3 Ways to Improve Your Backyard

Check Out Your Backyard

Okay, so the weather is improving right?  Well, at least in a lot of areas it is.  It will be time for some outdoor attention at your house.  Your backyard and even your front yard will be begging for some kindness, and there are a few things you can do to make it look fantastic.  Here are three things you can do to add appeal to your outdoor space.

Let’s Get Busy

  1. Clean up the clutter and dirt. 
  2. I can’t stress this enough.  Clutter and stuff laying around makes a space look messy.  Whether the clutter is toys, yard tools, or just a pile of pool towels, picking it up and putting it away will make a huge impact.  That’s where I always start.  I address the easy stuff first.  Now you’ll be able to address the horizontal surfaces of the backyard, the patio, a table top, etc.  Get a wet rag and wipe off.  Step one finished. 
  3. Trim your bushes and trees.  I have a palm tree and a lemon tree in the back corners of my backyard.  At times, the palm tree will have one or two hanging down and they will be starting to dry and turn brown.  These low hanging nuisances are easily trimmed with a pole saw and it changes the look drastically.  This palm stands like royalty behind my swimming pool waterfall, so when it looks trimmed and tidy, it makes a huge difference.  The lemon tree blooms constantly here in Arizona, so we have to cut off branches that almost touch the ground under the weight of the fruit.  We pick the lemons and then trim some of these low hanging branches, transforming the underside of the tree.  Step two finished. 
  4. Pick your weeds.  Here in Arizona and in many areas in the southwest, we have rocks in our backyards.  I guess you can say we don’t really have yards as most would define them…grass.  When the rainy season arrives, I swear my neighbor throws handfuls of weed seeds over the wall, while snickering like the Grinch.  Then he waits until the weeds grow and laughs as I address the problem.  By picking weeds, I get back to the clean and organized look of a rocked backyard space.  It’s amazing how much better it looks.  Step three finished.

Now Get Started

By doing these three simple things, I get my backyard to a clean, organized, and welcoming oasis, worthy of a party.  The beauty is that it doesn’t cost me anything other than a bit of sweat equity to transform my backyard.  Perform this three-step ritual a few times a year and your backyard will continue to impress all who venture there.

By doing these three simple things, I get my backyard to a clean, organized, and welcoming oasis, worthy of a party.  The beauty is that it doesn’t cost me anything other than a bit of sweat equity to transform my backyard.  Perform this three-step ritual a few times a year and your backyard will continue to impress all who venture there.

Hopefully You’re Inspired

We hope you will use these quick and easy steps to work on your outdoor backyard presence.  Send us before and after pictures of your outdoor space, cluttered and then clean.  We would love to share in a separate blog post how our readers are making their backyards an extension of their home lives.  Send pics and your story to dan@backyardflare.com and thanks for reading and we hope to hear from you.

Dan Heston
Backyard Flare, LLC

DIY Outdoor Fireplace and Concrete Pads

Concrete or Dirt? That is the Question

cDIY Concrete slab in backyard with grass wood
Concrete slab is ready for cinderblock.

The other day my phone rang and it was a customer of Backyard Flare that had purchased a DIY construction plan for the Pima II design.  This customer was looking for information about whether he needed to build the fireplace on a concrete pad or whether he could just build it on the dirt.  This question comes in quite often so I wanted to address it again.  Concrete pads are necessary for a masonry outdoor fireplace.

Where You Live is Important

DIY concrete pad deck level outdoor fireplace
Finished concrete is ready for block work

Think about all the places you have been and the ground you have walked on.  There’s Arizona with ground so hard that it almost takes a jack hammer to dig down a couple inches.  Then there’s Florida with gorgeous sandy beaches, but that sandy soil reaches inland too.  You have the northeast states that have frost lines so deep, that it’s a wonder that it ever thaws out. And we can’t forget the northwest that gets a lot of rain that could create washout conditions.

