Outdoor Fireplaces and Firepits FAQ

Ready for some answers to your Outdoor Fireplaces and Firepits FAQ (frequently asked questions)? We hope you’ll find what you need here.

Mike’s Evergreen has been a family owned and operated landscape business serving Fresno and Clovis since 1987, and we’ve built A LOT of outdoor fireplaces and firepits in that time. We’ve been asked numerous questions and provided the answers people need to make smart, informed decisions.

So if you don’t find the answer to your specific question here, we invite you to contact us directly so we can help you, too.

In the meantime, here are some of those most frequently asked questions about outdoor fireplaces and firepits:


How much does it cost to put in an outdoor fireplace?

Outdoor fireplaces come in all shapes and sizes , so your investment in an outdoor fireplace depends on the kind of fireplace you want. Variables that affect the cost include size, design, materials, and fuel source (wood, gas, or propane).

That being said, well-known home improvement guru Bob Vila’s website reports a national average cost of $3,000, with a typical range of between $1,500 and $20,000.

That’s a pretty wide range, so it’s best to talk about your ideas for an outdoor fireplace with a landscape contractor experienced in building outdoor fireplaces to get a better idea of what your fireplace may cost to put in.


What type of outdoor fireplace is best?

The designation of “best” is subjective, and what is best for you may be different from what’s best for someone else.

For example, if your home has brick accents, you may consider an outdoor fireplace built with bricks the best in order to complement your home. A small outdoor fireplace may be best for a smaller backyard, but the scale may not be right in a larger setting.

Things you have to consider when determining what type of outdoor fireplace is best include the setting (your home, backyard, and property in general), your aesthetic preferences, your budget, and how you’ll be using the fireplace to enhance your lifestyle.


How far away from the house should an outdoor fireplace be?

General fire safety guidelines say your outdoor fireplace should be 10-25 feet away from your home and any other structures, including a fence. Building codes vary from county to county, so be sure to work with a licensed and experienced contractor when installing an outdoor fireplace.


Is a gas or wood outdoor fireplace better?

Both are valid and viable options, so the answer of whether a gas or wood outdoor fireplace is better depends on personal preference.

If you want an easy, reliable, clean fire, then an outdoor fireplace using gas is the better option. On the other hand, if you want the pop and crackle, smell, and overall ambiance of a traditional wood fire, then a wood outdoor fireplace is better for you.


Does an outdoor fireplace add value?

An outdoor fireplace enhances the outdoor living space of your home, which makes your home more appealing to potential buyers. In fact, Napoleon reports that “a well-designed and maintained outdoor living space can increase your home’s value by as much as 20%, and an outdoor fireplace can play a big role in that, making it one of the best outdoor improvements to add value.”

But while you may benefit from the additional monetary value added by an outdoor fireplace when you sell your home, there is also value in the increased enjoyment you receive from it in the meantime.

Either way, the answer is yes! An outdoor fireplace does add value.


What is a good size for an outdoor fireplace?

An outdoor fireplace can be as large or as small as you want. Generally, a smaller fireplace is good for creating ambience, while a larger fireplace can serve as a focal point or even as an anchor to an outdoor living space.

Typical dimensions for an outdoor fireplace can range from 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep up to 15 feet wide and 4 feet deep.

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to designing your outdoor fireplace. It’s important to size your fireplace appropriately so that it fits the right proportions for your specific property.


How tall should an outdoor fireplace be?

The overall height of an outdoor fireplace includes both the fireplace base structure itself (where the space for the actual fire is) and the chimney. California building codes require that chimneys be at least 2 feet above any section of a building that is within 10 feet.

Building codes can vary from county to county, so be sure to work with a licensed and experienced contractor when installing an outdoor fireplace.


How far does an outdoor fireplace need to be from a fence?

Your outdoor fireplace should be a minimum of 10 feet away from your fence for safety. It should also be that distance away from other landscaping elements and/or potentially flammable materials.


What’s the difference between an outdoor fireplace and a fire pit?

The biggest difference between an outdoor fireplace and a fire pit is the structure. Fireplaces have structural sides and backs with access to the fire only from the front. Fire pits are low to the ground and generally open on all sides.

Because they’re open on all sides, more people can gather around a fire pit.

Another difference is that outdoor fireplaces can be part of covered outdoor living spaces, including outdoor kitchens. Whereas fire pits are designed to be built out in the open.

