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Adding A Porch

Nothing creates a welcoming entry to a home quite like a porch. Even the smallest porch creates a gracious transition between the outdoors and indoor living spaces. A somewhat larger porch can provide a spot to pull up a chair or two and grow a container garden. Go big, and your porch can become an outdoor living room filled with comfy seating, a spot for outdoor dining and maybe even a swing — the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.


What Is a Porch?


A porch, by definition, is a covered space at the front of a home’s entrance that is at least partially opened at the sides. What makes it different from a deck is that it also has a roof, which is generally separate from the roof of the house. Other familiar names for a porch include veranda, loggia, piazza and lanai. No matter what you call it, a porch adds an appealing and useful design element to almost any home.


A porch may also play an essential role in allowing you to enjoy your outdoor space. Depending on the climate, you may need the shade or protection from the elements that a roof structure can provide to really create an outdoor living space.


Variations of the basic porch have evolved over the years. Screened porches and sun porches create an outdoor space that’s still protected from insects and the elements. Old-fashioned sleeping porches, usually located on the second floor, can add a retro or campy vibe — in addition to being a cool spot to sleep on hot summer evenings.


Whom to Hire


For most porch projects, your best bet is to hire a licensed contractor, especially one who is experienced with building porches. A professional will be able to help with designs and permits as well as building the necessary support structures and finished elements. If you are adding electrical or plumbing, you will need a licensed professional.


As with any project, ask for references and to see examples of past work.


Design Considerations for a Porch


Where To Put It


A porch set at the front of your home, framing your entry door, is what many people visualize when considering a porch. Porches aren’t limited to the front of your house, however. A side or back porch can provide a sheltered space between your home and your backyard. Wrapping a porch from the front to the side of the house will expand your usable outdoor space. Another option is to add a porch to the second floor.


Style


A porch’s design should complement your home’s style. A contemporary home might look best with a sleek and simple concrete porch that plays off the lines of the architecture. A wood porch with traditional railings and trim can highlight the details of a Craftsman or Victorian home. Sturdy pillars or columns along with tile flooring can bring out the beauty of a Mediterranean-style home.


Size


Porch size is an important consideration as well. Even a compact porch should be large enough that people can stand comfortably on it, especially in the area directly in front of any door. If you plan to use your porch as more than just an entry spot or a platform for showing off container plants, it will need to be at least several feet deep.


Roof Structure 


The ceiling and slope of a porch roof are also important design elements. Most porches have a fairly simple and shallow, or almost flat, roofline that doesn’t overshadow the home’s façade. You may decide to mix that up, even raising the roof to a peak.


The underside of the roof, which serves as the ceiling for the porch, is usually finished in wood, vinyl or fiber-cement siding. You might consider adding design elements like beams for a more customized, detailed look, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time enjoying the porch.


Support Posts


You’ll also want to consider what you want the support columns for the roof to look like. Basic posts are generally made from metal or wood. Simple posts work well with most designs, but you can add additional flair if you want.


Wood can be used to make posts thicker, or posts can be wrapped to look like stone or stucco columns. Columns and pillars add more heft and work well with a range of styles. Mix wood and brick or stone for a more rustic or Craftsman look.


Steps and Railings


Steps are a necessity if the porch is more than a single step above the ground. Railings define the space and provide a measure of safety; they are usually a requirement if your porch is more than 30 inches off the ground. In some cases, you may want to add railings with even a shorter drop.


Most railings are wood, metal or vinyl. Tempered glass panels lend a more contemporary look and allow you to enjoy an unobstructed view while also serving as a windbreak. Cable railings add sleek lines in a more contemporary design.



Half walls add more of a sense of enclosure to a porch. They’re a good choice for sun porches and screened porches.


Decorative trim along the roof line, at the ends of beams or between posts also adds a bit of architectural styling to the porch.


Bonus Features


If you’re planning on using your porch as an outdoor living area, ceiling fans, overhead heaters, lighting, skylights and curtains can make it even more comfortable. More elaborate options might include adding a fireplace or TV setup.


Material Options for a Porch


The materials you choose for the various parts of your porch will define the look and feel of the space. Look for options that will give you the porch look you want and will stand up to weather and usage.


Wood and Wood Composites


Wood decking is a classic material choice that works for nearly every porch style, from a simple farmhouse home to a grand Victorian. It also can stand up to the foot traffic a porch will likely get.


Wood is also a popular choice for ceilings, steps, railings and posts. It gives you almost unlimited design options for posts and trims. If you want a wood porch, your material choices include natural wood and wood board composites.


