Winter Ready Checklist (now is the time)

In the fall is when you want to get ready for the winter cold. The worst thing in the world is trying to put your storm windows in when its 20 degrees outside. Or worse, not having your sprinkler system purged before the freezing weather comes. I’m going to give you a fairly easy checklist of things to do for the various systems of your home. From plumbing to roof, we’ll walk through each system and hit the major things to make sure you do before winter so you can enjoy the snow and not worry about your home.

OK, lets start with the basics of making sure you have heat when you need it. The time to check that is in the Fall, no later than the end of October. Give your system a test run through and make sure all systems are “GO“.

Heating System Checklist

  • Test Run:
    Turn the thermostat to heat mode and set it to 80 degrees just for testing. You should hear the furnace turn on and warm air should blow within a few minutes. If it’s running OK, turn the thermostat back to its normal setting. If it’s not running properly, you can try to diagnose it. Depending on what’s wrong, you can fix it yourself or you may need a qualified service technician.
  • Seasonal Maintenance:
    Either have the furnace checked by a service technician or do it yourself.
  • Replace the Air Filter:
    Put in a new clean air filter.
  • Fuel:
    If you have a propane or oil furnace, make sure to have your fuel storage tank topped off and ready to go.
  • Heating Vents:
    Clear obstacles to heating vents so air can freely flow.
  • Check for Carbon Monoxide Leaks:
    This silent killer can easily be detected with either an inexpensive test badge or battery operated alarm. Whichever way you decide, just please decide to protect your family with one of these units.

Although not thought about much in warm weather, the wood burning fireplace and chimney can be a major source of cold air leaks and other issues in winter. So the chimney and fireplace need a little going over before winter sets in.

  • Chimney and Fireplace
    • Check that the chimney is clear of any nests from birds, squirrels or other animals.
    • Check flue damper operation. Make sure it opens and closes fully, and that it is able to be locked in the open or closed position.
    • Check chimney draft. Make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. Test this by taking several sheets of newspaper and rolling them up. Then with the fireplace damper in the open position, light the newspaper in the fireplace. The smoke should rise up the chimney. If it doesn’t, you have an obstruction and need to call a professional in to clean the chimney of creosote and ash and possible debris.
    • If it has been several years (or never!) since you had your fireplace chimney cleaned, you should have it done by a professional chimney sweep. Definitely not a fun DIY project.
    • Inspect the fire brick in the fireplace. If you see any open mortar joints have them repaired immediately! A fire can spread into the stud wall behind the masonry fire brick through open mortar joints.
  • Plumbing is especially susceptible to cold weather and freezing. Burst pipes from freezing can cause some of the most expensive repairs in the home. So let’s go over some of the basics to make you have them covered.
    • Insulate Exposed Piping
      If you have any exposed water or drain piping at all in uninsulated spaces such as in a crawlspace, attic, outside walls, etc., make sure to insulate them with foam insulation at a minimum. Ideally you should wrap them with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them.
      Pipe Wrap and Insulating Tape 
    • Exterior Faucets
      Known as hose bibbs or sill-cocks, the exterior faucet needs to have its water supply turned off inside the house, and you also need to drain water from it by opening up the exterior faucet. You may also want to consider an insulated cover for the hose bibb. And remember to disconnect your garden hoses from the sill cocks or outside faucets and drain them if you store them outside.

    Seasonal Shut Down
    If you are shutting down a property for several months you should always shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system. If a leak were to occur without occupancy, the damage could be catastrophic.

Infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows is as significant a contributor to your heating bill as is poor insulation in the walls and ceiling. An easy way to reduce you heating bill is to reduce these drafts with simple weatherstripping.

Windows

  • On a day when it’s windy outside, close your windows and feel for air leaks. You can use an incense stick for this too if you don’t mind the smell. Watch the smoke trail and if it becomes anything other than vertical, you have an air leak. Typically air leaks will be at the edges where the window is hinged, slides or meets another unit, such as between the two panels of a double hung window.
  • Although you can tape plastic over the windows to seal them, this can be expensive and look bad. It can also reduce much needed light in the winter unless you use the shrink-wrap type of plastic seal. So a better and easier solution is to use inexpensive rope caulk.
  • Press the rope caulk into all the joints where air is leaking.

