Fire Pit Design Tips & Trends

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Fire pits continue to rise in popularity, and it’s no wonder. There’s just something about gathering around a fire that’s inherently human. A fire pit instantly becomes everyone’s favorite gathering spot. It’s the ideal place to relax, unwind, tell stories, and get to know one another on a deeper level. If you’re thinking of adding a fire pit to your backyard, there are a lot of options to consider before you begin.

Decision 1: Mobile or Built-In

Many people opt for a mobile fire pit that can be moved around to various locations. Movable fire pits are certainly less expensive than a built-in pit, come in a wide variety of designs, and have the added benefit of portability. The primary drawback, however, is that a movable fire pit tends to only last a season or two before the materials begin to deteriorate.

An in-ground fire pit can be a cost-effective option.

Decision 2: In-Ground or Above-Ground

An in-ground fire pit can be cost-effective, however above-ground pits are more common. One trend is to create a “sunken living room” design for an above-ground fire pit. This offers the added benefit of built-in seating. In addition, the surrounding wall can act either as a wind barrier or a heat reflector, creating a warm and cozy room.

Decision 3: Gas, Wood or Hybrid

There are a number of benefits to a gas fire pit. It’s easy to start, there’s no mess, there’s no smoke, and it can be placed closer to the house. For purists, however, burning wood is one of the primal reasons to even have a fire pit. For the best of both worlds, consider a wood-burning fire pit with a gas starter. One popular trend is to install a gas starter with a switch that can be operated either locally, from inside the house, or with a mobile app.

Decision 4: Placement

An above-ground pit becomes a focal point of your outdoor living design. Be sure and place it where it balances with other large design elements. A gas fire pit can be placed just about anywhere, but a wood-burning pit will need to be at least 10 feet away from any structure. Before putting in a permanent fire pit, check for wind patterns that may cause potential smoke issues. Also, remember to leave ample room for seating around the pit.

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This sunken fire pit room uses a combination of natural stone and manufactured hardscapes.

Decision 5: Materials and Shape

Above-ground fire pits can be constructed from a variety of materials. The most popular options are brick, natural stone and concrete blocks, such as Belgard retaining wall products. Although design options are endless, most fire pits are either round or square. One reason has to do with the shape of standard fire pit liners. Fire pit liners are highly recommended and may be required by your local municipality. In addition to adding a finished look, a steel liner keeps excessive amounts of heat from absorbing into the surrounding stone. By reflecting the heat up and out, it adds to the life of the stone and creates a safer environment. It also increases the feeling of warmth for those around the fire.

Decision 6: Seating Options

Built-in seating is currently one of the top trends in outdoor living and makes an excellent addition to a fire pit design. Some people like to place seat walls four feet away from the fire pit, which allows for walking room. Others prefer a three-foot distance, which can allow you to prop your feet on the ledge of the pit. If using seat walls, consider leaving one or two sides open. This will allow for the option of furniture placement, which softens the look and adds interest to the design. To add comfort and color to seat walls, use a variety of throws and outdoor pillows.

The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space an accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.

The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space and accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.

Fore more fire pit design inspiration, visit our “Fire Pit Ideas” Pinterest board. To discuss your ideas with a Belgard authorized contractor or dealer near you, visit our contractor and dealer locator page.

Belgard Provides Charm, Improved Function and Cost Savings for Playground

Every play element of the new Chastain Park playground is designed for group play, from multi-person swings to “racing” slides and harmony stations. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

What happens when kids get involved in the design of a playground? Amazing things! Just ask the community surrounding Atlanta’s Chastain Park. The only public playground serving the 85,000 school-age children within a 5-mile radius, the park’s playground had not been renovated since 2000 and was in dire need of an upgrade. The existing playground had a lot of deficiencies, primarily in that it really only appealed to a small demographic (ages 5-12). The majority of the play structures were too dangerous for smaller children, yet not challenging enough for older children.

A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park's harmony stations. (Photo: Carson Matthews)

A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park’s harmony stations. (photo: Carson Matthews)

Enter play specialist consultant Cynthia Gentry, an expert in childhood development who met with school children from the surrounding community to begin the design concepts. Kids were asked to imagine what they’d like to see on the playground and put that imagery into drawings, which became the inspiration for the all of the designs.

Gentry then enlisted the help of another consultant, Robin Moore, who specializes in nature-based play, currently a strong movement in childhood development circles. Together, Gentry and Moore conducted a charrette, or meeting of the minds, with representatives from the private school located inside the park’s grounds, local public schools and pre-schools, civic associations, the Parks Commission, and various members of the community. At the charrette, the group reviewed all of the children’s drawings and synthesized them into rough design concepts. A second charrette was held at NC State to compound all of the concepts into one overall design.

Landscape Architect Bill Caldwell took the ball from there, handling permits and turning the master plan into design documents for drainage, utilities, elevation, landscaping, hardscaping, and construction of the restroom pavilion. Caldwell contracted renown water resources engineer consultant, Bill Jorden, to develop the stormwater management plan to meet all of Atlanta’s ordinances for stormwater runoff quality and quantity.

Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing water runoff and reducing pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing both stormwater runoff and pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

“Our goal was to not create a detention pond on a beautiful site of rolling hills and historic oak trees. I also didn’t want to have to convert the flat spaces currently used for open play. Belgard products helped us to avoid these traditional stormwater management strategies,” Caldwell said.

With the help of Belgard Urbana Stone® permeable pavers and Mega-Tandem™ Mass Segmental Retaining Wall™, the team was able to conserve land, meet the stormwater requirements, and save a significant amount of money in the process.

“Because the playground was being built into a hillside, the project required substantial retaining walls, which initially called for poured concrete. We got two Mega-Tandem Walls for the price of one poured concrete wall. Also, using the Mega-Tandem allowed us to value-engineer the pavilion and reduce the amount of poured concrete needed for the foundation. Overall, we saved over $200,000 on the project, factoring the cost savings on the pavilion and the site walls,” Caldwell said.

In addition, the 9,000 square feet of permeable paver walkways controls the amount of rainwater runoff that rolls downhill, which alleviates erosion problems. “An impervious system would have caused a concentration of water flow to the lower elevations, which would have generated more runoff than the original site,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell also notes that the Belgard permable pavers and retaining walls allowed him to create the playground out of what was formerly unusable space. “I love the fact that we took a hillside with a 12-15 degree slope that was basically non-functional and turned it into a 1-acre parkland that is a highly functional and usable space and has become a high-value component of the park,” he said. “We created something out of nothing.”

And what Caldwell considers the best part…this playgound was designed by kids for kids, regardless of age or abilities. The entire playground is ADA compliant, with multiple handicap accessible play elements. “Even the texture of the permeable paver walkway adds a sensory element for children with sensory disabilities, which is not something they would get with a smooth poured concrete sidewalk. Addressing disabilities of multiple spectrums was always part of the discussion from the beginning,” Caldwell said.

Photos courtesy Carson MattHews and the Chastain Park Conservancy.

Utilizing Retaining Walls in Poolscape Design

Dimensional multi-level design is one of the hottest trends in modern poolscapes. Belgard segmental retaining wall products make an outstanding medium for dimensional poolscape design. Here are some inspirational ideas of how segmental retaining walls can be used to enhance a poolscape:

Multi-Level Decks and Sunken Rooms

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Steps and Columns

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Dimensional Gardens and Planters

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Built-in Seating, Water Features and Fire Features

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Adjoining Kitchens and Bars

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Parapet Walls and Fencing

Mega-Tandem™ Provides Striking Support for Utah Homebuilder

During the construction of a home in the Salt Lake City area, the landscape contractor was challenged with building a retaining wall that would support the garage and driveway area, which had an elevation drop of about twenty feet into the property line and neighbor’s yard and needed to be terraced according to city codes. The home also needed a grass ramp sloping from the driveway into the home’s own backyard, which was at the same elevation as the neighbor’s, twenty feet below. The Mega-Tandem™ Mass Segmental Retaining Wall system achieved the project’s structural goals, with the bonus of an enhanced aesthetic look of natural stone.

DEVELOPER: Ken & Kristen Keller, Keller Development

INSTALLER: Terra-Scape Landscaping – Rand Locke, Owner

DEALER: Beehive Brick & Stone – Dee Young, VP of Sales

SUPPLIER: Amcor, an Oldcastle company

 

Product Highlight: Belgard Walls for Fire Pits and Beyond

Not that long ago, it seemed like fire pits were primarily seen on campgrounds and were mostly enjoyed by scouts and rugged outdoor enthusiasts. Today, however, fire pits are one of the fastest growing trends in residential outdoor living and come in all sorts of shapes and types. Homeowners who don’t have one, likely want one. Let’s face it, fire pits are hot.

Belgard walls offer an excellent opportunity to build a gorgeous fire pit that not only serves as a favorite gathering spot, but is also a cohesive and permanent part of the overall outdoor living design. Not only can Belgard walls be used to construct the fire pit itself, but also coordinating design elements, such as steps, columns, and garden or seat walls.

Below are some ideas on how to use Belgard walls to construct fire pits that are not merely functional, but seamlessly integrate into the landscape to become the focal point of a cohesive outdoor living design.

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For this first design, Celtik® Wall was use for a variety of coordinating elements, including the fire pit, steps, seat walls, flower box, and retaining wall.

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The home below used Celtik® Wall to convert a severely sloped yard into an amphitheater. The graduated retaining wall doubles as seating for the coordinating fire pit.

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For the next design, a destination area was created overlooking the lake by using Weston Stone® for the fire pit, columns, and protective parapet wall.

4D Schusters Belgard Photography 2009. •  •  •

Weston Stone® was used in this design to create the fascia for step of the sunken fire pit, as well as for the fire pit itself, accent columns, and surrounding garden walls. In the area surrounding the fire pit, the garden wall also serves as a backrest for the seat wall.

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Wall products can also be used in combination to create an interesting look. For the gas fire pit below, the majority of the pit was constructed with Belair Wall®, which mimics the texture of the home’s masonry veneer. Weston Stone® was used for the base and as decorative accents.

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