Fire and Water Bowl Buyer's Guide
Fire and water bowls are some of the most beautiful pieces of decor you can add to enhance your backyard or outdoor sitting area. Though these outdoor accessories are highly sought after and may seem simple to put into use, a lot of knowledge is needed to make the best purchase and install them properly. We hope that this article will expand on all the details you need to know to ensure your fire bowl, water bowl or combination will be enjoyed for years to come.
What are the types of fire and water bowls?
A. Water Only
- Water bowl
A lot of effort goes into making these water features (as well as the others). For cast concrete models, a skilled craftsman meticulously molds the piece and often has to throw away any casting that comes out with defects; such as voids or unevenness. This process is what contributes to the uniqueness, and sometimes high cost, of these beautiful pieces.
- buckets of concrete
Water bowls are made from variations of different blends of concrete, that can include a mix of fiberglass or resin. They tend to weigh several hundred pounds by themselves, but adding water can add an additional hundred plus pounds to their total weight. Because of this, you have to take the time to consider where you will place your water bowl outdoors. A four-inch thick concrete pad is a great foundation to house your water bowl. This will guarantee the bowl stays level and steady, and over time will not shift. If a concrete pad isn't an option, you could consider limestone/gravel mix as a second alternative.
- mixing concrete
Supplying Water and Electrical
The options for supplying water to your feature are A) recirculating water and constantly reusing the bowl's water supply or B) pulling in water from a supply line or remotely located basin. Some systems will work great with a Schedule 40 PVC supply line while other, more high flow systems, will need a more complex water supply system that will ensure great results for the water bowl. A qualified plumber should be able to figure out your needs to ensure the water supply is set up correctly.
Even though these features are “water only”, you also have electrical set up to take into consideration before purchasing. Many systems on the market require a 120 volt supply of power to operate the interior lighting and the water pump for the feature. Because you will have to figure out if your feature needs a dedicated circuit or will be able to share a circuit with other appliances in your yard, contacting a knowledgeable electrician is suggested. This will ensure no electrical accidents happen and no damage is incurred to any feature on your property.
Options for Customization
Copper, stainless steel, and bronze are common finishes for water bowls. Some will come with options for interior lighting, but water bowls do not have the option of having fire glass or stone media within them because the bowl is completely full of water. Also, there are two types of "lips" you can choose from to customize your piece.
a. Seamless lip gives you zero front edge, creating the "infinity" overflow look so many people enjoy.
- seamless lip water bowl
b. Extended lip creates a large, smooth opening for water to flow.
- extended lip water bowl
If you're interested in checking out an example from our website, click the link below:
Slick Rock Concrete 29" Cascade Conical Water Bowl
B. Fire Only
- fire bowl with fire glass
The fire bowl is similar to the water bowl in the sense that they are both handcrafted objects that require much time and effort to complete. Many hours of molding, shaping, and smoothing go into creating a piece that will withstand the elements and be pleasing to the eye. However, the fire bowl is different because it requires gas to fuel the flame and can include mixed media for a customized finish.
Natural vs. Propane Gas
When installing a fire bowl, you lose the issue of dealing with water supply while picking up the issue of gas usage. The biggest topic to tackle is natural versus propane gas.
Natural gas is a great option if you already have the fuel line running through your home. Though, there are many reasons to consider propane as an alternative source of fuel. If the fire feature is more than 150 feet away from your home, or the natural gas supply is maxed out and you will need a larger meter, or there is a pool, patio, or tree in the way where you might route the natural gas line through your yard, then propane could be the better option for you.A low output propane cylinder can be easily hidden in a nearby enclosure and make for a better fueling option.
With nearly every feature in the market needing a minimum of 120 volts of power, electrical will always be an issue you have to tackle to maintain the use of your fire bowl. As we discussed with water bowls, some features may need a dedicated circuit set aside to bring them power. That becomes more common the more complex the system you buy. No matter if the power comes from a dedicated or shared supply, a lead will have to be run under the ground to connect the appliance to its electrical source. This can be a complicated process that involves adhering to codes, so it's suggested you speak to an electrician first.
Options for Customization
Fire bowls have similar finishes to that of water bowls. They can include copper, steel, and bronze. Though, what makes fire bowls stand out is the plethora of options you have with mixed media. The media is stacked within the bowl to cover the clunkiness of the mechanical setup... and it's pretty! Fire glass comes in several colors as seen in the picture below. You can also choose from lava rocks, river stones or chunks of artificial wood. Fire glass is one of the most common and diverse accessories you can add to your fire bowl or fire pit.
- types of fire glass
Here are some examples of fire bowls from products on our website for you to enjoy!
Ohio Flame Fire Chalice Artisan Wood Burning Fire Bowl
Slick Rock Concrete 34 Inch Ridgeline Square Fire Bowl
C. Fire and Water
- fire and water bowl
Last but certainly not least, is the combo water and fire bowl feature. This feature certainly has the biggest wow factor. Though, garnering those ooh's and ahh's doesn't come without a little effort on part of the person choosing and installing the appliance. Since both water and fire are involved, now all three considerations: water, electrical, and gas, have to be taken into account before buying. This complexity may seem overwhelming at first, but the beautiful visual you receive after the installation is worth the time!
