Building a fire pit is a great way to add outdoor ambiance to your backyard. Outdoor fire pits are perfect gathering places and add a rustic charm to your home that could normally only be achieved with a venture out into the woods for a camping trip. Fire pits give you the best of both worlds, and they are relatively easy to build.
Here are our tips to building an outdoor fire pit. Of course, you should consult any local ordinances before you proceed on a project such as this.
Purchasing Your Materials
Whether you have designed your own specifications for your fire pit or you are planning on following a standard design, it is important that you know exactly what you will need before you purchase any of your materials.
Many people make the mistake of being overly eager and heading full-steam into their local home improvement store with only a vague idea of their plans. This typically leads to a waste of money through the purchase of unnecessary materials. Take the time to note what tools and materials you already have, and determine what you will need to buy before you head to the store.
Consult a Professional
While you are out purchasing your materials, take some time to ask some questions about your specific project. You may be able to find invaluable advice from a professional that applies to your specific intentions. You may also find that you overlooked an aspect in your planning, so make sure to allow for another pair of eyes to take a look at your plans before you proceed.
Laying Out Your Blocks
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Now that you have sought some advice and purchased all of your materials, the actual work can begin. Your first step will be to lay the bricks out over the site that you intend to build on to determine the size of the circle that you would like to use.
As a general rule, an inside width of 36 to 44 inches is considered ideal. You may have to cut one of the blocks to make your circle fit, so in this case, score the block all the way around and use a cold chisel and brick hammer to split the block.
If you don’t have access to these tools, you can make your circle slightly bigger until your last block fits. This may take some trial and error, however.
Creating and Filling the Trench
Now that you have your blocks arranged perfectly so that they are tight and lined up, you can mark the ring in the ground by using a spade. You should give an extra inch outside of the blocks as you mark this ring, and then take note of how many blocks you have used and set them aside.
Using your spade, you can begin digging your trench. Dig your trench so that it is approximately 12 inches deep and as wide as one of your blocks. Make sure your blocks fit inside of this trench. Once you have done this and the blocks fit, dig a trench six inches deep for the inner circle of your pit.
The outer ring of the trench should then be filled with ¾-inch drainage gravel. Fill it so it is level with the inner circle of your pit and then use a tamper to make sure it is level.
Laying and Leveling the First Course
When you get to laying and leveling, you have to commit to work with patience, as even the slightest mistake may yield the necessity for starting over later in the project. Lay the first block in the ring and make sure that it is sitting level in the ring by using a two foot level.
Check both front to back and side to side. Once you are satisfied, lay the next block and repeat this process. As you continue, use a four foot level to check that both sides of the ring are level relative to one another.
Assembling the Walls and Filling the Pit
Using masonry adhesive delivered through a caulking gun, squeeze out your adhesive across two blocks, and then lay your block across the center of the seam. Continue to ensure that the blocks are fitting together well, and continue the second course in this manner.
Once your second course has been laid, fill the pit with six inches of gravel. As the first two courses set, continue to build the third and fourth courses of the wall. You will then need to install the iron campfire ring so that it is level with the top layer of blocks. Fill the space between the ring and the blocks with the gravel.
Capping the Blocks
This final step is dependent upon what you are using to cap the blocks. You may have to cut the capstones to fit with one another, so lay them out on top of your existing blocks to determine how best to make them fit. Make any cuts to the stones that are necessary, and then begin the process of attaching the capstones. If you are using blocks, you can use glue, but if you are using natural stone, you will need to combine dry mortar with a bonding additive for the best results.
Once you have completed these steps, you will only have to wait two days before the pit is ready for its first fire. After that, you will be able to enjoy many years sitting by the fire in peaceful tranquility.
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