Most of us love a campfire and Smith Mountain Lake is a great place to have that kind of outdoor fun even in the winter. But what if you don’t have a good area for campfires and bonfires? Well, Lori Wolak of The Lake Channel has some great suggestions.
FIRE PITS – Sometimes these are called outdoor fireplaces. You can build one out of cinder blocks or bricks set into a patio, or you can buy a metal movable fire pit. These can be found at specialty stores as well as some larger general retail stores or home improvement/hardware stores in the outdoor department. They are usually about 3 feet tall. Since it is off the ground, the ashes are contained for safety and easy cleanup. Fire pits are typically cylindrical and the sides are made of metal mesh so that people can gather around and enjoy the warmth on a cool evening on a patio or in the yard.
CHIMINEAS – For a nice southwest look, a large clay chiminea pot is great, but don’t expect a lot of heat from it. They are more for the show of the glow and light of the fire than to provide a lot of warmth. These have traditionally been made of clay with only a relatively small opening.
More recently some manufacturers are making chimineas from metal to provide a more durable product. The design has also been changed in some cases to allow heat to radiate all around, so they are more like a very decorative fire pit. If you decide to purchase a chiminea be sure to investigate what all the new choices are before you buy. All the safety precautions for a fire pit should be observed for a chiminea.
PROPANE HEATERS – Outdoor propane heaters provide very convenient radiant heat. You can simply turn it on and off as needed. Most also have variable temperature controls, just like a gas grill. They can raise the temperature in a protected area between 10 and 20 degrees (F) for about a 10 to 20-foot radius.
Both self-standing and tabletop models are now available. Larger self-standing models are about 8 feet tall. They usually come on a weighted base with wheels so that they can be moved to where they are needed. They are usually designed with a large conical heat radiator at the top, which radiates the heat downward. They work best with little or no wind, like most fires. They come with built-in safety features, such as tip switches and safety valves, so they make a great choice for families with small children.
Thanks to Lori Wolak of The Lake Channel for that helpful information.