Year-round Ideas for Outdoor Fireplaces and Fire Pits

As families across the country are embracing the “staycation”, it’s no secret that the popularity of outdoor living is on the rise! In fact, a recent survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) revealed that “ninety-four percent of residential landscape architects rate outdoor living spaces as somewhat or very popular for 2010.” A common goal among homeowners building a new outdoor room and those adding to an existing room is maximizing the use of their outdoor living space.

One popular option is adding a fireplace or fire pit to an outdoor room. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “fireplaces rank among the top three features desired by new home buyers.” In many parts of the country, an outdoor fireplace or fire pit allows homeowners to extend their outdoor living season. Fire pits are especially suitable for those cooler evenings, as friends tend to gather around them. Fireplaces, on the other hand, create an ambiance more akin to a family room. In both cases, the mesmerizing effect of glowing embers can quickly become the focal point of any evening.

While the benefits to having an outdoor fireplace or fire pit are more obvious during the cooler months, we also wanted to share a few suggestions for ways to use these elements during warmer weather.

Storytelling by the “campfire”:  Naturally, a fireplace serves as a great focal point or gathering place for your outdoor room. During the warmer months, invite the kids or neighbors out for a night of storytelling…campfire-style.

Old-fashioned cook out:  More and more people are beginning to use their outdoor fire pits and fireplaces for cooking. While roasting marshmallows is a familiar past time to most, many people do not realize you can cook virtually anything with fire. Make S’mores with the kids or entertain the adults with a rotisserie-style cook out in front of your fireplace.

Beat the Bugs: In an article entitled Using a Fire Pit as a Garden’s Focal Point, the source offers this suggestion, “place boughs of rosemary or stalks of citronella near the fire, and let the natural insect-repellent keep the evening comfortable and bug-free.”

These are just a few ways to use your outdoor fireplace or fire pit year-round. If you have additional suggestions, we’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment and we’ll share your suggestion with the rest of our outdoor enthusiasts.

Marinated Double-Thick Pork Chop with Sweet Habanero Glaze

Serves 6-8

Marinade:
2 tablespoons sweet onion
2 tablespoons garlic
2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 tablespoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme picked off stems
Plastic resealable bag
6-8 pork chops
Paper towels
1 tablespoon Old Bay® seasoning
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
Freshly ground black pepper

Habanero Glaze:
1-2 Habanero chiles (substitute Serrano or jalapeño chiles for less heat), seeds removed and chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1 cup water
1/2 cup very ripe, finely diced mango
3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian
flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 can (21 ounces) BUSH’S® Texas Ranchero Grillin’ Beans®

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Mix and crush the ingredients with your hand,
directly or through the bag, squeezing them to release the maximum flavor. Put the chops in the marinade and let them absorb the flavors for 3 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Drain the chops and dry with paper towels. Combine Old Bay® seasoning, chipotle chili powder and freshly ground black pepper and coat the chops. Combine all the Habanero glaze ingredients in a large bowl. Brush the chops with the glaze while reserving some for the garnish. Put the chops on the well-oiled grill and cook until medium-well. Press the chops as needed throughout the cooking process. (An optional technique is to use a foil-wrapped brick or heavy frying pan to maintain grill contact.) Baste during the last minutes and flip the meat as needed. Continue to grill until the chops are nicely caramelized and charred on both sides, approximately 8 to 10 minutes per side total, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Garnish with chopped scallions and chives and drizzle with remaining glaze. Serve with one can (21 ounces) BUSH’S® Texas Ranchero Grillin’ Beans®.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Bush’s® Beans.

Belgard Introduces: Lafitt Patio Slab

The newest addition to the Belgard collection, Lafitt Patio Slab, offers homeowners and commercial properties an economical alternative to natural stone patios and walkways.

Lafitt Patio Slab interlocking pavers combine the timeless look of natural cut stone with a slate-like texture, creating a cost-effective alternative to dimensional flagstone. Similar in look to Belgard’s Mega Lafitt paver line, Lafitt Patio Slab offers large surface dimensions but a thinner profile, allowing for greater overlay opportunities on existing patios or walkways.

