DIY: How to build a backyard fire pit
WHO says you have to retreat indoors during winter? A fire pit makes a great centrepiece in a backyard any time of year. You could call in the professionals or have a go yourself. I built this fire pit for a mate. Here's how:
STEP ONE: FIND AN AREA
This may come easy to many but look outside the box and choose an area you can build on. You don't want your new fire pit cramped in a corner where no one wants to be. Make it the feature of your backyard and a place where everyone can congregate as the night goes on.
STEP TWO: DIG THE PIT
Start by digging a hole about 600mm deep and one metre in diameter. It sounds deep but we are going to fill the bottom with 200mm of drainage rock available at your local garden centre. This will ensure a good amount of drainage so you can even have your fire pit going in the rain.
STEP THREE: CHOOSING ROCK
My mate and I decided on rough sandstone blocks for the surround but you can use just about anything as long as it hasn't come out of a riverbed. (River rocks contain moisture and, when heated, they explode or crack and are going to ruin your fire pit). Position rock around the perimeter of the fit pit. We'll mortar these in a little later.
STEP FOUR: FIRE BRICK BASE
Welcome to the wonderful world of bricks. I thought every brick was the same but they are all different. The ones we want to use are good quality fire bricks or even a cold-pressed smooth brick. This will be the base where you put the fire. Lay the bricks flat on top of the level drainage gravel. Place remaining bricks vertically around the pit on a slight diagonal (see photo). Fill in between the bricks by just pouring sand on and smooth off.
STEP FIVE: THE ULTIMATE MORTAR
This step is messy but, if all the family has a go, it makes it fun. Hire a small cement mixer. I even saw one for sale at the hardware the other day for $120. You're going to need to mix the following ratio: Four parts sand + one part cement + one part fire clay + one part lime. It sounds hard but realistically it's four shovels of sand, one shovel cement, one shovel fire clay and one shovel lime and does not need to be exact. Mix with water. If you use a standard cheap bucket, put two buckets of water into the mixer first, then you can gauge how much you need as the mix progresses. Don't pour in litres of water, use the bucket. You want a watery tooth paste consistency. For an added feature, use white cement to change the colour of the mortar.
STEP SIX: BRICK IT UP
Remove rocks from the surround, remembering the order you'd like them to sit. Start with a 40mm screed of your mortar mix at the base of your surround one and half sizes wider than your border. Then position each stone around the fire pit. Fill the gaps between bricks and stones with mortar.
If you're after a "well" fire pit (inset image above), spread out your blocks so you can choose the best fitting piece you need. We've all played Tetris and this is where those skills come in handy. For every layer, put about 30mm of mortar between and keep going as high as you need.
Ayden and Jess Hogan were on The Block Triple Threat and won Reno Rumble in 2015. Follow them as they build their dream home on www.facebook.com/AydenAndJess