FIRE PITS, OUTDOOR FIREPLACES AND FIRE FEATURES
Outdoor living in Arizona is a year round event – but for the most part it’s most enjoyable in the mild fall, winter and spring months.
During those cool evenings, a fire feature tends to be one of the most popular outdoor features in most landscape projects. Basically, a traditional backyard must have some sort of fire pit or fireplace to complete the overall project. Unique Landscapes by Griffin is one of the best fits for designing and building your outdoor fireplace because of our seamless integration with the several phases that need to come together to complete such a fire feature.
Fireplaces and fire pits require the coordination of several key elements – masonry, gas and plumbing, and stonework. The masonry work in Arizona is the craftsmanship of the CMU block, mortar and rebar. This is the infrastructure of the fireplace or fire pit. The plumbing and gas line work is completely necessary for a gas fireplace or gas fire pit. This involves running underground gas lines or propane lines from a gas source (usually a propane tank or gas meter), to the fire feature or fireplace. The finishing touches involve stonework, paint and stucco – which complete the overall fireplace project. Sounds easy, right? Well, most people are surprised to learn that landscape contractors are not licensed to build a gas or propane fireplace or fire pit!
Most people don’t realize but a landscape company is not licensed to run gas or electrical lines in your landscape project! In fact, with a landscape license, the landscape company is not even allowed to hire a licensed electrician or plumber – the homeowner needs to do that (which now makes the homeowner the General Contractor! – and the responsible party for the complete project).
WHAT CAN I DO WITH FIRE? One of the most common questions usually asked by our clients! Well, below are some of our most common terminology, as well as some of our customer education on the pros and cons of each.
1. Fire pit – one of the most common fire features in Arizona, the fire pit, has become a standard backyard installation. Fire pits can range from 3’ wide to as much as 6’ or greater. Usually at a height of 12”, these are all custom-built to the owners and landscape designer’s specifications. The fire pit can be wood burning or setup for natural gas or propane. A wood fire pit makes for a great evening, but requires the dreaded “clean up”! So, most of our clients tend to prefer the quick and easy gas setup. With a gas fire ring, lava rock is the most common flame distribution method, but Unique has setup anything from silica sand fire pits, glass beads, or a real-wood looking ceramic log set! Fire pits have become popular because of their ability to be the center point of an evening of fun, with everyone sitting and talking around the fire pit!
2. Fire pot/bowl – the smaller version of a fire pit is the fire pot or fire bowl. Our clients love the more contained version of putting fire in a presentation pot, and setting it on a stone column or patio location. Fire bowls create a great overall appearance, and can be filled with lava rock, ceramic logs, or even water!
3. Fireplace – The Arizona fireplace is the best way to make a statement in any backyard landscaping or pool project. This gorgeous focal feature can take on the design and feel of the house, backyard, or patio. The fireplace in Phoenix is more of a daily focal feature but as the night cools off, it becomes the center of the party. The fireplace sets on the edge of the patio, whereas the fire pit sits in the center. With that being said, the fireplace can allow more patio space for our landscape projects. Fireplaces are traditionally built with CMU block and stuccoed/painted, but most of our fireplaces have some really cool stone or custom accents. Don’t forget the ceramic log set, to complete the authentic look of a real outdoor fireplace, without the messy cleanup!
4. Fire channel – Unique’s ability to design and build custom fire features has always been our forte! Our clients love our ability to run fire out 6’ to 12’ in a straight line, creating what we call a “fire channel”. Fire channels create a great atmosphere, as well as an incredible conversation piece. The dancing flames are almost mesmerizing, as the blues and yellows appear in each of our custom fire channels.
5. Tiki torch – Bring a little taste of the tropics to your backyard with our fire torches. The cheap versions can just be oil-filled, and can easily last an entire evening. Our “Unique” versions are custom designed and built with gaslines, and copper tiki-torch heads (which safety shut-off valves) – giving our clients a permanent landscape feature for year round enjoyment of fire! These tiki torches allow our landscape designers to spread the fire out throughout the backyard – and the atmosphere tends to come alive!
