Outdoor living is becoming more popular as indoor living space is shrinking and becoming an extremely high-cost premium. But what gives your home a fiery spark to send buyers rushing to write an offer? Perhaps, bringing the comforts of indoor living outside may help.

Outdoor fireplaces create a visual focal point and are often a quality of the home that attracts buyers. "This is a great way for people to warm up and gather around. They're very well engineered," says Peter Ross, CEO of Home & Hearth, Inc.

Ross is referring to pre-built outdoor fireplaces. "What you end up with is basically a hand-made stone fireplace that comes in four sections and you can set it up in your yard in your garden or on a patio," explains Ross.

They create an attractive landmark in a backyard that can easily help to influence buyers to choose your home especially in areas where being outside at night would not be an option unless an inviting fireplace could warm up guests.

"They throw out really nice heat. They stay very clean on the inside because of the material that they are made out of," says Ross. He adds, "You can burn a wood-burning fire in them and they draft really well. No smoke rolls out the front and the outside never gets hot."

The Nexo fireplaces differ from a lot of the outdoor metal fireplaces. They are built on the Danish Island of Mors. It's the material that makes them so useful says Ross. "The material that they're made out of is a special volcanic-based kind of refractory that has a very high insulating value. So what it does is reflect the heat off the inner surface out the front of the fireplace instead of absorbing it into the masonry. So it's not a concrete core; it's actually a volcanic core with steel reinforcing in it."

There are many types and styles of outdoor fireplaces, but one of the biggest advantages of buying an assembled fireplace over having a custom one built is that you can save money. The pre-built fireplaces start at about $1,200+ depending on style and accessories. The cost of building a fireplace varies greatly depending on the type of materials you use, size of fireplace, whether or not you hire a contractor and designer or do it all yourself.

Ross also reminds consumers about what's involved in building a fireplace that's attached to your home. "You have to run the chimney system up past the roofline of the house and you have to be two feet above anything that's 10 feet away from it. That means you have to clear the roof by five or six feet. So you need a fairly long run of chimney and you would have to frame the whole thing with wood and finish it -- it would be an expensive thing to do -- more of a home remodel project rather than simply adding a [pre-built] fireplace."

Here are a few quick tips if you're planning to purchase an outdoor fireplace.

  1. Consider your space: make sure you don't go too large or too small for the area.
  2. Wood-burning option: not all outdoor fireplaces are set up to burn wood; some only burn gas. Be sure to check that the one you buy accommodates wood-burning. "All of the fireplaces that are set up to burn wood can be fitted to burn gas as well but the ones that are only for gas are not set up to burn wood," says Ross.
  3. Location: make sure you put the outdoor fireplace in a safe spot. "You don't want to set the outdoor fireplace on a wooden deck. You don't have adequate protection around it from embers," says Ross. He also says don't put it underneath over-hanging trees or right up against your house. On a concrete patio or paving stones is a good location provided that there is lots of clear space in case sparks fly out.
  4. Durability: "There are companies that are selling metal outdoor fireplaces with stucco enclosure around them. They look very nice but the fireplace that they've put in there—the metal fireplace—is not really made for outdoors. They're just a plain steel fireplace which will rust in a few years, especially [if your home is] anywhere near the ocean," says Ross. He says, if you purchase a metal outdoor fireplace, make sure the fireplace is from stainless steel.
  5. Always remember safety first: use a spark screen if you plan to burn wood. A spark arrester on top of the chimney is a good addition and may be required by law in some areas.
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