It’s the Pits

Well, actually that should be singular.

As in…it’s the pit.

But we don’t judge around here….not for spelin or gramerr;[!

or cheesy jokes.

Moving on.  We showed you yesterday how we planned for our fire pit.  It is the first big step in our backyard.  Others…like a future pool will require a bit more money so we will need a few more years to sock away the cash for that.  But just like inside…our outside is an evolution of years of projects…not just one big push.

Just as a reminder, here’s where we started with the outside of our house…

and the area that we wanted to put the fire pit was on the side between the deck stairs and the retaining wall..

We had installed a decorative fence as a barrier for Will.  We didn’t want him to tumble over the retaining wall…you know…cause we like his brains on the inside of his head.

Here’s the view….ekkk.

So Jeremy’s dad gave us this big metal ring…it’s serious business.

We could have done what Pastor Dad did and have the ring be the only thing containing our fire…but after much deliberation, we decided that it would just be way too dangerous for our growing family.  If the fire gets too close to the ring, it could heat it up and we just didn’t want to risk Will or Weston (or my future baby girl….get on that Jeremy!) to burn their little fingers if they touched it.

So we decided to purchase a bunch of materials that would help protect the little ones and also make the pit look a little less…like…well…the pits.

We needed at least 68 of the Allen + Roth retaining wall blocks, 20 of the cap blocks, 8 bags of drainage gravel, 6 bags of decorative rock, two tubes of construction outdoor adhesive and a whole lotta patience.

According to our plan, we were gonna put the pit about 18-20 feet from the house but before we committed to the exact location, we put some retaining blocks down around the ring and lived with it for about two weeks.  We wanted to be sure that it was in the right spot.  We also took that time to decide how tall we wanted it.  I wanted it as tall as possible…so that the kids wouldn’t fall in accidentally.  Jeremy thought that if it was too tall, it looked like a well.

After the trial time period was over, we decided that yes…it would be fine in that spot…and Jeremy would get his lower pit (after he proved to me that my leggy toddler was not gonna be able to lean over and fall in easily).  And yes, that meant we asked Will to lean over the wall several hundred times and tried to push him in.  It was in the name of safety :)

So after we moved the blocks, we started digging.  This is about when we had our first fatality.  The pick axe broke.

Fire pit dug…

We found a little granite pocket.  That’s really common around here…large rocks.  Remember at our first house?  That entire retaining wall in the front yard was completely made of rocks we found in that yard.  Crazypants.

A few slings of a sledgehammer usually breaks up the rock enough to pull out large chunks and chip away enough for a level surface.

Even though I was past due with Weston, I also got in on the action.  I love hard work like this when I’m due…it’s a confidence booster…like my body may not be able to go into labor but it is able to lift large amounts of Georgia clay.  Plus, it gives me a chance to sing “everyday I’m shovelin'”….which let’s admit, is easily adaptable when you do give birth to “everyday I’m shoven him”…

Second fatality of this project…the wheel on the trailer….boom.

After a lot of raking, shoveling, more raking and more shoveling, we did the stomp.

We didn’t have a tamper tool…so we improvised by using a board and a sledgehammer.  You wanna make sure the ground is even and compact so that it doesn’t collapse under your blocks.

Then came time for drainage rocks…

This is really important not just for water…but to ensure that any hot coals don’t catch onto something beneath the fire ring and spread in dry grass.

Jer did a big ring around the edges and then filled in the middle with more fill dirt.

More stomp…

Then came time for the exact location of the blocks.  Jer rolled the ring back into the center just to be sure that it would be centered.

Since the blocks overlap a little on the back, it’s really important to start your first row back farther than you want your overall circle.

Once all the blocks are in, AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART, it’s vital that you check the levelness of the entire circle.  It needs to be level from block to block but also from side to opposite side….all the way around.  For our particular spot, that means that one side of the first circle of blocks would be almost completely buried and the other side be three inches up.

A little more fill dirt, a little more rocks, a little more exhausted looks from Jer…

And we were ALMOST done with the first level.  We finally got to the point where we could use the decorative river pebbles.  Jeremy picked these out because he liked the look better than gravel.  I had no preference…I think both could be cool.

Then he just filled in the center with the stones…

fire ring back in…

and more testing to make sure that the top of the stacked retaining walls blocks would be higher than the ring…

Finally it was time to break out the glue.  We went with Loctite Landscape construction adhesive…which is made specifically for blocks (like ours) for outside (like ours).

You want to be generous with the glue but make a zig zag.  Chevron was hot with construction guys way before bloggers got a hold of it :)

And then when placing your next row, it’s really important to not match the seams.