6. Fire & Water – One of the most difficult fire effects is the mixing of fire and water! Nothing beats the WOW-factor of fire virtually rising from a water feature or water pot. After years of studying the pros and cons of fire and water features, Unique has learned many do’s and dont’s when working with the combination of these two elements.
The basics: A standard fire pit in Arizona can be a huge asset to any backyard. Both fire pit and fireplace can be topped with flagstone or stucco. The interior should always contain some sort of “fire brick” material and be of sound construction. A fireplace can be the perfect accent to any backyard and can range from 4’ to 12’ tall.
The upgrades: For the truly custom projects, our clients tend to prefer the installation of gas or propane lines, for easy on/off of a Phoenix fire feature. Gas is the perfect fit for any fireplace, fire pit, or fire feature. Safety valves make sure that only adults can manually turn on these fire features when it’s time for the entertainment. Custom accents such as stone, Travertine, or boulders can accent any Arizona fireplace or fire pit.
The “premium”: For the fire “enthusiast”, Unique recommends some of our “premium” upgrades. For any custom project, one fire pit is just not enough! The “enthusiast” can only be happy with MULTIPLE fire features. We’ve done projects with up to 7 different fire accents in one backyard! Next, if budget is not an issue, the automated fire pits and fire features tend to be the latest craze. At a price tag of around $2500 each, our clients can enjoy fire at the touch of a button (from a cool remote control). Fire glass tops off our “premium” list because of its upscale look to any custom fire project.
FIRE PIT “DESIGN TIP”: Remember, fire pits can be the biggest patio “killer”, since most fire pits sit in the middle of a large patio space. Try pushing the fire pit to the side of a patio which may not get as many people around it – but, it will allow more people to use the patio!
FIREPLACE “DESIGN TIP”: A fireplace should be designed as a focal-point in your Arizona landscape or Arizona patio project. Even an unused fireplace can get years of enjoyment if properly lit at night.
FIRE FEATURE “DESIGN TIP”: Virtually anything can be done with fire – let our professional designers work with you to create a “custom” fire feature that will be the topic of every outdoor party at your place.
QUALITY DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
All of our fireplaces and fire pits start with a solid concrete footer with a ½” rebar grid. This creates a solid foundation for which to build the structure. Next, the block base is built, using our skilled masons. Finally, the entire structure is filled with rebar and solid grout to secure the corners and top block (bond beam) – creating the best possible base. Unique keeps drainage in all outdoor patios and fireplaces a key concern. The base is typically coated with a stucco texture to match or complement the house, or finished off with a variety of options, which may include veneer stone or tile. Our standard fireplaces can be covered with real stone mantel, travertine tile accents, or just decorative stucco. Unique provides some of our clients some authentic gas log sets, decorative glass fire pits, and other customer features with fire!
The “UNIQUE” difference – After many years of perfecting our products, we have come up with the best possible way to construct many of our popular items. Here is how we differ from our competition:
• Bond beams, rebar, and solid filled block – it’s an industry standard to think that just stacking block and stuccoing it will suffice, but our mason’s mortar every block, and then take it a step further by filling it solid with rebar and concrete – making cracks a thing of the past!
• Stone and Tile Experts – Our projects look better when they are finished because of the experience and attention to detail that our stone and tile experts add to each project. We do so many fireplaces and fire pits each year that we keep full-time tile setters, flagstone masons and stone experts on each of our projects. These guys actually specialize in their “Unique” skill and tend to be some of the best in the valley!
• Unique Designs – Unique specializes in some of the most difficult water and fire features that Phoenix has to offer. Our owner’s background in engineering allows us to research, design and perfect any custom fire feature or any specialty project for our clients. From automated fire and water, electronic ignition, water and fire combined – we have perfected it! You don’t have to be another contractors “experiment”!
• Gas and Electric – As licensed pool and general contractors, we are one of the only landscape companies that can “legally” perform these services for our clients. Don’t let an unlicensed landscape contractor touch something as dangerous as gas, propane, or electric on your property!
• Safety – Unique makes sure that everything we do is designed and built for future safety. From our “child-proof” key valves, to our safety shut-offs – our fire features are as safe as possible when not being used.