Doors

  • The easiest fix here is to check for weatherstripping on the side and bottoms of the doors. Install weatherstripping on any leaking doors.
    Infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows is as significant a contributor to your heating bill as is poor insulation in the walls and ceiling. An easy way to reduce you heating bill is to reduce these drafts with simple weatherstripping.Windows

    • On a day when it’s windy outside, close your windows and feel for air leaks. You can use an incense stick for this too if you don’t mind the smell. Watch the smoke trail and if it becomes anything other than vertical, you have an air leak. Typically air leaks will be at the edges where the window is hinged, slides or meets another unit, such as between the two panels of a double hung window.
    • Although you can tape plastic over the windows to seal them, this can be expensive and look bad. It can also reduce much needed light in the winter unless you use the shrink-wrap type of plastic seal. So a better and easier solution is to use rope caulk.
    • Press the rope caulk into all the joints where air is leaking.

    Doors

  • The easiest fix here is to check for weatherstripping on the side and bottoms of the doors. Install weatherstripping on any leaking doors.

Lastly, you’ll want to prepare your yard for winter too. Let’s take a look at what can be done for the grass, deck and outdoor amenities around the home.

Outdoor Landscape

  • Excellent information about getting your yard ready for winter can be found at your local Ace store.
  • Cover patio furniture.
  • If your deck needs it, consider giving it a fresh coat of sealer before winter.
  • Drain the gas from your lawn mower or just let the mower run until it is out of gas.
  • Drain any water fountains, unplug the pumps and prepare for winter.

Now if you use this handy checklist winter should not be a problem for you.

2012-2013 long range weather forecast

Last winter was the fourth warmest for the contiguous 48 since record keeping began in 1895, with 24 states experiencing below-normal precipitation. In fact, California experienced its second driest winter ever. In only 10 states—chiefly across the nation’s midsection— was winter precipitation above normal.

The situation became critical this past spring and summer with broiling hot temperatures across much of the country and the most severe drought conditions the nation has seen in more than 50 years.

For the coming season, we’re predicting that winter will return to some – but not all – areas. We think it will be a “winter of contraries, as if Old Man Winter were cutting the country in half. The eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow. The western half will experience relatively warm and dry condition. In other words, as in the political arena, the climate this winter will render us a nation divided.

We predict that real winter weather will return to areas from the Great Lakes into the Northeast. Most eastern states – as far south as the Gulf Coast – will see snowier than normal conditions and cooler temperatures.

We are “red flagging” February 12–15 and March 20–23 for major coastal storms along the Atlantic seaboard; storms bringing strong winds and heavy precipitation.

But on the other side of the country, winter will continue its hiatus for another year. The forecast for west of the Continental Divide – the Pacific Northwest, desert Southwest, Pacific Coast – calls for mild temperatures and below-normal precipitation.

Preparing a Vegetable Garden for Winter

To prepare a vegetable garden for winter, you’ll want to do a great cleanup job in the fall. This garden care will make it easier to start the new growing season in the spring.
Winter squash
After a big harvest of
winter
squash
, prepare the vegetable
 garden for winter. See more
pictures of vegetable gardens.
You may be tempted to skip some of these last-minute chores, but they’re worth doing because they can make a big difference to the success of next year’s garden. While these tasks can be put off until the start of the growing season, you can expect to be busy with the vegetable garden in the spring. You’ll find it useful to have some of the work out of the way ahead of time.

As you finish harvesting crops and rows of garden space become available, it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop, or green manure, as part of your preparation for the following year. This is a crop that you don’t intend to harvest. It’s simply to provide protection for the soil underneath. When you prepare for your spring planting, you dig the whole crop into the soil. A cover crop will keep your precious topsoil from blowing or washing away, and tilling it into the soil in the spring will provide valuable organic matter to enrich the soil.

The cover crop will also shade the soil, preventing many cool-season weeds from germinating. It’s not necessary to plant the whole cover crop at one time to cover the entire garden; you can plant in each area of the garden as space becomes available.

Cover crops are not exclusively used over the winter. If you have a space in the garden that will be vacant for several weeks between plantings, a summer cover of buckwheat makes an ideal green manure. The buckwheat germinates quickly and covers the soil, preventing summer weeds from germinating. It’s hollow-stemmed and easy to turn into the soil when you plant your next vegetable.

Vegetable Garden Cover Crop Types

 

Variety Season to Grow
Amount of Seed/ 1000 Sq. Ft.
Rye
Winter
1 to 2 lbs.
Crimson Clover
Winter
1 lb.
Soybeans
Summer
3 to 5 lbs.
Hairy Vetch
Winter
3/4 to 11/2 lbs.
Winter Wheat
Winter
1 to 2 lbs.
Buckwheat
Summer
2 to 3 lbs.
Rape
Winter
2 to 5 oz.
Cowpeas
Summer
3 to 4 lbs.

