more than actual warmth.


Ideas for Great Fireplaces

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