In the not-so-distant past, outdoor fire pits and tables were pretty basic. Whether crafted by hand with spare cinder blocks or built by a contractor, most were round in shape and simple in design.
But boy, oh boy — times have changed. Fire features have come a long way since those days, evolving from basic functional setups to elaborate centerpieces. Take this extraordinary outdoor fire table created by Celestial Fire Glass customer and talented craftsman Kevin Clark.
We were so inspired by Kevin’s unique fire table that we wanted to know more about it. He told us he’d been looking for the perfect accent piece to tie his patio space to the contemporary design elements of his Alaska home, which he had built from the ground up. Living in an area with such incredible surroundings — stunning vistas of the Chugach mountain peaks, the Matanuska River and Knik Glacier — made having a stellar outdoor living space a must for Kevin and his family.
“I LOVE burning wood,” explained Kevin, “But with a wood stove in the house already, I didn’t want the hassle of burning wood outside as well. And as we all know, burning wood would also result in smoke and ash that could spoil the perfect evening if some wind kicked up.”
With this in mind, Kevin set out to build a low-maintenance fire feature with a modern, industrial theme to sync with his home’s style. He also needed it to withstand the harsh Alaskan weather conditions. As a general contractor by trade, Kevin was able to source local supplies for his project, some of which were left over from previous construction jobs. The materials for his fire table project included:
- 8′ rebar
- 2″ x 2″ wire mesh screen
- 3’– 3″ x 6’– 6″ x 1 – ½” custom concrete top
- 6″ x 48″ Celestial Fire Glass drop-in fire pan
- Glass wind guard by Celestial Fire Glass
- Stainless steel cover by Celestial Fire Glass
- Rocks from the Matanuska River bed
Construction of his one-of-a-kind fire table took about three weekends from start to finish. People with a background in metal fabrication and concrete could easily build a table similar to his, he explained. Others would be best served by hiring a local craftsman with a proven track record.
What inspired this fire table design?
Kevin was going for an industrial “gabion basket” style. What is a gabion basket? It’s a large, rectangular container made of galvanized steel mesh that’s double twisted and woven. Gabion baskets are typically filled with sandstone, granite, gravel, or marble and used in different engineering applications. They’re often used to protect streambanks from the erosive forces of moving water as well as in highway and railway jobs. Additionally, these baskets are useful as noise barriers, flood walls and retaining structures, and in the construction of foundations.
Gabion baskets can also be filled with stones and used for decorative purposes. You can even create stunning patterns within the box by strategically arranging the stones.
When we asked Kevin what he loves most about his fire table, he cited its industrial design, timeless look, and overall entertainment functionality. Kevin and his family use their fire table through every season (yes, even during those tough Alaska winters!). “Fire features are the best way to be able to enjoy and connect with the outdoors all year round. It’s great on those cool and breezy summer evenings and brisk fall mornings. Or bundled up in your favorite warm, puffy jacket in the dead of the Alaska winter, with the northern lights glimmering overhead.”
A thoughtfully designed fire feature complements your outdoor living space 24 hours a day, whether it’s lit or not (especially when you enhance it with high-quality fire glass!). But there’s nothing like a blazing fire to bring people together.
“Fire has a natural soothing quality that brings a level of comfort nothing else can,” Kevin explains. “We love being able to whip up a proper Alaskan feast, seat eight of our closest friends around the fire table, and share our love of the outdoors the best way we know how.”
So what are people’s first reactions when they see Kevin’s fire table? They want one for themselves! And that’s perfectly fine with Kevin: “I truly love building and crafting things that can inspire others.”
Why a gas fire table vs. wood?
As Kevin mentioned, although he loves burning wood in general, he wanted his fire table to be low maintenance. Here are some reasons why so many people choose gas or propane fire pits over those that burn wood.
- Gas fire pits and tables are quicker and easier to light than wood stoves, thanks to a simple push-button ignition.
- There’s no need to fuss with cutting, hauling, and stacking wood — not to mention constantly feeding it into the fire to keep a steady flame burning.
- Gas-powered fire pits and tables are easier to control, allowing you to enjoy consistent heat and flame size.
- With a gas fire pit, there’s no need to worry about popping cinders and flying sparks that can cause injury or damage your surroundings.
- The natural gas or liquid propane that powers modern fire pits are clean-burning fuel sources. So there’s no worrying about stinky, billowing smoke that’s loaded with harmful carcinogens. That’s a huge plus if you have a family (or allergies)!
Where do you begin in creating your own custom fire pit?
Has Kevin Clark’s amazing Alaskan fire table sparked your imagination? It’s exciting to think about building a custom backyard fire feature that your family, friends, and neighbors will flock to.
But keep in mind that any fire feature project — even seemingly simple ones — needs to be thoughtfully planned. Here are some things you’ll want to consider before you dive in:
Picking a site. Select a favorite spot in your backyard — patios and decks are a common site for fire pits and tables. Many people, like Kevin, choose a place on their property with nice views of the surrounding foliage or water (if you live by a lake or the ocean). If you have a pool or dining area in your backyard, you’ll want to be able to see the fire pit from those locations.