The easy-to-install 3-piece modular system comes in a variety of colors and laying patterns that complement any architectural style; and its thin profile provides ultimate design flexibility.

“The beauty of Lafitt Patio Slab is it’s a more sustainable product with greater flexibility,” says Ken O’Neill, vice president of marketing for Belgard Hardscapes. “Yet, it still maintains the look and feel of natural stone and the high quality and durability people expect from Belgard.”

Design tips and information on overlay design is available through our online technical resource center, BelgardDesignPro.

Project Planning: Outdoor Kitchens

The popularity of outdoor living spaces is on the rise – and with good reason! A well designed and installed outdoor living feature offers one of the highest return on investment for homeowners when remodeling. Homeowners and trade professionals across the country are asking about the Belgard Outdoor Kitchen Elements (by Harmony Outdoor Living, Inc.). This new product line creates a cohesive and seamless look as the elements are constructed with the same materials as your outdoor hardscape. They come with a warranty that is unmatched in the outdoor kitchen industry, and are available with MediumRare and OCS grills and accessories. The wood fired brick ovens feature an interior cooking dome constructed by Chicago Brick Oven. These pre-built modular kitchens can be ordered as individual cabinets or as pre-designed layouts. Other options such as wine cabinets, display niches, fireplaces, water features and much more are also available. The combination possibilities for custom layouts, colors and accents materials are endless.

We asked Joe Raboine, President of Harmony Outdoor Living, Inc. to share a few tips on creating a successful outdoor kitchen. He offered these items for consideration:

Initial Planning

  • How is the kitchen going to be incorporated into your existing outdoor living spaces? You want to ensure that it blends into the rest of the hardscape area.
  • Take time to consider the placement of your brick oven or grill. Prevailing winds may force the smoke into your house or exterior dining spaces – not a good situation and difficult to remedy.
  • How many people do you typically cook for – this will determine the grill size, work space, etc.
  • Do you want the kitchen to be fully functioning with a sink, natural gas, etc? If so, make sure you check codes and find a qualified installer who can coordinate those aspects.
  • Try to locate the kitchen near your house – preferably near your existing kitchen or family area. If located too far away, it will not be used often.
  • What type of materials do you want to use to build/face your outdoor kitchen? Make sure that whatever you chose blends in well with your home and hardscape.
  • When considering kits, site built, full mansonry, pre-built, etc. make sure that you are choosing a product that will hold up well for the long term in your climate. Extreme temperature swings can wreak havoc on outdoor structures if not designed, installed or planned properly.

Selecting Features

  • What features do you want most in your outdoor kitchen (ex. Grill, bar, refrigerator, etc)?
  • If you want to incorporate a bar, you may want to consider a sink, bar station, larger refrigerator, speed rail, ice chest and/or a keg cooler.
  • Have you considered a wood fired brick oven? They are extremely popular right now and provide an element that is both interesting and entertaining.
  • What type of countertop do you want? The standard Belgard top features an inlay of polished granite based concrete, but you can also have someone install a granite or concrete counter on-site.

 

Regulations & Safety

  • Make sure that your rear landings are large enough that when bringing food in and out of the house, you are safe.
  • Make sure to check local building codes for kitchens – especially setback requirements.
  • Make sure your kitchen comes with a warranty!

According to Belgard’s Vice President, Ken O’Neill, planning is the key to satisfaction. Ken says, “All projects that result in a happy customer start with good planning. Ensuring that the project’s budget and scope are well defined are important steps in the planning process. Selecting a good contractor also helps. A Belgard Authorized Contractor can help set the table for your design. They can provide design options using Belgard products and in some cases provide a 3D rendering of the design to allow the customer to visualize the completed project.”

Visit our website for inspirational outdoor kitchen photos or to locate a Belgard Authorized Contractor in your area.