Traditional wood flooring for a porch is often fir, but you can also opt for cedar and redwood for naturally rot-resistant choices or tropical hardwoods like mahogany or ipe. For a porch ceiling, consider any of these materials, along with pine, plywood or even beadboard.


Wood can be sealed to keep its natural look, stained or painted.


Maintaining a wood floor or steps will be the majority of your wood-related maintenance work, although you will also need to periodically refresh your ceiling boards. Along with regular cleaning, check for popped nails and split and rotted boards and replace them. Wood can also twist or warp. Seal or paint the wood every few years as it wears or fades.


Wood composite boards are engineered products made from a mixture of wood fibers and plastic that can be used as a stand-in for wood. These materials are typically more expensive than wood, but they don’t fade with age or have the same maintenance requirements. The only care they normally need is regular cleaning with water and a little dish soap.


Concrete


Concrete is another popular choice for porch flooring and steps. It is long-lasting and generally low-maintenance. Its finish can be smooth, patterned, brushed or stamped. You can also tint the color when you mix it or stain or paint it later.


Caring for concrete generally involves sweeping, rinsing off stubborn dirt and cleaning stains. You’ll want to repair any cracks and refresh the paint. If the concrete is sealed, which is often done with special surfaces, you will need to reseal every few years.


Finishing a concrete porch floor with a layer of brick, stone or tile can give the design a more detailed, stylized look.


Metal


While metal isn’t generally used for porch floors or steps, it can be used for design details that work with both traditional and contemporary styles.


Metal railings and posts are generally less bulky than wood and don’t obstruct the view of the house as much. And who can resist the sound of rain on a metal roof, especially when you’re dry underneath?


Aluminum railings are affordable, long-lasting, rot- and rust-resistant and easy to maintain. They come in a variety of styles, from plain to highly decorative, and you can mix them with other materials and styles.


Aluminum railings usually just require periodic cleaning. If they are painted or untreated, you’ll need to take care of any rust or chips as they appear.


Other metal options include stainless steel, which is functional but not as decorative, and wrought iron, which adds a traditional feel but isn’t as strong or rust-resistant. Wrought iron, while attractive, can rust, so you’ll need to periodically clean and treat railings made from this material.


Vinyl


Vinyl has become a popular option for railings, thanks to its reasonable cost, durability and ease of maintenance. You can also install vinyl beadboard on a porch ceiling.


Wherever you install vinyl, its only maintenance will be periodic cleaning.


Other Considerations for Adding a Porch


Permits and Codes


Adding a porch almost always requires a building permit. Building codes may also affect the size of your porch or the amenities you add to it. If you belong to a homeowners association, you should also check any requirements or restrictions it might have.


How Long It Will Take


Building a porch is a project for spring through fall. Use the winter months to start planning, finding a contractor and applying for approvals and permits. A basic porch can take three to four weeks to complete. The more complex you get could add a substantial amount of time.

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Building Permits

The building permit process can be a frustrating, costly and-time consuming, but there is purpose to the process and no getting around your local jurisdiction if you want to do your project right.


Here are the building permit basics, it’s an overview of a subject you should familiarize yourself with before tackling your home remodel project.


When Is a Permit Required?


The building code has evolved to protect a home’s occupants as well as the community, but first you need to determine whether a permit is needed.


In cases of simple interior cosmetic changes, such as repainting and installing interior trim or carpet, a permit is not needed.


For remodels that add square footage to your home or make structural modifications, a permit will definitely be needed. Other projects, such as those involving cosmetic changes to your exterior or landscape, may or may not require a permit.


When in doubt, take a trip down to your local District Office and ask, or seek help from a reputable professional in your area.


Submittal Process


Your first mission is to determine the entire scope of your project be as specific as possible. With a clear understanding of what the job entails, you can prepare your plan for the submittal process.


Once the scope is determined, the next step is getting the approval of your planning department. Planning departments review your plan to ensure that the general plan and rules governing land use in your community are followed. If you live in a community with a homeowners association, you may also need approval from your association.


After receiving planning approval, your plan can be reviewed by the building department. The building department carefully reviews plans for adherence to the building code, including review of any structural, electrical and mechanical modifications.


Code Requirements


If you are using a design and building professional, they should have a thorough understanding of the code, but the code continues to evolve, and if you plan to oversee your own project, there are certain rules you should familiarize yourself with. These include egress and electrical requirements.


Green Building and Energy Codes


The purpose of the building code is to protect not only occupants, but also the general community. This is where green building and energy code requirements come in.