There is our dilemma with phone calls relating to how thick or whether a concrete pad is necessary.  Even here in Arizona, I always build my outdoor structures on concrete.  This is for peace of mind so if there is any ground settling, the structure will hopefully be okay.

If a masonry built structure settles, and it has been built on a running bond (stair step) block pattern, the cracking will look like a stair step going up.  The blocks will often separate at the seams, not crack.  This is not the way you want your outdoor structure to end up, because you spent your hard labor to build it.

What should you do?

DIY outdoor fireplace, stone seating
DIY outdoor fireplace on new poured concrete pad.

Do it right from the beginning and pour some concrete. Support that structure and keep it from settling and cracking.  Now you say, that’s all fine and dandy, but how thick does the concrete need to be? There’s an issue with that portion of the concrete pad question in that there is no “one answer” to that question.  There is no recommendation that we can give you because your geographic area and soil will dictate the answer.

Remember all the different soil types we cited a few paragraphs ago?  There are so many variables that exist that will need to be addressed and recognized before a concrete pad thickness answer can be formulated.  Our advice is to seek out some professionals in the concrete industry and ask.  Go to Home Depot or Lowes and see if there is a person who used to pour concrete for a living that is working there in retirement.  They are sometimes a wealth of information.  Go to the internet and search for recommendations based on your soil type and geographic area.  Again, lots of information.

Test Time

So, what have we learned?  I always recommend a concrete pad for an outdoor masonry built fireplace or kitchen.  There is no hard and fast recipe that applies to everyone that they should follow to pour the pad, so go find your local resources.  They’re out there.

If you would like to discuss your backyard outdoor fireplace or kitchen and would like to learn more about the DIY world we love so much, visit Backyard Flare.  We can help make it a reality, saving you thousands of dollars.  Give your backyard a face-lift and beautify your outdoor space.

Thanks for reading and as always, happy building.

Dan Heston
Backyard Flare, LLC
Tucson, Arizona

You Can Do It

Feeling Apprehensive?

You can do it!!!  I remember receiving a phone call from Shelley who said she lived in New Jersey.  Shelley explained to me that she was single, in her sixties, and that she lived on a piece of property that had a small creek running through it down the hill from her backyard.  Shelley explained that she really wanted an outdoor fireplace but that she was super apprehensive about doing it herself.  Because of the limited knowledge she had about masonry construction, Shelley was concerned with her age and ability to do the physical labor.  I asked her some questions about her ability to lift and explained what the project would require.

Shelley Said Yes to the Outdoor Fireplace

We talked it through, and by the end, Shelley was ready to take on the challenge.  A DIY outdoor fireplace does not have to be intimidating or seem out of the realm of possibility if you have the right tools, preparation, and a good plan.  A construction plan that is…something that will take the guess work out of the project.  If you are physically able to lift a 60-pound bag of mortar, or if you have someone who can do it for you, that’s the first step.  If you’re willing to step into a work site with an open mind, then you too can do what Shelley did.

DIY stone outdoor fireplace
Talk about charming. This backyard patio was transformed into a great sitting destination.

Shelley built her very own DIY outdoor fireplace and although it was small, it made a huge impact in her backyard and it is definitely a focal point.  Do you agree, and do you think you want to join the DIY world?  She had us do some special design work to make the fireplace what she wanted.  We angled the chimney on all sides and designed the firebox to be low on the structure, which gave it a neat look.

It Was Fun According to Shelley

DIY outdoor fireplace plan
The fireplace sits on the edge of the patio with the treeline in the background.

After building the structure, Shelley said that she took her time and didn’t push hard to get it done quickly.  She said that if she could do it in her sixties, then anyone could do it.  This is a testament that most people have the capability to do more than they truly think.  There is an inner construction worker in most of us.  Give your insecurities to us and let us provide you with a DIY construction plan.  If you follow it, you to will be able to build a beautiful outdoor fireplace just like Shelley did.

DIY outdoor fireplace with fire
Shelley built her first fire and started making memories.

