The fire pit project is complete! We lit the first of what we hope will be many outdoor fires last night in the new stone pit – and hope to try out the cooking grate and soup pot holder in the coming weeks as well!
There is something really special about the thought of being able to cook a dinner straight from the garden on an open fire!
As we said a few weeks back when we started the project – our goals were simple: Create it from stone to match the existing landscape rock, make it large enough to have 10 to 15 people sitting around it comfortably, and build in removable pipe sleeves to hold a soup kettle or cooking grate when we want to cook on it. And of course – do it as cheaply as we can!
The final material cost ended up at $117.04 – not bad when you consider that it is less than the cost of small stand-alone fire pits. Like with any project – most of the savings came in utilizing local materials and performing the labor with our own four hands. 🙂
We had a lot of emails a few weeks back inquiring how we went about building it – so we thought for today’s Sunday Update we would walk through the process.
The Building Process
We began with a simple round rebar stake driven in the middle of where the fire pit would be – using a piece of string tied to the stake and a can of spray paint, we sprayed a perfect circle to outline the fire pit. Next, we created a second line 8′ from the outer edge of the fire pit area for the sitting are space.
Then came inexpensive plain old physical labor! We first removed about 18″ of the soil inside the fire pit area, and then went back and dug a 12″ wide trench about 12″ deeper to allow for a footer to be poured.
While the footer cured (we let ours cure for about 7 days) – we went ahead and built the base for the attached walkway and sitting area around the fire pit. We sprayed the grass with vinegar to kill off the green – and then laid in about a 1 to 2″ layer of packing of limestone screenings to form a strong and hard base.
We have used this method and material to build all of our pathways and walkways to the garden, coop, barn and more around the farm. The limestone screenings form an almost concrete-like base, and can be applied right over the existing soil to level it out and create the walkway.
Once we layered in the limestone base, we followed with a top coat of a few inches of #8 pea gravel. This combination of limestone screening base / pea gravel top coat has worked really well for us It is durable and extremely inexpensive – as well as easy to keep completely free of weeds with a few sprayings of vinegar a year. In square footage cost – it runs right around .10 per square foot – and that’s hard to beat!
With that complete – we began the process of the wall build. Although it would have been far more simple at this point to purchase flat rock or block – we really wanted the rustic look – and on top of that – rustic is about $500 cheaper!
So off to the quarry we went for a load of rip-rap mixed size rock. It’s cheap to buy (about 14.00 per ton). We pre-sorted through the rock – setting out the largest stones for the base – and creating a pile of the flat rocks we found that could be used for the top cap. The in-between stones we laid out so that we could see them as we built the wall.
Setting one course at time – we would mix up a bag of mortar and stack the wall in place – using just enough mortar to fill in the gaps. The wall itself is extremely strong sitting on the concrete base – so there is little need for a lot of mortar. In reality, it just became one giant puzzle game – and with a little time and patience – we found the best pieces to make it all come together.
For finishing details – we buried a 2″ iron pipe 24″ in the ground inside the pit. This will be used to slide in our pole for mounting the cooking pot or grates. We will be able to swing the pot or grates inside – but the post can be removed when not it use so the firepit is open.
Here is the final material and cost break down:
Concrete for footer – 14 bags $3.78 ea. $52.92
1 load (1.2 ton) of limestone screenings for walkway bade $4.50
1 load (1.25 tons) of rip rap quarry stone mixed rock – $19.50
5 bags of mortar mix $4.18 ea. – $20.90
1 load of pea gravel (rounded #8) – $19.22
Total : $117.04
We are going to finish off the area with a set of four Adirondack chairs that we will build from reclaimed pallets, and maybe a bench or two. With that – its’ one more thing marked off of this years “to-do” list!
Jim and Mary Old World Garden Farms