Your project will be required to adhere to these codes adopted by your community. Green building codes set minimum standards for a project in terms of water consumption, air quality, toxicity of materials, building efficiency, general waste reduction and storm water management.


Energy code requirements vary greatly depending on the region you live in, and they involve details such as insulation and HVAC systems regulating the energy efficiency of your home.


The Inspection Process


While the number of inspections required for a given project can vary greatly, from one simple visit to a series of a dozen or more, there is one piece of advice that holds true in all cases: It pays to develop a relationship with your inspector and seek his or her advice every chance you get.


Reputable building professionals establish trust with local inspectors, and if you are doing your own work, you should build a rapport with your inspector by communicating openly and listening to the inspector’s advice.


The required inspections for your project should be clearly defined by your building jurisdiction and might include areas such as concrete, utilities, underfloor work, exterior walls, roofs and insulation, all leading up to the final inspection.


Final Inspection


It’s the moment of truth. On the day of your final inspection, all the planning and all the work are in the past, as long as the inspector conducting the final review says so.


If you have properly prepared for the final inspection by communicating with your inspector, seeking a checklist of all the requirements to be reviewed, you have gone a long way toward ensuring success. There are some specific requirements that commonly trip up projects, but the most common infraction is a failure to follow the approved plan.


The safety of your family is at stake, but so is their general well-being and the welfare of your community. It’s why the building code exists, and you will sleep better and avoid financial risks.


Hiring a reputable professional is the best way to ensure success, but if you are doing the work yourself, be sure you are educated on the building permit requirements relating to your project.

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Make Your Own Compost

Want to cut down on waste, save money and ensure your soil is healthy and nutrient rich? A great way to do it is to try making your own compost. Here is what you need to know about setting up and maintaining a compost area in your outdoor space.


Which Type Of Compost Bin Should I Use?


When it comes to choosing a compost bin, there are a number of things to think about. The key elements you need are air, moisture and heat - produced by the breakdown process.


There are so many options: plastic, wooden, tumbler and hot compost bins. But it really depends on how much waste you are going to compost, how much work you want to do and how long you’re willing to wait. For example, a hot compost bin keeps the temperature higher, speeding up the process. So you have usable compost faster. A tumbler compost bin makes turning your compost easier.


Size


When considering the height of your bin and make sure you can easily lift a shovel into it and reach in to turn the compost. If it comes with a lid, you’ll need it to be big enough for the shovel, because don’t want to turn it by hand.


If you have the space, A larger compost bin with three-sections is a good option, as this allows you to fill one bin while turning another in rotation. It can be frustrating when your bin becomes full before you’ve produced anything. 


Material


Material is also a key factor in your choice. Dark plastic will absorb heat, which will speed up the decomposition process. They are also often smaller, so are well suited to smaller gardens. Wooden bins can be larger in size, and the larger the pile of material, the higher the temperature it can reach, speeding up decomposition.


How Should I Prepare My Compost Bin?


Compost bins should be laid straight onto the bare earth, with some brown, woody waste material at the bottom to help with drainage.


You could add shredded paper, a layer of grass clippings, autumn leaves — anything that allows the worms to get into the compost.


If your composter doesn’t already have a lid, you can use an old piece of carpet or a sheet of plastic or wood – anything that will completely cover the pile to help keep the heat in.


Laying a weed-control membrane on top, or something that lets the rain get into your compost, will help the microorganisms break it down.


Once this is all in place, you just start adding to it. Try to alternate between soft and woody materials. “


What Should I Add To My Compost Bin?


To get good compost, you need to put in a mix of hard and soft materials. You want it to cater to the tastes of as many microorganisms and worms as you can — too much of any one thing can cause problems and slow or stop the process.


Green Material (Nitrogen Rich)


The professionals recommend adding garden waste, such as lawn clippings and prunings, and vegetable waste. It’s best to mix lawn clippings with other stuff to avoid compacted layers that will struggle to decompose evenly. Every so often, add layers of cardboard to improve aeration.


Soft green waste - food waste - should make up to half of the compost bin.


Organic Material (Carbon Rich)


The rest can be woody materials, such as plant clippings and wood chips, but avoid putting in any very large branches, as these will take a long time to rot.


What Should I Do to Help The Process Along?


Aerate Your Compost Pile 


It’s important to keep your compost pile aerated to give oxygen to the organisms that break down the waste materials. The best way is by turning or digging your compost frequently – ideally at least once a month. It’s hard work, but it’s essential for air to get through.


