How to build your very own stone Fire Pit!

DIYFIREPITLOGO

Every summer, we tackle a handful of outdoor projects.  I thought this one was definitely worth sharing!

The hubs and I were sick of buying those metal outdoor fire pits that you find at just about any local home store.  They look nice for about 10 minutes before decaying into a pile of rust, transforming what should be a nice evening roasting marshmallows into a fearful game of ‘who’s up to date on their tetanus shot‘.  Not cool.  We were about to chuck our 5th one to the curb and go shop for another when I fell in love with the idea of a stone fire pit.  But I was shocked by the price tag: $1500 to $2000 (stones + labor).  Yikes!  I did a little more research and felt pretty confident we could buy the supplies and do it ourselves for a fraction of the cost.  I was right!  Got 2 hours and $233 dollars?  Great, keep reading for step by step how-to details.

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1. THE SUPPLIES

  • 68 retaining wall stones: 17 stones per circle layer x 4 layers (the bottom layer is hard to see in the photo because it is 60% buried)
  • 3 bags of rock dust
  • 6 bags of pea gravel
  • Construction adhesive (glue)
  • Shovel, garden trowel, level, measuring tape, rope, rubber mallet, work gloves

stone wall landscaping

Purchase 68 small angled-curved retaining wall stones (they come in two sizes: small or large.  FYI ‘small’ measures 8 inches long x 4 inches deep).  You need the kind with a small curve and slight angled pie shape so that you can easily form a circle.  Otherwise, should you choose not to, you’ll need to take a week off work, polish up on your math skills and rent one of those stone cutters!!  Shop around and look for sales.  We purchased our stones for $1.77 each plus $35 for the delivery (trust me, you do not want to haul these babies in your car,  they weigh 20lbs each). They come in three shades which I can describe best as sandy-grey, red-grey or cement-grey.  You may want to buy a couple extra in case of breakage.

2. THE PREP

Start by deciding where you want the fire pit located and make a tight circle with 17 of the stones.  Outline the circle using chalk, move the stones out of the way and start digging a trench: about 6 inches deep and 10 inches wide.  Make sure it is level.  This will be the trickiest part.  Even the flattest of yards are not as flat and level as you think.  We used a small level and a large laser level combined with a measuring tape and rope in several different bizarre ways to make extra sure we had it all worked out before continuing.

digging for outdoor fire pit

3. THE BUILD

Next, spread out the rock dust (about 2-3 inches deep of the stuff) and water it, walk and jump on it (this will help settle and stamp it all down) .  Then get back on your knees and make sure it’s level again.  You may find that you have to scrape a little rock dust off or add some in a few spots.

fire bit DIY how to build make your own

Grab one stone, set it in place and tap it with a rubber mallet, use a small level to make sure it’s,  well… level !  Then place another stone tightly next to that, and once again using a rubber mallet stamp it gently into the gravel dust, make sure it’s level and repeat another 15 times until first layer of circle is complete (17 stones per circle layer).  If you have the occasional stone that is not level you should only have to add or remove a little gravel dust underneath it, remember to stamp it to set it in place before you continue.

fire pit how to make DIY

building fire pit

Hooray! You’re done with the hardest part, now it’s time to finish this bad boy!

making a firepit

For the second layer you are going to sit each stone centered on the joint of the two stones beneath it (see photo).  Make sure to butt each stone up tightly against the other.  Repeat for the third and fourth layer.  Wooho you’re done …er…maybe.

firepitvent

OK.  I know what you’re thinking: “hey wait a minute, you have a square cut-out hole on the side of your fire pit -how come?“.  You don’t HAVE to do this, however I recommend it because the ‘holes’ are actually air vents and provide air flow and circulation (as you know oxygen helps to feed a fire and keep it from dying out too quickly).

This is what you need to know:  first of all there isn’t just 1 ‘hole’ air vent, there are actually 3 of them for a good cross breeze.  The air vents are spaced out along that second layer.  Which means the second layer will have 16 stones not 17.  Don’t worry, I hate math more than you know, but even I could figure this out!  Those 3 air vents are the equivalent width of 1 stone.  So when you lay down your second layer add a 1/3 wide space every 4 to 6 stones you set.  Next add the remaining 2 layers (17 stones per layer) as instructed above.