Price is also different between an outdoor fireplace and a fire pit, with fireplaces being the larger investment.


Which is better? An outdoor fireplace or fire pit?

The determination of whether an outdoor fireplace or fire pit is “better” is a personal decision. It’s based on your property, your lifestyle, your aesthetics, your specific wants and needs, and your budget.

It’s often helpful to talk to professionals who design and install both to explore both options in detail with your specific situation in mind.


Which is better? A cast iron or steel fire pit?

Both cast iron and steel fire pits are durable and attractive additions to your outdoor living space. Which one is better depends on your personal aesthetics and budget.

Cast iron fire pits are sturdy. They heat up quickly and retain the heat longer than steel fire pits. While they’re not prone to rust, they will discolor if exposed to moisture. Cast iron is heavy, and these fire pits generally cost more than steel fire pits.

Steel fire pits, on the other hand, are lightweight and weather resistant. They require very little maintenance and are relatively inexpensive.


How hot does an outdoor fireplace get?

The heat given off by an outdoor fireplace is largely dependent on how the fire is fueled — wood, natural gas, or propane.

Wood-burning fireplaces can generate 20,000-40,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units are the measurement of heat output). Certain types of wood burn hotter than others, so the type of wood you burn will affect the heat produced.

Gas fireplaces (both natural gas and propane) generally have outputs ranging from 8,000-60,000 BTUs, depending on the size of the fireplace and amount of gas used to fuel the fire.


Do you need to cover your fire pit in the winter?

Covering your fire pit in the winter will protect it from the cold, wet weather and help it last longer. The cover will keep pests and rodents away. And it will keep leaves and other debris out, making it easier to clean when preparing it for use.


What type of fire pit will not rust?

While cast iron and stainless steel fire pits are not prone to rust, any metal can rust when exposed to moisture and not properly maintained. Custom built-in stone and concrete fire pits, because they are not metal, will not rust.


What do you put in the bottom of a metal fire pit?

It’s generally recommended to put a layer of sand at the bottom of a metal fire pit. The sand acts as insulation. It absorbs the heat of the fire and evenly distributes it throughout the entire base of your fire pit.


Do outdoor fireplaces need a damper?

A damper is optional on outdoor fireplaces. The primary function of the damper is to keep outside air from coming down the chimney and into your temperature-controlled home. That isn’t a concern outdoors.

You may still want a damper on your outdoor fireplace, though, to serve as a protective barrier to keep debris, pests, wildlife, rain, and other elements out of the firebox of your fireplace when not in use.


Can I build my own outdoor fireplace?

You can build your own outdoor fireplace if you have the knowledge, skills, and tools to do so. However, this is a structure that will contain fire, so you want to be sure you can build it to code to ensure that it’s safe and structurally sound.

Another thing to consider is that if your outdoor fireplace is not professionally built by a licensed contractor, you may also face additional liabilities if damages were to occur.


How deep is a standard outdoor fireplace?

Outdoor fireplaces can range from 2 feet deep up to 4 feet deep. The depth should be proportional to the overall size of your outdoor fireplace.


How much space do you need around an outdoor fireplace?

Outdoor fireplaces should be at least 10 feet away from your home and other structures. You should also have at least 3 feet of clear space between the fireplace and anything flammable (like outdoor furniture, plants, or other decoration) for maximum safety.


Are outdoor gas fireplaces warm?

Yes! Outdoor gas fireplaces can be a great source of warmth and allow you to enjoy your outdoor living space for more of the year without the mess and hassle of a wood-burning fireplace.

Why Choose Mike’s Evergreen

Mike’s Evergreen is the right choice for your landscaping needs because we are the Valley’s premier outdoor living experts. We work hard to understand your goals and provide quality results that will exceed your expectations. We understand that one of your biggest and most important investments is your home or business. Your objectives, lifestyle, personality, as well as the specific needs of your property are carefully considered to reflect a landscape that will provide beauty, function, and value to your home or property. Mike’s Evergreen offers a complete range of landscape services so we can make your yard look the way you intend it to.

Landscape Design and Installation Services – Fresno and Clovis, CA


Landscape Construction projects are permanent to semi-permanent installations and should be considered an investment in your home.


Outdoor Living

Custom designed outdoor living areas allow you to have a beautiful and functional living space to entertain and enjoy with family and friends.



