Thursday, 22 July 2021

Fire Pit/BBQ Patio Area - Part 2 - The Reality

The plan for the firepit was scuppered by unavailability of materials due to Covid, so we had to rewind and reformulate the plan.

For the most part, the patio plan came together well, but we had use more slabs from the shed side for the base layer than we thought, because the greenhouse itself was cemented into the ground by metal supports, and not sat on a slab base as initially thought.

This in turn meant we were two slabs shy of what we needed, but we were able to source some that were close enough in appearance.


When it came to placing the concrete blocks, we realised we could use fewer than estimated by spacing them out differently, which gave us a spare at the end. It also allowed for us to dispose of hard rubble by using as filler between the blocks, and also allowed us to create airflow from the back of the patio to the firepit, which should help aid combustion.


When researching the best materials to use in a fire pit, a few things became obvious.

  • Don't use river rocks. They will likely contain moisture, which when heated, will cause steam, resulting in the rocks exploding. 

  • Regardless of whichever other material you consider, you will find some articles and advice saying it's a good material to use, and an equal number saying it's not.
  • One constant in advice advocating against any material is how it will degrade over time with the heat from the fire.

Therefore it seemed to me that the best course of action would be to use a material that is hard-wearing, but also fairly cheap and readily available, so that if the internet pessimists turn out to be right, it can easily be replaced.

For that reason I chose regular house brick as the lining wall. This wall should take the brunt of the heat, meaning I could use a more decorative stone for the outside.

A mix of brick sizes was used for the outer wall, both for aesthetic effect and it also helped fit the available space better.

The wall was topped off with white coping slabs with a mitre. The inner wall sticks out slightly from the coping, giving it a 'lip'. This is by design and will feed into a later project.

The finished patio and firepit. Still a few finishing touches to do, but perfectly usable as it is.

It wouldn't be a post about a firepit unless there was picture of some flames, would it?

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Fire Pit/BBQ Patio Area - Part 1 - The Plan

I'm fortunate to have a great view over some fields at the bottom of my garden, and I plan to create a patio/barbecue/fire pit area so that I can make the most of it.

At risk of this becoming just another home improvement blog, I have set myself an additional challenge to differentiate it from all the other "I built a firepit in my backyard" projects all over the internet.

The challenge I have set myself with this project is to aim for 'zero-ish waste'. That is, there's inevitably going to be some waste, but to minimise it to the extent that there's no skip or trip to the dump required - to keep the waste minimal enough that it will go in the regular household bin collections. That means lots of re-purposing and re-using of what's already there - stuff that was left behind by the previous owners.

The fence that is currently at the bottom of the garden is in good condition, so I don't intend to remove or replace that, however at sitting-level, it's just high enough that it blocks the view. So the plan is to create a raised patio, so that eye-level when sat down is not obstructed.

Being a large household project, it was more important than ever for me to be able to communicate the project idea and plan to my partner, so I spent some time planning it out in OpenSCAD, to produce this 1 min animation.

The groundwork

The area that the patio will occupy originally contains a greenhouse, and some slabs that have been laid around it.

This will create a solid base without the need to dig foundations.

Fortunately, the slabs are all an even 60x60cm (or 2x2ft), which makes a convenient grid from which to base the design and measurements.

The plan is to leave the right-most column empty, where a planter will be put. The slab in the left-most, plus two slabs from the other side of the garden where the shed is, will be used to square-off the corner, effectively making a 6x4 square patio (12x8ft)

With this solid base created, concrete blocks will be placed to raise the new patio. Gaps will be left between the blocks to minimise the number that we need, with the space filled with any rubble left over from the build.

Slabs taken again from the other side of the garden (they are currently a base for the shed), will be moved over and concreted on top of the concrete blocks to create the raised patio.


Finally, the firepit rings are a purchased kit (sold as quarter circles). We will adapt them slightly so so that the circular wall sits at both ground level and on the patio. 


Unfortunately there was an unforeseen obstacle in the the fire-pit kit we were going to use was on a lengthy back-order, and we'd be unlikely to get one this year.

But still, the plan makes a good jumping-off point for a new plan.

To be continued...