4. THE FINISH

Fill the bottom with a bit of dirt or sand and a couple of inches of gravel (we used pea gravel).  Add a little back-fill to the front also (to fill in whatever gap is left between bottom 1st layer and your yard).  Sprinkle a wide border of pea gravel along the exterior, not only with this make it look more clean and finished, but for safety it makes sense to not have grass, mulch or anything flammable that close to the fire pit.

Finally when you’re happy with the fire pit, remove all but the bottom first layer and (gulp) put a dab or two of PL Premium Construction Adhesive under each stone as you re-build it.

WHAT?!?!! – you had me up until now! There is no way I am doing this DIY project!”

I know, I know.  BUT honestly this doesn’t take as long as you might think.  I should have video taped my husband: in all but 10 minutes the fire pit was put back together!! Because, the main work of levelling, the troubles you encountered along the way, the air vents you had to calculate …have all been sorted out – and now you and this fire pit are like old pals!  Of course you don’t have to glue it, but you run the risk of your fire pit looking misshapen after someone leans their big old feet on it one too many times:  Do it once, do it right!

DIY firepit how-to, gluing adhesive the stones

THE LOWDOWN

We did this project as a family.  It was a great learning experience for the kids and they were a great help at hauling the stones from the front to the back yard!  It took us only about a couple of hours, including a pic-nic lunch at the job site!  ;-)

The approximate cost breakdown was $233 (not including taxes).

  • $119 / 67 stones (1 less stone than original list because of air vents)
  • $35 / shipping
  • $48 / 6 bags of pea gravel
  • $20 / 3 bags rock dust
  • $11 / Construction adhesive
  • *We already had all of the tools required.

I know it was a bit pricier than buying a ready made metal fire pit.  However considering we probably won’t have to replace this one for years (a decade?) it will probably save us several hundred dollars.  Plus it adds so much character to the landscaping and makes for a more welcoming spot to entertain!

fire pit adirondack chairs

fire pit area and adirondack chairs

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DIYfirepitJULIELOVESHOME

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P.S. The eight charcoal Adirondack chairs are from Home Depot, and are plastic (of course I dream about having solid wood ones but these cost about 1/4 of the price, for now they’ll do just fine!).  The orange-red alternating lumbar pillows and Adirondack head pillows are from PC HOME (seasonal) which I scored for $3.44 each.  They didn’t have 8 left so I bought 4 of each and alternated one on each chair.  Talk about budget decorating!  ;-)

Thanks for checking in -let me know what you think.  Is this a project you might do in your own backyard?

Julie

* Versions of this article were published on Bob Vila on September 11, 2013. The Gazette Vaudreuil Soulange on September 26th, 2013.   DIY Home World on October 12, 2013 and on the cover of DIY Decorating Addict Magazine on May 20th, 2014.

julieloveshomebuildastonefirepithudsongazettevaudreuilsoulange

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8 artful ideas for your laundry room

We don’t often put too much thought into beautifying these busy spaces but regardless of whether your washing machine and dryer are tucked away in a small nook or large mudroom it’s a spot we have no choice but to spend time in!  Why not add a little eye candy?   Here are a few artful ideas which are sure to add a little character to your laundry area.

1. PHOTOGRAPHY

2. TO THE POINT

3. FUN

http://0.tqn.com/d/laundry/1/0/C/C/-/-/OberneHosick-soap-395x500.jpg

clothespinmirror

Hot glue and some bright red clothespin can transform a frame-less photo (or even a mirror!) into a focal point.  Laundry/Work room via Laundry Room Redesign

via The Cranky Queen

Get creative with clip art and a photo of your pet! via The Cranky Queen

via Feathers & Sunshine

For details on how to DIY this sign visit Feathers & Sunshine

4. FASHION

If you’re into fashion how about requesting a high resolution photo of one of Sandra Backlund’s clothespin dresses?  (email : Office@1BeyoStudio.Se) – slip the pic into a frame and you have instant modern -and pretty cool, art!

5. 6. & 7. OFF THE WALL

Because art doesn’t have to hang on walls, how about putting wall decals right on your washer and dryer, buying a bright area rug or making your own DIY clothespin chandelier?

8. WALLPAPER

Often small rooms (like laundry rooms!) are the safest place to experiment and try something bold like a busy wallpaper!  Don’t have any wall space? -how about the ceiling?

Can’t commit to pricey wallpaper? Check out what Kristin over at the Hunted Interior did in her very recent laundry nook makeover: she lined the back of a shelving unit with dragon fly wrapping paper -so easy and inexpensive!  Cute-cute!

