I think the warm weather is officially here, please tell me I didn’t just jinx it.
As we kick off the official start of the outdoors season, I’ve got a few things on my mind.
1. Getting my yard and fire pit in shape so I can sit by the fire this summer
2. Getting my chimney cleaned out after all that winter burn
3. Getting repairs done on my chimney while the weather is nice
The warm weather instantly gets me thinking about sitting around, catching fireflies, roasting marshmallows, listening to the kids squawk about their water gun fight and kicking back with a beer at the end of the day. Being able to sit around fire spells out relaxation and friends and family for me. Creating a fire pit in your yard can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be and can take over as your Spring and Summer hangout spot.
Option One: Purchase
The fastest and simplest method is to purchase a fire pit. They are readily available from your local hardware store, big box department store or even Target. Of course, you can also get them online from Wayfair.com, Amazon.com or any other online retailer. Choose from a variety of metals including copper, stainless and bronze or for a more natural look there are stone or stone-like materials available. They come in round, square, rectangular with and without covers. You can choose the fuel source, though wood or propane are the most popular. Personally, I like wood burning because it feels more authentic. These are fully self-contained and can range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand. Many of these are designed to be placed on a deck or other outdoor structure, so if that’s where you’re placing it, these are a good option for you.
Option Two: Build
If you’re putting it directly on the ground, as opposed to on a deck or other structure, you can build your own simple pit without much hassle. You can definitely make this into a bigger and more permanent project and build elaborate outdoor burning spaces but I like to keep things easy, so I’m going to lay out the simple methods.
You can either do the whole thing from scratch or make it easy on yourself and purchase a kit.
Regardless of your method, you’ll want to start the same way.
1. The point of a fire pit as opposed to just building a bonfire in your yard is to keep the fire contained so it doesn’t burn you, your house, your trees or anything else down. You need a good ten-foot area free of brush or any structures to place your pit in.
2. Create a circle in the middle of your ten foot clearing for the actual pit. I do this by placing a stick or a piece of rebar in the middle of where I want my circle and tying a 2-foot piece of string to it. Now with this string outstretched you can draw along the dirt to create a circle 48″ across. If you buy a kit, the kit will inform exactly how big to make your circle but most are around 48″. Mark your circle with spray paint, chalk or even just a stick.
3. There are two schools of thought on the circle, to level it or to dig a hole. I like less work for the same results so I choose to make it level and build an extra layer of stone. If you dig the hole you can put one less layer of stone but then you have to dig a hole. If you are of the dig a hole persuasion, you will want to dig out your circle about a foot deep. For the levelers, clear the circle of grass, sticks, rocks, etc. use a level to assure that the circle is indeed level.
4. If you dug a hole you’ll pour a circle of paver base around the circle, a little wider than the size of your stones. If you leveled your circle you’ll spread the paver base across the circle. Next, pour a 1-inch layer of paver sand on top of your base. This will help you level the stones as you place them creating give in the ground so you can wiggle the stones. You will need around 1 – CU. feet of each.
5. Placing the stones. Here’s the part where the kit comes in real handy. This is the barrier you’re building to keep your fire in the pit and not on your family. If you purchased a kit, the stones are flat, even and fit together in a perfect circle. You simply place them side by side to form a circle around your circle ensuring that they are snug together and level. Use your level to check and then wiggle them in the base to get them nice and flat. The kit will come with two or three layers and you simply place each layer on top of the previous one, staggering the stones like you would if you were building Legos or a brick wall. No need for mortar, just place them on top. If your kit didn’t come with a metal fire pit ring you will want to purchase one that fits the size specified in your kit. Place the ring in each layer as a guide so that you can assure the stones are fitting snugly together. You may need a rubber mallet to get the stones snug. Remove the ring, build the next layer and repeat.
A basic kit is going to start at around $500, these kits also go up into the thousands, depending on how fancy you want it.
If you didn’t purchase a kit, you will need to get the stone from somewhere. A hardware store, Stone Depot, the Farmington River, the woods behind your house, your kid’s rock collection – somewhere. You can get nice, flat uniform stones and build it similarly to the kit or you can get all different sizes and shapes and practice your Tetris skills as you build a 2-3 foot wall of stone around your pit. There are some arguments that porous rocks may explode but generally speaking, if the stone is dry and hard it will work fine.
That’s it, you’re ready to throw that leftover wood that you didn’t go through this winter into that bad boy and get roasting.
Remember I like to make things easy so I use these fire starters to get my fire started. I love this brand because they are non-toxic, all natural, made from recycled forest products, and they work. Just one of these babies and your fire is going, no muss, no fuss. You can purchase them from us or look around for others.
Of course, you need somewhere to hang out as you enjoy your fire. I just found these hammocks and have become slightly obsessed with them, so much so that now we’re selling them. Really you can sit anywhere that’s comfortable to you, a rock, a tree stump, a patio chair but look this even has a table for your beer. Hammock Price: $750
*Please practice safe fire habits in your new backyard retreat. Do not leave your embers smoldering and go into bed. Pour water over the embers until there is no more hissing noise. Nothing will wreck the start to your Summer like burning down your house, your yard or your neighbor’s house.
Time to open those windows and let the fresh air in. Clean out the cobwebs in the corners and get the winter out. If your chimney is filled with creosote (the toxin created from burning wood) and ash from the winter your home isn’t going to smell spring fresh.
Most chimney companies, including ours, have more availability for cleanings in the Spring so there’s more flexibility in scheduling and almost always a deal. This month we’re offering $25 off cleanings with membership automatically included.
We get a lot of calls this time of year because someone was getting their flower beds ready for the Spring and noticed brick pieces in the bed. If you know your chimney is in need of repair or are starting to notice signs like fallen brick, this is the time of year for chimney repair work. Get your outdoor projects started and scheduled now.