How We Built a Firepit Patio On a Budget
Long before The Rural Legend existed, my husband and I dreamed of building a firepit in our backyard! The biggest design dilemma was that our yard significantly slopes downward away from the house and we needed a solution to level the land.
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My husband, Tim, came up with a sunken patio design which included retaining walls and steps. This post isn't a full tutorial on how we did it, but I wanted to honor one of the biggest projects we've ever completed by answering YOUR most common questions about this space and fill you in on how we made it happen on a budget. After all, that's why you come to The Rural Legend, right?!
Q: How did you move all that dirt?
Would you believe Tim dug this entire hole by hand? I asked him if we were to do it all over again, would he use machinery to dig the hole. Surprisingly, he said, no. The biggest challenge was WHERE to put all of the soil we removed from the corner of our yard. We dispersed it between other flower beds, uneven spots in our yard, and even gave some of it to the neighbor!
Q: Did you have to grade the area?
Yes, leveling the land was a critical part of this process! Without it, our pavers would not have laid nicely and the design would have been much more challenging, and also not as pretty.
Q: How did you know how deep to dig?
We lowered the area until it was completely level! The back portion closest to our large Japanese Willow was the lowest point, so the rest of the patio needed to be dug low enough to be level with that.
Q: How did you know how wide to make the patio?
We staged our firepit ring in advance to figure out the diameter. We also decided we wanted 6 Adirondack chairs to fit comfortably around it so we also staged this to measure how large the circle needed to be. We made sure that the distance from the firepit ring to the outer wall was the depth of the Adirondack chair plus another 1.5 feet for a walking path. One of the biggest mistakes we made in this design was measuring this distance wrong the first time and having to dig even more to widen the circle.
Q: How did you make the raised beds?
This is one design aspect of this project I can take credit for! We essentially made curved boxes out of the retaining wall block and left the middle open to fill with soil and manure. The flower beds are one of my favorite parts of this design!
Q: What would you do differently?
There was a LOT of trial and error with this project because it was something we had never done before! While even our professional landscaper friend was impressed with our work, we would do a few things differently.
1. Tim ordered HUGE retaining wall block! They weigh 100lbs each and there are lighter and smaller options that would have made life a little easier! However, they look pretty awesome!
2. To fill all the gaps between pavers on the patio portion, we used polymeric sand - a combination of sand and cement to keep your patio secure. We used an impermeable kind - meaning water cannot drain through the stones. We should have used a semi-permeable option to allow water to pass through. There's one small area on the patio that water will lay when it rains to much. It's not a huge issue, but it's something we would do differently.
How We Saved Money
Hardscaping is expensive so one of the biggest ways to save money is to do it yourself! This type of project is not for everyone, but if you have the patience and willingness to learn, you can save so much money! One of our dear friends, who owns his own landscaping company and built our GORGEOUS main patio, estimated that he would have charged about $7,000 for the size of firepit patio we built. We spent $3,000 doing it ourselves which means we saved at least $4,000!!!
Another huge money saver was that we repurposed small square and rectangular pavers from around our property to build the "floor" of the firepit patio. The former owner had laid pavers around the perimeter of the house, in the rose garden and along the original concrete slab patio. By reusing these we were able to make the floor for free! Because we positioned squares and rectangles in a circular pattern, there were a lot of gaps to fill between blocks. That's where the polymeric sand I mentioned earlier becomes so crucial because it closes up all of those gaps making the patio secure. And it looks AWESOME!
Instead of buying a fire ring kit like this one, we bought the materials separately and built it ourselves which saved us a lot of money! Essentially, it's the exactly same pavers and ring, but we didn't have to spend the extra money on the "convenience" of having them packaged together for us.
If you're interested in building your own sunken firepit and have a question I didn't answer here, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below! I would be so happy to help!