Jenn Nawada takes us to Georgia to help a homeowner add a fire pit to their small backyard. With the help of mason Mark McCullough, the two find the perfect place for the pit and get to building.
Small backyards can be difficult to landscape. Every aspect of the design has to be intentional and serve a purpose, and there isn’t much room for careless feature placement. In this Georgia backyard, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada and mason Mark McCullough help a homeowner find the ideal spot for the first phase of her backyard project: a stone fire pit.
Before You Start Building in Your Yard
The first step to building a fire pit, or anything in a small backyard, is to devise a plan. Use a piece of graph paper to sketch the backyard, keeping it as close to scale as possible. Look upward and mark any power lines or low-hanging limbs on the drawing. Then use furniture to help plan where the fire pit might go while also allowing for room to walk safely around the yard.
This will help with locating the fire pit in a safe location that also makes sense for the home.
Prepare the Location
Once you’ve found the ideal location for the fire pit, it’s time to prepare the yard. This step is more important than the actual pit’s construction, so be sure to take your time and get it right. Remember to call a local utility marking company to check the area before digging.
- Drive a stake or a piece of rebar into the ground at the center location for the fire pit. Tie a loop in the landscape or mason string and loop it over the stake. Mark the string at a distance slightly larger than half the overall diameter of the pit. So, for a 4-foot fire pit (including the blocks), mark the string at slightly more than two feet. Use this measurement and a can of marking paint to outline the pit’s location on the ground.
- Use a shovel to remove the grass and topsoil to a depth of around 7 or 8 inches. Once the dirt is removed, pack it down with a tamper to ensure the soil is stable and will bear the weight of the pit.
- Pour several bags of crushed stone on top of the tamped soil and spread it around. Continue to add more stone, tamping it down in layers, until the finished depth is about 5 inches thick.
- Wet the crushed stone with a hose and tamp it down to a solid base. Use a level in several spots to ensure that the base is flat and level, adding or subtracting stone where necessary.
Install the Fire Pit
With the yard prepared and the pit’s base perfectly level, it’s time to install the fire pit. This process can go quickly, but be sure to take the time to fine-tune any of the blocks to ensure that the pit is level and the stones align nicely for the best and longest-lasting result.
- Lay the fire pit ring in the middle of the base. Use a level to ensure it is sitting level and adjust as needed.
- Place the first layer (or course) of blocks around the ring. Be sure to push these blocks snugly to one another and check each block with a level. Adjust as needed. You can add leveling sand under low spots or tamp high spots down with a rubber mallet.
- Once the first course of blocks is in place, test fit the second course, making sure to stagger the joints and leveling each block as necessary. Once the second row looks level, carefully remove the blocks, squeeze two beads of construction adhesive on top of the first course, and reseat the second course, checking for level as you go.
- Repeat this process for the third course, using construction adhesive between the second and third courses of bricks. Check for level between the blocks and adjust as necessary. Also, be sure that the blocks are snug to one another so the fire pit looks uniform rather than individual blocks bowing outward.
- Place the fire pit capstones on top of the third course temporarily and adjust them as necessary. Once level, remove the capstones, squeeze construction adhesive on top of the blocks, and replace the capstones, pushing them snug to one another while also ensuring that they’re level and even.
- Top the fire pit with the spark arrestor to ensure that the home, trees, and yard are safe from floating debris. Place several bags of sand into the fire pit to prevent weeds and to also act as a safe base for the burning logs.
Jenn and Mark help a homeowner create a landscape plan and install a fire pit. Special assistance was provided by Jordan’s Legacy Landscaping.
After the homeowner shares her ultimate goals for her backyard, Jenn discusses an overall plan that can be executed when time and budget allow. Mark advises to be sure not to position fire pits in a hazard-prone areas. When choosing a location you should avoid wooden sheds, bushes, and low hanging trees. Once a good location has been selected, contact the local utilities companies to be sure it’s safe to dig.