This Old House: Planning and Ideas

Southern Living: Home and Garden

Monday, July 20, 2009

How to Build Your Own Brick Fire Pit

It's exciting to cook outdoors now and then. Also, not only is it a pleasant change of pace to standard kitchen food preparation, there is something about cooking outdoors whjich makes the food taste even better.

Sure there is the easy way to do this with a simple store bought BBQ or hibachi, but to truly get a unique experience, a great taste and make the best culinary experience possible you should really consider trying to build a brick fire pit. This really is the best option for outdoor cooking.

And it's easy to build our own brick fire pit. So set an apt day to do some simple masonry work with the family and follow these seven easy steps.

1. First, we choose a site in our backyard for our brick fire pit. It should be a safe distance from the walls of the house, from the roof, from windows, and from trees. The site should be easy to drain.

2. Dig the pad. It should be 2 to 4 inches deep. As to its size, we decide according to our preferred dimension. Level the pad base of our brick fire pit.

3. We make the forms using 2 by 4 feet woods and screw them together. Screwing makes them easy to disassemble. Then we prepare quick-set cement according to specified mix proportions as indicated on the bag and pour into the pad foundation of our brick fire pit. Then set steel bars in a latus pattern into the concrete before it sets, put a key mark in the concrete and ready the brick fire pit wall plan.

4. Prepare the cement mortar. The usual proportion is 3:1, or 3 parts of sand to 1 part of cement. A stronger ratio is 2:1. The idea is to have a consistency easy to work with-like soft ice cream. Take care not to have it too watery. Mortar for our brick fire pit should be mixed well to attain a balance of components.

5. Build the brick fire pit wall. To lay the bricks, put enough mortar on our key mark including the underside and ends of the bricks. The bricks should steadily rest on the mortar. Adjust until they are standing upright and sturdily on the mortar. Do this level by level with the aid of a string for alignment.

6. The string should be perfectly horizontal and the top edge of the bricks parallel to it. We may also use a Leveler for this purpose. A brick should be on top another in an overlapping (not directly over) manner. Overlap should be half the brick size. This strengthens our brick fire pit.

7. For metal grills, insert them within the brick fire pit walls at a desired height. The top of the wall may be capped with special bricks or stones.

So there we have it. A day after the brick fire pit is constructed it's ready for use. We can start enjoying outdoor grills with the family and friends.

John Grant is a the author for a how to site where he is writing articles about how to build a brick fire pit.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Outdoor Fireplace Plans Made Simple

The outdoor fireplace trend is really catching on these days with everyone getting one for the backyard or lawn or some other outdoor place. And it makes a lot of sense too, because unless it is storming, raining or snowing outside, why should we just sit inside our homes instead of enjoying some time outside in the fresh air. Outdoor fireplaces give you that freedom to gather outdoors with your friends and family and make it a fun day or night out.

Building or purchasing an outdoor fireplace is not very complicated, all you need is a bit of planning and some basic understanding of fireplaces are meant to work. There are popular designs all around for you to choose from and depending on what you decide to get, it can serve you for a lifetime and more.

When you are building fireplaces, you will need to follow the local established rules. These are mainly rules regarding smoke dissemination and the usage of the right kind of firebricks. You can go for the ever-popular Mexican styled chimney fireplaces called Chimineas. These are marked by their typical shape - the ire chamber at the bottom and a chimney attached at the top of the chamber. They come in all different shapes and materials.

To make something like this out of firebricks, you have to first make a bowl like burning chamber that will let up at the top. At the top you can build a stack and make it the chimney. This sort of a design really helps with the airflow in the chamber and helps the fuel, which is usually wood, burn faster. With the chimney at the top, you do not have to worry about redirecting the smoke or any such hassles when you are just starting the fire.

Chimineas are also available ready-to-use at a lot of places. They are made out of terracotta, cast-iron, cast-aluminum and even copper. Although copper is a much better conductor heat, cast-iron Chimineas can actually last you a very long time, an entire lifetime in fact. This actually goes for all types of heavy outdoor fireplaces that are made out of cast-iron.

Other than the built and readymade Chiminea styled fireplaces, there are also other options available. These are mainly the fire-pit and fire-bowl styled fireplaces. Whilst the last two types were not portable, these usually very portable. Some of them that are meant to stay off the ground and stand on legs have a wheelbarrow type design to move them around.

