Kitchens go out­doors with fire pits, rings, ta­bles

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NEWS - By Dean Fos­dick

Gas-op­er­ated fire pits, fire rings and fire-pit ta­bles are emerg­ing as mod­ern-day sub­sti­tutes for camp­fires.

Flip­ping a switch to ig­nite the flames is a whole lot eas­ier than kin­dling a stack of fire­wood. Safer, too.

"The out­door liv­ing trend is con­tin­u­ing to gain mo­men­tum," said Ross John­son, sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager for The Out­door Great Room Co. in Ea­gan, Min­nesota. "It started with grills and then peo­ple be­gan spend­ing money for out­door fur­ni­ture. Fire pits have evolved, with con­sumers mov­ing to­ward gas for less ex­pense and a mul­ti­tude of is­sues."

Fire pits, fire rings, and fire-ring or firepit ta­bles come in all sizes and shapes, in-ground or por­ta­ble.

Fire pits are holes dug into the ground to keep flames from spread­ing. They vary from in­ti­mate cook­ing fires for two to elab­o­rate, gas-fu­eled burn­ers that be­come con­ver­sa­tion cen­ters for large gath­er­ings.

Fire rings are cleared flat sur­faces with pro­tec­tive metal, stone or con­crete built around them to con­tain the burn. They of­ten in­clude cook­ing grills fu­eled by wood or gas — ei­ther nat­u­ral gas or propane.

Fire-ring or fire-pit ta­bles have holes in the mid­dle for open flames to pro­vide am­biance and warmth. The ta­bles can be used for place set­tings when the burner cen­ter is capped.

"Round ta­bles are still the No. 1-sell­ing burner, but we're see­ing more pop­u­lar­ity with lin­ear, even L-shaped, ta­ble-type seat­ing," John­son said. "It de­pends upon how much room you have on the pa­tio or deck."

John­son ad­vises against us­ing fire ta­bles for cook­ing.

"I rec­om­mend they get a grill," he said. "They're eas­ier to clean up."

Some con­sid­er­a­tions on wood vs. gas be­fore you buy or build:

— Wood-burn­ing fix­tures are cheaper to make and use. Wood gives off more heat. You can cook us­ing wood. Wood is por­ta­ble.

— Gas is eas­ier to light and con­trol. Fire­wood is ex­pen­sive and harder to find for ur­ban dwellers. In many ar­eas of the coun­try, gas fires are al­lowed but wood fires are banned for rea­sons of safety, air qual­ity and con­ve­nience.

Many home­own­ers have moved beyond the stand-alone BBQ grill, said Travis Stark, man­ager of Cap­i­tal Pa­tio & The Flame Shop in Lin­coln, Ne­braska.

"You can get out­door dish­wash­ers and re­frig­er­a­tors now — a whole out­door kitchen," Stark said. "Fire pits can be in­te­grated into that."

Some homes have mul­ti­ple out­door en­ter­tain­ment ar­eas, said Leisa Rogers McCol­lis­ter, a spokes­woman for OW Lee Co. Inc. in On­tario, Cal­i­for­nia.

"Larger houses have lots of lit­tle ar­eas, like off master bed­rooms," she said. "Peo­ple fur­nish them with com­fort­able seat­ing and fire rings."

(AP PHOTO/COUR­TESY THE OUT­DOOR GREAT ROOM CO. JEF­FREY SCH­MIEG/GAMUT ONE STU­DIOS)

This June 2013 photo pro­vided by The Out­door Great Room Company shows a fire pit ta­ble with a plas­tic wind guard at Par­adise Land­ing restau­rant in Bal­sam Lake, Wis.

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