If you are wanting to learn more about the process of building a DIY outdoor fireplace, visit us online at Backyard Flare.  We know that you can do it and that we can help.  A construction plan may be exactly what you need to overcome the fear of building so you can DIY too.  Thanks so much for reading and we hope to hear from you soon.  Leave a comment and let us know if you think you’re up for a DIY project.

As always, happy building,

Dan

3 Ways to Improve

3 Ways to Improve the Look of Your Backyard

swimming pool umbrella palm tree flagstone planter
An uncluttered and clean backyard is a welcoming backyard.

Okay, I’m going to get right into it today.  Not need to beat around the bush here.  Your backyard…and mine…needs help probably.  Your backyard might be old, dated, tired, messy, and it needs a little “pick me up”, so why not get started?  There are quite a few things that you can do that will make a HUGE difference and at the same time not break the bank.  Here are 3 ways to improve the look of your backyard.

Start By Picking Up the Place

First, pick up the clutter.  If you’re like most of us, you have odds and ends laying around.  You may have a section of your yard that is dedicated to compiling the old car parts or the old bikes that haven’t been ridden in years.  Chances are that if you haven’t needed them in the past year (or five) you won’t need them at all in the future.  Collect them and put them on Craigslist so you can make a few bucks too.  Just cleaning up a cluttered corner will make a huge difference.

Unsightly Patio or Deck?

swimming pool patio umbrella fireplace deck planter
A clean backyard draws you in for an extended stay.

Second, sweep up the patio or deck area of your yard and then look up.  Are there spider webs hanging around the lighting fixtures or the underside of the patio cover?  Take down those spider houses with a broom and make a change up high.  Get a hose or high pressure sprayer and clean up the whole area that is attached to the house.  This includes patios, brick work, decks, patio covers, and even the back of the house itself.  You’ll be amazed at how much dirt your house holds onto.  A quick wash down may bring the color back to your home’s exterior too.

Time to Pick and Trim

Flagstone patio red door grill kitchen flowers
Cleaning low and high will make it look more inviting.

Lastly, pick the weeds growing in your flowers and trim your bushes and trees.  The branches and clippings will usually take a while to get rid of if your garbage can isn’t big enough to handle a lot, but the yard will sure open up.  Getting rid of low hanging branches and unwanted ground plants will make an immediate positive impact on the overall look of the yard.

The best part is that these three de-clutter and cleaning tasks are virtually free to do.  They shouldn’t cost you any money, just a little time and sweat equity.  In the end, you’ll have a nicer, cleaner, and more welcoming backyard area.

Who knows, your clean backyard may go on to inspire other projects.  Start small and work your way up to a finished backyard sporting an outdoor fireplace or outdoor kitchen.  You’ll love it in the end and you’ll marvel at the hidden gem that was under all that dirt and clutter.

Check Us Out

If you are interested in any construction plans for an outdoor fireplace or an outdoor kitchen, look no further than Backyard Flare.  We specialize in easy to follow DIY construction plans that will take virtually all the guess work out of the build.  Follow the plans, finish the structure, and begin relaxing in your backyard.

Call or text Dan at 520-269-9740 or email him at dan@backyardflare.com for additional info, special deals, and some fun discussion.  As always, have fun and remember, happy building.

DIY Outdoor Fireplace Review – PA

We Love DIY Outdoor Fireplaces

Hello again all you fellow DIY’ers and welcome to this edition of, “That Awesome DIY Fireplace” where we introduce a DIY homeowner, tell you what state they reside in, and show you how awesome they were at building their own DIY outdoor fireplace.

diy outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick
Finished backyard party area complete with a DIY outdoor fireplace and outdoor pavilion, kitchen and bar.