When you get to the end of the second row, the chances are that the last block will need to be cut to fit.  We’ll get to that in a minute…

Build up little by little.  I would do about four blocks at a time so that your glue doesn’t dry…

And you can see how close our seams got…just as long as they are staggered slightly, it will look fine.

For the final row, we put on a cap piece.  The blocks were almost six inches tall whereas these were almost two.

Now here’s how we cut the blocks.  We used our regular ole circular saw but Jeremy equipped it with a diamond blade.  Yes…a girl’s best friend :)

We set up the first cap block and then equally spaced the other cap blocks around the circle…allowing for spaces between for our cut pieces.  Those cut pieces were laid on top of the cap blocks and we used a pencil to mark the cut lines.

Oh and did I mention, Weston was born.  Yay!

The cut pieces were pushed into place and everything fit nice and tight before we did any necessary trimming.  The trimming was just to clean things up.

It was really easy to do with a straight edge and a pencil.  Again, you want to go really slow and make sure things are pushed all the way together to get the best line.

After you cut your little trim off,  then you just glue everything down and put some scraps on top to weigh it down.

From the sides, it looks pretty fine…like a glass of Jeremy :)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

bow-chica-bow-er :)

And there she blows (after my lumberjack cut some wood)….

We’ve given her a spin on numerous occasions already and I have to admit…she’s hot :)

And I also had to admit this but Jeremy was right…one more level of blocks and Will would not be able to roast marshmallows.  In the future, we might actually build a top to go right over the pit area so that it can be used like a table for times we want to sit around and NOT roast weenies.

Now that this post is over, I’m gonna need a nap.

Want to see more outdoor projects! Check out the giant outdoor table we built and the firewood rack that holds everything we need for a camp fire!

****UPDATE: Lots of folks were interested in the cost of the materials.  The cost of the blocks, caps, glue, gravel and stone came to about $260



  1. Erica says

    That’s really nice. Where did you get your metal fire ring from? It’s a nice big size. We would love to do this but don’t know where to buy that?

  2. Janet says

    Great tutorial. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post it. I also live in Ga. (Lawrenceville) and have trouble with digging any hole more than a few inches deep. So much granite and clay!
    I’m fortunate that I have several acres and can just start a big ole brush fire when I want, but I would like have a similar pit near the house for winter evenings.
    I’m laughing at the comments by people who are unable to have them where they live.
    A new subdivision went up a few years ago that adjoins my property and a couple from ‘up north’ complained to the fire dept. about one of my fires. They told the fire dept. that they didn’t think it was good for the environment and should be illegal. The dept. came out and subsequently told me (and them) that as long as I’m 100 feet from their property line that it’s perfectly legal (which I already already knew). So I measured exactly 100 feet from the line and built my next fire even closer to them (only did it once). Mean…I know, but they needed a better reason than that to get my sympathy. Health issues, OK…whining, not OK.

  3. Rebecca Ligon says

    I loved watching all the pics and all the hard work ya’ll did to put this together…im loving it and wanting to make one.

  4. Lisa says

    Love all the details and pics! How hard is it to clean out?? Do you end up shoveling all the stones out from the bottom?? And is it hard to get a shovel in there?



    • says

      We just burn till it’s done and then leave the coals in it. We haven’t had to shovel anything out and since there is no trees around (fire hazard!), there aren’t any leaves or debris that get in there.
      xo – kb

  5. Tammy says

    What was the ring from or off??
    I want to update our fire pit, yours looks wonderful! Just need the ring…

  6. Clifford Quintero says

    Thank you very much for the detailed pictures guys. Great job! I followed along and mine came out great. Thanks again!

  7. Andy says

    Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed how you explained the process with bits of personal experiences of your family life. You really did a great job by including plenty of photos. Normally;, I dont read everything but you definitely captured my attention. And you have a great looking family. I hope to be able to follow more of your projects as you have a way of making the project fun instead if daunting.

  8. Cheryl Barrios says

    I found this on Pinterest. Thank you for the share. I’m building a house and want a fire pit. This is great!

  9. Helen says

    thanks for your efforts in posting such s brilliantly detailed account of your diy fire pit. Off to try one for ourselves xxxx many many thx again!

  10. moira says

    very funny and informative we are going to do this but instead of a metal ring we are going to use a truck rim

  11. Robyn says

    wanted to say that this was a great tutorial but that I’ve been told you shouldn’t use river rock in fire pits because it can explode. Just wanted to let you know.

    • says

      That’s what others have said but we have had no problems. I heard someone explain why one time but I don’t remember the reason now.
      xo – kb

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