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.

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DIY canvas photo peg board

“Push pins work pretty good on painted canvas”

What’s a home bar without some great photos of friends… old memories you can recount and toast to?  For some reason when I walked into Le Carrefour De L’espoir (second hand shop) and saw this original (yet, let’s be honest, ugly) art piece, I knew immediately it’s second life would be as a peg board for our basement bar.

ugly art turned DIY PEG BOARD!

Something about the frame looked 70′s ish with its slightly yellowed fabric (think, smoky cigar lounge) but the faded black and gold accent frame seemed right on.  I snapped it up for $20.  Maybe it was a little pricey (considering), but I really had been looking for a long time, and I knew I wanted something “authentic” vintage and not new “made-in-China” from some retail chain.

TIP: “every room in your home should have a thing or two that is old, unique or eclectic”

unique vintage diy photo peg board

With a paint brush and a tube of black chalk board paint I painted over it.  I know I know, you’re thinking: “huh?”  First, I knew I wanted to paint it black and already had this stuff laying around the house.   Second, the painting was done in oil and already textury (OK, that is not a real word but you get me).  So painting it with a small brush instead of a roller to help even out and add even more texture seemed like a good idea.  Third, I knew most of it would be covered by photos anyways so I thought “who cares!?”.

diy vintage photo peg board how-tougly vintage art turned photo board

More bar pics to come soon! Thanks for checking in -Julie

*re-posted by BOB VILA NATION on December 5th, 2012

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DIY Mirrored Coffee Table

I love mirrored furniture.  Loved it even before it became a hot new trend in home decor and pieces could be snatched up a places like Target!  It brings glam, luxe and a feminine vibe to a room.  Plus, I am a firm believer that every space needs some sparkle so if you don’t have it in the form of candle holders or picture frames then this is a good way to get some!

After months of shopping for a coffee table, I decided that either a super modern glass table or a charming vintage-y mirrored one would be the way to go.  But every time I came across a potential candidate it was too perfect and pricey;  I like nice things but I don’t like feeling I have to run around strategically placing coasters or plastic sheeting to protect my family or guests from my stuff.

One day I was perusing the wall mirrors at HomeSense  (a.k.a. HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, Marshals, Winners), when I had a vision: so many of these mirrors which were meant for walls could totally be re-imagined as tables.  I was psyched.

That’s when a large mirror reduced from $189 to $49 spoke to me.  Sure the frame was scratched (already distressed? perfect) and it had two tiny cracks on one of the mirrored tiles (nothing a pile of magazines couldn’t hide?).

After I hauled it into my car, atop my groceries -during a snow storm might I add, I popped over to a local second hand shop where I had seen a cute coffee table the week before with a bowed top (as if someone sat on it).  Luckily it was still there, the perfect size (slightly smaller than my mirror) and for $10 it was cheaper and sturdier (because of the framing) than buying pre-made legs from the hardware store.

Later in the garage I removed the table top, gave it a quick coat of black spray paint and with a little wood glue and some screws I re-attached the base to my mirror.

I was amazed at how awesome it looked, how little it cost me and how impressed the kids were that I whipped up a coffee table between dinner and dessert!

The 101:  Scan the isles of your favorite store for discounted mirrors with a frame that could pass as an occasional table.  Rather than buying pre-made furniture legs at the hardware store, look for a used table or even re-purpose one you already own.  Spray paint is a quick fix to make odd pieces match.

*Slightly different version of above article was also featured on The Hudson St. Lazare Gazette‘s web site on Wednesday January 11, 2012