As an alternative to planting a cover crop, you can prepare the vegetable soil

ahead of time. Tilling your soil in the fall can save you a great deal of time and help you get an earlier start in the spring because the soil is often too wet in early spring to use a spade or a rototiller. If you do till your soil in the fall, make sure to cover it with mulch to keep it from blowing away and to prevent massive winter weed germination. Consider soil preparation for the area of your garden where you plan to grow next season’s cool-season vegetables.

If you’re growing perennial vegetables, fall is the time to prepare them for winter survival. Remove old stems and foliage that have been killed back by frost to prevent the spread of disease organisms and insects that winter on old debris.

In cold climates, perennial vegetables should be protected with a blanket of mulch to prevent root damage from extreme cold temperatures. In mild climates, a coating of mulch will protect plants from the alternating freeze-and-thaw and prevent plants from heaving from the soil.

 

Indian Summer

Meaning

An unseasonably warm, dry and calm weather, usually following a period of colder weather or frost in the late Autumn (or in the Southern hemisphere, where the term is less common, the late Spring).

Origin

The origin of other ‘Indian’ phrases, like Indian giver, Indian sign, are well-known as referring to North American Indians – who prefer to be called Native Americans or, in Canada, First Nations. The term Indian summer reached England in the 19th century, during the heyday of the British Raj in India. This lead to the mistaken belief that the term referred to the Indian subcontinent. In fact, the Indians in question were the Native Americans, and the term began use there in the late 18th century.

indian summerIndian summer is first recorded in Letters From an American Farmer, a 1778 work by the French-American soldier turned farmer J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur (a.k.a. Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur):

“Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer.”

There are many references to the term in American literature in the following hundred years or so. In the 1830s Indian summer began to be used figuratively, to refer to any late flowering following a period of decline. It was well enough established as a phrase by 1834 for John Greenleaf Whittier to use the term that way, when in his poem Memories he wrote of “The Indian Summer of the heart!”. Thomas De Quincey, republished in Bentley’s Works of Thomas De Quincey, 1855, wrote:

“An Indian summer crept stealthily over his closing days.”

In his story The Guardian Angel, 1867, Oliver Wendell Holmes mentions “an Indian summer of serene widowhood“.

The English already had names for the phenomenon – St. Luke’s Summer, St. Martin’s Summer or All-Hallown Summer, but these have now all but disappeared and, like the rest of the world, the term Indian summer has been used in the UK for at least a century.

indian summerAs a climatic event it is known throughout the world and is technically called a weather singularity, i.e. a climatic event that recurs around the same time of year. The frequency, depth and longevity of the weather pattern is clearly dependent of geography. It is most frequently associated with the eastern and central states of the USA, which have a suitable climate to generate the weather pattern, i.e. a wide variation of temperature and wind strength from summer to winter. Many of those states are also famous for their areas of hardwood forest, which show up well during Indian summers when the leaves have already begun to turn and the sun is shining.

Why Indian? Well, no one knows but, as is commonplace when no one knows, many people have guessed. Here are a few of the more commonly repeated guesses:

  • When European settlers first came across the phenomenon in America it became known as the Indian’s Summer.
  • The haziness of the Indian Summer weather was caused by prairie fires deliberately set by Native American tribes.
  • It was the period when First Nations/Native American peoples harvested their crops.
  • The phenomenon was more common in what were then North American Indian territories.
  • It relates to the marine shipping trade in the Indian Ocean (this is highly dubious as it is entirely remote from the early US citations).
  • It originated from raids on European settlements by Indian war parties, which usually ended in autumn.
  • In a parallel with other ‘Indian’ terms it implied a belief in Indian falsity and untrustworthiness and that an Indian summer was an ersatz copy of the real thing.

The incidence of Indian summers has increased significantly over the past decade or so (in the UK at least – I can’t speak for other countries) as one symptom of the unstable weather caused by global warming. The Native Americans espoused, and lived, a life of harmony with nature that is now being put forward by supporters of Deep Green philosophy and the Gaia Theory as a solution to the world’s climate problems. It is ironic and sad that they should have given their name to something that has now become associated with global warming.