Let’s go to the northeast, beautiful Pennsylvania, to introduce homeowner Mike.  Mike had a very cool outdoor pavilion space with a long entertainment bar, bar stools, outdoor kitchen; and it was party central.  To the side of that space, Mike had a bare corner concrete spot that begged for something like a fire structure.  In April 2018, Mike visited www.backyardflare.com, and picked his favorite design, the Phoenix fireplace.  He wanted a smaller footprint for the fireplace structure but something big enough to not feel dwarfed by the surrounding features, which were trees and a wrought iron fence just outside the corner of the concrete slab.

Construction Starts

diy outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick
Rough build of Phoenix design DIY outdoor fireplace is done.

Mike started laying block, paying attention to the block layout and instructions of the construction plan. Before he knew it, Mike was a DIY mason who had never really tried to do a project of this caliber.  Mike stated that he just needed a little bit of help and that the construction plan was what he needed to give him the confidence to start.

Mike kept a super clean work site and made sure he didn’t let the mortar remain on his concrete pad for very long.  This made the final cleanup easier than it would have been, saving time and aggravation in the end.

Adding the Final Touches – Detail Work

When Mike was finished with the rough build, he started the lining of the firebox with firebrick.  This process was pretty quick and before he knew it, Mike was ready for the final veneer material.

diy outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick metal art firebrick
Mike finished his DIY outdoor Phoenix design fireplace. Getting ready for a party.

Mike chose to cover his outdoor fireplace with a stucco finish.  Mike’s technique was to go with a smoother final finish.  The seating was covered with dark stone material giving a great contrast to the white color of the structure.

Mike added a smoke arrestor to the top of the chimney to catch and extinguish embers that tried to escape from the top.  With the fireplace facing right into the entryway of the outdoor pavilion, Mike’s party central area became even more stunning.

Mike added a very cool fire grate in the firebox and a piece of chain suspended metal art to the front of the fireplace.  With a raging fire, behind the fire screen, it is just gorgeous.

metal art fire screen DIY outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick
Nighttime fire in Mike’s outdoor fireplace.

We Know Mike is Now a Mason

Mike told Backyard Flare, “your plans were fantastic”, and that he wasn’t a mason.  We beg to differ and debate that last statement.  We see what Mike did and with no previous masonry experience.  Mike, you’re a mason now and we’re very proud to include you into the Backyard Flare DIY family.

We sure hope you like Mike’s fireplace and that it inspires you to think about one of these fireplaces in your backyard as well.  It’s really not out of reach to achieve a stunning outdoor living space.  Mike said he wasn’t a mason, but we know it’s just the unknown.  We’ll help you through it.  If you have the DIY mindset, we can help you achieve greatness.  We have assisted hundreds of homeowners who are weekend DIY’ers, realize their potential to build fireplaces just like Mike’s.  You can do it too.

Thanks so much for reading about another great DIY fireplace build.   We’ll bring you more soon, and as always …happy building.

Dan Heston
520-269-9740

 

Five Ways to Make a Beautiful Backyard

Five Ways to Make a Beautiful Backyard

There are so many ways to make a beautiful backyard and so many different things to make it a ‘one of a kind’.  If a backyard was just a standard layout and everyone did the same thing, where would the fun be?  For as long as people have been living in houses, they have strived to create outdoor living spaces full of functionality and beauty.  Backyard popularity and the drive to create the perfect outdoor space has always been there, and I feel the things to build, construct, and add are more abundant now than ever.  So many options and so little time.  Here is Backyard Flare’s list of ‘Five Ways to Make a Beautiful Backyard’.

Outdoor Fireplace

Outdoor fireplace beautiful backyard
Outdoor fireplace with flagstone seating and stone veneer.

First and foremost, we love outdoor fireplaces and bang for your buck, they are amazing.  They seem to be the one thing outdoors that will bring you a massive return on your investment.  What you may spend a few hundred dollars on could gain thousands in return at time of sale.  Outdoor fireplaces are our bread and butter and it’s what we think about day and night.  We are always talking to DIY homeowners about different layout possibilities and available building footprints.  It seems like people are building fireplaces in spaces small and large.  Even places that seem to not work for a fireplace, people seem to build in.

