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The outdoor room concept is very popular across the U.S., and Kansas City is no exception. Outdoor fireplaces are definitely all about aesthetics, but they do keep the area in front of them warm, too. Sitting around the fireplace on a cool fall or spring evening is more comfortable and encourages people to stay outside longer. And roasting a few marshmallows for s’mores can’t be beat. Outdoor fireplaces (as in indoor fireplaces) can actually be built more efficiently than a standard box-style fireplace by building in a Rumford style.
Count Rumford created this design in the 1700’s and it has not been improved on since. Instead of a box with straight walls, the fireplace is built with a sloping back wall, angled side walls, and smooth throat transition. This allows more heat to be directed out of the fireplace—about 40% more heat than a box style. So when planning an outdoor masonry fireplace, homeowners may want to consider this method. Another trend that is becoming more popular is the outdoor bake oven. This is a site-built masonry oven that can be built alongside or on top of a fireplace, or as a stand-alone appliance. This is a “black” oven, meaning that wood is burned inside the oven where it turns black from the soot, then as the temperature gets higher the soot burns off. The ashes are removed after approximately three hours, leaving a 700-degree oven with even temperatures that are perfect for baking delicious pizzas. As the oven cools, artisan breads, and even whole meals can be cooked.
Some folks “fire up” the oven weekly and bake their own breads, which are much healthier than store-bought bread. My husband, Gene, a master mason who builds fireplaces and ovens, built us an outdoor bake oven in our own back yard two years ago. We often have guests over to have fun throwing pizza dough and making their own pizza, and everyone who tries it says that the pizza from the bake oven is by far the best they ever had. For more information on outdoor fireplaces and bake ovens visit our Bake Ovens page.