Eight years ago, my wife and I bought this house, due in part to the very large backyard - roughly .5 acre. For eight years we had never done anything meaningful with it. Until now. I'd like to add that I did this project entirely by myself and that before we began this project, I had absolutely zero experience with construction, landscaping, or home improvement projects. So with that in mind, I fully admit I probably made several mistakes that may be glaring to some.
With that being said, please see our brand new fire pit and seating area:
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Step 1: Gather Fire Pit Materials
For this fire pit I used the RumbleStone pavers from Home Depot. I decided to make it 4 courses high. For each course I used 12 Traps and 12 Minis for a total of 48 trapezoid blocks and 48 mini blocks.
In addition to the stones, I also purchased landscape adhesive to lock the stone layers together, a caulk gun, marking paint, and gravel and sand for drainage inside the pit.
Step 2: Determine Location
I picked a location that was a pretty good distance away from the house. I think 10 feet is the minimum recommended distance, but I went with about 80 feet as I wanted to attach a quasi-winding pathway to the fire pit from our existing patio.
Step 3: Arrange Layer of Stones and Outline Fire Pit Footprint
So this is probably the first error I made. I didn't want to spray paint on the stones, so I lined them up where I wanted, and etched around the perimeter of the stones with a shovel. In hindsight, this layer is almost completely in-ground, so a little spray paint on them would not have hurt, and I think outlining with spray paint would've been less intensive and produced the same desired results. And also, I ended up painting around the outline anyway once the stones were removed.
Step 4: Outline Seating Area
Again, I'm not a construction-minded individual, so I did the best I could here. I staked a post in the center of the fire pit ring. Then I unrolled some garden twine and attached one end to the stake. I ran the string out to 12 feet* and attached the other end to an eye bolt** I had lying around. I then pulled the twine taut and took a spray can of marking paint and sprayed as I walked with the twine held as close to the ground as possible.
*There was no rhyme or reason to the 12 feet figure. Truth be told, the small tape measure I was using only went to 12 feet, so that's where I stopped. As it turned out I think the 24 foot diameter was a perfect size.
**An eye bolt was totally not necessary. This could have easily been a pencil, a stick, another person...really could've been nothing at all probably.
Step 5: Dig Out the Outlined Area for the Firepit
I wasn't really sure about this part, but I knew I needed some way for the pit to drain after rain.
So I ended up digging around a foot and a half deep. It doesn't have to be perfect by any means, but I made sure the sides were fairly straight.
Step 6: Fill the Hole
Fill the hole with a layer of gravel on the very bottom then fill the rest of the way with sand, leaving about 2 or 3 inches or so between the sand and the top of the hole. Then I just packed the sand down and leveled it out with a 2X4.
Step 7: Lay the First Course of Stones
Now that the sand is level and packed, lay the first course of stones,alternating trap, min,trap, mini, etc. and checking for level often.
This was the most time-consuming part yet. It wasn't hard to get the stones set necessarily, but ensuring that each stone was level was much more difficult and aggravating than I could've expected.
After the stones were finally set and level, I added one more bag of sand over the course of stones, then using a shop broom pushed the sand in between the stones. I'm honestly not really sure if this part was needed, but it seemed like a good idea, and I had one bag left, so in it went. Also, it's really important to brush the stones with the broom to ensure that there's no sand on them for the next step.
Step 8: Lay the Remaining Courses
This was the easiest part of the entire process I'd say.
It's also the most fun, since this is when you start seeing all the hard work taking shape.
To get started on this step, apply a bead of landscape adhesive in a zigzag form where you plan to lay the next stone of the next course. Make sure to stagger the stones over the previous layer (you can see what I mean in the photo for this step). In the second layer (first layer of this step), I intentionally left a gap between two of the blocks to allow for oxygen flow. Keep going until you're done with all four courses of stone, and Boom! Fire pit!
Step 9: Gather Supplies for Seating Area
Now that you've got a fire pit, you need a space for everyone to sit. So gather 80 feet of landscape edging for the seating area (plus what you need for a walkway) enough landscape fabric to cover about 500 square feet for the seating area (plus what you need to cover the area of your walkway), plenty of landscape fabric pins and some grass/weed killer.
Step 10: Outline Seating Area With Edging and Apply Fabric
Outline the seating area with the landscape edging, leaving an opening for your walkway. I didn't bother to paint the boundaries for the walkway area, I just bought extra landscape edging and used a 4 foot 2x4 to space the edging out along the walkway and formed it to the curved shape that my better half requested.
Once everything is outlined with edging, spray the area with weed/grass killer. I waited about 24 hours until it was all dry and then rolled out and staked down the landscape fabric.
Note: You'll notice in the photos that I didn't have the walkway in when I started laying the fabric. It would've been better to get it all done at the same time,but I ran out of edging, so I decided to finish what I could before going back to Lowe's.
Step 11: Have Gravel Delivered
We went with crushed limestone. It's a little more expensive than pea gravel, but I think it looks better.
We got 7.5 tons and it was $535 delivered.
Note: You see the pathway there with the weed/grass killer in full effect. I put down landscape fabric along the pathway right after this photo was taken.
Step 12: Spread the Gravel Out Evenly
Nope. Never again. This was the single most meticulous, tedious, maddening and back-breaking thing I have done in years.Basically move rocks around in piles and then take a steel rake and rake them until they're as smooth as possible. I hauled rocks to and fro for the better part of 2 days. It seemed like I would never get to the bottom of that pile of rocks. But when I finally did...
Step 13: Done!
Man this felt good.
Step 14: Then We Added Seating...
We sanded, painted, assembled and sealed 4 Adirondack chairs for seating. It really added to the atmosphere.
Step 15: And Finally, We Added Lighting
This is a step I found on another website, so I won't go through the directions here, but I added light posts with hooks for some wireless speakers which you can see hanging on the two far posts. Added some solar pathway lighting and some citronella torches since mosquitoes are so bad here in the deep South. It really is amazingly relaxing out there now! Quite a transformation from just 2 moths ago.