Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fire Bug - Why and How I Built My Firepit

I grew up in a time when green was just a color. Although there were green sayings, such as being 'green as a gourd' or 'green with envy' there were no politically correct attachments to the word green. Therefore, burning your trash was commonplace in small towns across the country. Only larger cities and cosmopolitan areas had trash collection services. Burning the trash was just another chore, like feeding the dog and mowing the lawn. Kids found with matches in their pocket would most likely not have been questioned by an adult. Any suspicion would have been squelched with a simple reply, "It was my turn to burn the trash last night."
In my family, burning the trash was a chore assigned to my brothers. The actual collection, carrying and emptying the trash into the trash barrel (located in the back corner of our yard), held no appeal to me, but lighting the first match and the actual burning was right down my alley. When allowed or given the chance, I eagerly participated in the chore. I was (and still am) drawn to fire. A stick to poke at the slow burning papers and anything that could be used for a makeshift fan to encourage flames were my required tools. I could turn a fifteen minute task into a good half-hour of entertainment.

As an adult, I still enjoy a good fire...just not in my house. I hate the mess and the smell. I have had two houses with rarely used fireplaces. I now have gas logs...the good kind that look like a real fire...I can turn it on and off without worry, smoke, or lingering odor. I love that part, but there is no possibility of the therapeutic poking and fanning. Here's where the firepit comes in.

After seeing a firepit in a magazine, I decided that I had to have one. With the amount of pruning and trimming I have to do in my yard each spring, it just made sense to have a place to get rid of the cuttings...I could sell this idea to my husband based on the merit of it's need and practicality. Knowing he would certainly agree with my plan, I began digging the hole while he was on a golf outing...with the sod up, the hold dug (started), how could he say no or "Not In My Backyard". We finished the projec
t, or at least the digging together. An entire week later, we had a pit... a huge pit - 4' X 3' deep. A little brick of my favorite things to do...and the firepit was a completed masterpiece.

It's difficult to see the first cap-row of bricks in
these pictures, but it's there...hidden by mortar
and the top row.

I love this series of pictures of my grand daughters at my firepit (taken by Benfield Photography).
Not everyone likes it when their
marshmallows catch you can see from this picture.


1)Use your garden hose to form a circle the desired size. Use spray paint to outline the circle.

2)Dig the hole. I angled the sides as I dug to help make bricking the inside wall easier...the top of the pit is about 18" wider than the bottom.

3) Brick the pit. I added a layer of compaction rock in the bottom to help the pit drain, and then used white fire bricks to line the bottom. I used old bricks for the sides and top. Look at the pictures before preceding to a and b below...I think the bricking steps will be easier to understand and envision.

a. I used sand Redi-Mix to anchor the bricks on the inside wall and the top cap-rows. We mixed it one bag at a time in our wheelbarrow. Using a flat, rubber trowel (4"X 8" found at Lowe's), I smoothed the Redi-Mix around the sides (about 1"-2" thick), and placed the bricks in one at a time until I completed the inside wall of the pit. This part is hard to explain, but I'll try...put extra mortar on one side the brick to fill the joint between it and the next brick, place it on the wet mix on the wall, and wiggle it in the wet mix just a little, to help it stick to the wall...continue doing the same with the next brick, the next, etc. Use a mortar tool or your finger to smooth and clean the joints between the bricks as you this while the mix is firm, but not dry.

b. The top was done by creating a 2"-3" circular foundation around the top of the pit...the width of the length of the bricks (my bricks were about 6' long, so my foundation circle was 6' wide around the top of the pit).

I set one row of bricks on top of the wet mix, in the same way I did the inside wall. I waited a day before adding the second layer. The second layer is was done the same way. I put a 1"-2" foundation layer of Redi-mix on top of the first layer of bricks, and began laying the second layer of bricks on the wet foundation. The second (top) layer needs to be staggered. When you begin laying the top row of bricks, center the first brick on the seam of two bricks on the first layer.

We worked on this two or three different days, until we had the bricking completed. The mortar needs to dry for a few days before you use the pit.

4. Get the hotdogs and s'mores ready. Build a fire. We use small logs...limbs cut from trees ...or we purchase 'real wood' charcoal. We use the old fashioned wooden sticks, whittled to a point with a pocket knife, but you can purchase metal sticks online.

Our pit is about ten years old and needs some repair...but maybe the cracked bricks just add charm. Have fun and enjoy!

The following pictures are just other examples of firepits. The one with the flames is from an article by Harry Sawyers This Old House.

1 comment:

I hope this made you smile. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!