 

Prepare your home for winter weather

snow-house.jpg

The weather is turning cooler, and it’s time to starting preparing for winter weather. Here are some tips to help get your home ready for the cold:

Get inspected: If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year. Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector, or find one in your telephone directory under “chimney cleaning.” Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly, and replace batteries twice a year.

Protect your pipes: Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze. Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.

Bring items indoors: If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure that they have access to unfrozen water. Cover or bring indoors any plants that you want to protect from freezing temperatures.

Weatherize: Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Add insulation to your walls and attic, if necessary. Consider purchasing insulated doors and storm windows to further protect your home from the cold. This will also help lower your heating bill.

Buy supplies: In the event of a severe winter storm, you’ll need to have supplies on hand, such as rock salt to melt ice on walkways, sand to improve traction and now shovels and other snow removal equipment. Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Remember fire safety: Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions. If you’re going to use a space heater, make sure it has been tested according to the latest safety standards. Put it on a level, non-flammable surface away from bedding, drapes and furniture. And never leave a space heater on when you leave the house or when you go to sleep.

Watch your roof: Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to hold unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow or water

How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

1 Add a second layer of insulation to your attic. R-30 insulation is considered the minimum. If your house is relatively new, it probably conforms. If not, consider adding insulation.

2 Caulk around window and door glass and trim, and all exterior trim. Install or replace weather stripping on all doors and windows. Check for cracks around pipes and electrical outlets entering or exiting the walls.

3 Install storm windows and doors if you have them. Consider purchasing storm windows if you have older windows that are not made from modern insulated glass.

4 Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating/air-conditioning professional. Most furnace manufacturers recommend at least annual inspections.

5 Check gutters and clean them if necessary. Clogged gutters can result in basement flooding when the snow melts (see ‘eHow to Clean Gutters’).

6 Replace any roof shingles that are missing or damaged (see ‘eHow to Replace Asphalt Shingles’).

7 Have your chimneys inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned (see ‘eHow to Clean Out a Fireplace and Chimney’).

8 Check the foundation for areas where water may puddle.

9 Trim trees away from the house. Have dead trees and branches removed by professional tree trimmers, or do it yourself.

10 Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets.

11 Insulate any water pipes that are exposed to freezing cold.

12 Replace the batteries in carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and check to make sure these are all in working order.

13 Check fire extinguishers and charge and replace as necessary.

14 Make sure you are stocked with rock salt, sand, snow shovels and any other items you will need during the winter.

Easy money saving ideas

Shorten your dryer-vent hose. First, disconnect it and vacuum it out. Then trim the hose length so that it’s just long enough for you to pull the dryer a few feet out from the wall. A short and unobstructed line makes your dryer run more efficiently.
Cost: Free.
Savings: $25 a year on electric, gas, or propane.
Bonus: Your clothes will dry about 20 percent faster.

   

 

Close closet doors to lower the square footage you’re heating (and cooling). Shuttering closets along exterior walls also helps to insulate the house.
Cost: Zilch—although it may take a few minutes for your clothes to reach room temperature before you put them on.
Savings: About $50 per year off your energy bills.
Bonus: You and your guests won’t see closet clutter.

 

  

Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. It’s probably set at 140 degrees F to shorten the wait time for a steamy shower. But 120 or even 110 degrees is plenty hot.
Cost: A few minutes with a screwdriver in the utility room.
Savings: $30 or more per year on gas, oil, electricity, or propane.
Bonus: Your kids are less likely to scald themselves if the max water temperature is 120.

 

 

Get your chimney swept in the summer for an off-season price.
Cost: Just a little forethought.
Savings: $50 per flue.
Bonus: Get the job done at your convenience because sweeps’ schedules are wide open.

 

Skip extended warranties. They’re a hedge against the cost of repairing everything from LCD TVs to furnaces. But odds are that you’ll never make a claim.
Cost: If something breaks, haggling with the manufacturer to get it fixed for free or paying for repairs out of your own pocket.
Savings: $50 to $200 per warranty that you don’t buy.
Bonus: Not getting snagged by the fine print. Warranties may exclude your particular problem or contain a depreciation clause, meaning the product’s value goes down as it ages—and hence, the payout shrinks.

 

     

 

Buy firewood in the spring when it’s cheap. Logs will dry out and be ready to burn by the time snowflakes fall.
Cost: Time stacking wood in a dry spot outdoors so that it can season in the open air.
Savings: Up to $100 per cord.
Bonus: In the off-season, you won’t run into any shortages of your favorite hardwood.

