When I first visited the house I ended up buying, I immediately fell in love with the backyard. It was huge, at least by my overcrowded suburban standards. It had a deck, a gazebo, and a work shed. But about half of it was overgrown with weeds, shrubs, and trees.
I ended up buying the house, weeds and all, and I was determined to clean up the backyard and make it presentable. My wife set about weeding the gardens, while I decided that I would clear out a corner of the yard to create a fire pit. This would both be visually appealing and offer an entertaining area for the summer.
After a lot of hardwork, a little help from a contractor, and a few hundred bucks in supplies, I had the fire pit I wanted. And I love it.
1. Clear and mark the area. The first thing I had to do was clear out the area designated for the fire pit. I took some rope and I marked off a 20-by-20-foot square in the back corner of the yard.
There were several shrubs in the area, along with a tiny pine tree. I dug up and moved a rose bush I wanted to save, chopped down the pine tree, and cleared out all the shrubbery. After a hard day's work, I was left with an uneven mound of dirt.
2. Level the area with gravel. This is where the help comes in. I needed to level the area and drop in about 4 tons of gravel. That just sounds tiring, so I found a contractor who could help with the leveling and deliver the gravel.
It took the better part of an afternoon, but we got the area leveled, covered, and filled. I had a bunch of large river rocks in the yard that the old owners had used to line the gardens. I placed those along the perimeter of the gravel area to separate the fire pit from the rest of the yard.
3. Build the fire pit. This was surprisingly simple, and no one believes me when I say that. The fire pit itself was built out of retaining wall blocks that I bought from my local home improvement store. They were designed to be laid out in a circle, for example if you had a semi-circle planter near a fence.
I moved some of the gravel, dug a circle a few inches deep, and sunk the first course of blocks into the ground. The blocks were about halfway submerged -- 3 or 4 inches into the ground. From there, I placed each course on top of the previous one and I decreased the diameter of each course slightly.
The end result is a beautiful, round fire pit made of stone blocks. It's completely dry fit, and I didn't need any mortar. The only difficult part was taking a chisel and a small sledge hammer to split the blocks. To finish each course of blocks, I needed to cut one piece of stone to fit.
The whole project cost well under a thousand dollars:
- Gravel and delivery: $250
- Retaining wall blocks: $200
- Labor: $150
- Approximate total: $600