Landscape renovation is an important part of home improvement. Most first impressions of your home, and its level of maintenance, and value are made from the street.


Custom Concrete

Brighten up your landscape with a custom colored or stamped designed concrete path, driveway or patio.


Pavers & Flagstone

Typically installed as an alternative to concrete, pavers and flagstone come in many shapes, sizes and patterns.


Retaining Walls

Landscape retaining walls are utilized to increase usable space, provide additional elevations, seating, and planting areas.


Fire Pits & Fireplaces

Fire Pits and Fireplaces are both structures that provide a visual focal point while giving off warmth and light.


Outdoor Kitchens

Take your entertaining to the next level with the ideal outdoor setting for you and your guests.


Patios, Arbors, & Pergolas

Providing shade and sun protection for your outdoor space makes the area more enjoyable for yourself, friends, family, and guests.


Outdoor Lighting

Landscape lighting will add to your home’s enjoyment. Lighting your landscape in your front yard or backyard creates focal points for your yard, terrace, patio, pool and garden. Highlight trees, flowers beds, paths, walkways and planting beds with spotlights.


Drought Resistant & Xeriscape

Is your idea of a drought-tolerant landscape rocks and cactus? Think again!

We can design your yard to save water with a drought-tolerant or xeriscape landscape. We can create an entertainment area with hardscape and colorful pots with plants/flowers supplied with drip irrigation. You could have a serene area with a fountain that re-circulates the water. We pick plants that are adapted to our climate and can thrive with low water and low maintenance. Even with our current drought, you don’t have to stop using your front or back yard.


Water Features

Mike’s Evergreen can install a variety of water features for your home. From ponds and waterfalls to fountains and bubbling pots.


Koi Ponds

Mike’s Evergreen can design the perfect Koi pond for your yard, whether you have a small space or a large space, there is a pond for you.



Fountains have a long tradition in architecture and landscape design and are linked with many historical places that are part of our rich heritage.


Sprinkler Repairs

Broken Pipes and Leaks – We’ll fix a geyser or muddy spot in the yard.
Timer/Controller Adjustment – We’ll adjust your timer to keep your yard green and avoid over-watering.
Sprinkler Heads Repaired – We’ll get each sprinkler set just right and replace any broken ones.
Drip Irrigation – We’ll check your entire system to ensure it works properly and fix any issues.


Pond Repair

Whether your pond leaks, or your water quality refuses to get up to snuff, or your pump has just given up, we can handle it. What sets us apart from other pond cleaning services is we are also a pond building company.


Your Vision Our Design

Your project will seamlessly go from the design stage to completion. 3D design is an effective tool for you because you can see your project before we even break ground. It just makes sense to have an actual Landscape Contractor do the design, as we will also be the builder and are better equipped to understand your budget versus labor and material costs and what is realistic.


Landscaping Tips

Revitalize Your Lawn through Aeration.

By creating hundreds of little holes in your lawn’s surface, allows for rain water and nutrients to more quickly penetrate the surface of the lawn. This also feeds the roots of your plants and grass. By aerating your lawn, you’ll help prevent the soil from becoming compact, which allows the root systems of your lawn to grow deeper. Aeration occurs when you use a tool specifically designed for aerating your lawn. It is a tool with little spikes that puncture your lawn as you roll it across your yard. The little puncture marks provide fresh air to penetrate to the root system of your turf.

Your lawn will stay looking more beautiful and healthy if you aerate it.

Rose pruning is typically done in the spring before the rose bushes bloom. You’ll want to watch for the leaf buds to swell on your rose plants. This means that when the bumps on the canes get larger and reddish in color, it’s time to prune your roses!

How to Prune Rose Bushes

  1. Use clean, sharp tools.
  2. Look at the overall plant, but begin pruning from the base of the plant.
  3. Prune to open the center of the plant to add light and air circulation.
  4. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a bud that is facing toward the outside of the plant.
  5. Ensure it is a clean cut (not ragged).
  6. Remove all broken, dead, dying or diseased wood (any branches that look dry, shriveled or black). Cut until the inside of the cane is white.
  7. Prune any weak or twiggy branches thinner than a pencil.
  8. Remove sucker growth below the graft.
  9. Trim any remaining foliage.

There are certain things a tree owner must know to keep trees healthy and in the very best condition. Here are just a few:

Limit Staking Your Tree

Tree staking is never done with the intention of harming a tree. Staking is usually done with love and with a desire to promote root and trunk growth and protect a young tree from harm.

