When you plan your landscaping, you are planning for the long term. You want everything, especially border edging, to last as long as possible—no matter what Mother Nature throws at it. Since landscaping is often one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your property, it can feel like you’ve wasted money if products break down, decay, or start to look dingy after just a few years.
There’s a wide variety of products you can use for border edging. Here are the pros and cons of a few of the most common edging options available, and what we recommend for the longest-lasting hardscapes in Iowa.
Plastic edging is a very affordable option, and it comes in a variety of colors and styles. However, plastic edging is a true case of “you get what you pay for.” Plastic edging degrades very quickly when exposed to the elements. Sun fades its color and weakens the material while snow and freezing temperatures make it even more brittle. Then it starts to crack, break, and look bad in just a few seasons. The plastic edging looks cheap, and it only gets worse with time. While plastic edging may seem like a great deal, you’ll be replacing it pretty frequently, and cleaning up all the bits and pieces from your yard can be difficult. We don’t recommend plastic edging to anyone.
A clean-cut line of spade edging looks fantastic. It’s minimalist, it’s definitely the most affordable option, and it allows strong landscaping to stand on its own without distraction. However, it is a high-maintenance approach. To keep it looking nice, it needs to be cleaned up at least once per year, and perhaps a second time depending on how crisp you want to keep the edge.
Metal edging products are very utilitarian and leave very clean lines. With that said, they’re not particularly attractive or creative, and they don’t bend well. These products are most useful in straight lines for commercial applications and utility areas of your home.
Natural Stone Border
One of the best and longest-lasting options is a natural stone border. Natural stone has a classic, timeless look, and fits into any landscape beautifully. As edging, natural stone is extremely durable, and weather and sunshine won’t drastically affect the look or texture. If you’re going with stone, avoid soft stone, like Iowa Buff, as it will discolor and degrade very quickly. Choose a dense stone that will stand up well to wear and tear over time.
Stones that are at least 6″ wide and 2-3″ thick are the best for durability. If you have areas that see regular traffic from lawn equipment, like around pathways and patios, choose larger stones. Natural stone can be cut to custom sizes and installed end-to-end for a tighter or looser fit, depending on the look you’re going for.
Paver stones are also a top option for landscape borders. These days, there are so many varieties, styles, sizes, and colors available to choose from! They’re also very durable and will last for a very long time. Similar to stone, we recommend larger and thicker pavers—at least 6 inches wide—for high-traffic areas.
When it’s time to consider a new landscaping project, you need to know the basics of how to work with a landscape professional. What is the consultation process? How long will it take? And how much is all of this going to cost?
Our resident landscape expert Keegan Lare, shares his advice on what to expect when you work with our professional team here at Ted Lare.
The First Step: The Phone Consultation
After you call in to start a project, we organize a phone conversation with one of our designers. This typically happens within 24-48 hours of the initial call, depending on what part of the season we’re in.
During this call, we answer any questions you may have, and we try to get a feel for the projects you’re looking for. If it seems like a solid fit for both sides, then we schedule an on-site consultation at your home or your business if it’s a commercial job.
Next Steps: The On-Site Consultation
We usually meet for up to an hour to check out your residence and discuss our initial thoughts on your project.
We charge $100 for consultations in the Des Moines Metro area, but this $100 gets credited back to you if we do the work. Depending on the complexity of the job, we may charge up to $200-500 to account for some of our design time. This will all be discussed on-site and agreed upon before we move forward. You will also receive that amount back in credit if you decide to carry out the project.
Most importantly, the on-site consultation is a time for you to ask questions, so don’t be shy!
Common Questions during the Consultation
Here are some of the questions you can expect us to discuss with you when we visit your property for the first time.
What are your goals?
In general, we like to ask homeowners what their top 3 goals are for their outdoor spaces. These goals help us focus on what is most important to you and allows us to develop a plan that meets your aspirations.
How do you live?
We’ll also ask for general information about your lifestyle. For example, how big are the gatherings you expect to have on your new patio? What does a typical weekend look like for you? Do you love the sun, or prefer to hang out in the shade?
What are your tastes?
