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As custom outdoor living spaces have evolved into living rooms, homeowners have focused on a number of higher-end masonry items to define their special areas.

One of the hottest is fireplaces (no pun intended). Demand is rising in a market where from-scratch fireplaces run up to $30,000+.

200 FirerockAClick photo to enlargeAnd, because fireplaces are most-popular in climates where the winter chill can linger long and return early, landscape contractors don’t have enough time to comfortably fit these into already packed schedules.

Fortunately, there are options to the metal firebox that looked cheap and didn’t always work well. Some companies are offering kits that create the interior structure of a fireplace and chimney in a few pieces ready to be covered in the customer’s choice of veneers.

And, there’s an even newer chip off the ol’ flagstone that provides a complete fireplace, factory-made and ready to be placed on footers, that installs in only a couple hours and comes with an equally modest price tag.

200 Harmony image011Click photo to enlargeA STEP UP

There’s nothing new with trying to find a less-expensive option to the traditional hand-built fireplace – whether indoors or out. Luckily, as the demand for the wood-burners has grown, so have the options.

Bill Harris has had first-hand experience with many of them. The managing partner of the Santa Ana, Calif.-based Masonry Fireplace Industries (MFI) grew up in the fireplace business. Back in the mid-1960s, his family made precast concrete tilt-up fireplaces for tract homebuilders in Southern California, and later got into manufacturing metal fireplaces.

It was while he was selling the metal boxes that the light bulb went on.

“It’s kind of a natural progression for us to get into modular concrete fireplaces,” he says. “I saw this as a higher-end product going into more-exclusive homes, and I thought it had growth potential.”