Stage-One of My Up-Cycled Backyard--The Fire Pit:

2 Materials
4 Days

My husband and I purchased a house for nine thousand dollars from my Great-Grandfather’s estate way back in 1988 (that rhymes! Who knew!) We’ve been plugging money into it ever since. At first it was to keep a roof over the heads of our four great kids but now it’s a labor of love.

I like to up-cycle, reuse, convert, buy-sell-trade, craigslist, free or nearly free-anything to save a buck. My advice is, if
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
When I was 18, I started collecting rocks from everywhere-the first was a rock from Kansas.  Some are giant rocks, over 50 pounds and some are smaller.  When friends go places where I haven’t been I ask them to bring me a rock.  Given the years and years of collecting, I’ve amassed a small mountain.
I’ve found many uses for these fine prehistoric treasures both inside and outside the house.  One project is to keep the animals out from under my porch. 
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I knew somehow I wanted to use some of my mountain in my backyard fire pit project but wasn’t sure exactly how that was going to come about.
A truck driver told me about his in-laws house and then I was inspired.   The new owner was tearing the house down and inside was an Italian marble fireplace.  I said, “What a shame.  Real people can’t afford Italian marble.” 

“You want it?” he asked.

“Uhhh, YES.”  I replied and then wondered how that was going to work?  How the ‘H’ does one move a fireplace?

He gave me the phone number to the eye doctor who bought the property.  So, I called the Doctor and the Doctor said…. “Sure, you can have that fireplace but you have two weeks.”

I hung up and thought, “Uhhh—maybe not.  Italian marble…ok, I’ll figure it out.”  I used Google and YouTube to get ideas as to how to take out a fireplace.

I recruited the talent of one son-in-law and we dismantled that fireplace using a shotgun hammer and muscle (he had the muscle.)   I was so proud of the find.  My son-in-law?  Not so much but he and my daughter needed some groceries so that was my bribe.  Cost me $100 in food for four hours hard labor.  We drove home in a way overloaded pickup--think driving uphill for 45 miles.  

Once home, I showed my husband the awesome find.  He said, “I’m not helping you unload that. You’re a hoarder.” He walked away shaking his head.  I moved thousands of pounds of heavy rock myself and stacked it neatly behind the shed in wait for my fire pit.  
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
Flash ahead a few years in time with my idea.  I work at a landfill, with semi trucks and such.  There was a hollow semi tire rim and I thought, “Fire Ring.”  So the guys put it in the back of my truck.  I lugged it home and my husband said, “I’m not helping you unload that.  You’re a hoarder.”  And he walked off shaking his head. 
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I had rock, I had a ring, I had a shallow hole—my immediate family is slightly pyromaniac—and used a really big firecracker to blow a hole in the ground just about in the right place for my pit.  I used that spot—I needed weed block and something for fill.  And a way to put it all together.   
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
After talking to the guys at Menards about my project, I purchased 6-50# bags of Stone Mortar Mix at about $6 a bag.
Lucky for me, there were some remnant pieces of landfill liner at work for the weed block. 

I arranged my former fireplace and landfill liner in the shape and size I wanted to surround my fire pit.
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I mortared the rocks making sure there was airflow under and around the truck rim and mortared the parameter.  I was babysitting my 4 year old granddaughter and discovered she has quite the talent for cement work!  She loves to mix.

A road crew was reworking a section of the highway not far from my house.  I asked and they gave me a load of crushed asphalt that normally would have gone into the landfill.  I packed that over the liner. 
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I wanted some fill on top of it all and discussed my project with one of my adopted kids (Hi Jazz!)  and she said, “I know a guy who has a pile of bricks he doesn’t want.  Score!  Free brick. 

It wasn’t enough to fill the space but it was enough for a design.  My husband said, “I’m not helping you unload that.  You’re a hoarder.”  And he walked off shaking his head. I seriously think he needs a turrets syndrome diagnosis.  He should see a doctor. 
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
Now, several years ago, I purchased a used bed.   

The seller said I couldn’t buy the bed unless I took a heavy, pink marble coffee table.  I didn’t want the table because it weighed about 300 pounds but I did want the bed.  I put the table outside over an old tree stump. 
With the change of the seasons, the glue on the table failed and the top broke in two pieces.  I used that top, along with some antique cement blocks, to make tables to set around my fire pit. 

The blocks were from a shed we tore down at my parent’s house (and I have enough left for my backyard outdoor kitchen counter—a future step in my backyard rejuvenation project.)

Until right here, you thought the table had nothing to do with my fire pit.  I know.  

My husband thought the same when I brought that home and set it over the tree stump.
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I was then at a standstill because I needed more fill.  Luckily, I work with people who work with rocks.  I got a pickup load of rock for fill between the bricks.
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I leveled it all out as much as I could.  (To me, level is just a suggestion.) 
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I washed it all off with my little, trusty power washer from Sears and-TADA-fire pit! 
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
I finished it off with my awesome peacock –found at Junkstock in Waterloo, Nebraska.  I had to buy that because I really liked it and my friends wouldn’t let me leave without it—they are always happy when I buy something new (I have a story about socks but won’t get into that.)

I was able to talk the vendor down in price so the peacock cost me $82 plus I had to drink 13 bottles of wine for the tail-NOT ALL AT ONCE!  
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
My husband hasn’t called me a hoarder since.
stage one of my up cycled backyard the fire pit
This is just a picture of a Tiger Lilly I got from my Grandma's property before she passed--at 99! Lillys don't stay long so I just had to snap it.

Next step of my up-cycled backyard project will most probably be expanding my patio and building my outdoor kitchen.  I still have a few things to collect before that happens. 

If you’d like to see more of my reuse-up-cycle projects, you can find some on my blog in the Nebraska archives One of my plans is to someday  put my projects on a page but I haven’t made time for that yet but I’ll post here when I do.
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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Daw30172218
    on Aug 20, 2018

    What happened to the marble Italian Fireplace?

  • Chilly661
    on Aug 20, 2018

    Your pit surround went from grey to red, what did you use to color it? or is it because it was wet?

    Very nice job by the way!!

    • Diena Cameron
      on Aug 28, 2018

      See...husbands don't know everything, right ?? It really pays to scrimp and save and salvage. You just proved that, Annette. Great job !

  • Melodi Whitaker
    on Aug 20, 2018

    It looks great! I’m sorry that your husband is not helpful though🙁My husband wouid never think of not helping me unload heavy stuff...he would insist on doing it for me. I wonder if your hubby realizes how much money you saved by collecting these treasures and repurposing them? The cost of the materials and the labor would be quite expensive.

    Keep up the hoarding and creating! I can’t wait to see the next project!

    • Fran Valente Lowell
      on Sep 16, 2018

      Guess its OK for husbands to HOARD stuff, but when we do the same, terrible!! You go Annette!!

Join the conversation

2 of 75 comments
  • Alina Stefanescu
    on Sep 16, 2018

    Great job! I need to try the project !

  • Charlotte Koch
    on Sep 28, 2018

    Fantastic job! A lot of hard work and a lot of patience. I think your husband is lucky you made him a place to sit too.

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