Any images that show your taste in materials (patios, walls, etc.) always help us get an idea of what you like. Providing any previous plans for the property also helps us save time creating a base plan from scratch.
What is your budget?
Discussing a budget range is very helpful so that we know any limitations on the project. We’ll generally give options with different price points, as clients find it beneficial to have a few choices.
Information Gathered for Design
When at your site, we capture all the data we need to create an initial design. This includes several photos of the yard and home, critical measurements of the space, and information on accessibility, powerlines, and obstacles.
This process can be quick or rather extensive, depending on the existing conditions of the location. New homes without a lot of previous installations are easy to measure and capture. Older homes with many existing hardscapes and plantings can take longer to document.
We try to respond with design ideas and a preliminary budget within two weeks of the first meeting, but this time frame depends on the complexity of the project. If there are many construction elements to design and price out, it may take longer.
After we provide you with an initial design, the decision is in your hands on how to move forward and set a schedule. Often there are different phases of work to choose from, such as tree removal, garden preparation, installation of hardscapes, etc. We are happy to do it all at one time or phase it in over a few years. Usually, it makes sense to do as much construction as possible in one trip to limit the cleanup expenses involved in multiple trips over several years.
Once the project scope of work is agreed upon, we work to schedule the project in the near future. If it is a simple planting, it may only be a few weeks before we can complete the work. If the project involves a lot of construction, it might be a few months before we can start a project. Once we start a job, we see it through to completion. Our install crews are some of the best around and you will love working with them.
The landscape consultation process is often that simple. For a small fee and in short order, you can have professional designers guide you towards your ideal renovation. If you have any further questions on the landscaping process, or would like to start a project, please don’t hesitate to contact Ted Lare Design & Build. We would love to hear from you!
With a camera in everyone’s pocket, social media within our fingertip’s reach, and a world of people a click away, it can feel a lot more difficult to live a private life. We’re so plugged into our lives around us and surrounded by technology and media that the only place we can actually relax is in our homes. While a little peace and quiet is wonderful to enjoy in our fast-paced lives, nobody wants to live their life indoors. Having a private escape on your property can be the perfect way to enjoy what your yard has to offer, without worrying about prying eyes. Below are some ideas on how to create your own private sanctuary in your backyard.
Hedges and Privacy Screens: Planting hedges and privacy screens are a beautiful and all-natural way to add a little bit of functional privacy to your home. Their dense growth creates a lush curtain of green that shields your yard while allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. You’ll get all the function of a fence or barrier, but with a much more aesthetically pleasing shade of green.
Hedges don’t just screen your home from the outside giving privacy, but they can also act as a stylish, multi-purpose feature by providing a sound barrier from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, allowing you to create an atmosphere of peace and quiet right outside your door. Not to mention, they also work great as a buffer from winds and snow, which can not only be a benefit for those of us who like to spend more time outside, but it can also help to lower heating costs when the weather cools.
Growing Your Own Hedges: While there are many different styles and types of hedges that you can grow, planning the best fit for you is important. The first step toward starting your own hedge at home actually begins with planning, so that you can choose the look and function that works for your backyard oasis. Working with one of our expert designers, we’ll find the most tailored look for your style, home, and interests. Here’s what to consider when planning:
What space do you have? Start off by planning where you want your hedge to go. You might want to have a hedge capture your whole yard, but some yard layouts might call for a partial hedge instead. Measure the total length and consider how wide you’d like your hedge to be to have the numbers you need to get started.
What do these measurements mean? How many plants you use and how close you plant them depends on both the plant’s growth habits and the density of a hedge that you want. For some plants you could need up to 3 layers, planted only 1’-2’ apart to create a dense look. Other plants may only need to be planted in one layer and require spacing 6 ft apart. Often a combination of plants is best, for a unique look and more color and texture through the year. Our designers are familiar with all of the most popular varieties and which species is the best choice for the look that you want.
Which plant to choose? The first decision is between deciduous and evergreen shrubs. While there are tons of exciting types of deciduous plants to choose from that offer a stunning array of seasonal colors, they do lose their leaves – and therefore some of their density – in the winter. Evergreens offer an identical look no matter the season, and won’t sacrifice density at any time of year.
