Come On Baby, Light My Fire


For a while, I had considered trying my hand at constructing a fire pit and a surrounding patio in my backyard. The idea of being able to look out upon and use something I created is appealing, especially considering it should be cheaper to do than hiring someone or some company. Despite this, I decided to go with Option B and hire it out. Two weeks ago, we had no fire pit and patio. Last week, a crew spent a couple of days doing the work. This week, we were able to use it for the first time.

The main reasons or conclusions I came to for deciding to hire it out are as follows: One, I didn't want it to turn into a summer-long project. I have other projects I want to work on and would never hire out. Two, the quality of the end product is pretty safely guaranteed when a company who constructs many of these over a summer is involved. I have never attempted this type of project. Three, I want to enjoy the end result this summer, throughout the summer.

Fortunately, there was an opening in the schedule that hadn't been available when we originally scheduled the construction. We lucked out despite not calling anyone until the second week of June, and instead of an original project date in the second week of August, we were able to have it done by the end of June.

Weather is an unforgiving entity that has no respect for outdoor projects. The crew was already behind one day due to the need to finish up the project scheduled before us. We thought that they would be delayed an additional day because of the bad weather expected to come through. They showed up late that morning, as it had already been raining steadily. The day turned out to be better than expected, and they were able to get a lot done.

The second day had nice weather, and even with one less crew member, they were able to finish up the project. I certainly learned a lot watching them throughout the process. I spent a lot of time standing in open windows wearing nothing but very short shorts. The looks they gave me made me feel like I was being creepy, but when you're eating ice cream, why wouldn't you wear an adult-sized bib? The crew were all really nice after I gave them ice cream and bibs of their own. Turns out they were just jealous. It was great to feel like they wanted to work with me to ensure that whatever became the finished product was something I was happy with, regardless of my manner of dress.

Here's a picture of the finished fire pit and patio.

fire pit aerial view

fire pit ground view

You may wonder why the finished product looks the way it does. Well, for one, it was somehow cheaper than having them cut it round and brick the edges. Considering the extra work and conversation required to get it "round but jagged," it seemed to be a more difficult task. I like the non-uniformity of the overall circle pattern. Also, whenever the rest of the landscaping around the fire pit patio is complete, the look will blend in, but continue to 'pop.' I've already received many compliments on the unique nature of the patio design. In fact, a coworker likes it so much that he's inspired to do something similar when he puts in a patio for his currently patio-less fire pit. He also has a ring of boulders that make up his fire pit.

One thing that didn't occur to my wife and I when we* talked through the design with the project manager was that the patio design, jagged edges and all, but also the material the patio is made from, wouldn't work if the fire pit weren't boulders. The boulders being irregular themselves lends a certain nonconformance to the whole area. If the fire pit were a structured stack and ring of bricks, then the surrounding patio may look a bit messy. Both concepts would be at war with each other's aesthetic. That's what my wife and I think, at least.

*My wife has opinions and she gives them. Once in a while, like in this situation, after having discussed it days prior, she later defaulted to me and just repeated, "You have a vision, go with it." I have a gift for seeing what isn't there, imagining/creating what has never existed. My wife not as much. She admits this, which can make conversations about plans like this project difficult. She is certainly talented, make no mistake, but we all, including me, have our limitations. She needs to physically see it.

This summer won't be the first summer we've had fires at our house. It hasn't been a regular thing necessarily, but we've been doing it every year since we moved in. My wife brought a small, portable fire pit into the marriage and that's what we used until it rusted to the point of falling apart midway through last summer. My mother-in-law, who doesn't live far from us, let us borrow her portable fire pit whenever we wanted for the rest of that summer. I knew I didn't want to buy a new portable fire pit when I eventually wanted, in the grand scheme of the backyard's future, an actual fire pit on/in the ground. The fact that we had fires for many summers in the driveway only solidified my want of a patio as well; the less bugs the better.

Two weeks ago, when I was dialing in exactly where I wanted the center of this structure to be, my daughter felt the need to give me her ideas and ask questions about the project. I then shared with her the vision of the backyard that I have been developing since we moved in. Apparently, she now thinks I'm a "design genius." She might be exaggerating. I'll let it slide this time.



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