A good rule of thumb is to build your feature at least 10 feet away from your house, outbuildings, and trees. However, rules differ from town to town, so be sure to check with your local building department to see if there are any rules pertaining to fire feature location.
Do NOT build your pit under power lines, low-hanging limbs, or near your septic tank or well head. You’ll also want to make sure your fire feature is located a good distance from your neighbor’s home.
Choosing your materials. There’s a variety of beautiful materials you can use to build a fire pit or table that’s totally “you” — and you don’t necessarily have to go rock-picking down by the river (as Kevin did!). Here are some suggestions.
- Wood is the most common material used for building fire tables. Celestial Fire Glass offers downloadable plans for building various styles of wood fire tables. These plans are for a wood enclosure for the lower section of the table enclosing the propane tank, with a granite or other type of top. Browse our plans here.
- Fieldstone is a highly popular choice for fire tables and pits, with its raw, earthy, natural appearance. Stone is a good bet if you don’t plan on moving your fire pit anywhere else (it’s heavy!). One drawback of stone is that it can crack after a few seasons being exposed to extreme hot and cold temperatures. => Style considerations: A fieldstone fire pit is a really good choice if you appreciate a rustic, straight-from-nature look.
- Landscaping blocks or bricks (like those used for retaining walls) are another solid choice for fire pits and tables as long as they’ve been kiln fired. Extend the life of your brick fire feature by inserting a steel fire ring (this prevents the blocks from drying out from the heat of the fire). => Style considerations: Landscaping blocks or “pavers” have a uniform look that’s not as natural looking as real stone, but offer a similar elegant and earthy appearance.
- Cast iron is quite heavy, and a decent option if you plan to leave your fire table in one place. => Style considerations: Cast iron has a truly rustic, old-fashioned look and comes in a range of tones, from deep ebony to warm browns and bronze.
- Copper is a rust-colored metal that adds vibrant warmth to your outdoor space. It’s not the lowest-maintenance choice, however. If not cleaned regularly, copper can turn green and other colors. => Style considerations: Copper has a bold, reddish color and a luminosity that’s especially intense in the sunlight. It often comes with a hammered finish for added texture. If you want to make a “wow” style statement, copper is a great bet!
- Stainless steel is often used for fire table legs and for building the fire feature itself. It’s a strong, durable metal that’s rust resistant (so it won’t turn funny colors after being out in the rain or snow) and easy to clean. Plus, stainless steel is lightweight and easy to move around if you need to. => Style considerations: Bare, polished stainless steel has a decidedly modern / metallic look that’s fitting if you have a contemporary-style home.
- Tile is often used as a decorative accent for outdoor fire features (especially in fire pit table tops). Like stone, it’s fireproof. => Style considerations: Tile is available in a mind-boggling array of styles, colors, and textures, so you can get creative! It’s usually used in conjunction with a base material like cast iron.
When it comes to choosing materials for your fire pit, you should also take your environment into account. Select colors and tones that play off the colors of your home. If your home is made of brick or has stone accents, a stone or brick fire pit can help pull it all together. If your home décor is ultra-modern, a stainless-steel fire pit will help carry your style statement through to your outdoor space.
Note: Before you start using random materials in your fire pit, it’s essential to know how fire-safe they are. For example, NEVER use regular concrete blocks. These can explode when in direct contact with flames, resulting in serious injury or even death.
Choosing a filler. One of the best things about an outdoor fire table or pit is that you can add filler for even more style and personality. Filler is a non-reactive (won’t burn) material that adds a nice aesthetic without costing a lot of extra money. Fillers for a fire pit include:
- Fire stones
- Fire logs (artificial, heat resistant)
- Lava rock
- Branches (artificial, heat resistant)
- Fire glass
- Ceramic balls
Kevin chose Celestial 1/2″ Reflective Tempered Fire Glass in Dark Matter Black for his outdoor fire pit. Fire glass is a favorite filler choice for many fire pit fans, and with good reason. Fire glass is durable, standing up to searing temperatures without turning colors, cracking, or melting. It’s also clean-burning and won’t give off toxic fumes or unpleasant odors (important if you have kids and pets).
But most of all, fire glass is absolutely gorgeous to behold. Available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, this special glass instantly adds radiant shine, color, and texture to any fire feature. When the fire is ablaze, the light from the flames seems to dance and skip across the bed of glass, creating quite a captivating show. And even when the fire is out, fire glass still looks bold and beautiful in the daylight. Lava rocks and ceramic balls are nice — but if you really want jaws to drop, fire glass gets the job done!
When you’re ready to start building…
Building a DIY fire table or pit not only allows you to let your imagination run free — it could potentially save you hundreds of dollars. Not to mention the pride of showing off your creation to friends and family! A quick online search will bring up loads of tutorials and how-to videos for making fire pits of all sizes, dimensions, and materials. Celestial Fire also offers several articles on DIY fire pits. If you’re good with your hands (or good at following directions), this is a viable option.
That said, there’s no shame in not being up for designing and building your own fire feature. In that case, reach out to your local landscaper, contractor, or masonry expert for professional help — and be sure to get references and photos before making the hire. Together, the two of you can come up with the kind of fire feature dreams are made of — just like the one in Kevin Clark’s backyard.
Products Kevin Clark Used to Build His Fire Table
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