What some tree planters do not understand is, rather than helping a tree develop root and trunk growth, improper tree staking replaces a supportive trunk and root system with an artificial support that causes the tree to put its resources into growing taller but not growing wider.

Protect a Tree’s CRZ

Before starting a mulching project, become familiar with the critical root zone (CRZ) or tree protection zone. This zone is generally defined as the area under a tree and out to its drip line. Improving conditions in this protection zone will also result in major health benefits to a tree.

Mulch Your Tree

Mulching is the most beneficial thing a home owner can do for the health of a young tree. Mulches are materials placed on the soil surface to improve soil structure, oxygen levels, temperature, and moisture availability.

Fertilize Your Tree

Ideally, growing trees should be fertilized throughout the year. The greatest amounts should be applied during the early spring and summer months. Several light applications a year are preferred as the tree gets older.

Prune Your Tree

Pruning is essential in developing a tree with a strong structure and desirable form.

Storm Proof Your Tree

A tree is never in greater danger than during a storm. That can mean a threat from pounding rain and hail, from the fury of the wind or the scorch of lightning. You may also have to remove a tree that endangers life and property during or after a storm.

Winterize Your Tree

Trees in Fall are beginning their dormant phase. Some trees may seem to be inactive but the fact is they need to be winterized – protected and cared for to remain healthy and free from diseases and insects.

Prepare Your Landscape for Spring

After the last cold snap, it’s time to clean up all the accumulated debris from your lawn. You want to help your landscape get off to a healthy start by doing the following:

  • Remove all leaves and other plant debris such as sticks and dead plants.
  • Aerate damaged areas by turning over dirt and removing plugs of dirt.
  • Mow the lawn about 30 percent shorter than you would normally.
  • Apply seed or starter fertilizer according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Cover all patches with peat moss or mulch.
  • Thoroughly water your lawn and keep it consistently moist for two to four weeks.
  • Fertilize again after four weeks.

Freezing temperatures can be damaging to a landscape. There are a few things you can do to help keep your landscape protected, even in harsh winters.

The key is to remove debris, leaves, pine needles and unwanted branches from around your landscape. If these items are not removed, they can contribute to rot and mold along with other lawn diseases. By removing them, you’re leaving plenty of room for new growth that will contribute to a healthy landscape in the spring.

It is also very important to keep your lawn weeded regularly. You can weed by hand or by applying herbicides so that your turf has plenty of room for growth.

Winter is the perfect time to aerate and de-thatch your turf. During summer months, it gets packed down and tangled. Aerating will help open up your turf to fresh air, water and nutrients that are imperative for healthy growth.

Protect your lawn from freeze damage by doing the following before a freeze:

Water Your Lawn

Thoroughly water your landscape plants before a freeze. This can help reduce any change in your plants caused by freeze damage. Cold and dry winds often accompany cold weather, which can dry out plants. By watering your plants, you will help retain moisture. Wetting the foliage of plants before a freeze does not, however, provide any cold protection. A well-watered soil will also absorb more solar radiation than dry soil and will re-radiate the heat during the night.

Move Plants Inside

If possible you’ll want to move all your plants, in containers, inside your home, where the temperatures will stay above freezing. If it’s not possible to bring them inside, try to place them close to the base of your home to help keep them as warm as possible during a freeze. Covering your plants in plastic can also help keep them from getting freeze damage. If you move your plants inside, make sure you give them as much light as possible, so they can continue to grow.


Mulch can help protect plants that are in ground. Using dry material like pine or straw will help keep moisture in. You should be aware that mulches will only protect what they cover. Mulch at the base of a bird-of-paradise will help the roots, but will provide no added protection to the leaves. Mulches, then, are best used to protect below-ground parts or crowns or may be used to completely cover low-growing plants to a depth of four inches. Leave cover on no more than three or four days.


Do your best to cover any outside plants with plastic or cardboard boxes. Styrofoam boxes also help with insulation. You want to cover them the best you can to avoid freeze damage.

Proper Care of plants in the cold winter includes making sure you do a deciduous perennial cut back. This allows the perennials to focus on the growth necessary in early spring to maximize the foliage and blooms throughout the year. Without proper care and attention, perennials will have to fight through the old growth in the spring time. You want to cut them back, so they have plenty of room to flourish. Unfortunately, winter perennial cut back are often overlooked. Make time and effort to cut back your perennials. You’ll be able to see a noticeable difference during their peak season.

