Fireplaces and Pizza Ovens: Custom, Kit or Pre Fab?

Are you contemplating a new fireplace or pizza oven addition to your backyard or outdoor room? 

Join the club- these outdoor amenities are the hottest trends for this fall and winter! With the amount of selections and construction methods out there for these outdoor elements, how do you even begin to make a selection? The most popular construction methods currently are: Custom, Kit, or Pre-fabricated. I will describe the benefits and detriments of each method. Let’s explore each one:

Custom: In this construction process, the fireplace or pizza oven shell is constructed at the project site. The concrete block shell is mortared in the desired fireplace size and shape.  Firebrick is then added to the inside of the firebox.  Finally, the shell is veneered with the homeowner’s choice of brick or stone.

This construction method obviously offers the most design options, but correspondingly more cost as well. The design can be created by your contractor or landscape architect and the sky is the limit (depending on your local building code.) It also offers the most flexibility if several outdoor amenities are to be housed together. An example of this would be a fireplace integrated with a wood box and custom pizza oven attached.  The detriments of this method could be: Time constraints (this process takes much longer than the next two.) OR cost constraints.  


KitIn the construction process, a fireplace, wood box or pizza oven shell of mortared concrete block and firebrick is pre constructed off site. This shell is then delivered to your project site. From there the process is very much like the custom option, the customer chooses the appropriate brick or stone veneer, mantel piece or hearth. They are then installed on the construction site. Additional custom options such as inlays, lighting and other custom accents can be added to the kit to add to the custom look of this piece. The examples below can be found at Marshall Stone in the triad area.

The main benefit of this design option is the significant cost savings from the custom option. One detriment would be there are also less design options for the size and shape of this element, since they are pre constructed. There are still many veneer and accessory choices, however, that can make this option have a custom look and feel

 Pre Fabricated: In this construction process, an unassembled but pre cut kit of all materials arrives at your project site. All of it is assembled onsite and in a fraction of the hours of the other two options.  There are a variety of colors, and accessories available with the kits as well to add to a custom look.  

The main benefit of this option is the ease of construction. While you would think that this lowered labor cost would translate into a lesser overall cost, I have not found that to be true. These pre fabricated fireplace and pizza oven kits are significantly higher in materials cost, so they ultimately offset the lower labor costs. I would consider the overall cost to be the biggest detriment to these types of outdoor elements. These additional costs could be justified, however, if the homeowner needed to start a job on Friday and be using their pizza oven by Monday. This all should be weighed when trying to decide on the right option for your customer.  

About the Author:

Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 25 years. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites: