Every time the weather gets like this, my husband and I get crazy. As in, overly ambitious and overzealous, when really we should just be relaxing and enjoying the day. Example:
“It’s so nice out today!”
“Yeah! We should totally relax and lay low.”
“Definitely! Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome to build a patio for our firepit?”
Apparently we hate ourselves. What comes next is a few trips to Lowe’s and some internet research before we eventually break ground. Shortly thereafter, the conversation usually goes something like this:
“Remember when you said it was a great idea to build a patio? What the f#*% were you thinking?”
“I remember this being your idea. Nice work.”
“Nope, it was yours. And thanks for dropping the power drill near my foot.”
“This sucks. I’m hot and my back hurts.”
“I could have just lost a toe you jerk!!!”
This second part of the conversation usually takes place when we are knee deep in pavers and stones with our hair full of dust and dirt. And we do it every. Single. Time.
Regardless, we always wind up so pumped when we finish a project. No matter how effed up it may come out, we are proud of ourselves because we built something. So what if the patio’s crooked? Our friends understand. And it always makes for a great story afterward.
Case in point: Our idea to build a patio under our fire pit. Here, the before shot:
And finally, the after shot!
Yes, it’s dark out in the pic. That’s because we pushed ourselves to get this patio done in one day. (Didn’t you hear me earlier say that we hate ourselves?)
Here it is below, in the daylight, with our walkway we built recently leading up to it (DIY on that coming soon):
I will now lay out the step-by step. Just know that these are OUR step-by-step instructions, and by no means that of a professional. What’s the difference here, you ask? Professionals go through the meticulous process of leveling their stones one by one until they are straight. Amateurs attempt to level the first two, throw up their hands and say, “Oh, f#$* it,” and then crack a beer. Glad we got that out of the way. On that note, here we go.
Step 1: Choose your stones. We went to Lowe’s and found some nice stones that match a patio we re-did last year. They are called “Autumn Blend,” and look like this:
If you like these, you can find them online here. They are 15 3/4 inches by 15 3/4 inches. Decide how much ground you want your patio to cover, then do the math to see how many you will need.
(click the arrow to keep reading)
Us, posing with the rocks. This was when we were still ambitious and feeling good. Man, we were so stupid.
Step 2: Mark your area. Hopefully you have a nice, flat piece of land where your future patio will sit. We were lucky in that we dug out an area last year that we filled with rocks. All we did was move the rocks around and add some sand where needed to get it as level as possible. Since the previous area was round, and we wanted a rectangular-shaped patio, we knew we’d have to square-off the corners. We by no means used any fancy tools to do this – we simply went to Lowe’s and purchased timbers that we could use to frame out the area.
Step 3: Prepare your timbers. In order to get the timbers ready they had to first have holes drilled in them so we could later secure them into place with rebar.
Step 4: Secure your timbers. Once the holes were drilled, and the timbers were laid in the right spot, we pounded the rebar into the pre-drilled holes with a sledge hammer to secure them into the ground.
Step 5: Stain your timbers. Next, it was time to stain the timbers. We used a basic stain purchased from Lowe’s and painted it on with a sponge brush. See the type we used below:
Step 6: Lay your stones. Once the timbers were stained and secured we began laying the stones. We layered the first two, which we expected to be a cakewalk. We were sadly mistaken. One hour, six gray hairs, and multiple f-bombs later, we ditched the level, cracked a beer, and started eyeballing it. Who the hell really needs to sit perfectly straight while roasting smores, anyway?
To get them as level as possible, we poured some paver sand as we went. This stuff is great to work with and gives you room to position your stones perfectly.
Tip: Check the sale section at Lowe’s. We scored several marked-down bags of the paver sand, marked down only because the bags had come open on the shelves. Those price tags read *$1.74*!! Any bit of money you can save helps!
Step 7: Secure your stones. Once your stones are down and relatively leveled, it’s time to pour paver set (a hardening sand, different from paver sand above) and sweep it into the cracks. Try as best you can to sweep the stones clean, but make sure those cracks are filled.
Step 8: Spray your stones. Next, you are going to spray it with water to secure everything together. You’ll need to keep off of it for 15 minutes.
Step 9: Set your pit back up. Once your patio is set and dried, you can re-build your firepit right on top of it. (If you want to see our DIY on building our firepit, you can see it here.)
It’s complete! Now, to wait for the right special on the patio furniture. In the meantime, we’ve been dragging the deck chairs up there to relax by the fire.
Just a side note about staying motivated to get this done: There was one point during the day where I literally did not think I could lift one more stone, where my back was killing me, and when I was trying to convince Greg that we should just finish the next day. And then one of the neighborhood cats wandered into our yard. But this is not just any cat – this guy only has 3 legs. And don’t feel bad for him, because he seriously runs the neighborhood. He is one badass kitty. And right at that moment when I was getting ready to throw in the towel, I noticed that the cat had spotted something in the bushes. He was crouched down low. Then suddenly he ran full speed, and pounced on a mouse right in front of us. As I watched him run off with the mouse in his mouth, still squealing, I thought to myself, really? You’re tired? A three-legged cat just hunted and captured a mouse right in your yard, and I’m pretty sure he gave you the finger as he ran off. Get it together, girl.
[…] 14. DIY Fire Pit […]
[…] UPDATE: the patio that appears in this post under the fire pit was re-done last summer, when we realized we no longer liked the rocks and needed a bigger area. To see the pit on the updated patio, refer to this post. […]
hi, curious as to the cost of this whole project. Looking to do this exactly as you did, although with less cursing and more days to finish. 🙂
Nice, Al! The stones for the patio are now on sale at Lowe’s for $3.59 each. Here is the breakdown:
63 patio stones (we did a 9/7 patio): $226.17
Timbers@ approx $20/10 ft: $40 (we only did 2 edges, not 4)
gravel and sand – don’t remember the cost but a few dollars a bag – depends on the area, how much you need to fill in/dig down
1 tub paver sand: $40
64 stones @4.92/each: $314 (we went 4 rows high – some people only go 3)
the firpit basin: $89 at Lowe’s
Total cost was around $670, but I’ll say $750 including the sand, paver sand, and gravel.
Hope this helps – good luck and hopefully you can avoid the cursing! 😉
Great Article. How long did it take you to make the firepit? This is tempting me to go and make my own DIY firepit!
Thanks! The firepit only took one afternoon – getting the pavers delivered was the most time-consuming part!