Image from HOUZZ
Building a stone fireplace can be a funny and rewarding task for those who like building, designing and working with their hands. It is, however, not an easy job and you should be very careful with all the details and follow the necessary steps or instruction manuals (in case you are using a fireplace kit) in order to end up with a safe, functional and beautiful outdoor fireplace.
8 steps to follow
As every DIY project, this one also includes several steps that you need to follow in order to build your own outdoor stone fireplace. All of them are logical, relatively easy to follow but will require some precise measurement and cutting and, of course, tons of your passion and imagination.
Step 1 Get Permission
The first step you need to do before getting to busy with purchasing materials, drawing sketches and browsing through possible designs is to check the local regulations about outdoor fireplace. Because of the dangers associated with fire you might need a special permit for the construction. Sort out this important issue first and take into account the recommendations, if any, you might receive from the officials during your construction work.
Step 2 Choose a fireplace type and location
The next step is to choose the type and location of your fireplace. Will it be a wood-burning or a gas-fueled device? This decision may depend on a few more factors rather than your own preferences. You need to check the local requirements since in some towns or neighbourhoods burning wood may not be allowed. And if you already have a gas installation in your house, perhaps it will be easier to have a gas-fueled outdoor fireplace, rather than setting the installation just for it. Once you have set this issue then look around your property and find the most appropriate place for your new outdoor fireplace.
Step 3 Choose a design
In order to have the perfect design for your outdoor fireplace you need to have realistic ideas. It is good to browse through the web for inspiration and mark some projects that look good but make sure to accommodate them according to the space you actually have. Use a measuring tape to determine the size (width, length, depth and height) of your outdoor fireplace at the location you have chosen. Don't forget to take into account the chimney as well. Put the dimensions into a piece of paper and use them to elaborate the actual look of your fireplace. If you are good at drawing you can do it by hand or use a computer.
Step 4 Lay a concrete foundation
The fireplace should lie on a flat and safe are, covered with concrete. If you do not have such a place in your yard than you need to create it. Dug a ditch, bearing in mind the size of the fireplace, mix and lay concrete. Make sure the concrete slab has dried before proceeding further.
Step 5 Build a frame
Image from HGTV
Now you need to create your frame by using the wooden posts, use 4X4 post to create vertical support and 2X4 ones for the horizontal support. You can nail them together using a nail gun or screw them with a drill.
Step 6 Secure the frame
Image from HGTV
You need to secure the frame before you proceed further with the construction. Cover it with 5/8-inch plywood and install the fireplace unit. Then nail a metal wire lath to the frame and apply mortar to it. The other option is to apply cement boards to the frame attaching them with concrete screws.
Step 7 Lay the stone
Image from HGTV
Once the frame is ready you can start laying the stacked stone. Apply mortar with a hand trowel to the back of each stone before attaching it to the frame. Try to lay the stones as tight as possible. Proceed this way all the way up the frame and don't forget the chimney. Add mortar to fill in any space between the stones where it is necessary. You may also need to cut some of the pieces in order to fit better. Choose an appropriate cutting tool depending on the natural stone you are using. While stacking the stones you can wipe the excess mortar with a damp cloth.
Step 8 Attach the chimney cap
Image from Copper by Design
The final step in the construction process is to attach the chimney cap. Since most of them are made of metal it is recommended to use protective gloves. Check what type of chimney cap you have in your kit and follow closely the instructions – you may just need to push it firmly into the flue or attach it with masonry bits with a drill.
We also suggest watching a few YouTube movies with instructions on how to build an outdoor fireplace as they are always useful and informative and can give you some fresh ideas. This one is an example of how anyone can cope with the task even without experience but armed with dedication and … a credit card.
What you will need
The materials and instruments you will need depend on the specific design of your outdoor fireplace. Here you can find a list of the most commonly used tools that you can use as a basis and add to it:
- Fireplace unit, fireplace kit or fire pit
- Stone cutting tool
- 4X4 and 2X4 posts
- Metal wire lath
- Hand trowel
- Grout (fire-resistant)
- Hammer or nail gun
- Damp cloth
- Measuring tape
- Carpenter's level
- Pipe or duct to serve as flue
- Chimney cap
- Protective clothing and gloves
There are a few tips that we can offer in order to make your construction process easier.
- The first and most useful is to build your outdoor fireplace using a fireplace kit. Thus you will have all the modules available and you will not have to guess the right proportions for the firebox and the chimney, which are the most important ones. Besides it will speed up the process significantly. Make sure to buy the decorative stones as well as they are not included in the kit.
- Check the local regulations before you start. It may turn out you have chosen an inappropriate location or fuel for your outdoor fireplace (some communities do not allow wood burning) or that you are not allowed to have it at all. There are specific regulations about the chimney height as well.
- Make your fireplace a focal point of your outdoor area but make sure that it doesn't block the beautiful view.
- Follow closely the safety requirements – never leave a burning fireplace unattended, keep a few buckets of water/sand or a working hose nearby in case of emergency, place the furniture at least 3 feet away from each side of the fireplace, that is also valid for larger vegetation.
Natural stone options for your design
One of the most critical elements of your outdoor fireplace is the right stone for its construction. There are several options that you can choose from but the best material here is natural stone. There is a wide variety available and you can even mix stones to create your own unique pattern. Since the natural stone is very durable and easy to maintain it makes it ideal for an outdoor fireplace. You can choose the stone depending on your garden and/or house design and turn the fireplace into a bespoke item to match the overall atmosphere of your home. There are three types of natural stone that we recommend for your project:
- Limestone – this is a popular choice for an outdoor fireplace because of a combination of features. It's natural colours are a perfect match to almost everything, it is easily available and comes at a lower price compared to the other stones. On top of that it has different nuances so you can combine lighter and darker shades for a more dramatic effect or mix it with other stones
- Marble – this beautiful natural stone fits anywhere you put it and can also be used for creating a unique outdoor fireplace. It has many advantages that make it attractive as a building material – its versatile colours and patterns, its longevity and relatively easy maintenance. Bear in mind though that its beauty often comes at a price, since marble is perhaps the most expensive natural stone on the market.
- Granite – this natural stone is yet another wonderful building material for your outdoor fireplace. Its main advantages are its durability and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. Besides it is very easy to clean and requires little to no maintenance.
We hope that this article has encouraged you to start the construction of the long desired stone outdoor fireplace of your own. Good luck and enjoy the time spent building!