 

  

 

Plug in a SmartStrip. Three-quarters of the energy that electronics burn is consumed when the equipment is turned off. Rather than unplug items after every use, hook them up to a SmartStrip surge protector, which automatically kills power to electronics when you turn them off and returns it when you switch them back on.
Cost: $31 for a seven-outlet strip.
Savings: As much as $240 per year in energy costs.
Bonus: Two always-hot outlets ensure that slow-to-reboot devices like your digital cable box can be left on all the time.

 

  

 

 

Growing a Vertical Garden

Vertical garden

 

 

1

  • Start any gardening project in spring, when air temperatures rise to 60 degrees F. Vertical garden vegetables don’t need warm soil, but do require frost-free nights.

  • 2

    Choose your wall for the garden. Put the vertical garden in a spot that gets full sunshine all day, with good air circulation and protection from any drying winds.

  • 3

  • Use deep, sturdy rain gutters for the vertical garden, to give vegetables room for growth and support. Cut the rain gutters to fit on the wall you choose, and build at least three to four “stories” of gardening space. Drill holes every 10 inches in the bottom of the gutters, to ensure drainage.

  • 4

    Secure the gutters to the wall with eye hooks, screws or nails every 6 inches. Leave 2 to 3 feet of space between each layer of gutters to give the plants room to grow.

  • 5

    Mix organic compost, peat moss and potting soil in equal parts as your planting mix. This mix gives the vegetables plenty of nutrition and drainage. Fill the gutters full of your mixture, then turn starter fertilizer such as 6-24-24 or 8-32-16 into the top 4 inches of soil to provide more nutrition.

  • 6

    Plant small, compact vegetables in a vertical garden to minimize space usage and avoid stressing the structure. Plant lettuce, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, herbs, beets, peas, carrots, garlic, onions and radishes. Choose only small tomato, cucumber, bean and pepper cultivars. Also plant flowers in with vegetables to make the garden more attractive.

Cleaning your deck and home exterior

One of the toughest things about deck cleaning is figuring out which weekend to do it. You don’t want it too hot or too cold, so you should have your supplies ready for when the weather cooperates. Spring is a perfect time to clean your deck and get your backyard ready for some outdoor entertaining.

Your supplies should include:

  1. Exciting and inspirational music to keep you motivated
  2. Easy-to-prepare meals for you and your helpers
  3. Cold drinks and a shaded area with chairs for breaks
  4. Old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
  5. Plenty of trash bags to contain debris
  6. Deck cleaning supplies

Preparing to Clean the Deck

Your first step to cleaning the deck is, of course, to remove all the big items that are on the deck. Remove patio furniture, the grill, flower pots, shoe trays and anything else that would prevent the deck surface from being completely clear.

Next, it’s time to remove any debris that has collected on the deck. Since your deck hasn’t been cleaned for some time, it’s a good idea to bring out the heavy-duty Shop Sweep® Indoor/Outdoor Shop Vac that not only vacuums up dirt, litter and other debris, but its tough nylon impeller mulches it! And you don’t have to stop with just vacuuming the deck: The Shop Sweep® Indoor/Outdoor Shop Vaccan consume pine needles, lawn clippings, saw dust, wood chips and even litter, so once you have it fired up, you can keep cleaning all around the house.

Deck Washing

Once your deck is prepared and debris-free, the next step in cleaning a deck is to wash it thoroughly. Easily attach a Deck Cleaning Brush to your water hose to quickly clean dirt, grime and bird residue from your deck floor. The Deck Cleaning Brushhas strong bristles on three sides to tackle those tough deck cleaning messes and a soft squeegee on the fourth side to remove water.

After the long winter months, you might have some moss or algae build-up that requires you to use something a little stronger than water to clean your deck. Just apply some environmentally friendly deck cleaner with a sprayer or brush, let it work for 5-10 minutes (read label on package) and then spray it away with your hose.

Now that your deck is clean and there is little left for you to track into your home, you can clean your sliding door track with an ergonomically designed Track Cleaning Brushthat is so tough it can remove dirt, mold and even soap scum from those hard-to-reach places.

Washing a House

Once you’re done cleaning your deck, why not take your cleaning to new heights and wash down the exterior of your home? Attach a 32-oz bottle of Multi-Purpose House Washto your garden hose and watch as the non-toxic wash goes to work removing dirt, bird residue, tree sap, mildew, moss and algae from your siding or wood panels.

