When we moved onto our property, it had been sitting for years, un-maintained, un-groomed, un-pruned, and unkept. Our landscape was like a jungle of weeds, bushes, trees. As we started cutting things back, we kept discovering gems: lost lemon, apple, pear, and plum trees that had been overcrowded and under loved. It was an adventure every time we started doing yard work.
Anyway, we have this island area in the center of our driveway that was, as the story goes, a jungle. It was full of ivy, juniper, bulbs, trees, and a random assortment of vintage garden ornaments. At first, we thought we’d just clean it up and give it some curbside appeal (even though we don’t actually have a curbside). We did this “clean up” last fall. As we kept looking at it, we thought, “Man this island is still ugly as sin” and knew we had to do something else with it.
Last weekend we killed what was left of the jungle island. We dug up everything: old irrigation lines, juniper bushes, annoying ivy, and these strange little plants that keep coming back no matter how much you dig them out. Then, we built our very own DIY fire pit–just in time for spring bonfires and BBQ season.
We debated back and forth if we should dig out the fire pit and put an insert into the ground or if we should just build from the ground up, the later option won. Once we got to the home improvement store we literally built out the bottom ring of the fire pit in the middle of the store. Right there, on the spot, we decided the size we wanted based on the brick choice available. Despite the crazy looks we got, it was fun to “play” in the store and Luka loved making a big mess in the store. Besides, we put everything back so no harm, no foul.
DIY FIRE PIT
- Bricks of your choice
- One 80 Lb. bag of mortar
- Cement Trowel
- 5 Gal. Bucket
- Cement Mixing Bit (Optional but highly recommended)
- Wire Brush
- Small 2×4
- Gloves (optional)
1. Find an area that you want a fire pit and decide on the size pit you’d like to put there. Clear the area out and remove anything flammable, low hanging branches, old irrigation lines, etc. As you can see, Luka is ready to start building the fire pit because he wants to roast marshmallows….but I assure you, don’t skip this step.
2. Go to a home improvement store and decide on the color and style bricks or stones you want to use. We chose to use Rumblestone in the color Sierra.
3. Use the floor space to build the bottom ring out to determine how many and what size bricks you’ll need to make your configuration (or you could just do that math I guess, but that isn’t as fun).
4. Buy the bricks and a bag of quick-set mortar. We bought 44 large bricks and 72 small bricks for our 3-foot fire pit.
5. Get your big boy pants on and get ready to lift these puppies a billion times between the store and your house. It’s a good workout.
6. Level the ground with a shovel and use a 2×4 with a level on it to make sure the ground is straight. We don’t want a leaning tower of Pisa fire pit.
7. Place the first ring in the shape you want and add a layer of mortar. We chose not to put mortar between each brick, only between the layers of brick. NOTE: Only mix enough mortar for each tier at a time or you’ll have a bucket of set mortar before it’s all over. If you’ve never used mortar, it’s pretty easy. Follow the instructions on the bag or do it the way we did: mix it with water until it’s the consistency you want. We used a drill and a cement mixer (about $7) to make things easier on our bodies.
8. Lay out the next ring either exactly as the first or off-set, whichever you prefer. We used a 2×4 to kneel onto and “set” the bricks tightly. You can also use the 2×4 to knock bricks in and out of the ring so that they’re squared with the bricks next to them.
9. Repeat step 7 and 8 until your fire pit is as tall as you’d like. As you do each tier, use a 2×4 and a level to determine that your pit is staying level with the ground. If it’s not, you know to add more mortar in the low spots the next go around. We measured a few spots across the fire pit to make sure everything was level (even though the photo below doesn’t show a level, we used one…and you should too).
10. Use a stick or piece of PVC pipe to scrape off excess mortar inside and outside the pit so it looks nicer.
11. Let it dry and use a wire brush to brush any left over excess mortar and you’re done!
Once the mortar is dry, we will remove the timbers around the island, lay landscapers fabric, lay new timbers, then gravel the area with a fancy walkway (where the white spray paint is). We’re going to finish the space off with those logs you see, which will be cut flat on one side, turned into benches and set into place along with a few chairs made out of stumps. We’ll update this post with the finished product once we’re done.