Landscaping Tips!

Your Muskoka Fire Pit

The fire pit is an integral part of cottaging in Muskoka, and is time and againfire pit with muskoka chairs at the heart of evening  togetherness.  For centuries, friends and families have shared stories and laughs as they relax to the sound of the crackling fire. There is something about a moving fire that warms body and soul, and relaxes the mind.  Cottaging in Muskoka is about being outdoors, and a fire pit provides that extra time outside; time to sit and reflect on the day’s adventures, savour the crisp night air and to revel in the quiet majesty of the starry skies of the north.  Some of the most fond memories of the cottage are those memories of the evenings spent around the fire.

 

 Things to consider when designing your Muskoka Cottage Fire Pit:

 

LOCATION… LOCATION… LOCATION!

 

• Choose an open spot.  Be aware of overhead branches that could catch fire from rising sparks.  If you don’t have an open spot, create one!  It is better to prune a few branches, or take out one small tree than to risk burning down an entire forested area.  If you feel guilty about taking out a tree, plant another one somewhere else on your property.

 

• Ensure your location is level for comfortable seating.  If you are in Muskoka, chances are that you don’t have level ground, but not to worry!  A level spot can be created by your Muskoka Landscape Contractor.  More often than not, this "problem area" ends up becoming one of the most beautiful features of your overall landscape. 

Use your retaining stones creatively!  When a level area is cut into a slope, you can have your landscape contractor install a retaining wall with larger stones in such a way as to provide additional seating, or a place to sit away from the heat of the fire.  In Muskoka, the slope might be solid bedrock, in which case the low side can usually be raised using retaining stones to create the level patio area around a fire pit.  Always bear in mind that evenings around a fire often include a few “beverages”, so make sure that your raised area is a safe one!  You can do so simply by adding stone or wood benches just so that someone doesn't step backwards and fall off.

 


• Keep in mind that it is usually dusk to dark when using the fire pit.  Proximity to the water's edge can be a beautiful location and adds a safety value for extinguishing purposes, although being near the cottage has other convenience benefits.  It’s not a bad idea to consider whether your fire pit patio area could double as a place to sit during the day as well.  A convenient fire pit cover such as a simple board or otherwise can turn your pit into a table for day use. Whatever you decide works best for you, just make sure that you have a source of water readily available, and a safe pathway for traversing to and from your fire pit in the dark.

 

• Don’t forget to consider the prevailing wind directions.  If you cottage is on a particularly windy side of the lake you might wish to choose a sheltered location, or at very least design it in such a way that you will be able to sit on the upwind side of the fire.  

 

SAFETY 1st!

• Bigger is not better – go for a smaller fire pit vs. a bonfire.  It’s safer, it’s cozier and the bonus is that you will go through a lot less wood!  A 30” diameter fire pit is more than large enough to keep a group of 20 people warm.
 


• Although the term is fire “pit”, consider building yours above ground vs. digging a hole in the ground. Not only is this convenient for cooking grates, table tops and hot dog or marshmallow roasters, it is also much safer.  Nobody wants to think of a child or anyone falling into a hot Fire pit with metal ringfire, but it has happened.   Make sure that there are also no trip hazards in your seating area around the fire pit.

 

• Do still dig a shallow hole that you then fill with sand or gravel to provide drainage.  An above ground fire pit could be as simple as a metal ring, or you could go as far as to make a beautiful ring of stone.  At Hardscapes of Muskoka, we like to use a metal ring as a liner for our stone fire pits.  The air space between the metal ring and the stone prevents the heat of the fire from cracking the stones. 

 

• Ensure that the area around your fire pit is properly excavated, organic material removed and aggregates installed.  This is important to prevent the spread of fire.  Grass can catch fire and roots can smolder underground for days.

 

OTHER TIPS

 

• Have a few holes at the bottom of your fire pit to allow air flow at the base of your fire.  This air flow gives your fire the oxygen it needs to burn hotter, and you will find that you are not fighting with smoke circling around in everyone’s face.

 

• Moveable seating allows people to sit closer to or back from the heat as desired.

 

• Hardwood burns longer than softwood.  If you have mixed types of wood on your property, and you heat your cottage with firewood then save your hardwood for your indoor heating and use up your softwood at the campfire.  If you are purchasing firewood for your fire pit, try to get wood that has been seasoned for one year.  The moisture content of green (fresh) wood makes it difficult to burn.