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


    • Maria says

      Ha! I whish I had a husband that like to do this kinds of things. But he is all about books. You can have all

  1. Emiles says

    Looks great! I like the capstones, we didn’t do any of those. You may run into one fairly annoying problem…putting the gravel between the ring and the stones caused us serious headaches. The ring expands when hot, pushing out the gravel…into your pretty perfect stones …and then they’re what we now call “gap toothed.” This is what ours did and we’re so sad. We used construction adhesive as well. No more pretty perfect ring makes us sad in the face. If you can remove it, I would. If not, best of luck and I hope it doesn’t happen to you!

  2. says

    Growing up I have many fond memories of grilling and roasting marshmallows over a fire pit – I think they are the perfect addition! You guys will get tons of use out of this over the years, and it really looks great!

  3. says

    Looks great!! Will Jeremy come build one for us in Minnesota??

    Also, I noticed Will’s Strider bike – how does he/you like it? We gave our son one for his 2nd Birthday and he was riding a bike without training wheels at 3.5 years! Crazy!!

    • says

      Will’s obsessed with it. We gave it to him because Jer’s an avid mountain biker and loves the idea of taking his boys with him one day.
      xo – kb

  4. trisuv says

    So envious of you! So many good memories in the making of time spent around the fire! I love that the boys are right there with you both as you work….they will learn so much from you and be great workers themselves in no time! It looks great!

    • Karla says

      I also wanted to say, I can really appreciate the time and effort you put into all of your projects. You guys always have such attention to detail and don’t seem to rush things just to get a quick blog post in. There is always a real sense of quality. I commend you guys for that!

  5. says

    Ooh, I love sittin’ around a fire! Good job you guys! And you all pregnant… I wasn’t slingin’ a sledge hammer, but I did go sledding down a huge snow-covered hill when I was due with my little girl- and I went into labor the next day! Yee Haw!

  6. says

    Winter is just about to hit me here so I’m planning a fire pit…on a simpler scale than yours though. I live in fear/joy that my hoarder neighbours fence/overgrowth will light up. Oh to toast marshmellows over a dividing fence fire…!

  7. Sandra T says

    Gurrrrl! This is awesome! DH loves backyard fires (and contained fireworks), but we are now in a very wooded part of NJ that “frowns” upon outdoor fires. One hilarious example: One day a neighbor decided to build a small fire to get rid of some rotten wood, and firetrucks from THREE townships showed up, plus a bulldozer! No fires in this household! Plus, is there anything you did not do while Weston was biding his time? Chop wood for the fire? You rock!!

  8. Kelli says

    I’m kinda lovin’ how your man does yard work in a dress shirt… I bet you could just sit there all day and watch him create masterpieces. :) Now I gotta go put my man to work. I think a new fire pit will do just the trick.. :)

  9. Laura says

    Looks awesome! Can we get an “after” picture from far away? I’d love to see what the whole back of the house looks like with the fire pit in there. Great idea for that space! And I really like your idea of making a sketch template so you can see several placement ideas (from the planning post). I am totally going to do that to figure out some landscaping puzzles of my own.

  10. Dizzle says

    This may be a silly question, but I’ve always been told off from using river rocks around fires due because they might explode. Did you have to check if these guys were safe to use around a firepit or is that not a worry with decorative rocks as opposed to rocks you actually find in a river?

    • says

      Hmmm…never heard that. I’ve heard that certain lava rocks (?) can explode but never with a river rock. I’ll have to look into it.
      xo – kb

  11. says

    It’s beautiful! Jeremy sure looked exhausted, haha! I bet it will get a ton of use this summer. You guys definitely take the time to do things right. I love that you were shoveling at nine months pregnant. DIY posessed!

  12. Becca G. says

    We are planning to build a fire pit in our backyard but were planning to just leave dirt as opposed to putting gravel down. How is the gravel working when you try to remove the ashes?

  13. Abbey says

    About how would would you say it cost from beginning to end? My husband and I have been thinking about building something similar. I hope ours turns out as good as yours!