Others are usually meant to be kept directly on the ground and can be easily moves around. Both these types have a bowl inside which the fire can be lit and they have lids that can cover the fire so that so embers or sparks fly out. The downside is that they are not too efficient in burning the fuel and dissipating the smoke. The upside is that they look pretty good, some of them can be used for cooking on open fire and they are also very cheap to get.

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For Outdoor Fireplace Plans, visit Fireplaces A to Z.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Building a Concrete Patio in Your Backyard

If you want to enjoy the outdoor spaces of your house, then building a concrete patio would serve the purpose very well. If care is taken to construct the patio without any flaws, then such a place can be used to great advantage and help the family in having a great time.

In today's world where there is a very high demand for the casual style of living, a backyard patio is an extremely valuable feature of the house. You can build your patio in such a manner that it blends with the ambience of your house and stands out as a place to relax, unwind and de-stress yourselves. If you are the partying kind, then this will be the perfect place for you to entertain your friends and family. Having intimate barbecues is also possible in the backyard patio and if you adorn it with comfortable chairs and tables, it will be the place where the majority of the family is heading towards most of the time.

The material for a modern patio that will give you least trouble along with presenting an aesthetic appearance is decorative concrete. This looks very similar to actual stone and the designs that are available in this material can even better the look provided by natural stone, flagstone, bricks, slate etc. There used to be a time when people preferred stone patios but today the scenario has changed due to factors like cost and minimal usage of stone which makes the use of decorative concrete much more feasible and beautiful. The greatest advantage with decorative concrete is that it will give a very natural look to the patio and you will feel entirely at home because of this material.

Another reason for the popularity of concrete patio is that installation is relatively simple as concrete can be easily molded into the shape that you desire. In addition, the gigantic proportions of concrete works as well as single stone blocks that are laid for constructing the patio. With concrete, you also have the option of a huge variety of shades and the flexibility of having stunning textures and surface designs that make the whole patio very artistic.

All you need to remember is that the thickness of your concrete slab should not be less than 4 inches. Before you plan to build the patio, the backyard has to be readied so that pouring the concrete onto the ground will not present any problems. Since concrete needs a base, the ground should be dug up to 6 inches and filled with crushed stone or gravel. After this, further strength has to be imparted to the base with the help of iron that is placed in the form of rocks below the gravel. Once the concrete is poured, it will take four or five days for it to be completely set and fulfill its function as a patio.

Adam Peters is the author of more resources published online. For additional information on wood deck rails have a look at his web
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tips on Choosing the Best Deck Materials

Decks are significant components of outdoor living. An outdoor is an ideal place to entertain visitors for meals, a few drinks or outdoor parties. Outdoor also provide a quiet environment to have a conversation, to study or to sit and relax. A deck is a great spot to imbibe hot drinks on cool nights or cold drinks when the weather is very hot.

An outdoor has many uses. Its varies in different designs and styles. When you are planning to build your own deck, you have to decide on different variables. The are many types of decks such as pool, low backyard, high, spa and rectangular decks as well as octagonal, splash pool and wooden deck. There are also roofed decks, decks with sub umbrellas or a gazebo, decks with structures on them like arbors, cabin and other item to make your deck a beautiful one for a quiet relaxation.

Rectangular decks are the most usual systems. It is also the easiest to build. There are numerous applications for rectangular such as tiered, sundecks and patios systems. The octagonal decks are a perfect addition to several outdoor spaces. This is great for hot tub, beach and barbeque decks areas. Splash pool plans are a great addition for many above-the-ground pools. This is an inexpensive way to turn your garden into a family reception.

There are several ways to construct a deck. Some start with the posts cemented onto the ground. If your deck is not high off the ground, you can dry pack the posts combined to the wall. Keep the hole larger than the post and pour the blend into the hole. Then, pack the post down as hard as you can. It will blend with the moisture in the ground and provide the concrete the exact blend it needs. Another recommendation of experts is to use deck screws instead of nails because it does not back out from the heat.

