A Simple To Build Fire Pit Patio
Wow, Building Your Own Fire Pit Patio Will Change Your Life! A Little Bit At Least...
Here's The BEST way to build your own fire pit patio properly! Imagine... cold, crisp weekend evenings in fall and spring, an inviting place to relax by a fire with dry firewood handy. Build this firepit patio and you'll have a tremendous place to hang out with friends, party and enjoy each other's company. Television..what's that?
It's so rewarding to see your idea come to fruition that the only word to describe building your own fire pit patio is: fun! Creating this one in simple step-by-step fashion will be such a blast you might decide to continue adding to it: Surround it with beds of flowers and shrubs; perhaps add a dry creek with an arched bridge nearby? Add Omni-Stone pavers to the patio surface?
This 23' diameter version will comfortably accommodate at least 8-10 people and a lot more if you use the back wall for seating. But you can choose whatever size works for you!
Choose Your Spot
Think about things like:
Does it "feel right" in this location?
Is it in a place where you'll use it often?
If you're hand digging, is the ground relatively flat to minimize the amount of work?
Are tree branches located above your spot? If so, they'll be dropping leaves which will become a maintenance issue in fall and a huge fire in the pit could possibly light the trees above. You might consider either relocating the project or pruning the branches, there's no bonfire quite like the entire neighborhood aflame.
Is it a likely spot to dig up buried treasure? Pirate booty- gold coins, doubloons, and such- make an extremely uneven patio surface so if there's any of that nonsense present please call me right away so I can take care of that problem for you.
Pictured here is the spot I chose at the apex of my property as it affords an exceptional view. Off to the right is a large valley with all kinds of interesting stuff in it like horses, barns, houses and the road leading in. Of course a great view is not a requirement, it just adds to the pleasure.
Should You Dig By Hand Or By Bobcat?
Uneven terrain means at least some hand work is inevitable. This was the least fun part of the project because even though running the little Bobcat was a joy, there remained about four hours of hand work after: squaring up the back wall dirt; chamfering off the dirt sides of the firepit to prep for cement; and raking out the entire area to remove small rock, roots and debris. Even if, to avoid building a back wall, you choose a flat location, you still must dig down a few inches to remove turf and accommodate the gravel. You'll also need to dig the firepit.
Hand shoveling a patio this large could waste a few weekends. Renting a Bobcat will be quoted at $250 or so but by the time you add fuel, mandatory one day insurance waiver, sales tax, etc. the $250 will about double. You should be able to find a Bobcat owner/operator to do this sort of dig for about $150 to $250, your best option. It was an easy decision for me as I own two Bobcat loaders. The one pictured is the smaller one. With only a 25 Horsepower Kubota Diesel engine to power it, it's one of the smallest Bobcat ever made, and it had plenty of power for this little task so any size you hire should work out fine.
A 2 foot long wood or metal stake
1 can of spray paint
A tape measure
Decide where you want the center of your firepit and pound in the stake there.
Tie a loose knot in the string and slip it around the stake.
Measure out along the string half the distance across your circle (that's called the radius). I chose to make this patio circle 23' across* so the radius is 11.5 feet.
Now, keeping the string taught, walk in a circle around the stake and, as you go, spray the paint at the very end of the string which will create a circle marking the outer edge of your patio. This will give the Bobcat operator you hire a guidline to excavate to (or give yourself a guide for hand digging). Now do the same for the firepit. Here I wanted a pit about 6 feet across so the radius was marked on the string at 3 foot and a circle was painted.
* "across the circle" is another way of saying "diameter" which is the length of a line drawn through a circle from one edge to the other. Radius is always 1/2 of diameter. Circumference would refer to the length of the line around the outer edge of the circle.
Drain it... or drown in it!
This step is not quite as easy as the others, but it consumes little time compared to the rest of the project and is well worth it. Without good drainage your pit will likely fill with water every time it rains and it may take many days to drain or evaporate, and...well, lighting a fire under water is more difficult than it sounds.
Your Bobcat guy can dig a 2 foot deep trench just wide enough for your drainpipe, from the pit, to where the water it will transport can be safely discharged.
At that point you'll need:
A line level (under $5 at any Ace Hardware store).
4" flexible drainage pipe (Lowes or Home Depot)
A few bags of drainage gravel (Lowes)
Dig out any loose dirt left by the Bobcat with a shovel to make a smooth trench bottom. Pound in a stake at each end of the trench, tie the string tightly between them, attach the line level to the string and adjust until it shows the string is level.
Next, measure from the string to the bottom of the trench at the firepit end. You need about a 1/2 inch per foot drop to move the water out easily so if you have an 8 foot trench, you'll need about a 4" drop.