Now, you don’t have to build a massive structure to have it be the focal point.  If you position your fireplace in a way that the flame is visible from inside your house, it becomes a very cool feature in that you can build a fire for ambiance.  It’s so peaceful to have a fire crackling and you don’t even have to be sitting next to it to enjoy it.

Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchen beautiful backyard
Outdoor kitchen with drop in grill and access doors.

Holy cow, who doesn’t like to grill?  I don’t know anyone right off the top of my head.  Most homeowners will have a small Weber grill or a cheap standalone grill on their back patio.  Over time, it will probably be in a state of rust and full of cobwebs.  It’s probably because the backyard wasn’t welcoming.  It wasn’t a place where the homeowners wanted to spend their time.  Ah, but build a nice outdoor kitchen and it becomes a destination… a “cooking” destination.

beautiful backyard
Outdoor kitchen with black granite countertop.

Adding an outdoor kitchen, can be as simple as encasing your existing standalone grill, with countertop to the sides.  More extravagant structures may have a raised bar area with stools, a refrigerator, a sink, or even a pizza oven added.  The possibilities are endless and will de

pend on how much room you have to work with.  The layout could be rectangular, built like an “L” shape, or even a “U” shape.  Drop in grills can be purchased for reasonable costs if you look around enough, and you can opt for propane or natural gas.  Building a sunken pit into your structure could even accommodate the use of charcoal, which in our opinion tastes wonderful.

Outdoor Lighting

beautiful backyard
Lighting adds a great look to any fireplace

Spend some time looking into your backyard at night and think about where you would add low voltage lighting.  Adding a transformer and some perimeter lights in the yard can add a lot of character.  Upward lighting on trees and bushes can add visual depth that all but fades away at night.

Outdoor lighting fireplace beautiful backyard
Lighting along the front of a fireplace hearth.

If you add the lighting to a structure such as a fireplace or outdoor kitchen, you will bring those structures to a focal point.  Many homeowners will incorporate lighting throughout their entire yard and through structures, having it illuminate all at the same time.  This is a really elegant look.

Lighting outdoor kitchen beautiful backyard
Lighting brings out the beauty at night on the outdoor kitchen.

Potted Plants

Potted plant beautiful backyard
Colorful flowers in a white potted and textured pot.

The right pot or three with colorful flowering plants puts the finishing touch on many backyards.  The flowers provide a visual pop of color not usually found anywhere else in a backyard.  With colorful pots or textured pots, you can add lots of cool looks.  Change the flowers each season for different colors or type of plants.  If you add a drip line into the pot, you’ll be able to minimize the maintenance time and possibly forgetting to water the plants.  They don’t tend to live very long if they don’t get water.

Shaded Seating

Adirondack chair beautiful backyard
Comfy Adirondack chairs begging for usage.

Last on our short list for a beautiful backyard but not even close to being the least important, add some shaded seating to your outdoor space.  On cool mornings, I will grab a cup of coffee and sit in my Adirondack chair with my feet propped up.  This chair lives under my patio cover, adding lots of protection from sun fading.  When I want to venture out from the confines of the patio cover, I can relax in one of my teal colored padded chairs.  The rectangular shaped glass table sports a teal colored umbrella providing great sun protection for most of the day.

Outdoor chair beautiful backyard
Teal padded chairs and umbrella around glass table.

Just adding a few different places to sit comfortably in your backyard will offer the look of a welcoming area.

Over time, with these few things added or built in your backyard, you will have transformed your outdoor space and you will hopefully have a beautiful backyard that begs for usage.  Lots of usage.  And who knows, maybe you’ll add all five recommendations, completely renovating it to the envy of all your neighbors.

If you have any questions about any of the suggestions, or if you want to build an outdoor kitchen and/or outdoor fireplace, visit www.backyardflare.com.  We’ll help you with your project and provide you with a very comprehensive DIY construction plan.  Most if not all the guesswork will be gone.

