Monday, September 24, 2012

Fire Pit Weekend Revealed!

Our yard is very big (we have a half acre lot) and very empty. We have the only non-wooded lot in the (small) neighborhood. The story we got from neighbors is that a tornado a few years back hit our house and took out a bunch of trees, and the former owner went with clearing out the whole backyard as the least expensive way to clean things up.

It's a huge change from the super wooded lot at our old house. I'm excited about the possibilities involved with gardening with the help of actual sunlight, but truth be told the totally empty yard was kind of....boring. It's not even especially useful as a flat surface for, like, sports and stuff (you know, if we were a sporty people), because there are all kinds of surprising dips and holes where trees used to be, excellent for spraining ankles.

We have a dome climber, like this one:
I thought it would get more use from our older kids than a swingset, and then I found a great deal on one on Craigslist and snatched it up. So picture a giant, flat, grassy yard with a dome climber in one corner. That's what we had.

Until today!

We had a cheap little metal fire pit from Wal-mart or wherever that we used on the driveway at the old house. The kids have always LOVED having fires (and the accompanying marshmallows); firepit evenings often started with marshmallows and ended with kids running around catching fireflies and all that sort of thing. So idyllic!

So I knew I wanted a more substantial/permanent/pretty firepit here. I did my usual Pinterest research:,,1636191,00.html

And settled on this $30 firepit from Always Chasing Life as my primary inspiration.

Ours was more than $30, for a few reasons. For one thing, we lacked a nice patio to put it on, so we decided to clear out a circle in the yard and put gravel down first. And we wound up with slightly more expensive stones, for reasons that I will reveal as our story continues.

Okay! Firepit weekend arrived, and we headed off to Lowes, where we discovered that they were having a 20% off sale on landscaping stones! What luck!

We picked out this pea gravel to use as the base. We wound up with 22 bags (and could probably use a couple more for better coverage) at  $3.37/bag (after our 5% Lowes card discount), already blowing a $30 budget out of the water. But cheaper than a patio!

We were planning to get these "castle blocks:"

....but then Dave did some fancy mathematical figurin' about radii and whatnot and decided that we could make a smaller circle by buying the more expensive (but also prettier) flagstone. In the end, we decided that the castle block would probably have been fine; Dave didn't really think about how in firepit building, unlike in geometry, you can play around with the spacing between the blocks and make circles smaller with barely noticeable aesthetic ramifications.

I'm glad we went with the flagstone, though; I'm very pleased with how it looks.

I'm conflating various Lowes trips, interrupted by sleep and eating and birthday parties and August's performance as Colonel Hathi in The Jungle Book, for the sake of the narrative. Had we bought everything at once, it would have killed the minivan, I think. In the end, though, we bought 22 bags of pea gravel and 30 flagstones, at $1.86 each.

We came home with all the stuff and set to work. We even had an extra kid over for the afternoon, so we got him going with some manual labor, too:



By the way, see that fence? My husband built that fence all by himself! Well, my brother helped with digging the post holes. But, mostly, all by himself. Which took a long time and was a sucky job, and saved us a bunch of money, and looks AWESOME. Go Dave! (not that crappy fence along the back; that was already there. That's the fence The Beagle sneaks out under whenever she gets a chance. Not Dave's fence; it's like Fort Knox, I tell you!)

Digging the circle was the most time consuming and unfun part. But then came....the gravel spreading!

And then....the rock stacking!

Dave took all the dirt/grass he dug out of the circle and piled against the crappy fence for Beagle-proofing purposes:

I am, again, condensing for dramatic effect. The whole process took parts of 3 days, start to finish, although only a substantial part of the first day. It probably could have been completed in one long day, had that been absolutely necessary. Really, the part he did today took about 15 minutes (finishing stacking the stones from the last minivan-load).

We opted for cheapo plastic Adirondack chairs. We wanted 6 of them, and paying for six nice chairs just wasn't going to happen. It being the end of the season and all, white was the only color Lowes had left. We have big plans to spray paint them and make them more beautiful, though. Sometime.

The finished project:

And here it is in action:

Fire! Pretty!

So there you have it. Total, more than $30, cost: $129.94 for the gravel and flagstones, plus another $102.48 for the Adirondack chairs.

Editing to add.....the metal bowl is just the bowl from our old firepit, recycled. In case anyone was wondering :)

Linking with:
Summer Spruce Up Series


  1. I was actually thinking of putting a bowl over our fire pit as well. It would be easier to clear the ashes that way, and you can have a higher flame even with little firewood. After seeing how great it looks here, I’m definitely convinced – I’m getting on with it! :D

  2. Awesome fire pit!!! It looks like you all had a blast making it! Thanks for linking up to our Summer Spruce Up Party!
    Restoration Beauty

  3. I love your firepit:) Great family gathering place.

    1. Thanks, Cathy! We have a lot of fun out there :)

  4. Our big spring project this year is going to be adding a firepit... thanks for your tutorial and inspiration!

    1. Good luck with yours! We really love ours--definitely worth the effort :)


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