By Joanne M. Anderson
Backyard firepits are hot ~ literally and figuratively. They can toast marshmallows, cook a hotdog and melt the soles of your shoes. Dancing flames create a relaxing atmosphere for people to enjoy the warmth of relationships as well as the heat from a ring of fire in your own backyard.
Like lots of home improvement projects, this one can be purchased, subcontracted or DIY. If price is no object and time is scarce, there are options in every size, style, price and fuel source at myriad online stores. The low end of the price spectrum includes simple, enclosed firepits and bowls which reduce the chances of errant embers. Tiki torches and tiki balls with a stained glass look feature oil inside for the flame. One consideration in favor of an oil-based or contained firepit, bowl or torch is the elimination of smoke, coals and embers, and they work well in small, outdoor spaces.
But if nothing less than the natural best is your objective, and you have the energy and enthusiasm to do-it-yourself, well, go for it. In two or three weekends of planning, picking up materials, digging, concreting and setting stone, you can be the proud owner of a handmade firepit that lasts a long time.
First, find the perfect location away from buildings, trees overhead and low hanging branches and close enough to comfortably transport beverages and food. Food often translates as marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey® chocolate bars. You know how they stack up, but it’s too early for that.
From the center of the proposed pit, pound in a piece of rebar. Tie a string at ground level and walk around at least 3 feet away to make a 6-foot diameter circle, spray painting as you go to mark the exterior wall of the firepit. Spray paint another small circle one foot from the rebar post.
Dig down about a foot for the pit. Mix cement in a wheelbarrow according to directions on the package, and fill the hole and level it. Take out the center piece of rebar and bury 3 or 4 pieces of rebar in the cement while it’s soft. Cement binds to rebar to create a unified strength and prevent cracking.
Install any decorative stone, blocks or bricks for the exterior perimeter using mortar to hold everything together. Line the inside of the firepit hole with firebrick which is rated for the heat of fire and can be found at home improvement and fireplace stores. Spray paint the top with heat-resistant black paint so soot, ashes and other debris blends, and it doesn’t look like a stain. If you want a gas line over burning wood, call a professional for advice and installation.
Once your firepit is ready, you can gather together marshmallows and accompaniments. And the soles of your shoes? Well, you know what they say about experience: She’s a tough teacher because she’s gives the test first and the lesson afterward. Consider yourself warned: Watch your feet along with those marshmallows.