By rediscovering the everyday tasks that were the hallmarks of American life centuries ago, we are able to take more control over the resources we need. Chris Peterson and Philip Schmidt provide 30 projects that can help you get started with these everyday tasks and begin to lead a more self-reliant lifestyle in Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency. This excerpt, which provides instructions for building a backyard firepit, is from Section 2, “Homestead Amenities.”
A firepit is a backyard focal point and gathering spot. The one featured here is constructed around a metal liner, which will keep the firepit walls from overheating and cracking if cooled suddenly by rain or a bucket of water.
The liner here is a section of 36-inch-diameter corrugated culvert pipe. Check local codes for stipulations on pit area size. Many codes require a 20-foot-diameter pit area. Ashlar wall stones add character to the firepit walls, but you can use any type of stone, including cast concrete retaining wall blocks. You’ll want to prep the base for the seating area as you dig the firepit to be sure both rest on the same level plane.
Tools and Materials
- Landscape paint
- String and stakes
- Metal pipe
- Landscape edging
- Garden rake
- Plate vibrator
- Metal firepit liner
- Compactable gravel
- Top-dressing rock (trap rock)
- Wall stones
- Eye protection and work gloves
- Outline the location for your firepit and the firepit safety area by drawing concentric circles with landscape paint using a string and pole for guidance.
- Remove a 4-inch-deep layer of sod and dirt in the firepit and safety areas (the depth of the excavation depends on what materials you’re installing in the safety zone.)
- Dig a 4-inch-deep trench for the perimeter stones that will ring the pit liner.
- Fill the trench for the perimeter stones with compactable gravel and tamp thoroughly. Then scatter gravel to within 26 inches of the paver edging top throughout the project area. It is not necessary to tamp this layer at this time.
- Place your metal fire ring so it is level on the gravel layer and centered around the center pole.
- Arrange the first course of wall blocks around the fire ring. Keep gaps even and check with a level, adding or removing gravel as needed.
- Install the second course of retaining wall block, taking care to evenly stagger the vertical joints on the first and second courses. Add the remaining courses.
- Compact the compactable gravel in the seating/safety area using a rented plate vibrator.
- Place and compact a layer of top-dressing rock in the seating/safety area to complete the firepit.
More Practical Projects for Your Homestead
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency, by Chris Peterson and Philip Schmidt, and published by Cool Springs Press, 2014.