Build your own firepit!


Longing to ‘light up’ your braai area? It’s easy! We show you how...

home Yard 2014

A rustic firepit is a simple and fun way to create a warm and welcoming outdoor space. On cooler evenings it’ll become a favourite spot to socialise with friends and family as you swop stories and tell jokes till the wee hours…

The area where Jean and Ilse le Roux of Wellington built their firepit was previously just patchy grass and sand, but with a little creativity and basic DIY skills they’ve transformed it into an inviting entertainment area. The firepit was constructed fairly low to the ground from bricks and concrete, and designed in a circular shape. Sawn-off tree stumps provide seating around it, while a concrete table and benches offer additional seating; this is also a handy place to serve snacks and drinks.

If you build your own firepit, it’s a good idea to invest in comfy scatter cushions covered in a fabric suitable for outdoor use, or make slip covers you can easily wash. Avoid synthetic fabrics as sparks from the fire might burn holes in the cushions. Planning some form of shelter against the elements is important, especially if your firepit is situated in the garden. Jean and Ilse did just that with timber poles and latte to create an enclosure which might not be waterproof but does add to the feel of an ‘outdoor room’.

The floor is a combination of paved bricks in a circular design and cemented stones – both of which add a rustic, textured look to the area. To keep their firewood dry, a storage space was created with two brick pillars and a slab of stone; it doubles up as a display shelf for decorative elements and braai essentials such as cutlery.

Quick project guide Hard labour 5/10 (an extra pair of hands may be necessary) Skill level 4/10 (ability to lay bricks) Time needed Weekend project Shopping list • ± 120 fire-hardened building bricks • building sand • cement • stone Tools

• measuring tape • spirit level • spades • trowel • wooden stakes • string Other items

• bonding liquid

Project notes

• It’s important to use fire-hardened bricks as they will better withstand high temperatures and they’re less prone to cracking.

• Once the structure is complete, it should be allowed to stand for a few days before making a fire in it.

• We had a steel plate cut to create a disc 950mm in diameter. This was sufficient to allow it to rest on the (lower) inside rim of the braai. We took this measurement after the construction was completed. The parameters may differ slightly, so adjust this measurement if necessary. How Big? Your firepit can be any size, as long as it has enough room to accommodate a fire with your braai grid suspended over the coals next to it. But the best thing about having a firepit is huddling around it as it gets colder – so don’t make it too big! The most important aspect of a firepit is its height. This one is six bricks high, but four will also be enough – then you can sit comfortably or stand and braai. Tips • Lift the base of the firepit so you don’t make the fire directly on the ground. • Don’t build your firepit with river stones – they crack easily. • Make provision for drainage, or your firepit might become a pond when it rains. Get started

1 Decide where you want to place your firepit. Avoid areas that are too close to buildings or have overhanging branches. Knock a wooden stake into the ground to mark the centre point. Use the tape measure and cut a piece of string roughly a metre in length. Tie a loop at each end to give a final length of about 80cm. Fit one loop over the stake and place a stake into the loop at the other end. Now scribe a circle roughly 160cm in diameter. Remove the soil from the area to a depth of at least 15cm.

2 Mix the sand, stone and cement together to form the mortar for the foundation. Fill the hole until you have a foundation about 10cm thick.

3 Use a spirit level to ‘chop’ (the motion is a bit like chopping parsley) the still wet cement (from one end to the other) to ensure it is level. Leave the foundation to set overnight.

4 Using the same method as described in step one, create another length of string and two loops about 45cm in length. While the cement is still slightly wet, hammer a nail into the centre point. Using the string system described in step one, now scribe a circle about 90cm in diameter.

5 Place a circle of bricks on the outside of the circle, as shown. Space the bricks evenly so that the spaces around the outside are even.

6 Now mix your mortar (adding bonding liquid to your mix will make it stronger and help it bond better) and start laying your first brick. Use the spirit level to ensure that the bricks are level. Use the handle or edge of the trowel to tap the brick down into the mortar until you are happy that it is sitting firmly (and level) in the mortar.

7 Repeat the process for the subsequent tiers, alternating the positions of the bricks so that they overlap the bricks in the rows below. Simply fill the wider gaps along the outside as you work.

8 The final row of bricks should be placed end to end around the outside, as shown. Our braai included five rows of bricks radiating outward and a sixth row placed end to end around the top.

9 Once all the gaps between the bricks have been filled and allowed to set slightly, use a wet sponge and the remaining mortar to ‘bag’ the structure. This entails ‘painting’ the diluted mortar onto the brickwork in a rubbing motion. Leave the structure to dry for a few days, wetting it morning and evening; this will help the cement to cure. The longer you leave the structure to cure, the more durable it will be – two weeks or more would be best.

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April 2023

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