Hedge How-To: For a professional and polished final look, our landscaping experts are a fantastic resource to make sure that your project looks as good as you imagined. If you’re a bit handier, though, it can be easy to plant your own hedge. For homeowners looking for a stress-free experience, hiring the pros is a great solution, and for those that like to be hands-on throughout their projects, we’re happy to help you make your hedge happen. Here’s how to plant them yourself:
1. For a manicured look, mark your hedge line. Use a stake at each end of the line and tie a string between them to mark a straight line. To keep each plant placed precisely, measure and mark your string with the distances that you want to place plants at.
2.Dig your holes as deep as the plant’s root balls.Take the plants out of the containers or casing you purchased them in the holes for planting. If they look root-bound, gently work the roots to loosen them. Fill in the holes and water your new hedge plants to help them to settle in and start growing.
3. Adding mulch around your plants will help them to thrive. Mulch is temperature regulating and helps to keep moisture levels more consistent for a healthier plant, but also helps to make your hedge look more polished.
4. You can “train” your hedge into the right shape with some careful pruning once they are growing well. Simply trim down the tops and sides a few times annually to keep your plants healthy and in line.
Favorite Hedge Plants: There really is a wealth of different options to choose from when picking your hedge plant. Shrubs exist in nearly every shape and size, so there’s a plant for nearly every style. These are some of our favorite hedge plants that you’re bound to see thriving in Iowa neighborhoods:
Boxwoods These evergreens are known for being dense-growing and very low maintenance. You can find them in many sizes ranging from 3’ to 9’ tall, and you can trim them into different shapes to suit your style. These shrubs boast bright green foliage that darkens slightly in the winter months. While they are known to attract useful bees to your yard, they also keep out other wildlife like deer, keeping your whole garden protected from other kinds of prying eyes.
Arborvitae Known for their elegant looks, these hedges are a perfect option for hedges that highlight each individual plant with more generous spacing. These tall and narrow cone-shaped trees come in a wide assortment of varieties, some of which can grow up to 30’ tall. The local favorites are the Emerald Green Arborvitae and the Holmstrup Arborvitae – both favored for their beautiful foliage that is both hardy and disease resistant. The name “Arborvitae” actually translates from Latin to mean “tree of life,” and these plants prove it with a long life of up to 50 years, even in our sometimes harsh conditions. Pictured Above Right: North Pole Arborvitae Via Plant Finder
Korean Lilac & Common Lilac Lilacs are a great choice for adding a floral touch to your hedging needs, covered in clusters of small flowers, usually in shades of white or purple, or variegations of both. Not only beautiful, they’re also wonderfully fragrant and add a delightful, relaxing note to the atmosphere of the backyard. Plus, those same gorgeous and fragrant blooms are favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies alike! Pictured Above Left: Korean Lilac Via Plant Finder
Dwarf Burning Bush For truly captivating color, look no further than a dwarf burning bush for your hedge. The gorgeous, green summer foliage transforms to radiant red for the fall, truly setting the season in your landscape. They also look particularly fantastic when paired with evergreens for a cool contrast with the appeal of year-round coverage. Pictured Above Right: Dwarf Burning Bush Via Monrovia
Privacy Planting Screens: Although a hedge is a nice place to start when adding privacy to your backyard, a more beautiful and complex solution is a privacy planting screen that has several varieties of plants. The combination of plants will create a more diverse mix that provides more color, height variations, and seasonal interest.
Most planting screens would incorporate multiple trees, shrubs, and perhaps ornamental grasses and perennial flowers. Below are some images of planting arrangements we have done in the past. One of our friendly designers can help design and install a more complex project for you, such as this.
Berming: Another way to create privacy is to change the elevation of the land. Given enough space on your property, you can add black dirt and re-shape the land to increase the height of your yard, allowing for more privacy. Typically we would then plant a privacy screen on top of the rolling berms to create an immediate planting screen. If you have an expansive area, these berms also have a lot of visual interest by themselves, giving you the feel of a rolling manicured golf course.
