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2012 - Summer Issue
Casas Bonitas
Outdoor Living
Article: Jessica Muncrief
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Whether it is a chilly autumn evening or a warm summer night, a fire pit or bowl is the ideal outdoor accessory. Fire packs the three-power punch of providing heat, light and ambiance. Unlike a fireplace, with a fire pit, you have the opportunity for 360 degrees of enjoyment. You can talk over it and you don't have to worry about it blocking any views. As with any purchase, a little forethought goes a long way. Here are three questions to ask yourself before opening up your wallet to ensure you get maximum enjoyment of your new fire pit or bowl:

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1.) Urban Concepts

2.) Agio

3.) Rick Witting

4.) Agio

5.) Weber, Rick Witting


Nash Patio & Garden

Outdoor Fire Concepts


Paradise Pools

Rawson Builders Supply

Silver Springs
Pools & Spas


The Patio
1.) Why do I want a fire pit?
Fire pits come in all shapes, sizes and styles and the key to determining which one is right for you, lies primarily in what you plan to use it for. If you love to entertain, you can easily create that campfire atmosphere that everyone wants to gather around. In this case, you'll want a larger pit, preferably with seating around it. You might even consider having one built into your patio as the centerpiece of your outdoor living area. Another more portable and less expensive option is to buy a patio furniture set with a fire pit built right into the table. OW Lee has some particularly nice table options.

If you're not looking to create a social gathering spot, you are probably more interested in ambiance and visual effect. Once you start looking, you'll quickly realize that there are some stunning fire pits on the market right now. Artist Rick Wittrig takes fire pits from just functional to true works of art. His Third Rock piece is actually a globe constructed of carbon steel that when lit up is absolutely breathtaking. For added decor, also look for smaller, accent fire pits and bowls that can easily be lit up for instant ambiance.

2.) Where am I going to put it?
Ken Scholten, owner of Embers in El Paso, says the number one tip he would give to someone interested into purchasing a fire pit is to do a bit of research and give it a little forethought. "I encourage people to plan ahead," he says, "A lot of people think they can just throw up a fire pit, but there is more to consider. For example, can you run a line to it if it's a gas version?"

Your first decision is going to be whether to opt for a built-in or portable version. Having one installed is going to take more time and money, but once it is in, the convenience will be worth it. However, if you're planning on spending some weekends at the lake this summer, you might get more enjoyment out of a portable version.

Safety is naturally going to be of utmost concern when deciding on placement. You'll want some protection from the wind, particularly in the Southwest region where we often have unpredictable winds in the spring months. Fire of any kind should always be placed away from the home and away from shrubs, trees or bushes that could be susceptible to sparks.

3.) What extra materials will I need?
Fire pits typically come in gas or wood burning versions. As Ken noted, gas versions are going to require running a natural gas line to wherever you want to place the pit. These lines will include shut off valves at both the pit and home ends so, for safety reasons always be aware of when both valves are open or closed. You won't have any trouble starting a fire whenever the mood strikes, but keep in mind those extra charges that will probably show up on your gas bill. You will also want to ensure you have a stainless steel fire pit ring that will give you the flame effect you desire. On top of the ring, you will need to add filler such as river rock, fire glass, lava rock or even ceramic logs. Ken recommends taking extra care when choosing fillers and ensuring you use only those specifically designed for fires. "River rock is a common filler," he notes, "but you can't just use regular river rock because it will explode. Talk to a professional and get the appropriate filler."

Wood versions are great options as well. They are typically more portable and great for really creating that authentic campfire effect. Opt for woods like hickory and other well-seasoned hardwoods that emit less smoke to ensure an atmosphere conducive to socializing. Also look for screens and barriers that give added protection from sparks and ash debris.

Whether they be wood or gas fueled, there is one accessory that all fire pits must have nearby—a fire extinguisher. Beyond having one handy, make sure all family members know how to operate it, never leave a fire unattended and ensure it is fully extinguished when you are done using it.

With a little planning, a fire pit or bowl can truly make your outdoor living area something special. Whether you use it purely for decorative purposes, as a hub for socializing, or both, you can't beat the enjoyment of the light and ambiance that fire provides. ///
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