Grilled Diver Scallops with Pistachio Crumble, Cucumber and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

Serves 4

For grilled scallops:

8 large diver scallops

2 tbs pistachio oil*

1 tbs lemon

salt and pepper to taste

For cucumber salad:

2 English cucumbers

1/2 cup crumbled feta

2 tbs chopped red onion

1 tsp chopped oregano

1 cup olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

For pistachio crumbles:

1 cup shelled pistachios

1 tbs dry oregano

1 tsp chili flakes

1 tbs sesame seeds (toasted)

For roasted strawberries:

1/2 cup strawberries (quartered)

1 tbs olive oil

1 tbs balsamic vinegar

1 tbs mint leaves (finely chopped)

Instructions:

For scallops:

Rub scallops with pistachio oil and season with salt and pepper. Put on grill fat side down and sear on one side on high heat (about 4 minutes). When charred, turn scallops and cook on low heat about 1 minute or until desired doneness.

For cucumber salad:

Toss all ingredients together in mixing bowl.

For pistachio crumbles:

In a food processor, combine all ingredients until a powder is achieved.

For roasted strawberries:

In a hot saute pan, add olive oil. Add strawberries. Saute 1-2 minutes or until somewhat soft. Add vinegar, turn off heat and add mint.

To Serve:

Dip warm scallops in crumble until well coated on seared side. Bake in hot oven or on hot grill to brown for about 1 minute. Arrange cucumber salad on plate with some additional crumble and crumbled feta. Drizzle with strawberry vinaigrette. Place scallops on salad and redress with fresh lemon and olive oil. Serve with toasted pita or crusty bread and a drizzle of olive oil.

*Pistachio Oil: In food processor, add 3/4 cup pistachios (shelled, preferably toasted) and 1 cup of light olive oil. Puree the mixture, until desired consistency is reached. Let it sit overnight or for several hours until the mixture settles. Skim off the oil which is now pistachio infused.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Western Pistachio Association

Belgard Leads the Way for a Rebounding Industry

The Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard’s center for research on U.S. housing, released an article last week stating that a healthy rebound for remodeling is expected in 2010. According to the article, research suggests that annual spending will reach nearly a 5% growth rate in 2010.

Director of the JCHS, Nicolas P. Retsinas, stated, “The gradual recovery in the broader economy should encourage more remodeling spending by homeowners. This year could produce the first annual spending increase for the industry since 2006.”

Belgard has been preparing for this increase by boosting efforts on the national and local levels to raise awareness and improve education for both trade professionals and homeowners. Making educated decisions and providing quality service will increase loyalty and satisfaction for all of Belgard’s customers.

For the professionals, Belgard offers a series of certification classes and seminars through Belgard University. Established in 1995, Belgard University provides the latest tools, techniques and programs in the market today. Here are just a few of the advantages BU has to offer:

  • Receive new 2010 Belgard literature
  • Be the first to see our new 2010 product launches
  • Network with other trade professionals
  • Learn valuable tips your competitor is not
  • Earn ICPI and NCMA certification

This year’s curriculum also includes exclusive presentations from Belgard product partners including Chicago Brick Oven, Harmony Elements and Medium Rare.

In 2010, Belgard has also reached out to dealers and contractors through the Belgard Co-op Program. This program offers assistance in creating and executing advertising campaigns at the local level. Participants receive help in implementing plans that can raise overall brand awareness or create a buzz for specific events. Belgard has received great feedback in regards to the co-op program.

As a result of increased efforts to the trade, Belgard’s trade professionals are sharing their education with homeowners through local DIY clinics and workshops. Through these local events, homeowners have had the opportunity to watch live Chicago Brick Oven demonstrations (and enjoy wood-fired pizza), visit local product displays and learn hands on from trade professionals about the quality and versatility of Belgard products. A full listing of upcoming events can be found on the Outdoor Living by Belgard Facebook fan page.

As the market conditions become more favorable, Belgard will continue to empower professionals and homeowners alike by providing educational tools and hands-on experiences. Visit us at www.belgard.biz to learn more about building your future through Belgard Hardscapes.

Click here to view the full article “Healthy Rebound for Remodeling Expected in 2010”.