Outdoor Fireplaces, Fire Pits and Brick Oven Tips

Fireplaces, fire pits and brick ovens allow homeowners to extend their outdoor season by providing a warm place to gather during the colder months. To keep your outdoor fire features functioning properly through the winter season, follow these simple tips from our experts.

Outdoor Fireplaces and Fire Pits

•    Install glass or stainless doors on fireplaces and use stainless covers for fire pits to protect these fire features from accumulating snow and ice. Joe Raboine, President of Harmony Outdoor Living, Inc., explains that slowly building a fire to dry out a fireplace or fire pit that has already accumulated snow and ice reduces the risk of cracking the refractory cement or firebrick.

•    If using ceramic gas log sets, it is critical to wrap those (if you don’t have a cover) with a tarp in the winter as these logs can deteriorate with excessive ice buildup – and are difficult if not impossible to light if the orifices are plugged with ice.

Outdoor Brick Ovens

•    Sweeping the flue once a year is recommended and is an easy do-it-yourself project.

•    If the outdoor temperature is cold or below freezing, take extra time to slowly heat your oven. You do not want to “shock” your oven by taking it from freezing to 600° F in a matter of minutes. Bill Paschen of Chicago Brick Oven recommends that the fire be built-up over at least one hour. Start with a small fire and carefully add more firewood to gradually bring up the temperature.

Stay tuned to our blog for more seasonal tips for making the most of your outdoor living space!

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.

Belgard Introduces the Chicago Brick Oven Collection

Belgard recently announced the addition of the Chicago Brick Oven collection to their product line.  “We have always focused on creating a spectacular outdoor living environment,” states Ken O’Neill, Vice President of Belgard Hardcapes. “The addition of the Chicago Brick Oven Collection will help homeowners and contractors create a focal point for outdoor living spaces without the hassle of working with multiple distributors.” The ovens are light-weight, easy to install and can fit into a variety of landscape design and styles.

The oven line includes a variety of pre-fabricated models, “finish-it-yourself” models, and oven kits bundled with Belgard’s hardscape products. The flagship of the oven product line is the series created especially for world-renowned New York chef and restaurateur Mario Batali. “Nothing beats the authentic taste of food cooked in a wood-fired oven,” states Batali, who purports the wood-fire cooking method for bringing out the natural flavor of food.

The above picture shows a combination of modular units from the Nottingham collection. The Nottingham Brick Oven comes in two pieces. The top unit features a wood-fired brick oven and the bottom unit is designed for wood storage. The kit also includes a pizza peel and brush. In addition, this outdoor area features the Nottingham Bar/Grill Island. To view the full collection of modular units offered through Belgard, visit our website to download the 2010 Belgard Elements product catalog.

Over the coming months, Belgard and Chicago Brick Ovens will be co-hosting a number of events to promote the product line partnership and illustrate a variety of uses, design options, and product specifications. In addition to trade show presentations, Belgard will be offering specification and design information on their new oven line at upcoming Belgard University distributor training classes.

Visit the BelgardOutdoorLiving YouTube channel to see a Chicago Brick Oven in action.