Sunday, July 24, 2011

My DIY Fire Pit with River Rocks

Ever since we moved in last summer, I've been wanting to clear out our overgrown flower bed to create a fire pit area.  It's been a year and after 3 days of blood, sweat and tears....mostly sweat (and really no tears but a little bit of blood) I am happy to say I am done with the hard scape portion of the fire pit and surrounding area.

I got my inspiration from this Lowe's video on youtube.

This is what the area looked like after pulling out all of the shrubs, trees and lots and lots of weeds.  After pulling out everything possible, I covered the area with weed blocking fabric:

You can kind of see the puffiness of the fabric.  That's because I didn't put anything down over the fabric immediately and the weeds started to grow underneath.  I had to pull back the fabric and pull the weeds AGAIN.  Moral of the story is: be prepared to put mulch or stone on the fabric within a few days after putting the fabric down.

Here's another shot of the area after some more weed pulling:

I also planned to get rid of the weeds and putting more fabric and mulch down in the area of the above photo to the right hand side.

I decided to fill the area with river rocks and put the fire pit in the center.  I ordered the river rocks and the nursery dumped 4 yards of rocks in my driveway:

Doesn't seem like too much work to move these rocks to the backyard, right?  W-R-O-N-G!  This was hard work!  I had to shovel the rocks into my trusty wheelbarrow then go all the way around to the back with a very HEAVY load and dump it into the bed.  I did this like a zillion hundred times.  It was tough on my back and my legs.  But as my sister pointed out, it's like cross training!

The bed started to come along.  I was generous with a 2" to 3" depth of the rocks.  I didn't want any weeds poking through.

Notice how I have the future fire pit marked in the center of the above photo.

The river rocks in the above photo were very dusty and dirty.  I hadn't washed them off yet, but I liked how this stepping stone looked set in the rocks.

Now it was time to get started on the fire pit.  I went down to HD and bought supplies:  52 wall stones, 4 bags of leveling sand and four 24"square cement pavers.

I should have bought 6 bags of leveling sand because the area was not very level but I had a leftover bag of all purpose sand I used beneath the good leveling sand.

Here is the all purpose sand:

And below is the leveling sand, which worked very well:

I dumped the sand onto my marked area for the fire pit and leveled it with a 2 by 4:

I used a level on the 2 by 4 to make sure it was good to go, but it was getting dark and I was losing patience so I crossed my fingers and went ahead and started building the fire pit without having a perfectly level base.

In the above photo, to the right, you can see the fire pit blocks I used.  It was very tedious getting them in and out of the car!

After 4 of the large pavers were set in the sand, I filled in the gaps with more sand and tried to make the pavers as level as possible.

I bought this fire pit kit to use on top of the stones after it was built.

I set the dome shaped protection screen in the center of the pavers to guide me and I started to build!

As you can see, night had fallen and I was getting cranky but I was on a mission to at least complete the fire pit.

It wasn't easy.  There had to be gaps in the stone.  I had to get over this and lined up the stones and fit them together as well as I could.

See the major gap in the above photo?  I had to play around with it a bit to get it right.  

I think it turned out fine the next morning:

 This was the section I took out the weeds and put in the mulch.  I separated the rocks with stepping stones that were in the old flower bed.

Overall I'm happy with our new fire pit.  Now I'm planning to put planters in the bed to soften up the area along with seating for the fire pit.  Stay tuned to see it all 'dolled up'!

Joining Centsational Girl's Garden Link Party!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brick Front Steps - Complete Makeover!

Our front brick steps were in major disrepair.  The previous owners patched it back together with mortar and cement, but after this winter it was coming apart.  It was dangerous for people coming up to the house and looked like a wreck. 

I don't have a before photo, but it looked something like this:

source: google images

Okay, it wasn't this bad, but it was close.  Many of the bricks were loose and the end bricks were falling off.  The steps were super steep to boot, so it was tough for guests to navigate their way to our front door....not an ideal welcome.

I had to hire out for this.  I am not a mason, although I do like that name for a boy.  I asked around and got a few estimates.  I liked one mason named Red Hutson right away and he gave me the best price and came highly recommended..Yay!   

The re-construction took longer than Red thought.  It ended up needing more new bricks because the old ones were disintegrating.  Also, the base was very shoddily done in the first place so Red had to re-do the base also.  

Okay, in the end it turned out great and I'm so happy with the result:

It looks like it's been this way all along!  Fits in perfectly.  And the limestone slates clean up the brick pavers and will make it easier to clean off the snow.  Not to mention people won't trip coming up the steps!

Red even took out the pavers on the landing and put a limestone slate so the steps blend nicely with the landing:

Now, what color should I paint the front door?

A safe and nice looking set of front brick and limestone stairs make me smile!