When throwing a neighborhood party or entertaining friends and family, decks are one of the most adaptable places for this. Seats around the borders of the deck allow space for plenty of visitors. If there are numerous levels of your deck, you can essentially have two functions going on at the same time.

Steps on choosing the best deck materials:

The first step is to look for different materials. Woods are the most common and popular. However, each type has their pros and cons. Wood does not require regular maintenance but it is more susceptible to splintering, warping and rotting.

There are many different types of wood deck materials to choose from. Each has its own aesthetic quality. Hence, composite deck materials are a combination of waste wood products and plastic. It will not splinter or rot as well. It is also not prone to paints or stains. These composite deck materials are significant to install according to the manufacturer instructions.

The second step is to analyze your budget because all your options in deck materials come in wide range of costs. Classic options like pressure-treated lumber are deemed as the cheapest of various types of deck materials. Other woods like redwood and cedar are essentially resistant to rot but they are higher in price. Plastic and composite deck materials are more expensive, with the cost ranging from one to three US dollars per linear foot.

For more information on Deck Designs Colorado and Deck Designs New Mexico, please visit our website.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fire Pits - Fun In Your Backyard

Have you ever considered adding a fire pit to your backyard? A fire pit can be great fun in summer, particularly on those nights when it starts to get a little chilly. It's a great excuse to having friends and family around, so that you can enjoy the great outdoors in comfort.

In the past many people built their own fire pit, but nowadays there are so many options available for purchase that there's no need to put yourself to so much trouble. Home shops generally stock fire pits, and some designers specialize in producing unique fire pit designs. Fire pits are available in all sorts of materials and designs, everything from traditional to modern, so you're sure to find something that matches your outdoor decor.

There are also portable fire pits available, which can be great if you like to spend time going on picnics or camping. With the right cooking device, a portable fire pit can be used both for warmth and to prepare a meal.

Some people prefer a wood fire pit, probably because it reminds them of long summer evenings with their parents or grandparents, but there are also gas fire pits available. Gas can be much simpler, as there's no need to source firewood. Many fire pits have mesh sides, which make it easier to watch the flames inside, as well as allowing the warmth to escape. There are also other accessories available to make it easier to clean and enjoy your fire pit.

If you enjoy being outside, then a fire pit will be a fun and practical addition to your backyard. It can generate enough heat to keep you comfortable when the night turns chilly, and nearly everybody enjoys watching the flickering of flames. A fire pit can also be more practical when you’re out and about. So buy yourself a fire pit, and start planning some parties with family and friends to celebrate your new purchase. You'll soon find that you have such a great time, you might find it hard to make your visitors go home!

If you want to read more about fire pits, click over to Josh's site at

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Patio Fire Pits

The long summer evenings mean we have even more time to enjoy our outdoor spaces, and if you have your own veranda to relax on then you will find it easy to spend more and more time outside in the fresh air.

Of course this kind of area is just the beginning of how to enjoy your garden. It takes a few finishing touches to really make it desirable and more stunning to the eye. One great example of how to make the most of your patio area or veranda is by adding a fire pit to your overall design.

Fire pits are exactly what they sound like – a manmade pit in which you can build a roaring fire to keep you warm during the late summer evenings. But instead of being built on the ground they are now designed in a modern way, using materials such as stainless steel and cast iron to create a free standing structure that can be placed wherever you wish.

Styles vary considerably, ranging from ultra modern designs to more basic fire pits are more traditional in appearance. Some of them also have built in grills which allow you to use them as a simple kind of barbecue – and there is nothing quite like tasting a burger cooked over a flaming fire pit!

A fire pit will make your outdoor patio even more user friendly than it is at the moment. They give off a lot of heat, enabling you to stay outdoors far longer into the evening than you may be able to do otherwise. You might also want to light it during the day if it is a bit chilly and you still want to sit outside for a while.

Many fire pits have mesh covers that sit over the top, but even those that do still get very hot while in use (and for some time after the flames are put out). This means you need to be particularly careful if there are any children playing nearby. It can be a good idea to situate the fire pit well away from any play area, or anywhere too close to a doorway or step where an accident is more likely to occur.

Fire pits are very safe provided they are located in the right place and used properly, but it is always advisable to follow a few simple rules to ensure that nothing untoward occurs. For example make sure you don’t place it too close to any other structure, otherwise there is a risk of scorching and burning. Another point to bear in mind is that while the wood inside the pit is burning, none of it should be hanging over the edge of the pit itself. It should all be sitting safely inside it.