  14. says

    I would be so curious for a general break down of what the materials would cost. I want to send a link to my hubby to inspire him but I know his is going to ask me how much this will cost us. :)

  15. SunshineGal85 says

    You guys were smart to cut the angled pieces from square capstones. I know it’s a lot more work and Jeremy sure looked exhausted, but you saved so much money. They sell the interlocking capstones cut in the same way, but you’ll pay twice as much or more to have them pre-cut. Plus, when you do it yourself, you can custom cut them to fit any size fire pit. I love the idea of cutting a tabletop to cover it, but word to the wise: Make sure the top is the exact size as the fire pit top. Speaking from experience, if you leave overhang, someone sometime is going to assume that it’s attached, try to sit on it and send everything flying. Just curious, though, after lighting a few fires, can you even still see the decorative stone in the fire pit? Does it make it more difficult to clean out the ashes?

  16. says

    Holy Moly your house looks GIANT from the back!! Have I mentioned how super jealous I am of your huge house and huge yard!! swooon.

  17. says

    I love this so hard. Making notes and bookmarking this for when we move into our house… pretty sure it’s going to need a firepit! I’m super excited!!

  18. says

    It looks great! You make it look so easy! My back yard is in need of a serious update (take a look at the pics on my latest blog post) and I’m definitely considering doing a fire pit now! :-)

  19. DavesAnngel says

    In a few years when we’ve saved up the cashola to re-do our deck & add a pergola & fire-pit, can we hire the Bower Crew? ; ) This looks great! I’m totes jealous!!!

  20. Elizabeth says

    Where did you guys get the ring? We have looked but can’t seem to find a ring as tall as yours – or maybe I am overestimating the size.

    • AMBER SAPP says

      We have had a few fire pits over the years and we have used a section of metal culvert pipe, you can get any diameter from 2 feet to 12 feet. We have also used the rim from a tractor and semi trailer. With the rims you may have to cut out the center with a set of torches. And make sure you also take the tire off of the rim before burning it too. I know that seems like a no brainer, but we know someone…

  21. says

    oh em gee….i swear, you crack me up! i’ve been reading along for a while, but had to come out to comment because of this…


    hahahaaaa! love that!

    sam :-)

  22. Jaime says

    Looks great! We’re going to make ours this summer, is there a reason you need the metal ring?
    Also, what kind of wrap is that, I love the stripes!

    • says

      I definitely think you could do this project without it…but your stones would get ashy and black from the fire if it was large. We had it already so it was used. And my wrap is Solly baby…it’s so comfy!
      xo – kb

  23. Janae Nielson says

    Can you tell me the size of the ring? We are in the process of building one and cant find dimensions. Thanks

  24. April says

    Fire pit looks great!! And your house and yard look so good. Congrats on your new addition what a beautiful looking family!!!! Me and fiancé plan to do one this summer :-)

  25. Larry Dykstra says

    Fire rings (galvanized, corrugated steel, various diameters and heights) have been available at Tractor Supply Centers here in western Michigan.

    Today, we picked our spot (we’ve had our ring for six months already), removed the sod and topsoil from an area 6″ bigger than our 30″ ring, looking forward to initiating our new pit tonight. At 12″, we hit hardpan, sparing us from tamping our base, etc., so we were ready to add some fill-sand, set the ring, and then build our fire. About that time, my wife found your blog, which put everything on hold ’til we check out the use of blocks, river rock, drainage and heat transfer issues. So back to planning . . . .

    • says

      Well, I hope it works out. I know that we have had our fire pit for some time now and it is still one of our favorite projects to date and hasn’t caused us any problem yet.
      xo – kb

  26. Meredith says

    That was one of the best blog posts I’ve read in ages. It was written with humor, sufficient steps, great photos, and tells one everything she needs to know. That was great and thank you for taking time to compose it! Those photos of the pit and your family are terrific.

  27. Quinn says

    does the cost of your materials include the metal ring? Where can I get a metal ring like that? Lowe’s? Thanks for posting this. I’m using it as my template for my backyard fall project. Really glad to have found this on Pinterest and followed the link here.

  28. Cedric says

    The best instructions EVER of how to build a fire pit. Great step by step details. I never comment on the day projects, but after seeing yours I have to credit where credit is due. Great DIY! I hope you are still enjoying the fire pit. Round of applause!

  29. says

    Pretty fire pit!

    While researching fire pits I’ve read some advice against/stories about decorative rock usage and rocks exploding from heat. Have you had trouble with this? I hope this does not happen…

    • says

      We haven’t. We have had about three dozen fires and not a single issue with that but I know that it has to do with the type of rock.
      xo – kb

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