The Perfect S’more

The Perfect S’more

Is there a day that goes by where you don’t contemplate the perfect S’more or the ingredients that it takes to construct one?  I don’t think so, as these quandaries are what keep lots of people up at night.  I often lie there for hours at a time, beads of sweat collecting on my forehead, while I count marshmallows and small squares of chocolate.  Did I break the graham cracker perfectly, so the two sides are equal? Is the marshmallow gooey enough?  The perfect S’more…oh my…so much to consider.

Funny to think about, and “no” I really don’t drive myself into crazed sleeplessness over something as simple as a S’more.  Having said that, I thought this would be an amusing blog post to write about how to build the perfect S’more and to get some feedback on what constitutes your perfect S’more.

So Many Questions

What is the perfect roast level of the marshmallow?  How much chocolate is necessary for these tasty and crunchy dessert sandwiches?  These seem like crazy questions and an over analyzation of a simple sweet snack, but really think about what you do when you build the perfect S’more.  You make a lot of micro decisions when you are in the S’more frame of mind.

Marshmallow on a stick
Marshmallow on a Stick

You will usually impale a helpless marshmallow on a skewer or metal stick and hold it over the open flame without mercy.  The question lies; however, do you hold it just outside the flame or catch it on fire?  Do you require a golden brown slow roast, or do you prefer the stick mounted flaming marshmallow ball like a torch used by Indiana Jones?  How long do you let the marshmallow burn before you blow out the flame?  Is there a point when too much burn is too much, and intending to start over, you resort to flinging the sticky mess off the stick for the dog to devour?

Chocolate
Perfect Milk Chocolate

Do you prepare your graham cracker and chocolate before the marshmallow torture or do you yell at others in panic to get your cracker and chocolate ready?  If you’re like most, you do the latter.  You were so focused on the marshmallow torture and open flame that you “tunnel-visioned” yourself out of paying attention to the chocolatey crunchy portions of the sweet treat. Remember that your failure to prepare the cracker and chocolate should not constitute an emergency on the part of your family and friends.

S’more (Some More) Questions

Do you forget and leave the graham crackers open, so the dog gets into them, “Pavlov Dog Style”?  Do you viciously eat a good portion of the chocolate beforehand, and then realize that there may not be enough to go around?  Are you the one that puts the hot and sticky marshmallow skewer down on the chair in haste not realizing that it will glue itself to the seat cushion?

The Perfect S'more
Building the Perfect S’more

With so many things to consider, should we as humans even be stepping into the tough decisions necessary to build the perfect S’more?  Is it better done as a team event?  This blog post has not done anything except make me hungry for a S’more and nervously anxious at the thought of building one.  I hope the next time you decide to make the perfect S’mores that you talk it over first with your guests.  Think about logistics and have a game plan before indulging in such glorious delicacies.

S'more
S’more Time Anyone?

Or just have fun.  S’mores are a great way to share memories with family and friends.  Leave a comment and let us know some of your S’more memories or thoughts.  We’d love to hear them.

Build Your Own Marshmallow Fireplace

Please visit www.backyardflare.com if you are interested in a DIY fireplace or outdoor kitchen construction plan.  They are perfect places to build a fire necessary for your marshmallow torture.  Thanks for reading, and as always…happy building.

Dan

Shaping and Cutting Natural Stone

Shaping and Cutting Natural Stone

You’re done with your DIY outdoor fireplace or DIY outdoor kitchen and you are contemplating what you will use to cover the horizontal surfaces.  Look to natural stone for a possibility.  Shaping and cutting natural stone does not have to intimidate you.  There are ample resources that will help guide you through the process of getting your stone to fit the seating, shelving, and the top of your fireplace or kitchen.  And it looks beautiful.