If, after using the Multi-Purpose House Wash, you notice calcium, lime and other hard water stains or outright rust on your siding, stone, masonry or other areas, eliminate it with Rust Remover. Biodegradable and non-flammable, Rust Removerdissolves most stains and can protect bare metal for up to 12 months.

Not enough water pressure from your garden hose? Use an Electric Pressure Washer to reach all those stubborn areas of your house from top to bottom. You can usually find a compact electric pressure washer that has wheels so you can roll it along as you work, whether it’s washing away moss from your deck or oil stains from your driveway. The spray is adjustable from fine to intense, so you can use the power washer for a multitude of cleaning jobs without the risk of surface damage. Pressure washers are high powered and you should always use caution when using one.

Washing Windows

Your deck might be clean, but can you see it through your windows? What about from the second floor windows? For those high, hard-to-reach windows, use a Telescoping Washer Setthat has an adjustable aluminum pole that attaches to your hose. A soap dispenser on the pole allows you to easily add a liquid cleaner to your washing routine. The window washer set includes a 7-pattern spray nozzle, window squeegee, round soft brush, 10″ floor brush and even a brush for washing a car.

Don’t forget to clean the screens! You can either take the window screens down, scrub them and hose them off, or you can attach a Window Screen Vacuum Attachment to easily whisk the dirt away while they remain in the window frames.

Build a stone firepit

Step 1: Purchase Stone

Determine the size, shape and location of the fire pit. Take measurements (height, width and depth) to a stone yard and select the material for the project.

Palletized stone is a pallet of pre-sorted premium stone. It is more expensive but will save time because the stones are a more uniform size, shape and quality. Have the stone yard deliver the material to the project site.

Step 2: Prepare the Base

Hammer a piece of rebar directly in the center of the fire pit location. Cut a piece of string to half the length of the fire pit’s diameter. For example, if the completed fire pit is to be 5 feet wide, cut the string to 2-1/2 feet long.

Make a loop on one end of the string and slip it around the rebar. Loop the other end around a can of landscape spray paint. Mark the circumference of the circle. Excavate the area inside the paint to a depth of 6 inches.

Step 3: Mark for Footing

Cut a second piece of string the length of the first piece minus the thickness of the fire pit wall. For example, if the wall is going to be 12 inches wide, cut the string to a length of 1-1/2 feet. Attach the string to the rebar and spray paint and mark a second circle inside the first.

Step 4: Pour Footing

Prepare premixed cement according to manufacturer’s directions. Spread the cement in the area between the outside and inside circles. Leave the center area free of concrete to allow for drainage.

Continue to add cement and level it until it reaches 1-1/2 inches below grade. Tap 2-foot pieces of rebar into the wet cement until completely submerged at various points around the footer. Allow to dry.

Step 5: Lay the First Course of Fire Brick

When the first course of face stones is in place, move on to the first row of fire brick. Trowel a layer of mortar along the inside edge of the face stones and press the first fire brick into place.

Apply mortar to one end of the next brick before butting it against the first and pressing it into the mortar. Check for level. Remove excess mortar as you work. Continue working in this fashion until the first ring of fire brick has been laid.

Step 6: Complete the Fire Pit Wall

Continue building the wall of the fire pit by alternating layers of face stone and fire brick until desired height is reached. Apply a bed of mortar on top of the previous layer of stone or fire brick and then set stones and bricks.

Avoid wall weakness by staggering the joints between previous and subsequent layers of stone and brick. Fill in any gaps between the fire brick and the stone with mortar and stone scraps.

Step 7: Lay Capstones

Apply a generous layer of mortar to the top of the fire pit wall, covering both the face stone and fire brick. Begin setting capstones into the mortar, selecting flat stones that fit neatly together.

Work all the way around the top of the fire pit wall making sure that all stones are as level as possible. Fill joints between capstones with mortar, smoothing when done with a jointer. Once the mortar is almost cured, use a stiff brush to scrape off remaining bits of mortar.

Step 8: Create a Seating Area

Cut a piece of string that extends from the center of the fire pit to the outside edge of the desired seating area. Attach the string to the rebar and spray paint and mark the location on the ground. Excavate the seating area to a depth of 3 inches. Cut landscape fabric to fit and top with crushed stone.

Step 9: Complete the Project

Spray down the fire pit with water to remove any dust or dirt that might have collected on the stone. When dry, spray the interior of fire brick with black stove paint.

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