Finally, measure from the line to the bottom of the trench at the end where water will exit. Keep digging until you have 4 inches more space (meaning space between the ditch bottom and the string) than at the pit end. Excavate any needed dirt between the two ends to create a smooth, gradual drop from the pit end to the exit. Note that if that much drop is impossible to achieve, as little as 1/8th inch per foot (a 1 inch drop per every 8 feet of drain) will move water, just a lot slower.
Then install 3' wide landscape fabric the entire length of the trench
Add a thin layer of gravel on top of the fabric, lay in your pipe, then add gravel until the pipe is about covered. Fold the ends of the fabric up over the pipe/gravel combination. The reason for the gravel is so that if the pipe ever melts, clogs or fails, you'll still have a true french drain moving the water out. The fabric prevents dirt from getting in the gravel. Gravel clogged with dirt will fail to move water.
It sounds complicated but it's not, just follow the directions! This entire step should require under two hours!
Why not add a permanent system for playing music? These Yamaha speakers are made for outdoor use!
The Firepit Drainpipe
The firepit end of the 4" flexible drainage pipe. This pipe, properly pitched, will prevent rainwater from filling the pit. Later, we'll partially cover this end with concrete to help prevent fire from melting it.
Adding The Stone Ring and Cementing Inside The Firepit
And you can choose your color!
Select some of your prettiest, relatively flat rock and make a ring around the pit as best you can fit them together.
I decided to cement the firepit sides, which took about ten bags of Sakrete (just add water & mix- I used the bucket pictured to mix in). Make it relatively thick or it won't support itself enough as it dries and will end up laying in the bottom.
Cement around, not inside, the drainpipe end. This will help prevent it from melting. At least that's my theory, lol.
Sakrete or Quikrete
A wheelbarrow to mix in
Cement color (optional)
A shovel to mix with and spoon onto the sides
A trowell or short piece of 2 X 4 to smooth the cement out
If you don't cement the sides, mud will wash down into the pit every time it rains and clog up your drainage pipe. Eventually you'll have to shovel it out and you may even need to dig up the trench/replace the pipe.
If you hate maintenance as much as I do, cement!
This step will require a few hours.
I chose to mix in black cement coloring (sold at Home Depot and Lowes) just for the fun of it. You can also opt for red and a few other colors.
Add crusher run to the outer circle (the patio area)
If you cut into a slope and need a wall in back, this is a good time to install it
Crusher run (or crush & run) is gravel with dust in it. After a couple of rains it packs down almost like cement. Even if you're cementing the surface or laying Omni-Stone pavers later, crusher run is the base you'll need.
If you opted to install the drainpipe you can put some crusher run in the bottom of the firepit also, pitching it slightly so water will run into the pipe. If you opted to skip the drain installation then sand or regular gravel would be a better choice for the firepit bottom. hopefully you'll get good drainage through the sand or gravel and subsoil.
The Bobcat guy you hire can help with this step also by transporting your fieldstone to you as you build the back wall. He can also transport, dump, then backdrag (to smooth) the crusher run in the patio area. Unfortunately you'll probably still have a good deal of hand raking to get it just the way you want it.
How much crusher run do you need?
Pies, X's and stuff like that works pretty good
You did pay perfect attention in algebra class, right? I thought so! So you know that X= Pi (R squared) with X being square footage. It will solve the problem of determining the square footage of a circle.
So basically the square footage = Pi (which is 3.14) multiplied by the radius squared.
For a 23' patio the radius is 11.5 feet (radius is 1/2 the distance across the circle). Square 11.5 (squaring a number means to multiply it times itself) and you get 132.25. Multiply that by 3.14 and you arrive at a little over 400 square feet of surface.
A ton of crusher run covers about 80 sq. feet about 2 inches deep so for a 2 inch thick patio surface covering a circle 23 feet across we need about 5 tons of material.
Let's figure up one more to ensure you've got it. A 10 foot outer patio circle would have a 5 foot radius. Square it (multiply it times itself) and that's 5 x 5 = 25 and 25 x 3.14 gives the answer of 78.5 sq. feet. If we wanted about one inch thick of crush & run patio surface to cover a ten foot across circle then just 1/2 ton would do it.
How To Build A Natural Stacked Stone Wall
Stacking stone is not difficult
Pictured here is a close shot of a section of the stacked stone wall that runs around the back of the firepit patio. It looks like a stacked stone wall should look I think, but this was a first time effort, not the result of experience. I'd give you "the rules" but I don't know any. Just pick out some of your larger, flat rocks in the pallet and fit them together as best you can. If a particular stone lays a little lopsided simply stick a smaller stone under one end. The wall might look a bit funky at times as you progress but somehow it all works out and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the end result.
You'll likely have a small gap between the back of the stones and the dirt. You can fill it with a bit of the dirt you dug out (this is called backfilling) or with small pieces of stone.
