Our fire pit in the back yard had been a place to burn brush over the past 13 yrs of clearing our 1/2 acre of dead wood, downed trees, and trimmings. We also used it for a gathering spot to sit by the pond from time to time. In it's rudimentary form, it worked, but was not the "destination" fire pit you see in the home mags and such.
With some time off staring me in the face, and two dry and warm days (unusual for this spring in the north country) on tap for the weather calendar; I set foot upon the "Fire pit Facelift" project....
Step 1: The Old Fire Pit
The old fire pit was constructed of some Minnesota field stone (all the natural stones used in this project were found / dug up from our property, yes, it's very rocky) and just set on the ground. Because of it's location near the pond, the land sloped down around the pit and was generally fairly damp / wet nearly all the time. But the setting is beautiful, so it seemed natural to build something to allow us to enjoy it even more!
Step 2: Leveling the Site / Building Retaining Wall
The first step was to level the site. I don't have pics of this initial stage, but basically with the use of a spade, flat garden shovel, and garden rake, I moved dirt around to get the ground level. I also used a "straight edge" tool I inherited from my father which was 7' long (and straight!) that allowed me to use it as a radial device (along with a level) and get it flat.
I supported the lower edge of the patio with large field stones I excavated with spade and heavy metal pipe (lever) and transported with a modified two-wheel cart that has 13" wheels and a 22" axle length to accommodate logs and rocks. You can see in the first pic that the lower edge was raised about 12-16" along the perimeter.
I next added a 1/2 yard of crushed rock on top of the dirt base. This helped to firm up the base, and after watering it down and letting sit overnight, it hardened up nicely. The last layer for the platform was "play sand" that I picked up at Menard's. Each one of these layers was "tamped down" with my homemade tamping device. This is a piece of rail from a train track I had grabbed at a garage sale years ago and fastened to a piece of true 2 x 10 rough hewn cedar. The tamper weighed about 30 lbs or so, and packed the surface well; albeit while on my knees.
Step 3: Setting the Pavers
The pavers were 16" x 16" formed concrete. I had used them for a patio behind the house years ago, and they had been just laid on the ground without any surface modification nearby the old fire pit. I had 60 of these, and even though the original layout was a rectangle, I wanted to incorporate a more "natural" shape to the facelift fire pit.
The end where the fire pit would be constructed (closest to the foreground in the first pic) I gave a sort of "directional" look to direct your eye and orientation of the fire pit patio. With the help of more play sand, a wooden mallet for tapping the stones for final adjustment, and a couple hours of careful hand work, the pavers were set. I trimmed the dirt area and angles around the pavers with river rock to finish the edge. I also watered down the patio after this stage and let it sit for a couple hours.
Step 4: Building the Pit
I researched a number of designs for fire pits / outdoor fireplaces on-line and in books. What I came up with was kind of a blend of a pit and a standing fire place. I used 3 1/2" x 7" x 14" Belgian Wall block in the Autumn Blend color from Menard's for my material. By stacking the block in different directions, some vertical and others horizontal, I was able to achieve a brick-like construction. The table is the same design as the two end caps of the fire pit.
After capping the table structure with a 16" x 24" Wetcast Yorkstone, I decided I liked the look and ended up finishing the two end caps with that same stone. I also found the Wetcast Yorkstone in a 8" x 11" and laid two of those end-to-end over the back of the pit.
The middle pic shows the initial build, and the third pic shows the finished product.
Step 5: Fire Pit Facelift Finale
And there it is! We have hosted a number of guests this spring at the fire pit patio and look forward to years of enjoyment out of this new addition. Please watch the video below for the full effect!