Getting a moment to ourselves shouldn’t be that difficult, so it’s wonderful to have a little spot of quiet solitude right in our own yards. Whether you want to plant your own or need help from our landscape and design experts to create some much-needed privacy, come in today to ask how you can turn your backyard into a private getaway.
The best gardens are more than just beautiful. Some of our favorite outdoor designs are where function meets beauty. Outdoor spaces that have been transformed into someplace unique to the homeowner and their tastes, while offering an oasis for them to enjoy their time at home. While the visual appeal is an important element, what you leave up to the other senses is what completes the experience.
From fragrant flowers to delightful textured plants, your personal outdoor space can be full of everything you want to experience. And what better place to relax and enjoy time with family, friends, and loved ones than a calming garden getaway that provides a platform for entertaining? The easiest way to add sound and tranquility to your yard is with a water feature. Not only are they incredibly personalized and customizable, they are simpler to install than most people think – especially with the assistance of our team of landscape and design experts to guide the way.
Why We Love Water Features: The benefits of adding the sound of trickling water to your garden are clear as soon as you step into a garden that has a water feature. They also pack a ton of other benefits by boosting ambient humidity for your garden to enjoy, and providing shelter and water for your favorite wildlife and beneficial insects.
In terms of design, there are many reasons why people fall in love with the idea of having a water feature in their backyard. While they are certainly more than achievable for nearly anyone’s garden today, we can’t help but associate fountains and ponds with luxury. In ancient Babylon, Kings used water (along with feats of engineering and lots of manpower) to create lush tropical oases in the middle of the desert. More recently, in France, the royal family created impressive fountains and gardens for their opulent palace in Versailles.
These days there are so many customizable options that anyone can have all the luxury of the royal water features of the past in their own backyard. You’ll appreciate the benefits of having a place to go home and relax, even if you don’t rule a kingdom.
The Benefits of Water Features: Our gardens are our own sanctuary, so it makes sense that we optimize the space for sharing with loved ones and for relaxing. With the sound of water dripping and flowing, your whole yard is filled with ambient noise that promotes relaxation. The constantly moving water will also help to boost your garden’s health by increasing humidity, which your tropical plants will enjoy, and by attracting the right type of natural visitors to your backyard space.
Water features themselves offer a host of benefits to the overall experience in your yard, but they are visually stunning as well. There are so many options for types and styles of water installations, your options are endless for designing a beautiful water feature that perfectly compliments your existing outdoor aesthetic.
Water Feature Options: There are a few basic types of water features to choose from. Depending on your ambition, you can opt for a pre-made feature, or something completely one-of-a-kind.
The simpler method of starting a water feature is with a fountain. These are easy to source and come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and prices. Fountains add a certain elegance to your garden – we can’t help but associate them with formal French gardens. This elegant solution comes with relatively simple upkeep and maintenance. They’re easy to install, are affordable, and often offer a simple enclosed system of circulating water that is easy to manage. While you can always scale your project to be bigger and more elaborate, the simplest of fountains are easy to add to an existing landscape design without much extra work.
Ponds are popular options for people that are willing to put in a bit more work and regular maintenance for a stunning centerpiece that really ties the whole landscape together. Instead of a feature in your design, ponds tend to be a commanding central point that focuses the entire look of your yard. These features add a naturalistic beauty to your yard that’s perfect for relaxing conversation spaces.
Waterfalls and water walls can either be incorporated into a pond or built to be free-standing. Waterfalls and water walls can be sculpted with concrete, granite or natural stone to create a dramatically beautiful focal point. Our experts are a great starting point for an ambitious project like installing a waterfall. With help from the Ted Lare design team, you can create a water feature that works well with your home and lifestyle, with the confidence that it will be done right.
However you decide to incorporate your water feature, you’ll be rewarded with an outdoor experience that rewards all your senses. Installing a new feature is an investment in your property as well as an investment in your time spent outside – for you and everyone you welcome into your home each year.
What good would the outdoors be if it weren’t for trees? Trees make up an important piece of our world, providing shade and shelter for wildlife, vital oxygen for all living things, and natural dimension and visual appeal to our Iowa prairie landscape. The addition of trees to our yards adds character that will mature for generations to come.
What is an Ornamental Tree?