Although you could, I do not recommend cementing the wall unless you're certain that's your preference. Cemented stack stone looks ugly in my opinion.
How To Build A Firwood Storage Bin
Why you should bother building a firewood storage bin? You need dry wood to make a great fire and having it handy may be the difference between using your pit/patio nearly every weekend or it sitting unused because it's "too much trouble" to locate, collect or transport wood. For me, a fairly small bin to hold just enough for a few fires works. I have another building to store cords of wood and can refill from there. If you don't, then I'd suggest making your bin larger than this one which is 2.5 feet deep, 4 feet wide and about 3.5 feet tall.
Dig a flat spot with a slight drop back to front so if any water ever blows in it will run off. Pound in a 3 to 4 foot tall 4" X 4" post on each corner and tie them together around the top with 2" x 4"s to create the basic frame.
Add a couple of two inch wide slats of wood around the bottom as seen here and later you can pour in a few bags of cement to make a floor.
2 sheets of plywood
Two 4" x 4" treated posts
Six 2" x 4"s for framing
5 bags cement (Quikrete)
1 bundle shingles.
Add the trusses, cement the floor
The trusses are the triangular shaped pieces that support the roof. Decide how much you want the roof to overhang past the bottom frame on the front and how steep of an angle you want the roof to pitch then cut accordingly. The front is open so the overhang you see here is about a foot to prevent rain from hitting the firewood. You'll put plywood on this roof framing and the shingles attach to the plywood.
The sides and back overhang will be sufficient at just a couple of inches past the bottom framing since there will be siding in those areas. The overhang distance on the sides will be determined by the roof plywood, not the trusses.
Shingle the roof
Cut two pieces of roofing plywood, attach, then install the shingles. Put the first layer on upside down. Offset (stagger) each new row slightly.
Cut pieces of individual shingles to make the roof cap.
Attach the sides and back
Cut plywood to cover the back and sides. The front remains open for easy access. Remember, the front overhang and cement floor will keep the inside dry.
Don't forget to fill it with firewood!
Time to test it out!
Including the Bobcat work, this firepit/patio required about 50 man hours of time to build to the point seen here... at the prevailing labor rates of $35 to $50 per man hour and Bobcat rates of $55 to $85 per hour, if I had I hired this project out to a landscape contractor, the labor, equipment, delivery charges and materials could have easily pushed this project past the $3,500 mark and it possibly would have landed closer to $5,000. So do a half decent job on yours and you'll be creating not just a great place to relax and party, but you'll also have a "sweat equity" investment as a firepit/patio area is a valuable, highly prized landscape feature.
Note that at 23' across this patio feels perfectly proportioned but if your budget or yard space requires it you could cut it down to maybe as small as 16' and therefore reduce the material, time and space requirements considerably.
As stated earlier this fire pit build was such a blast and so rewarding I'm not at all keen on stopping yet. In the future I intend to add some mulch and plants around the perimeter, maybe create a couple of small plant mounds at the entrance and perhaps make a little stepping stone walkway. There are molds available you can use to pour your own cement stepping stones and that would only add to the fun!
I wonder how a little Amish style arched bridge over a dry creek leading away from the pit would look? Hmm...maybe that will be the next project.
Currently the leftover dirt from the dig is to the right, just beside the patio and I'm thinking I might use the larger 9,000 lb. monster 110 HP Bobcat to grade it out, add some sand and/or wood chips on top...now there's a sweet little spot to pitch a tent. Once I get all this completed I'll post more pics.
So...perhaps it's not as fancy as some of the Omni-stone patios and firepits I've seen, but this patio pit is already getting plenty of use. ...and if you do prefer fancy simply add a couple more tons of crush & run, then install Omni-stone or other pavers right over it as crush & run is the normal paver base. You could also use the wall block sold at Home Depot for the wall. Personally, I prefer the natural fieldstone as it just feels more inviting and relaxing to me, I have way too much cookie cutter pre-fab in my life now, but whatever floats your boat. Above all, don't be intimidated or scared. it's not rocket science and errors are easy to fix-as-you-go, just dive in and enjoy the experience!- Bill
Burn Baby Burn!
The payoff for all that hard wor...I mean fun, lol...is obvious in this pic and will likely last a lifetime!
Here's the concrete coloring I used on the fire pit sides - simply pour it in as you mix the concrete
This drainage pipe will work
Here's your level
Shovels For The Hand Digging...
Check it out!
- Greenhouse and Cold Frame Growing: For Fun Or Profit
If you have room for a firepit you have room for a cold frame or two, maybe even a greenhouse. If not maybe there's room for indoor grow lights? It's shocking how much money some people are making with these new techniques. You can too!