One final point is to make sure your plants are safe. It’s easy to forget the presence of hanging baskets containing flowers that trail down outside of them. Even if they don’t actually burn, many flowers don’t enjoy extreme heat like this and you may end up losing some of them if the fire pit is too close by.

Install-a-Veranda is Australia's leading supplier and installer of verandas, patios, pergolas and carports. For a free consultation please visit Patios.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fire Pit Ideas For Your Back Yard Design

On a cold fall afternoon or on a cool evening summer evening, sitting around on your back yard with a fire pit is definitely full of fun. You can do what you want their with your family or with your love ones. Indeed, you can grill some food their to enjoy the life of doing a picnic while inside your territory. This way your fire pit will no longer just be just an ordinary furniture in your back yard, but will really become part of the scenery in your place, just like having an attractive fire pits, whether it is a gas, wood generated, patio fire pit, etc. Hence, your design will become fully part of your living area.

There are a lot of models or styles, if you may, that you may explore using when you are designing your back yard or your outdoor area. For you to only spend less cost for your fire pit, you may, of course, take advantage of the patio furniture that you already have in your back yard, and all you have to do is to place it around the fire pit, which you think and see that will be a good layout.

To give you some ideas of a good layout in your back yard, you may try considering placing garden benches around the fire pit because their presence will look attractive. You have to choose, of course, benches that would match up the color or design of your fire pit. Stone benches or iron benches will actually suffice. It will definitely suit in with the fire pit you have in your back yard. Having these things in your back yard will surely make your territory look great.

Director chairs, swings, sling chairs, etc, are all some attractive seating alternatives you may place around your fire pit. If you feel like seating there as a director, you may place a director chair there, and for sure it will invite you more to keep coming back there during your free time. Benches that are made for a family setting are also good to place there especially when your family love to stay outdoor during your free time. Of course, aside from chairs, you also need side tables where you could place your food or other things that you may bring in while you are outdoor.

For many more fire pit ideas, please visit

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Patio Fire Pits - Choosing Which Type to Have in Your Landscape

Patio fire pits are a popular outdoor feature in recent years. If you think you might enjoy the atmosphere of sitting outside with a cozy fire glowing, you might consider adding a fire pit to your landscape design. The enjoyment is enhanced if nice seating is located near it to enjoy the view, warmth and general ambiance.

Fire pits can be built in or portable. They can be wood burning for a true rustic experience, or they can be operated by gas.

The gas method can be either natural gas or propane. If natural gas is used, a gas line must be installed. Using a propane tank is more simple, as a flexible connection is supplied between the tank and the fire pit.

Built in fire pits are typically wood burning. Walls are built around it which have a few purposes. The walls are often stone or brick. Both the wall itself and stone or brick help with heat retention. Walls also can help to prevent sparks from escaping. Lastly, walls can serve as seat walls, where you can sit close to the fire. For seating, the walls should be between eighteen and twenty four inches high. They should be between twelve and eighteen inches deep.

Portable fire pits (if using wood or a propane gas tank) can be moved, which is a nice feature. It can be used in another location. For example, perhaps it is usually kept on your patio and you are having a pool party and want to use it there for the evening? It can also be removed from the patio in the heat of the summer, when it will not often be used, so that more useable patio space is available. If it is very hot, you won't be using it. The option of taking it away is a nice one. You won't have to have something there that does not function.

Fire pits can be purchased in various materials, although copper and steel are common. Copper ones will develop their own natural patina over time and are quite beautiful. You will find many that are raised with metal legs. Some are so attractive that they can become a focal point in your landscape. There are some that are enclosed with glass for safety. Wood burning portable fire pits often have screens to contain any sparks.

Fire pits can be used on patios, pool decking, lawn areas and even decks. When using one on a deck, special kinds must be purchased, approved for safety due to the wood decking in the area. I came across one that is enclosed with glass panels.

When locating a fire pit, place it in an area that can become a separate place for conversation or just quiet seclusion. The most common place to locate one is a patio, since this is usually the sitting area on your property. Add some furniture near it. Attractive benches, chaise lounges, outdoor sofas and the like work well. If it is visual from a dining table, even better!

