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wrooster 01-26-2012 01:44 PM

Old outdoor fireplace rehab'd to a firepit...
We purchased "this old house" about two years ago and have been fixing things up as we go. That said, if there is something historic or unique I have a hard time just trashing it. I'd rather figure out a way to make it "work", but keep the history there.

The outdoor fireplace itself was built in around 1940 or so, about 10 years after the house was built. Someone did put some care into it as the firebox was lined with proper firebrick, not just red brick. However, years of neglect, freezing weather, encroaching soil, and so on made it a sorry sight. Water had gotten in some of the mortar joints and there were many loose firebricks. Basically, it was a broken down, unusable outdoor fireplace which had 4 inches of soil in the firebox and weeds growing in it.

For 2 seasons I mowed around with my little Kubota BX1860, and on alternate mowings I wavered between attaching the FEL (front end loader) and dismantling it versus figuring out how I could "fix" it. One day I came back inside and announced to my wife that I would fix it by building a "firepit" -- taking advantage of the now appreciable slope that was surrounding it (70 years of soil migration). She yawned. I took up the challenge.

Here it is in the distance the day we moved in (the straw is from a septic system that was just installed):

Late last fall I started on the project by scalloping out an area in front of it, making an apron for the fireplace:

Here is a close up showing the dilapidated condition:

I don't have a backhoe and I didn't want to rent a Mini-Ex for this, so mostly I "drove in" from the shallow end with the BX's front end loader:

I got a couple of pallets of fieldstone to make the walls, and moved them to the jobsite with the FEL and ballast box. This was not really as fun as it sounds.

As I went along I then discovered that at one point in time there must have been a red brick patio out in front of the fireplace. Thereafter I dug up/out about 87,000 brick chunks. It sucked.

After doing some math i decided on a level for the patio surface, and dug out to that depth:

There was a lot of elbow grease involved:

My wife congratulated me on making a fine hole in the backyard, and reminded me that it would be Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks and I needed to get a move on before the weather turned really cold:

This basically translates to, "you made a mess, when are you cleaning it up?":

wrooster 01-26-2012 01:45 PM

The PA bluestone arrived but I have no way of getting a 3200 pound pallet off the truck, and I certainly don't want to do it by hand, but the delivery truck dumps -- it's just physics -- so there you go:

Each 3' x 2' x 1.5" thick piece of bluestone weighs about 75 pounds:

The little BX is one tough customer, she didn't complain even once:

Now the fall season was in full swing and with so many other things going on I was spending just an hour each night after work on the firepit. Visions of restarting the unfinished project in the spring were in the back of my head:

I enlisted some support from a friend of mine who is a mason. while I was at work one day he poured the underlay slab for the patio surface, and the next day put the PA bluestone down and grouted it in. This is what it looked like at 8pm:

The job of stacking the fieldstone on the walls was split between me and one of his helpers, it takes longer than you would think to get it right.

In the meantime my mason friend used this "cake decoration" tool thingy to regrout the stove joints in an artistic way,

The end result actually looked really cool and gave it a nice new look,

This picture was taken the day before Thanksgiving,

But over the next week it finally came all together,

wrooster 01-26-2012 01:47 PM

The final result was super,

And has turned out to be a great place to have a beer with friends,

It is now a great place to eat outside -- close enough to the house but just the right distance away,

I used a weak Muriatic acid solution to clean years of weather and grime from the old fireplace, and it is truly beautiful now. The true colors of those old stones are still there.



In the end I'm really happy not to have stuck the BX's FEL into the side of the fireplace, reducing it to rubble. The old fireplace represents something we "saved", and that's a good feeling to me. The newly built firepit is both functional and a nice detail to the yard.

gma2rjc 01-26-2012 03:51 PM

Nice job! It looks like your family will enjoy it for many years to come.

no1hustler 01-27-2012 08:14 AM

That is awesome!

Are you worried about drainage?

wrooster 01-27-2012 12:32 PM


Originally Posted by no1hustler (Post 836040)
Are you worried about drainage?

Not at all. With dry stack fieldstone, water flows right though the wall. The bluestone patio surface is pitched a bit, towards the downhill side (:)), so any water coming in (either from rain or runoff from uphill) goes right out the other side of the pit. There is geotextile (landscape) fabric at the interface of the surrounding soil and the walls, so the soil doesn't migrate into the firepit. You can see the black geotextile in some of the pictures above, and also below.

This past summer was one of the wettest on record, and there were no problems whatsoever with the firepit capturing water.


no1hustler 01-27-2012 12:52 PM

Nice, I should have looked closer, I didn't realize it was dry stacked. Nice, thought out project!

smithfly114 01-27-2012 01:01 PM

I do not see any pictures! :-(

wrooster 01-30-2012 09:30 AM


Originally Posted by smithfly114 (Post 836212)
I do not see any pictures! :-(

Things seem to be working, perhaps try again?


CoconutPete 01-30-2012 02:23 PM

Wow, that came out really nice!

Is that a workshop in the background? Garage?

wrooster 01-30-2012 03:18 PM


Originally Posted by CoconutPete (Post 839316)
Wow, that came out really nice!
Is that a workshop in the background? Garage?



CoconutPete 01-31-2012 08:16 AM

Very nice! Both the workshop and the firepit!

shumakerscott 01-31-2012 10:22 AM

It seems to me that your open style would allow for more heat to reach your legs and feet than an enclosed one. I like it. dorf dude...

jasin 01-31-2012 07:45 PM

Nice work :)

gmhammes 02-01-2012 10:32 AM

House is beautiful!

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