Poking holes with a broom handle can help, so can putting in coarse material, such as straw, to create air pockets throughout the pile. It also needs moisture, so in dry weather it should be watered.


How Long Until I Have Usable Compost?


An open bin will take around a year to turn waste into compost. Some of the more techy hot compost bins can turn it around much quicker.


The timeframe is also affected by what you add to your compost bin. The more woody material can take around three years to break down; for the softer plant material, it can be less than a year. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s broken down and looks like soil.


Can I Use Half-Ready Compost?


You can, but it’s not recommend. The decomposing process requires carbon (C) and nitrogen (N). If you add your unfinished compost to the soil, there will be a period in which the unfinished compost will take C and N from the soil to decompose itself, so there will be less available for the plants.


How Do I Avoid Pests?


Avoid any cooked waste. Try to stick with vegetable waste and other green material in order to deter rats.


Rats are drawn to the smell of decaying food, so if your compost bin is well balanced, the rats will be less of an issue. Thin layers of grass clippings and shredded paper help to keep a healthy compost pile.


Make sure your compost is well mixed, which will reduce the smell, which may attract pests.


Can I Add Compostable Bags?


They don’t decompose completely. After a year, you may still have some bags around. You can use bags but don’t put them into the compost.

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Veggies and Herbs For New Gardners

For gardeners, poring over the pages of a seed catalog can be a feast for the eyes; heirloom tomatoes, basil, the seed varieties available to home gardeners rival any farmers market. Similarly, going to a nursery and seeing row upon row of baby tomato, lettuce and kale plants can make it hard to decide where to start. What’s a backyard food grower to do?


By growing a small selection of carefully chosen crops, you will give yourself the best opportunity for success. If you’re new to gardening, it’s better to grow just five types of vegetables rather than 15. Over time, you’ll learn which crops and varieties work best for your microclimate, taste and lifestyle.


Here are some of the best vegetables and herbs for gardeners of all types, including beginners. In addition to being easy to grow and productive, many of these crops are well-suited to growing in small spaces.


Start with favorite vegetables that you regularly buy from the grocery store. If you’re a big fan of kale salads, be sure to plant kale. Radishes are very easy to grow and look gorgeous, but if you’re not a fan of eating them, don’t grow them.


Tender greens like spinach thrive in cool environments. To find vegetables that suit your growing region, look for local seed companies, check out what’s being grown in farmers markets and ask neighbors what they’re growing. Find out your area’s average first and last frost dates; these will provide an essential guideline for when to plant seeds.


Your garden space will also inform what you can grow. If your space is small, choose plants with a small footprint. Zucchini can grow in a large container, but their huge, sprawling leaves may take up the better part of a balcony garden.


Snap Peas


Few things in life rival the flavor of a fresh snap pea right off the vine. Because the sugars in this crop degrade quickly, snap peas truly taste better when grown at home. With their vertical growth, peas don’t take up much room — just be sure to set up a trellis and train them rigorously, as the vines can get unruly. Peas are a cool-season crop and are planted directly into the soil as seeds in late winter or early spring in most areas.


Tip: 

Use a pea inoculant (a powder that acts like a probiotic for peas and beans) at the time of planting to ensure success. Look for varieties that are resistant to pea enation mosaic virus and powdery mildew.


When to Plant: 

Sow seeds about four to six weeks before the average last frost date in spring. In mild-winter climates, peas can also be planted in the fall; sow seeds two to three months before the first expected frost date.


Light Requirement: 

Full sun to partial shade; provide afternoon shade in hot climates.


Radishes


Cheery, colorful radishes are some of the first vegetables gardeners can harvest in the spring. This attractive cool-season plant grows quickly and takes up little room, making it an ideal choice for small-space gardeners. The leaves are also edible and can make a good substitute for cooked spinach.


When to Plant: 

Sow seeds two to three weeks before the average last frost date in spring, and in late summer four to six weeks before the average first fall frost. Continue sowing seeds every two weeks in both spring and fall.


Light Requirement: 

Full sun to partial shade


Mint


Want your own supply of peppermint tea? It’s as easy as growing a peppermint plant. This perennial herb grows so vigorously that it should always be planted in containers — otherwise, it may take over your entire garden. Keep your mint tidy with regular trimming, or allow it to go to flower and attract tons of bees. This hard-to-kill plant is a great choice for apartment gardeners.


When to Plant: 

Purchase seedlings from a garden supply store, or ask a friend to dig up a section of his or her plant. Plant seedlings in early spring, or in the fall in warm-winter climates.