Susan Schlenger is a Landscape Designer with a degree in Landscape Architecture. You can read more about Patio Fire Pits at her website.

You might also be interested in learning about Outdoor Living Rooms.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why Ipe Wood Decking? – Get The Best In Tropical Hardwood

Ipe wood decking brings you the best tropical hardwood you can have for a beautiful long lasting deck. This is the best wood for decking that you will find anywhere in the world and is one of the reasons that most homeowners in California prefer to use it when building decks. The dense wood that Ipe uses in its decking has excellent durability properties and performs well in all environments, regardless of extremes of weather. Once you see the selections of Ipe wood decking, you will be automatically sold on the product and nothing else will do.

Ipe decking is rated very highly for being resistant to rot and decay. Ipe wood decking has also been rigorously tested and has a high fire resistance rating without needing any additional treatment. With Ipe decking, California residents enjoy the look and feel of real wood on the decks of their homes and the lasting natural beauty that it brings. You can get the Ipe boards in lengths of 6 feet to 20 feet, although if you need planks longer than that for your decking, you can place a special order for them.

With Ipe wood decking, you get the magnificent look of tropical hardwood. There are natural variations of color throughout the wood of Ipe decking and very few knots. You can stain this wood, but when they install Ipe decking, California residents like to leave it natural. Under the California sunshine, Ipe wood turns a beautiful silver color when you let it age naturally. The same thing applies to the aging process of the wood in any location.

Just as with composite decking, when you install Ipe wood decking, you will have little or no maintenance. The tropical wood of Ipe decking will not splinter and is resistant to shrinkage, cupping and twisting. In order to fasten the Ipe decking, California experts recommend using stainless steel screws. This is because when the Ipe wood is screwed to the frame, the screws will not work loose or pop up. Since the stainless steel is resistant to corrosion, you will never have to worry about rust developing around the heads of the screws on the decking.

Ipe wood decking is one of the strongest materials you can choose as your decking material. It is able to withstand heavy loads and will keep its natural beauty year after year. At various times of the year, Ipe retailers have sales events in California and other locations. You can also get great prices on Ipe wood decking when you check online. In addition to having an elegant deck, you can realize exceptional savings.

To find out more about Decking visit Peter's Website The Decking Guide and find out about IPE Decking and more, including Wood Decking, Composite Decking, Trex Decking and Pool Decking.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Building a Patio or Deck

This time of year with the changing of seasons it is one of the best times to build an outdoor patio or add a deck to your home. Spring is the perfect weather for being outside with a major project at hand. You won't have to worry about being too hot or too cold. You can just enjoy the work and make a nice outdoor living space to relax on during the summer when months are too hot to do much of any thing. You can just enjoy the outdoors with a comfortable hammock or a beautiful set of Teak outdoor furnishings what ever you prefer.

Measuring the space available for the patio should be one the first things that you do. You will want to make sure you purchase enough materials the first time so that you do not have to run back to the store every five minutes for one more piece of wood or one extra patio paver.

Measure twice before you began to purchase your material. If you are using patio pavers you want to know the measurements of one that you plan to use because they come in so many different sizes and styles.

Once you have all the materials, you will want to mark out the measurements of the patio. You want to make sure the spot you have chosen is completely level. You do not want any wobbly stones to create any safety hazards. I like to place black paper down if I am going to use the patio pavers. This will prevent any grass from growing up through the pavers causing a problem with weeds. If you are planning to build a deck there is a lot more work to be done. You will have to set your post in cement or on cement blocks making sure the heights of all you poles match up to create a level platform. While you are building the frame you will want to continue to check to make sure that everything is still correctly positioned before you add the final deck boards.

The size of the patio or deck you will be building will help you decide on what kind of furniture you wish to purchase. You will want to allow for plenty of room for moving around the furniture so that you are not constantly dealing with moving pieces around. There are many different pieces of outdoor furniture that can accommodate just about any deck or patio. You might just want enough room for a small set or enough to have room for the entire family. There is something to please everyone.

Whether you are seeking a nice set of outdoor garden furniture or some new bedroom furniture you should come see us at FarAway Furniture.