What’s hangin’ in your laundry room?  Feel free to share your comments below!

Pssst – looking for legitimate FREE art? click HERE.

*a version of this post was published on BOB VILA NATION, click here to view!

Julie

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DIY ART: 5 tips to create you’re own abstract art!

I think art is a pretty personal thing.  Although I can’t afford pricey originals, I also try my best to not buy the generic mass produced stuff which you can find anywhere including the hardware and grocery store!

Tying to make your own art can be the best and definitely the most cost effective solution -even if you have never picked up a paint brush in your life!  In fact, I always tell people to NOT use a paint brush.  Taking a tip from an artist friend of mine, she told me that for those just starting out, using your fingers and hands or at least tools that you are more familiar with will always yield better results.

I think every single one of us has some creativity, and it’s definitely worth exploring.  It can be a fun thing to do with your kids or a great stress reliever to do alone on a rainy afternoon.

  1. INSPIRATION.  Start by finding some art you like.  Inspiration is important and it will help you imagine and have some sort of plan of action.
  2. SUPPLIES. Choose your colour palette and purchase all of your paint ahead of time.  Next decide if you will paint on a canvas, poster board, wood or cloth.  To keep costs down you can choose to paint over-top a cheap reproduction you already have laying around or snap up something at a second hand shop!
  3. BE PATIENT. Take your time and be patient.  You may need to let the paint dry before applying other, different colours over top.
  4. GET DIRTY.  Use your hands and fingers or items you are familiar using like a spatula, stick, fork, dish sponge, small roller or even a leaf from your favourite plant!
  5. SPRAY IT. Keep a spray bottle of water handy.  It can keep the paint wet longer while you work with it, help to blend colours, water down your art piece to make it more translucent or even create cool random dripping effects!  Also, a can of actual spray paint is handy to have around too: Give a list mist over top of your painting and your art will take on a different dimension and have a more interesting texture.

Choosing to paint on a large poster board for this art project allowed me more freedom and gave me the option to select the best ‘part’ to cut and to frame out!

For details on the polka-dot art piece (middle, above) click here

My Master Bathroom: Modern & Budget Friendly

My master bathroom; Although the charcoal subway tile, dark cabinetry, square sinks and tub feel more masculine they are nicely balanced with delicate glass door knobs, foggy-rain color paint (custom designed by me), a crystal bubble chandelier (for more info on that click HERE) and a watery color dupioni silk window treatment (which hides the much needed window shade!).

Like most people when designing my master bath, my wants didn’t match my budget!  Still, there were some key elements I knew I had to have.  A walk in glass-less shower (think; easy-to-clean), double vanities, decent storage, and a large window!  Bathroom fans might work well, but nothing beats an open window to properly ventilate and get rid of humidity (and natural light is also perfect for applying make-up!).  For more on that bubble chandelier show above click HERE.

No one will dispute that subway tiles are classic. In my master bathroom the over sized charcoal version with pale grout feels more modern. The frosted pocket door is perfect for this narrow room, it doesn’t get in the way and keeps the room feeling open.

Master bathrooms are definitely more stressful to decorate then their counterpart; the master bedroom.  Picking out the wrong duvet or lamp is not the end of the world but the wrong tiles, fixtures and cabinetry can be a pricey and permanent mistake.

Here are three basic things to consider when planning your bathroom design:

Paint It.  When painting small rooms like bathrooms or walk-in closets, I generally like to paint the ceiling the same color.  It makes the room feel less chopped up, tricks the eye into thinking the ceiling is a little higher and makes the overall space feel more open.

Don’t Decorate.  Keep the palette gender neutral since this space is likely to be shared and of course always consider re-sale.  Baby blue cabinets may go with your beach theme but one day it could drive buyers away.   Adding a blue soap dispenser and other accessories however can be a great way to inject your favourite color into the room.

I’ve always thought bathrooms in general should be clean looking and not “decorated”.  Instead, why not use every-day essentials displayed in an interesting way?  This is how boutique hotels and spa’s make their spaces feel clean and high end.  Items like rolled towels, jars of bath salts, lush tropical plants or even a pretty decanter for mouthwash are simple low cost examples anyone can replicate at home.