There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than to decorate your home with beautiful poinsettias. The scientific term for poinsettias is: Euphorbia Pulcherrima. Introduced in the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett (who fell in love with the plant called flor de noche Buena – while U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1828 and began growing and giving them out as gifts in his home state of South Carolina), they make up 85% of potted plant sales during the holiday season.

Poinsettias are commercially grown in every state, with California the top producer, and though they come in other colors such as white, pink, orange, pale green and cream, red is the most popular and preferred. They can grow to be several feet in height and bear dark green leaves that measure three to six inches in length. To acquire color, it must be left in the dark for 12 hours at a time; at the same time, the plant needs much light during the day to reach a bright color.

They are a perennial, tropical (non-tolerant to freeze, which means you must bring them in when it gets too cold) shrub that exudes holiday cheer with their vibrant and festive colors. Whether adding to your courtyard design outside or livening up your foyer to greet family, friends and guests inside, poinsettias are perfect for the holiday season.

There are three main benefits for pruning (also known as tree trimming or tree cutting) your trees:

  • Personal safety
  • Health of the tree
  • Tree appearance

It is often recommended for personal and property safety reasons to reduce the risk of falling limbs and branches. In addition it is important to remove branches that may be resting on utility lines or near rooftops.

For the trees overall health, proper tree pruning helps stimulate new growth and the healing of wounds. It is necessary for the continued health of the tree to remove dead, weakened, diseased and insect-infested limbs. It can also encourage greater fruit production.

And finally, it improves the appearance of trees in your landscape. This is not only beneficial for the look of your property, but can also increase the overall value! Limbs too close to rooftops can encourage moss and other fungi to grow and reduce the life of the roof. They can also allow various tree climbing animals’ access to your roof and potentially your home.

Winter Rye grass is an annual grass that lives for one season and dies out. This type of grass is useful for creating a green lawn in the winter by over seeding an existing lawn. The nice thing about Rye Grass is that it can be mixed with other seed types such as Bermuda for winter hydro seeding. The Rye will come up immediately while the warm season seed remains dormant until spring. By the time the Rye Grass dies out, the warm season grass will be well established, ideally leaving your lawn looking green year around.

Rye grass is also a great choice to help with erosion control because it establishes itself quickly. Although it’s annual, it can reseed itself naturally to produce new turf each fall, if it is well maintained. It usually takes about 3 weeks for winter rye grass to establish itself.

Mulching can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your soil and your plants. If you have not considered mulching your garden in the past, you may want to reconsider.

The main reason for mulch is to retain moisture in the soil. A three inch layer of mulch will reduce evaporation and lessen your watering time. Mulch protects soil from baking and drying out by altering the soil temperature and serving as an insulator to accommodate the surface needs in both the summer and winter seasons. Mulch also prevents soil crusting by allowing water to penetrate into the soil for absorption and movement. Consistent moisture fosters healthy plant growth.

Another benefit of mulch is weed reduction. A layer of mulch will help prevent the germination of many weed seeds, reducing the need for cultivation or the use of herbicides. Weed seedlings will smother before they are tall enough to peek through the mulch. Weeds use up water and nutrients intended for your plants. A weed free garden is lush with the proper plants. If weeds are allowed to grow, they will choke out what you have spent so much time and energy designing and planting.

While there are many types of mulch, organic mulches such as wood chips, grass clippings or other locally available materials help improve the soil by adding organic matter as they decompose. They also may encourage the growth of worms and other beneficial soil organisms that can help improve soil structure and the availability of nutrients for plants.

Mulches can also be used to enhance the look of your property. Many bark mulches provide uniformly rich brown color that contrasts with the plants. The mulch helps keep plants clean by reducing the splash of soil onto leaves during rainstorms, and helps infiltration of the rainfall into the garden.

In summary, the main reasons to use mulch are:

  • Helps maintain even soil temperature in the roots by keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Promotes plant growth.
  • Controls weeds.
  • Conserves soil moisture, meaning you use less water.
  • Improves soil structure and quality over the root area.
  • Protects from mechanical damage (Mowers, string trimmers, etc.)
  • Helps beautify your plantings.

Drought Tolerant Landscaping
that Saves Water