Make your patio a year-round hot spot

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Most of us enjoy our patios during these gorgeous fall months when the weather is the perfect balance between scorching hot and miserably cold.

But the inevitable onset of winter doesn’t have to be the end of your lazy weekend afternoons outside—if you buy the right patio heater to keep that space comfortable.

My friend Eric Massey, owner of Fireplace Specialties on Box Road in Shreveport, tells me the most popular way to stay warm on a four-season patio is to heat it with an open-front fireplace.

The truth is, a wood- or gas-burning fireplace doesn’t really produce a lot of heat. But it produces just enough heat for our mild climate. A fireplace on the patio is a real centerpiece in terms of style and design. It adds ambiance and seems to attract everyone to a single focal point on the patio, which leads to great conversations.

Before you write off a fireplace as too expensive, consider that a small fireplace can keep you as warm and add as much charm to your patio as a larger, ornamental fireplace. The real expense of a fireplace comes with the facing material you use—stone, for example, costs a little more than brick, which costs a little more than siding. Add-ons like mantels increase the price.

So make a budget; you can go simple or spectacular, depending on how much you want to spend.

Jeb-Breithaupt-HeadshotA few other things to consider when you buy an outdoor fireplace:

–The direction of the wind. If you’re burning wood outdoors, the wind will determine how much of the smoke goes up the chimney and how much blows onto the patio. On a still day, smoke won’t be a problem, but if your yard tends to catch a lot of wind, this is something to consider.

–Your home’s fuel source. If your home has natural gas, you can tie your outdoor gas fireplace into that system. Ask your remodeling contractor to arrange for a plumber to make that connection. If you don’t already have gas, a wood fireplace might be a more convenient choice for the patio.

–How handy you are. You’ll see do-it-yourself fireplace kits at big-box stores, but unless you’re very handy with assembly, it’s probably worth your while to get some help from a contractor. They’re not so simple to put together.

–How plain or fancy you want to go. A prefabricated fireplace looks nice when it’s part of a finished wood, stone or brick wall. Usually, this requires a carpenter to build a frame around the fire box, and a stone mason or other tradesman to finish it off. A good remodeling contractor will be able to arrange for all of the work.

If a fireplace isn’t what you had in mind, you can keep your patio toasty warm with a gas or electric heater that hangs from the ceiling—if your patio has a roof. Ceiling heaters do a very good job of heating; in fact, they probably put out more heat than you’ll need, and they’re pretty expensive: $1,000 and up. They’re convenient, and some of them even come with remote controls to turn them on and off.

Smaller, less-powerful electric heaters that you can mount high on the wall or on the ceiling cost in the $550 range and don’t put out quite as much heat.

The next level is the patio heater: a tall, stainless steel poll with a cap on top that’s powerful enough to warm an area with a 20-foot radius but portable enough to roll to any location on the patio. Most of them require a small propane tank that fits into the base of the heater.

Fire pits are also a popular heater. Most of them are wood-burning, although some gas-fueled models are available.

 

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build, an Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner, in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.jebdesignbuild.com.