Types of Ignition Systems
Since we have discussed water supply, electrical considerations, and natural vs propane gas, let's move on to different types of ignition systems for any appliance using fire. Obviously, this information applies to the bowls only housing fire as well. Ignition systems with fire and water are similar to conventional fire pits and fire tables.
a. Match lit – In an article full of technical features, this match light system comes in as one giant breath of fresh air. Made primarily of stainless steel, this is the most simple ignition system in the group. All that is required for operation is opening the gas valve and using a lighter (or match) to light the burner! Because of their lack of complexity, these systems are much more affordable than the other ignition options. (win – win).
b. Electronic – While the match lit system is the easiest to operate, most fire and water units come with some form of an electronic system due to the possibility of a pilot flame being put out by splashes of water. Not to get overly technical (because we would never do that in this article), there is an electronic ignition that includes a standing pilot. They are very similar to the IPI pilot system (discussed in the fireplace ignition systems article) that is used with indoor gas fireplaces or log sets. This ignition system will be housed in a stainless steel "cage" to help prevent water or gusts of wind from putting out the pilot. Thankfully, most of these systems can be controlled remotely with a remote (go figure), through Bluetooth on a smart device or a wall switch.
There is also an electronic ignition that does not operate by pilot light and is the most durable under all the elements that can play against a standing pilot. If wind or moisture gets in this system, it will restart automatically. Like the others, they require at least 120 volts of power, are housed in stainless steel boxes, and come with remote start capabilities.
c. Submersible – This is where things get a little crazy! If you really want to wow your friends and make your fire and water bowl seemingly defy the laws of science, then this is the ignition system for you. The submersible system features an ignitor that is completely submerged under water but has a system powerful enough to spark and hold a flame through the water! It is pretty impressive. But as with everything else in life, high quality comes at a price. These are by far the most expensive ignition systems because that kind of power requires a high degree of skill to create and an intense level of durability to withstand the elements. They are also able to be remotely accessed through a wall switch, remote or Bluetooth enabled device.
Options for Customization
The great thing about fire and water bowls is the added benefit of enjoying the beauty of water, with the power of fire, and the addition of fire glass or other mixed media. Fire glass is a great addition to any fire bowl and really brings the piece to life when its matched with your outdoor decor. Fire and water bowls have many options for finish like the singular fire or water bowls. You can choose from black, burnt sienna, variations of copper and steel. They primarily come in two shapes, which include square and circular. The bottom surface will be flat for steady placement though the top of the feature is where the shaping really comes out. However, if you want a fire and water feature in a category all its own, you should check out the standing Artisan Firefall. This gorgeous appliance is sure to take your breath away and steal the attention of every guest that visits your backyard.
Lastly, here are a few examples from our website you have to see to believe!
Slick Rock Concrete 29 Inch Cascade Conical Fire on Glass Feature
American Fyre Designs 40 Inch Marseille Gas Fire Bowl with Water Spout
After making an investment into a fire and water feature, it is recommended to cover your fire feature when it's not in use, so you get as much life out of it as possible. Hard lids are offered for the opening, while soft canvas can cover the entire system. There are a couple of other important points to note when considering maintenance for your appliance.
You need to inspect the control module and gas valves regularly. It's easy for spiders and dirt to get in these areas and wear the system down. Use an air compressor to dust the parts then wipe them down. Ensure all electrical connections are secure and that no corrosion is present on the wiring.
If you have fire glass or other forms of decorative media, you will need to remove those to check for dirt or corrosion on the burner. Next, the burner system can be cleaned out with compressed air. Ignitiors can be sanded down with 240-300 grit sandpaper. Use a bowl to tumble your mixed media and remove dirt before returning it to your appliance.
The basin should be drained and inspected when burn season is over. Any buildup should be wiped out to prevent damage. Winterizing a system where freezing temps are possible is a good idea and should include draining all water from the pump. This would also be a good time to clean or replace your filter.
For concrete products, many manufactures will tell you to treat the concrete with a 50% water/ 50% acid mix to brighten the exterior. Metal pieces can be treated with a protective coating to prevent corrosion or darkening.
Large concrete fire and water bowls can weigh over a half-ton. Even the smaller features can weigh a few hundred pounds. Because of that, these pieces typically ship on a pallet with an LTL (less than truckload) carrier. The two most important things to understand before your package arrives is:
A) you need to check for damages before signing off on the delivery and releasing the driver. It is your responsibility to open the crate it's contained in and make sure it has not arrived with defects.
The second important point is
B) because it weighs so much you will need a few people to lift it from the street to where it will be stored or installed. The driver will not deliver to your doorstep or be a part of helping you get it to your backyard. You will need to find a few helpful friends and a dolly large enough to bear the weight of the unit.
With that being said, we've reached the end of this article.
I hope you have learned many new things and feel more confident in buying and installing a new fire and water bowl.
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