Ornamental trees are trees that are smaller in size when compared to shade trees, but add visual appeal to the landscape through shape, texture, and seasonal color. They are living decorations that transform a flat lawn into a natural habitat for birds, bees, and the occasional squirrel. They can also provide natural shade over open decks, and some trees even produce edible fruit. Just about any yard can be enhanced by planting an ornamental tree, provided it’s carefully chosen to suit the property.
Ornamental Trees Ideal for the Front of the Home:
These are all smaller sized ornamental trees that are suitable for the corners of homes or accent trees along the front of a home.
Serviceberry Trees are truly a four-season ornamental tree. From their white flowers in spring, their edible berries in the summer, or their fiery foliage in the fall, these are a top pick for smaller spaces. We love the Autumn Brilliance variety.
Sargentina Crab Apple Trees, the dwarf version of the Sargent Crabapple Tree, Sargentinas are compact with voluminous white blossoms in the spring.
Redbud Trees’ flower display packs show-stopping color in the springtime. Their head-turning magenta blooms are simply unforgettable.
Bloodgood Japanese Maple shows off red foliage that gets brighter in the early season and deepens into fall. These ornamental maples do well in containers or planted directly into the soil.
Crimson Queen Japanese Maple’s foliage has an attractive feathery texture that looks great as a garden accent.
Medium Sized Ornamental Trees for Front and Backyards:
While we may not spend as many hours out front as we do in our backyards, our front yards are important for the resale value of our properties. Ornamental trees are a simple and impactful landscaping change that can drastically improve a home’s curb appeal. The challenge is the smog and dust that inevitably comes with a street-facing property. For curb-facing outdoor spaces, it’s important to select ornamental trees that can stand up to the environmental pollutants.
Sunburst Honey Locusts are great trees for lining streets. They have bright, cheerful-looking green leaves and are considered highly tolerant of pollutants. Sunburst honey locust trees grow to an approximate height of 30 to 40 feet, great for adding an established look!
Chanticleer Pears are gorgeous trees that explode with flowers in spring and show off vibrant foliage in fall. They are not picky about soil and can do well in front yards. Chanticleer pear trees tend to reach a height of about 30 feet tall and 15 feet across.
Crabapple Trees make exceptionally popular ornamental trees due to their pretty spring blooms and bird-friendly fruit. Our favorite mid-sized varieties are Royal Raindrops, Donald Wyman, Prairiefire, Sargent, and Zumi.
Tulip Tree’s showy foliage looks great in any yard, but their namesake blooms, which look just like spring tulips, are the star of the show.
Japanese Katsura Trees have an interesting tendency to develop two-tone foliage in the fall. The tips of their leaves blush with a rosy shade while the rest of the leaf turns a radiant yellow, giving the whole tree a painted effect.
Hot Wings Maple look like they’re covered in flowers from afar, with their ruffled bright green leaves and delicate red samara “wings”. They make great trees for those who like a little bit of red color in their outdoor space.
Japanese Lilac Trees are beloved for the fragrance of their bloom which, for some of us, is the quintessential “smell of spring”! Lilacs are really a large shrub, but they still make fantastic ornamentals for smaller yards, maturing at heights of 15-20 feet tall. Japanese Lilac Trees bloom later than most ornamental trees, with a creamy white bloom. They also have a nice texture from their seed heads in the winter, which provides nice seasonal interest when it snows. These hardy trees slowly grow to 25 ft tall.
Ornamental Trees for Small Yards & Compact Areas:
Small spaces, including patios and corners of our homes, can be tricky to landscape, but a scaled-down ornamental tree can add a great focal point to anchor the area or shape the overall feel of the space.
Pagoda Dogwood Trees show off elegant, white blooms in the spring. Dogwood trees reach heights of approximately 25 feet, if allowed, but can be kept small if pruned regularly.
Japanese Maple Trees are among the most famous ornamental trees. There are many varieties of Japanese Maples that range in height from 3 to over 30 feet tall, but they’re all celebrated for their beautiful foliage and fiery autumn colors. Two common varieties we carry are Bloodgood and Crimson Queen.
Seven Sons Trees are members of the honeysuckle family. Their late-summer to early-fall blooming flowers have a lovely fragrance and attract scads of butterflies.
