No matter the time of year, there’s something cozily comforting about being around a fire. As the winter season quickly approaches for residents and visitors here on the South Fork, there’s no doubt building and enjoying your own hearty hearth at home is both equally satisfying and soothing. Here’s a little rundown on how to keep your fire burning bright, safely and easily, all winter long.
Keep your outdoor party going
Sag Harbor resident Justin Taylor Ward is well-versed in creating long-lasting fires both on the beach and in the back yard. An expert at creating cute, comfortable and functional outdoor party experiences, Ward says safety is first and foremost, noting he always has a shovel, a 5-gallon water bucket, two small fire extinguishers and a first aid kit on hand.
“Once that’s all squared away, I always make sure the firepit is lifted off the ground by at least a foot, up to 24 inches,” he says. “This ensures proper ventilation under the bowl and increases the longevity of the actual pit itself.” According to Ward, lifting the pit helps keep grass from getting burnt or the bottoms of the bowl blowing out from too much heat.
As far as vessels are concerned, Ward recommends using stainless steel or copper firepits, noting the likelihood of the bottoms falling out is less when using firepits made from those materials.
“Copper is best,” he says, “but I also tend to use lots of stainless steel firepits and recently started exploring ones made out of brass and bronze.”
Ward likes firepits that are three to four feet wide, so the wood and the ashes don’t blow out. His favorite spot to pick up “cheaper ones” (for a few hundred dollars) is at Emporium Hardware (72 Main St.) in Sag Harbor, “but I’ll go online for the most grandiose, custom stuff,” he says.
When it comes to building the fire, Ward notes the older and drier the wood, the better, recommending wood that’s at least three years old. His favorites to use are pine, Douglas fir and even cedar. “I arrange two logs going north to south, then two logs going east to west,” he says, “leaving the center hollow.” He then fills the middle with lots of paper and kindling (old two-by-fours and super dry plywood work great). “Serene Green (3980 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor) has fantastic wood,” he adds. “You want the fire to burn clean and to burn hot,” he says. “You don’t want to be chasing a fire all night long.”
Custom, classic and functional
While most local hardware stores carry a couple of standard models of firepits for a couple of hundred dollars, there are a handful of professional fireplace businesses that provide expert service and top-notch products throughout the Hamptons that can help you take your personal pyro-themed endeavors to the next level.
In general, wood-burning fireplaces and pits are best for achieving that warming, picture perfect aesthetic, as they simultaneously provide snuggle-up-worthy ambiance and that oh so pleasurable crackling sound.
So, if you’re looking to spruce up your outdoor patio scene or are finally going to take the plunge and install that adorable wood-burning stove, look no further than Hampton Hearth and Patio (22 West Main St., 631-283-4852).
Located in downtown Southampton (and with another location in Southold on the North Fork) Hampton Hearth’s been serving the East End for over three decades. With an extensive selection ranging from the rustic to the contemporary, Hampton Hearth offers gas and electric products and accessories in addition to wood-burning fireplaces and pits. Handling not only building and installing the fireplace or pit of your dreams, they also offer expert chimney sweeping services, grill services, crown repairs and chimney cap installations to keep your home’s fireplace situation safe.
Available models run the gamut. Stuv, Astria, Majestic and Regency are some of the higher-end brands carried at the Southampton locale. According to sales team member Samantha Resnick, prices can range from $3,000 all the way up to $20,000, but a standard sized outdoor firepit starts at around $400, she says.
Whichever one you choose, Resnick says the most important tip for a successful fire is “kindling and nice, seasoned wood (aged for at least a year).”
Top-down method for a top-notch fire
Since 1996, Michael Scanlon’s Sag Harbor Fireplace Showroom (1434 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, 631-725-0636) provides selection and service for all things fireplace and pit related from Westhampton Beach to Montauk, plus Shelter Island. Equipped with a slew of products, like live burning displays, hearth accessories, gas and wood-burning inserts, electric fireplaces and much more, the showroom also offers grills and pizza ovens
“Wood grills make the food taste better,” he says.
For Scanlon, the best way to light a fire is by using the top-down method. The method calls for arranging the larger logs on the bottom with the smaller ones on top. “You build it like Lincoln logs,” Scanlon says, “stacking them up, putting the kindling on top, and burning it from the top.” He recommends using properly split wood that’s been aged for a year and a half, “otherwise, it could rot.” For storage, he says it’s important to make sure the wood isn’t covered too tightly and that it isn’t stacked too tightly. “Otherwise, it won’t be able to breathe,” he says. For more tips from Scanlon and his team, click here.