Light Requirement: 

Full sun to partial shade


Chives


Snipped chives taste delicious on eggs, pasta — just about everything. In grocery stores, they can be difficult to find and expensive, but in gardens, they’re incredibly easy to grow. This perennial herb has a long harvest season and will come back year after year if you plant it in nice rich soil. Try growing them in a large pot right outside your kitchen window. Harvest chives by simply giving them a “haircut” with kitchen scissors as needed.


When to Plant: 

Purchase seedlings from a garden supply store, or start seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before the average last frost date. Plant seedlings in the early spring. Chives are perennials and take several years to reach their full size, so harvest lightly until your plants are well-established.


Light Requirement: 

Full sun


Mesclun Mix


The word “mesclun” comes from the Provençal word for “mixture.” In gardening terms, mesclun is a combination of seeds that are planted together to create a ready-made baby salad featuring a variety of colors, flavors and textures. The result is similar to the packaged salad mixes you can find in grocery stores, but far more fresh and exciting. Seed catalogs often have a variety of mesclun mixes to choose from, typically featuring arugula, mustard greens and lettuce.


Tip: 

To achieve success with mescluns, sow seeds thinly (about one seed per square half-inch). Plant some each week and harvest leaves with scissors as soon as they look ready.


When to Plant: 

Plant a little mesclun every one to two weeks from early spring to early summer. In mild-winter climates, plant again from late summer to mid-fall. Water well and protect from hot temperatures.


Light Requirement: 

Full sun to partial shade


Kale


If you’re growing kale in containers, sow seeds similarly to mesclun mixes and harvest the baby greens. In raised beds with rich soil, many varieties will grow more than 6 feet tall. Choose your kale variety according to your climate and season. 


When to Plant: 

Sow seeds in early to midsummer for fall and winter harvest. For a summer harvest, plant seeds in spring two weeks to a month before the last frost date.


Light Requirement: 

Full sun; provide afternoon shade in very hot climates.


Cherry Tomatoes


Tomatoes are one of the most rewarding crops to grow in a home garden. If you’re a new gardener, start with a classic disease-resistant cherry tomato like ‘Sweet Million’. Be sure to build a trellis for the long vines, and plant them in a sunny spot where they can be protected from rain. Cherry tomatoes are an ideal choice for container gardens.


When to Plant: 

Set out starts or nursery plants when the soil is warm and there’s no danger of frost. Start seeds indoors five to eight weeks before your planned planting date.


Light Requirement: 

Full sun


Zucchini


Get ready, because once your zucchini plants start producing, it’ll be hard to keep up with them. Zucchini are famous for producing more food than most people can handle. Check your plants every day or two, and harvest them as soon as they’re a little over a foot long. Just make sure that you have enough space in your garden for this sprawling plant.


When to Plant: 

Sow seeds about two weeks after the last frost date when soil temperatures reach 21 degrees Celsius. You can start seeds indoors about one week before that date.


Light requirement: 

Full sun


By choosing only a few veggies or herbs that you enjoy eating, and that are suited to your growing environment, you’ll set yourself up for a fun and successful gardening experience. Enjoy the process of learning which plants work best for you.

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A Fire Pit For Your Yard

Here’s what to consider about material, style, fuel type, location, cost and safety when adding an outdoor fire pit.


So many options awaits you when it comes to buying a fire pit, whether you purchase a ready-made model or work with a craftsman to make one custom for your space. Either way, it can be tough to know where to begin. Here’s some tips to help guide your decision process.


Local Regulations


Before you jump into buying a fire pit, check with your city building codes and local authorities for regulations about outdoor fire pit placement or restrictions for burning wood. If you live in a condo or apartment complex, also check with your building or homeowners association to see if there are any regulations regarding outdoor fire pits. If you’re renting, run it past your landlord.


There are often regulations regarding fire pit placement for safety, such as siting a fire pit at least 10 feet away from buildings and fences. Some areas may require a site inspection by local fire officials to check that your proposed location is fire-safe. If your area regulates fuel type for environmental reasons, skip wood-burning models and opt for smoke-free ones that run on propane or natural gas.


Style


Fire pits come in a range of shapes, sizes and designs that can fit with any backyard style and homeowner needs. The challenge is narrowing your options and finding the right one for you. A good place to start is to identify a fire pit that coordinates with your existing backyard design in style, color, shape or material.


In addition to selecting a fire pit that fits in with the overall landscape style, choose a model that suits how you intend to use it. 


Size


Fire pit sizes range from small portable models to larger built-in styles. Choose a size and style that fits with your budget and location. Store-bought fire pit models commonly range from 24 to 30 inches in diameter. Built-in units can range from 36 to 58 inches across.


Height can range between low-to-the-ground fire bowls to taller models. If you’d like to be able to rest your feet on the lip of a fire pit, choose a model that’s either even with or slightly lower than standard seat height (typically 18 inches). Fire pit height compared to seat height also affects reflected warmth.


Pro tip: 

If you’d like the fire to warm you from your seat, aim for a lower fire pit. Keeping [a fire pit] a little lower, at 18 to 20 inches, provides more heat to the body.


Keep in mind how much space you’ll need for seating and circulation when determining the fire pit size. As a rule of thumb, budget on about 5 to 7 feet around all edges of a fire pit for chairs and movement through the area. Make sure you design around the fire pit, leaving room for big, comfy chairs and ample mobility.


If you’re planning to add built-in seating, keep the distance between the back wall of the seating area and the fire between 40 and 48 inches.


Permanent or Portable


Another consideration when buying a fire pit is whether you want the flexibility of a portable model or want to invest in a fire pit that will stay put as a permanent feature in your backyard. Lightweight portable fire pits can be a great option for renters; you can move them around and light them up in different areas of the backyard.


Material


Fire pits come in a variety of materials, including stone, metal, concrete or a mixture of multiple materials. Choose a material that suits your taste, coordinates with the design of your backyard and holds up well to stains and frequent use.


There are ups and downs from each material. Concrete is durable but can stain from soot. Powder-coated metal is durable but can get hot. Natural stone is great but can stain and occasionally will crack from heat if not built correctly.


If you are using a natural gas or propane-burning model, you may also be able to select the fire media, material in the flame area that covers the burner. Options range from decorative balls to lava rock and fire glass in many colors, sizes and shapes.


Cost


Fire pits have a wide range of costs. With a fire pit made using stacked stones in a ring or a basic model (typically made of metal and set up for wood burning only), you can keep the price under $100. Freestanding fire pits made from materials such as stone, concrete or powder-coated metal can run from $300 to $2,000 or more, depending on design. For custom and built-in models, budget $1,000 to $5,000 or more.


Fuel Type


Choose among three fuel options: wood, propane or natural gas. Wood-burning fire pits offer the classic crackling fire sound but are increasingly regulated due to environmental concerns about air-polluting smoke. 


Propane and natural gas offer the advantages of being smoke-free, easier to clean up and quicker to turn on and off. Both choices come with pros and cons: If you choose natural gas, prepare to potentially pay more for installation. You’ll also need to obtain a permit in order to extend a gas line. Propane saves on [the] cost of not having a gas line extended or permitted, but you’ll need to figure out where to hide the propane tank, ideally in a spot where it’s out of sight but still easy to refill.


Permitting


In general, you do not need a permit to install a standard-size backyard fire pit. If you choose a fire pit that runs on natural gas, you may need a permit to extend your gas line. Some areas may require a site inspection by local fire officials to check that your proposed location is fire-safe. Fire pits that are considered extra-large, over 4 feet in diameter, may require a permit or have other safety or installation requirements. Check your city building codes and local authorities before getting started.


Location


Building regulations will dictate where your fire pit can and cannot be in your yard, so check those first. Other things to consider when choosing a location for a fire pit include space constraints, fuel type and how you’d like to use the fire pit.


If a fire pit is part of a larger design-build project, one has to consider how it flows with the rest of the design. This includes site lines from the house and how the materials work together. 


Keep in mind that the main use of the fire pit will be in the cooler months. From what direction are the prevailing cold winds? It’s best to situate the fire pit in a space where it will be protected from these winds.


Safety and Other Considerations


Consider fire-safety measures when operating an outdoor fire pit and take measures to reduce risk. Make sure everyone in the house knows how to turn off or put out the fire feature, and never leave young children unattended around the flames.


Both location and choosing a fire-safe flooring material around the fire pit can make a big difference in increasing safety. Fire pits should be positioned at least 10 feet away from buildings and fences, on level ground and in an open area without overhanging trees. Fire-safe outdoor flooring materials to consider include: decomposed granite, crushed gravel, concrete, flagstone pavers or bare earth raked free of all flammable debris.


For wood-burning fire pits, it’s a good idea to have a spark arrester, a screen to catch sparks.


Whatever style or size of fire pit you choose, there’s a good chance it will become a favorite evening hangout spot that will inspire new traditions.

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