Put It Away:  Toothbrushes, wrinkle creams, floss, razors and flat irons -no one needs to see all of that, not even you!  Take a couple of hours on a rainy weekend and clean out under your sink.  Next, buy a few inexpensive, easy to wash plastic bins and baskets.  Make yourself a system with a bin for hair stuff, another for mani/pedi products and so on.  When there is a place for everything, it takes 20 seconds to plop your deodorant, mascara and hair mousse away, not to mention easier to find and take out every morning!

Also published on Bob Vila Nation September 28, 2012

Feature on BLOGGER HOMES September 11, 2013

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Bringing the outdoors in

Summer is around the corner and with all of this outdoor gardening: weeding, mulching, transplanting, setting up the vegetable and herb garden and adding a few annuals here and there for pops of colour, I almost forgot about the inside of the house.  No need to wait for beautiful blooms to add drama and interest.  Instead, clip some green sprigs from your yard or the side of the road!

Plants are my favourite, inexpensive, go-to home decor accessory.  They never go out of style or cost a fortune and go with virtually any decor.  Having something green and alive in your home will help draw people in and create warmth and interest.  It is the most simple decorating touch anyone can do!

When season’s change take a look around the house and move some things around.  “My Lady” statue (pictured above) was sitting on a shelf in my living room, I took her down and placed her in my entry, inserting a thin narrow glass vase in her center and filling her with maple branches clipped from my yard.  For more info and photos of my home’s entryway click HERE.

For vases think outside the box: mug, wine decanter or an empty salsa jar! Below, a green and mercury glass candle holder houses a few boxwood clippings from a hedge I have in the front yard.

Below: For zero dollars and little effort, I created a quick and simple table-scape!

The 101: No need to spend on pricey flowers or fancy plants, scour your yard, parks or the neighbours flower bed (with permission of course!) and create some simple inexpensive arrangements that will work with any decor!

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Chaos in the pantry

With the arrival of spring comes a deep desire to freshen up the house inside and out.  It might still be too early to get dirty in the garden, but the moment the snow melted hubby and I got busy power washing the deck, washing windows, putting away winter clothes, sports equipments and even started on some dreaded touch up painting around the house.

Still on the to do list was the food pantry:  I love the sight of well organized pantry.  Is it just me or is there something soothing knowing that the cereal is properly stored and won’t go stale? That the flour and sugar is well contained and not sitting in the bag it came in, leaking all over?  That the cans of soup are gathered together separate from the PB & J?  That you could, in the case of a pandemic, live off your pantry for weeks without leaving the house?  OK, maybe when it comes my pantry I’m a tad OCD.

In any case, I know I’m not the only one who thinks a well organized pantry is a beautiful thing; making school lunches is a breeze and whipping up dinner so much less stressful when everything is in it’s place -and you know how much of it you have.

Keeping the pantry pristine has become more of a challenge as the kids have grown up -they seem to be constantly in there rummaging, snacking and not putting things back in the right spot or cleaning up messes! It was way overdue for a good clearing out which is why last week, armed with a glass of wine and The Anderson Cooper Show for company I went for it: I removed every last item, took inventory, re-organized and washed everything down.  After a Costco run, the pantry is now back to being an efficient and well stocked space -and my stress level, down a few notches.  Beautiful.

THE 101: Being organized takes some work, but when done properly it makes simple every tasks easier and more pleasant.

SPRING DECOR PROJECT: 5 minutes & fake flowers

Yes, I purchased fake flowers.  I must be getting old or maybe I’m just channeling some 80’s Laura Ashely vibe.  Anyhow, I’m not ashamed to share this quick little outdoor spring decorating project.

Because the snow around here only melted about 3 weeks ago and we still get frost at night, there is very little outdoor color or options for planting anything… but my planters on the front stoop were looking really sad and empty.

At a trip to the dollar store for Easter goodies, I caught myself admiring the fake  forsythia branches.  We used to have forsythia bushes at our last home, and the bold yellow spring blooms were stunning.  I picked up 9 branches at $1.25 each, for a total of $11.25.  Once home, I went into the wooded area behind our yard to clip some branches, some even had buds.  Each planter got 3 faux forsythia blooms and a handful of real sticks and branches.

We are having some friends and their kids over tomorrow for an Easter Egg Hunt and an afternoon of outdoor fun and fresh air.  I am now proud and amazed at how nice the planters look, how cheap and quick this project was and how it gives the house some much needed (temporary) color and curb appeal.

Happy Easter / Passover / Long Weekend!

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