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, Sargent or Sargentina Crabapple, and Redbuds also do well in these settings.
Ornamental Trees that Bear Edible Fruit:
While flowering trees deserve their day in the sun, those of us who love to grow our own food are drawn to fruit-bearing trees. Here are a few that are hardy enough for our Iowa winters.
Apple Treesare a favorite for all the right reasons. The trees look gorgeous and produce generous yields of delicious fruit for eating, baking, and sharing. There are countless varieties of apples to choose from that do well in our climate, but it’s best to select a variety that is equally delicious for raw eating and cooking. Try Cortland apples or Gala apples for deliciously versatile fruit.
Tart Cherry Trees are more reliably hardy in Iowa than their sweet counterparts. The fragrant blossoms look breathtaking in springtime, and by mid-summer, the fruit is ready for picking. Tart cherries make fantastic jams and jellies.
PersimmonTrees are an exotic and uncommon choice. Their bright orange fruit is both ornamental and edible, on and off the tree. They are best consumed when ripe to the point of over-ripeness, otherwise their flavor can be quite tannic. When ripe, the fruit is delicate and sweet, working well in anything from baked goods to salsas.
Serviceberry Trees produce berries that both birds and people find irresistible. They taste similar to blueberries, making a fun treat for children to pick.
By giving an ornamental tree a home on your property, you can expect charm, character, and added property value that will grow and mature over time. To learn more about the benefits of adding an ornamental tree to your yard, talk with one of our landscape experts today!
“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” – Gossip Girl
Some people may have a fondness for rainy days, but wet weather can get in the way of enjoying your backyard. A rainy picnic is a classic frustration that has pushed covered outdoor areas toward the top of current landscaping trends.
This is all about lifestyle. If you find yourself wanting to spend more time enjoying your own backyard, this is how to make it happen. Imagine being able to get outside earlier in the spring, stay later into the fall, and even grill in the rain.
Why a Covered Patio?
A covered patio can be built as an extension of your home, or as a separate structure out in your yard. As counterintuitive as it may sound, we cover our backyard space because we love to be outdoors. A covered patio opens up so many new opportunities to enjoy your time at home outside more often:
Extend the Year: Iowa isn’t quite a tropical oasis, and our harsher weather leaves us treasuring our fleeting summers. With a covered patio, your year is extended. Early spring and late fall become part of your outdoor living and entertaining season, and your summer can include protection from unpleasant weather and hot afternoon sunshine.
Amenities: Covered patios spaces are perfect spots for outdoor kitchens, hot tubs, fire places, and outdoor TV setups.
Protection: We are used to needing to protect ourselves and our outdoor space from rain, snow, and UV rays. With a covered patio, however, you won’t need to run outside to cover the patio furniture at the first sign of rain and you can feel free to leave your books outside without worry.
Resale: It doesn’t take much to cover a patio, but by essentially adding another room to your house, your resale value will improve dramatically.
A covered patio is an extension of your indoor space, usually sharing at least one wall with your house. A pergola is a structure that shades the seating area below it, but does not provide shelter from rain. The most common type of pergola is constructed from cedar wood. Alternative and more modern materials may include steel or aluminum.
Typically, a pergola will have a sturdy post and beam wood frame that is covered with additional wood rafters for shade. Recently, more material options have been introduced, such as fabric shade sails or adjustable aluminum louvers. The end result is a shaded and protected area that still remains open to the rest of your yard. It’s the perfect spot for picnics, reading, or entertaining. Imagine your own personalized version with flowering vines, or maybe with a hot tub for entertaining. If you’re a romantic, imagine a freestanding pergola for a secluded corner of the yard, perfect for quiet time at home. If you are an entertainer, imagine a modern gazebo, complete with an outdoor kitchen and big screen TV for weekend parties. A pergola or covered patio is all about taking the outdoor lifestyle of your dreams and making it your reality.
You can do almost anything with a covered outdoor patio or pergola. We can customize any space to suit your family and lifestyle. When we are done with your backyard, you will not believe you lived without it for so long.
