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DIY Fire Pit for $50!

10.21.2013


I love fall more than anything.  The crisp air, the changing of the leaves, the feel of fresh pumpkin goo in my palm- well ok, I'm sure you were on board until that last one. 
One of my favorite things about fall is sitting in the backyard enjoying a cool night as I roast my toes in front of a crackling fire.  Unfortunately for us, this happened...

The bottom of our prefabricated Lowe's fire pit rusted out and the fire and hot coals went sputtering out into the grass.  What's worse is this is the second fire pit this has happened with.  I came to the conclusion that instead of spending the $80+ on another pre-made pit that would just last another season, why not build a permanent stone one ?!?!?  The countless posts on Pinterest made this look oh-so-easy.  I sucker myself into believing I can be handy and crafty so this seemed do-able. 

I did a little Pinterest researching and got some ideas.  I had visions of Pottery Barn ads complete with beautiful stone paver patios and gorgeous fire pits, complete with 2.5 kids roasting marshmallows around a crackling fire and laughing heartily.  Then I came back down to reality and realized if I could keep my two curious pups out of it, I'd be winning.  I've caught my Bluetick on many an occasion, standing watch with each of her four paws posted on a corner of the stone outlay of my prefabricated pit.  No wonder it didn't last...

So being the planner that I am, I ran on down to Home Depot with an idea of what I wanted and nothing more.  No measurements.  No calculations.  Nothing.  I figured I'd just load as many stones into the trunk of my smushy sedan as would fit, without raising suspicions of police for the ride home.  The extent of my planning was price comparing between Lowe's and Home Depot and (despite my usual blind support of Lowe's) I found that HD actually had cheaper stone pavers. 

Brad met me at the store and we- ::ahem:: I- picked out the ones that I liked the best, taking into consideration coloring, sizing, and (let's be honest- most importantly) pricing.  I decided to go for 12" retaining wall blocks priced at $1.88 a piece.  We tentatively decided upon making the pit three rows high.  We loaded up 27 blocks and headed to the register.  After the laborious task of loading the blocks into the trunk, I carefully headed home, praying no one would rear end me in those 19.5 miles.

Thankfully, I made it home safely and began the- again- tiring task of unloading the car- this time alone.  Due to the heat and my apparently poor physical condition it took me some time to do such.  Now if I'm being honest, this project could have actually been complete in a day but it actually took me two to complete it.  Probably due in large part to a lack of motivation after unloading the car.

First task involved making the blocks level.  Most retaining wall blocks come with this lip on the back for stacking them.






The task was easier than I initially assumed.  It only took some slight tapping with the hammer along the lipped edge and it easily crumbled.  The lip is perforated and made for easy removal.

I'm unable to draw an even circle so I stabbed a stick into the sand and tied a shoestring to it.  I used the 18 inch string to circle around the pole, creating a 36 inch ring.  Then I used a can of spray paint to mark the ring. 




Next up was making sure the ground was level where I planned to lay the blocks.  Now for most people this may be a simple job.  But our backyard consists of a giant hill that washes terribly with every rainfall, resulting in a highly uneven sand pit.  The easiest way to ensure the ground is level is to dig up the layer of grass (if you're fortunate enough to have that) and even out the layer of dirt underneath.  Hint: a level will be your new best friend through this project...





After the ground is level (the most tedious part), it's as simple as laying the bricks down.  It took some tweaking to ensure the circle was even, accounting for the size of the blocks.




After the first layer was stacked, I then alternated the blocks to place the center of the block on top of the adjoining blocks below it.


 

I finished the third layer and threw in some pea gravel I had in the garage.  I considered placing a few bags of river rocks around the exterior of the pit to give a more polished look.  Due to the aforementioned issues with washing, I changed my mind.  I really didn't have a desire to pick river rocks up out of the entire yard.  We'll likely just throw grass seed out in the spring and hope it takes over the sand.  A work in progress...  If you don't have issues with a shifting landscape, you could place a weedblock landscaping roll down and throw some river rock around the pit.

I did have to make one more trip to Home Depot to fetch three more blocks, totaling our block count to 30.  Using my mad math skills- aka the calculator on my phone- at $1.88 a piece, our total for the project was $56.40.  If you went for a smaller diameter ring or even chose a different block, you could easily do this project for less than $50!

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