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posted: 11/17/2013 1:00 AM

Fire up your backyard landscaping

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  • This simple fire pit was made from tumbled concrete pavers with diagonal edges that may be used as is, or add a metal insert as shown here.

      This simple fire pit was made from tumbled concrete pavers with diagonal edges that may be used as is, or add a metal insert as shown here.
    Photos by Maureen Gilmer/Scripps Howard News Servi

  • Swanky modern fire pits utilize Corten steel in a beautiful streamlined form that makes a great sculptural, free-standing element.

      Swanky modern fire pits utilize Corten steel in a beautiful streamlined form that makes a great sculptural, free-standing element.

  • Some fire pits are manufactured as self-contained units easily inserted into paving or deck.

      Some fire pits are manufactured as self-contained units easily inserted into paving or deck.

  • The ability to spend time away from technology and enjoy the primal act of gathering around fire is the perfect opportunity for quality family time.

      The ability to spend time away from technology and enjoy the primal act of gathering around fire is the perfect opportunity for quality family time.

 
By Maureen Gilmer
Scripps Howard News Service

A fire pit is quite doable for anyone with a backyard who wants to create a relaxing evening outdoor amenity. Fire extends your outdoor living season well beyond the summer months by warming outdoor spaces.

Even if you're on a budget, this can be an affordable weekend project that warms your nights with friends and family. Consider these options to find the perfect one for you:

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$ Free salvage fire pit

Repurpose a 50-gallon steel drum by sawing it in half for the most affordable fire pit. Another popular option is a salvaged metal washing-machine drum with tiny holes that allow light to shine through the sides, too. Spray the drum black with heat-resistant stove paint for an instant upgrade.

Important tip: Lay a piece of stiff, quarter-inch mesh hardware cloth over an open barrel or drum to catch rising sparks and embers.

$$ Low-cost stackable block fire pit

Low-cost, solid concrete masonry units provide the ideal material for a stacked block fire pit. The best choice? Tumbled units -- but virtually any solid block works just as well. Explore fire pits on Pinterest.com to see many examples of these homemade dry-stack fire pits created without foundation or mortar.

$$ Portable fire pit

Free-standing portable metal fire pits can be moved around your yard with the seasons, or stored safely in the garage for the winter. They're widely available, from basic Corten steel to incredibly fancy hammered copper designs. Those designed with spark arresters in the chimney or a protective metal mesh cover are safer without sacrificing visual appeal.

$$$ Prefab fire pit

These free-standing units are designed to allow a propane tank to be hidden inside. That's a real problem-solver where fire is outlawed due to wildfire hazards or air-pollution concerns. This option features an attractive boxlike or round unit in a wide range of materials and colors. These units also function like furnishings by bringing the fire up to table level for greater visibility.

$$$$ Pricey built-in fire pit

This traditional fire pit in the landscape can cost a pretty penny. Designed with materials that tie into architecture, these are often fitted with clean natural gas or propane so you need not have firewood or ash removal to enjoy the heat. Such improvements can cost thousands of dollars, but they make it easy to enjoy an impromptu evening outdoors.

No matter what kind of pit you choose, position it in your yard or landscape so it's a safe distance from the house and separated from outdoor living areas, particularly if you're burning firewood. Beware of prevailing breezes so the smoke is blown away from the faces of guests -- and neighbors.

Online sources:

FirePits.com

WoodlandDirect.com

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