“Screw your nightclub. I want to be with outdoorsy people who drink by the fire pits.” – Unknown
Why an Outdoor Fire Pit?
It’s human nature to look for the centerpiece of a space, a hub to organize ourselves around. It’s no coincidence, then, that this makes centerpieces so important in design. Outdoors, the most compelling centerpiece is a fire.
While outdoor fireplaces come in a myriad of forms and designs, they all have the same function. They bring people together, whether for an afternoon roast or a late-night chat across the coals.
The first step toward creating that experience is to take a look at how you already use the space in your yard. A fire pit will become the center of gravity in your backyard, and will affect the space around it, so place it somewhere that you want people to go, sit, and relax.
Natural Gas, Propane, or Wood?
This is one of your first design questions. Do you want a campfire, the country vibe of a wood fireplace, or the clean convenience of gas? What could be a drawback for one person, could easily be a benefit for another. It’s largely a decision about what kind of fireplace experience and lifestyle you’re after. There are pros and cons to both:
Cleanliness: Wood may be a renewable resource, but gas burns cleaner. The smoke carries far less odor, and it produces less floating embers. Gas fires tend to give the fire experience without too many of the uncomfortable side effects. Particularly for those with family members with asthma or scent sensitivity, gas is the preferred choice.
Ease: Gas is so popular because it’s convenient. It’s a lot faster to flip a switch than to start a fire from scratch, and it’s a relief to know your fuel is always at hand, rather than chopping logs when you’re running low.
Safety: Gas fireplaces should be installed by professionals. Wood has its own safety concerns, including chopping wood, and installation location. Wood-burning fire pits and fireplaces should be located farther away from the home.
Cost: Wood-burning is cheaper in both installation and fuel, if you have it readily available. The cost of installing gas varies, depending on whether you have a propane or natural gas source nearby. If you have to run a new line from a long distance, it will cost a little more. The level of automation you choose will also influence the cost of a gas fire pit. If you are OK lighting a match to start the gas fire, it will cost you a lot less than the convenience of flipping a switch.
Luckily, the decision doesn’t have to be final. You can convert a wood fireplace or fire pit into a gas burner by installing an insert. It is always cheaper to do this upfront with the initial project, but these changes can always be implemented. The cost of an insert can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the size and automation level you desire.
Fire Pit or Fire Place?
Outdoor fire comes in 2 basic styles: fire pit or fireplace.
A fire pit is cheaper, and allows people to sit all around it. Fire pits are made for roasting marshmallows, drinking some beer, and relaxing into the late hours of the night over crackling embers. They are more difficult to incorporate into a covered outdoor room and are more vulnerable to wind, but tend to invite a more outdoorsy feeling. The height of the actual fire pit can be customized for your specific needs. It can be sunken in the ground 12” for a more primal feel, or raised 12” with a finished stone cap for a more contemporary feel.See our portfolio of our backyard fire pit designs
A fireplace is where the fire burns above ground, typically with a chimney above. They are more expensive but can provide a larger focal point, creating an outdoor living room wherever it goes. Fireplaces are perfect for sipping wine and putting your feet up under a blanket in a cozy patio chairSee our portfolio of our backyard fire place designs
Fire pits and fireplaces can be created out of a variety of materials. We use a lot of natural stone for fire pits, although there are some nice manufactured stone options available as well. Both last a long time and costs are similar, so the main factor driving the decision is purely visual. You can see some of our installed fire pits and places on our Landscaping Materials page.
Your ambition can go as far as your imagination and budget allow! You’ll need a stone or non-flammable base to build on, but after that, the world of design choices are entirely up to you. The easiest solutions include buying a portable metal or stone firepit to give some fire and warmth. It may not be a signature centerpiece, but it’s an easy way to get started.
On the other side of the spectrum, makeover your entire backyard living space to include a patio area with a firepit in the center to anchor your backyard. Transforming a patch of grass into a stone oasis will change the atmosphere of your yard as a whole and create the perfect space for comfort and socializing.
Ted Lare Design Build specializes in Des Moines Landscaping Design and Installation.
We cover a wide range of Central Iowa. We have installed landscapes for many years in all areas of the Des Moines metro, including West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola, and Norwalk.