Walk out into the backyard at dusk. Imagine sitting beside a well-groomed fire in the chill of the night. Look around for a 16' to 20' diameter circle that would accommodate the fire ring area. It should be level and away from shrubs, bushes and overhanging branches. Does the area in mind have easy access yet lie far enough away from backyard traffic, kid play areas or entertainment centers? Other considerations to keep in mind may include a location out of view of the neighbors or roadways. Also, where will the firewood be stacked? Is a water hose accessible to the site?
If driveway space is limited, order 3/8” crush and run (gray stone) from a sand and gravel company and make a space in the driveway for the delivery drop site. A base cover of gravel may be between 2” and 4” thick. A wheelbarrow will come in handy when transporting gravel from the front driveway to the backyard. How much crush and run gray stone should be delivered? A full load of crush and run is around 18 tons (give or take). That size load would lay down a 4” cover over approximately 500 square feet.
Pay a visit to one or more landscape supply centers to shop for landscape stones. Larger stones (16” to 20”) are used in the fire ring and smaller stones (8” to 12”) are used around the perimeter. The size of the fire ring and the perimeter circumference will determine the quantity of stone needed. Many supply centers will deliver the stones for a fee. Make space available for the delivery. The stones are often delivered on a pallet, wrapped in plastic. A wheelbarrow is needed to transport the stones as well.
Mortar cement and bags of sand can be picked up at the local hardware or home improvement center. The silica sand produces a bright white beach sand appearance. If a light brown-colored sand is preferred try playground sand, which is less costly.
Stick a large screwdriver or grade stake in the center of the proposed fire ring site. Attach a nylon string to the screwdriver. With the tape, measure out the desired radius from the center to the outside perimeter of the fire area. Stretch the string to the desired length and use it to walk around the center point, continually stretching the string and marking the outside ring. Use this mark as a reference for dumping the numerous loads of gravel inside the circle.
Continually rake smooth and dump gravel until the entire circle is covered with approximately 2” to 3” of crush and run. Rake the gravel smooth and level.
It helps to have a DIY assistant. Family members and neighbors will most likely share in the enjoyment of the outdoor fire ring, so ask them if they would mind raking or dumping gravel.
With the screwdriver or wooden stake still in the center, measure out a smaller radius from the center. Pull the string tight to this distance and create a small trench, which will outline the inner fire ring stone circle.
Mix up a small batch of cement mortar and sand, following the instructions on the bag. Fill the bottom of the circular trench with the cement mortar and place the biggest stones in the mix. Continue to fill the trench with mortar and stones. Pull the 3' radius string to confirm distance from the center. Place smaller stones in between the largest stones to fill in gaps of the fire ring.
Using bags of silica sand or wheelbarrows full of playground sand, carefully fill the inner ring with the sand of choice to approximately a 4” depth. Be mindful not to disrupt the large stones, which are curing in the cement mix.
Trench a circle for the outer perimeter ring and fill it with stones set in mortar. This time, though, the stones are smaller in size (8” to 12”).
Fill the perimeter ring with approximately 4” of sand. Again, be careful not to disrupt the stones setting in the mortar. Use a rake to level the surface and a hand trowel to work the outside edges and force the sand into the rocky cracks.
Hardwood mulch surrounding the outside circle of rock will cover the excess crush and run and create a dark border around the fire area. Beach chairs are also a big favorite when sitting next to a fire.