Get cozy with an outdoor fireplace or fire pit

You can design your own flashy fire pit You can design your own flashy fire pit or opt for a simple kit or prefabricated model. Photo Credit: Fotolia.com

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Sitting around a roaring fire, sipping cider and roasting marshmallows, is one of the joys of autumn. And you don't have to be on a campout to do it. Most homes today can easily incorporate a fire pit or outdoor fireplace. And with the wide range of options available, you can be making s'mores by the time the sun goes down.

CUSTOM FIREPLACES AND FIRE PITS

If you've got the tools, the room and the time, a custom fire pit or fireplace can make a nice addition to any backyard, creating a cozy gathering place. Make sure you choose a spot that's 25 feet or more from the house and vegetation. You can build a small fire pit in a few hours using inexpensive materials, such as stacking concrete stones. A fire pit with seating or a fireplace could take a weekend or more and be much more expensive. Go online to find projects and designs.

WOOD OR GAS?

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Another consideration is whether you want a real wood fireplace or fire pit, or if you prefer gas. Both gas fire pits and fireplaces offer options for liquid propane or natural gas. Typically, though, the simpler wood-burning fireplaces and fire pits are less expensive, easier to connect and take the least time to install.

PREFABRICATED FIRE PITS AND FIREPLACES

Putting together a prefabricated unit is quick and, depending on the option you choose, may cost roughly the same as a custom fireplace or fire pit. The savings is in time. When all you have to do is assemble the parts, you can create a great-looking fireplace or fire pit in an afternoon. Home centers usually carry prefabricated fire pits, but fireplaces may have to be ordered.

Fire pit kits that burn wood are available online and can cost between $250 and $500 and include the stones for stacking, a metal liner and capstones to finish the top of the pit. Some kits also include a cooking grate.

If you want a fireplace in the backyard, there's a prefabricated one to match almost any style of home. Prices start at $1,500. A nice-size unit will cost about $2,000 and will offer options such as a gas-line hookup, charcoal or wood burning, and come with a five-year warranty.

However, if you're in a hurry, simple bowl fire pits, and even simpler chimineas, which are usually made of clay and have a chimney, are available for less than $100 -- and, best of all, they're portable.

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