As summer ends and fall approaches, many people wistfully retreat indoors convinced that opportunities for gathering together and enjoying the outdoors are over until next year.
The truth is just because the days are getting shorter and the temperatures colder, sharing times together in the outdoors doesn’t need to end. Professional landscaping can create a space that provides the perfect gathering spot for this special time of year.
When creating a space for fall get-togethers, landscape designers consider four major questions:
- Where will people sit?
- What will provide wind protection?
- How will the temperature be controlled?
- What will the visual focus be?
None of the four questions has a single “correct” answer; there are multiple options for each, depending on the client’s site, preferences and budget. Experienced designers ask probing questions, listen carefully to the answers and then give viable options in order to help their clients translate their dreams into a beautiful reality.
Although each element is important to the overall success of the design, (how well a fall space functions depends on the comfort of its users) the functionality of a fall gathering space centers on the comfort of its users. A nip in the air is seasonal; turning blue from the cold is event killing, and will send guests scurrying home to get warm long before memories are made.
One of the most popular ways of controlling the temperature while providing a spectacular focal point for the space is through the addition of a fire pit. Whether roasting marshmallows with the grandchildren, sipping wine with friends or just gazing into the flames, fire pits add an ambiance to the space that simply cannot be duplicated by anything else. People gather around them, stories are shared and community is built.
Fire pits are available in a range of styles and costs so they can be tailored to fit into almost any design budget. There are basically two types of fire pits. One type is wood burning and the other is gas burning. Each type has its own pros and cons which must be considered before installation.
A wood burning fire pit has the mesmerizing draw of a campfire, giving off the aroma of whatever type of wood is burned. A wood burning fire pit provides more heat and it can’t be beat for roasting hot dogs or making s’mores. In most locations, its fuel – wood – is readily available and the unit itself is highly portable so it can be positioned in the most desirable location for the specific event. Finally, wood burning fire pits are less expensive than gas burning.
On the other hand, wood burning fire pits produce smoke that permeates the air, clothes, hair and everything else around it. The smell can linger long beyond the magic of the fire itself. Wood fires also produce ashes and debris that can fly out from the fire pit burning a bystander or causing a potentially dangerous blaze. A safety screen, which may be required by law, should be used.
A gas burning fire pit is the height of convenience. Simply turn a knob or flick a switch, light the gas and within seconds fire appears. There is no wood to deal with and no need to feed the fire to keep the flames alive. It does not give off the “campfire” aroma, but it also does not produce the smoke smell that stays with you for hours or even days afterward. Gas fires are healthier for individuals with allergies to trees and mold. A gas fire is much cleaner than a wood fire, producing absolutely no ash or other debris to deal with later.
On the downside, a gas fire does not produce the same amount of heat as wood so it is more difficult to cook on a gas fire pit and unless your fire pit is on a dedicated gas line, if you run out of fuel, it can be inconvenient to get more. A gas fire pit should be kept covered when not in use. First of all, there usually is a layer of volcanic rock at the bottom which can have a tendency to collect leaves and other yard waste. If leaves or twigs remain in the lava rock, they can catch fire and float out of the fire pit on an updraft, possibly starting a fire elsewhere. Further, because lava rock is highly porous, it can absorb water easily. If is is wet when it is heated, the rock can build up pressure from steam and explode, throwing bits of extremely hot lava rock out. Although lava rock has been the typical bottom layer, tempered glass beads designed to withstand high temperatures are becoming popular. As with wood burning pits, safety screens should be used to prevent accidental burning.
Those who choose gas fire pits also have another decision to make. Should the gas fire pit be hooked up to a natural gas line or should it run on tanks of propane? Gas line run fire pits are considerably less expensive to operate than those that use propane, but are more expensive to install since a licensed plumber must run the line. Those fire pits on a dedicated gas line must remain in place, while those that use propane are movable.
Including a fire pit in your outdoor living design helps to create a gathering space that moves beyond the ordinary and sets the stage for years of crisp fall evenings spent enjoying family and friends. Let the designers at Embassy Landscape Group make your dream become a reality..