Husband recently took a couple days off of his job to engage in heavy manual labor around the house. Most epic of his labors was the building of our fire pit. This is not a DIY for anyone who isn’t comfortable lifting heavy objects or really big projects. But, for Husband, this was a labor of love.
I take no credit for this project as I did nothing more than squirt a few lines of adhesive one night. Getting the contractor adhesive out of the massive caulk gun was a challenge for me and I threw in the towel pretty quickly.
Don’t judge, it was really thick and sticky.
The biggest challenge of this project was the massive amount of heavy materials needed. The blocks were about 10-20 lbs each, and there were 150 of them total. The driver who delivered our gravel indicated that the total weight was close to 6 tons. If you aren’t big and strapping, this whole thing could take a very, very long time. Consider yourself warned.
Husband chose to dig out a portion of our backyard. Our pit sits in a little clearing in our yard. The fire ring is 4 feet in diameter and the total area is about 12 feet. Husband removed the sod and some dirt to accommodate three inches of gravel for the main area of the ring and an extra three inches for the fire pit. There was a large, level circle at three inches below the lawn and an inner circle that was an additional three inches below the larger circle.
When completing a task like this, it is really important to level everything, all the time. The inner circle must be level, the outer circle must be level, all of the blocks that are set must be level. Level, level, level!!! The picture below shows the inner ring after it was filled with a layer of gravel because it’s hard to tell the difference in the levels of the two areas when there isn’t any contrast!
The fire ring was built first. It was constructed with landscaping blocks (without a lip) and refractory cement.
Husband used a couple Youtube videos and a little common sense to figure out how to put everything together. Some of the videos suggested excavating the lawn, some recommended gravel, some suggested adhesive, some suggested sand. We decided to be thorough and do it all. A base of gravel was laid and tamped down in the deeper hole for the fire ring. In a circle, where the blocks would sit, a base of sand was laid, tamped, and leveled. Finally, refractory cement was used as an adhesive. Husband said the refractory cement was truly awful to work with, but it is specifically made to adhere blocks together in high heat situations, like a fire pit.
Each block and the whole ring was leveled.
As the courses were built up, Husband was sure to leave some gaps in the blocks to allow proper air flow to the fire.
After the ring was completed, the retaining wall is constructed of basic retaining wall blocks.
To help keep the first course level, we put up a masonry line, which is a level line to use as a guide. After we put out the line, we spray painted it onto the dirt behind the blocks.
The blocks were placed on a base of sand that was leveled and tamped down, much like the fire ring. Each block was also leveled as it was set down and lightly tapped into place.
Each block was adhered to the two blocks below it with two strips of contractor adhesive. I don’t have a picture of this and it isn’t necessary, but we anticipated kids climbing on the wall and adults sitting on it, so we added the adhesive for extra security. After each course was set, the area between the blocks and the soil was back filled with gravel. Be sure to back fill with gravel after each course is set to ensure proper drainage.
As you can see from the photos, we only used a maximum of four courses of blocks, so we were able to get away without using any special landscape fabric or drainage holes or anything like that (whew). If you have a higher wall, follow the instructions on wall construction from your block supplier or manufacturer.
After the wall was completed, the entire area was tamped well and leveled.
To finish everything off, 3 inches of gravel was added to the entire area. It was tamped again.
If you look closely, you can see that Husband used some extra blocks to create a little entrance to the ring. I think it looks beautiful!