Flagstone seating material and lighting on a DIY outdoor fireplace
Flagstone seating material and lighting on a DIY outdoor fireplace

Do Your Research

Do an online search for DIY outdoor fireplaces or DIY outdoor kitchens and you’ll see some amazing structures.  Pay attention to the horizontal surfaces and you’ll see that these DIY homeowners have used lots of different materials.  One of the widely used materials for the horizontal surfaces is natural stone.  The use of the natural stone will require some cutting and shaping of the material before it can be applied to your structure though.  This can be done via a couple different methods.

Cutting Natural Stone
Method One – Use a Diamond Blade

Flagstone on a DIY outdoor fireplace
Mark your cuts on the stone using a long straight edge.

The first and most common method of stone shaping is to use a diamond blade to cut it.  This is a very effective way of cutting the stone and curved cuts are even possible.  The final look will be a smooth edge that can be rounded off for a finer look.

The diamond blade you use to cut your cinder block can double as the stone cutting blade.  Depending on your saw, diamond blades can be used dry or wet.  Dry cutting is dusty so use a mask and prepare to be covered in the colored dust.  With a good blade, some stone, such as flagstone will cut through like a hot knife through butter.  Don’t try to cut too deep, too fast though as you will bog down the saw.

Check out this video showing how easy cutting natural stone can be using a diamond blade.  This is an example of a dry cut, using a 9″ grinder.
https://www.facebook.com/BackyardFlareLlc/videos/630083177148781/

One more thing to keep in mind about dry cutting is that your blade will become super hot and it will begin to soften and warp. When this occurs, simply stop cutting to allow the blade to cool down.  If you proceed too long with a warping blade, it may maintain that warped out-of-round shape even after it has cooled.

Cutting Natural Stone
Method Two – Hammer and Chisel Cutting

If you want a more rustic look, you can opt to chisel cut the stone.  This is a bit more of an art form and could require an extra piece or two of stone that you can practice on.  You will use a hammer to hit the chisel, but don’t hit too hard.  For the best cut, you will use small movements of the chisel head as you impact the chisel with your hammer.

If you are cutting a 12” straight cut using a 4” chisel head, you will probably hit the chisel at least eight to ten times along the way.  The stone may not break after the first pass so start again and continue as you first did until you see the stone begin to crack.

It is not uncommon to go from end to end three or four times before the stone breaks.  At times, you may have a stone that will not break exactly on your intended line.  This may be a result of a stone that already has cracks and fissures in it.  The stone will break where it is most vulnerable but it may not be exactly where you intended it to break.  This is the frustration of chisel cutting versus cutting the stone with a blade.

DIY outdoor fireplace, stone seating
DIY outdoor fireplace with chisel cut stone seating

Check out a great video on cutting natural stone using the hammer and chisel technique.
https://www.facebook.com/BackyardFlareLlc/videos/289085947915174/

Cutting Natural Stone – Practice Makes Perfect

A great idea is to purchase a small piece of stone ahead of your construction.  You can practice cutting lines, both with a blade and chisel.  With enough repetition, you will find the preferred method and look that will look great on your structure.

As always, happy building.

Dan

 

Vintage and New Outdoor Fireplaces – They’re Everywhere

outdoor stone fireplace, house is gone
What stories can this AZ fireplace tell?

Outdoor Fireplaces – What History Can They Tell?

I have been traveling quite a bit lately.  Additionally, I have been fortunate enough to have gone to some really neat locations.  Just a few visited in the past few months are Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Winterpark, Colorado, El Paso, Texas, and the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.  When I go to a new place, I love the opportunity to walk around and explore the old and new.

One thing that seems timeless is the fireplace built in an old house lot.  They still stand, absent the house or an old cabin.   I love walking around these towns and noticing great outdoor fireplaces built in new areas, at shopping malls, at apartment complexes, and even outdoor patios of fancy bars and restaurants.

Vintage Fireplace
Old fireplace in a WV city park

The old vintage stone fireplaces through their cracks and stains can sometimes tell a silent story, letting your mind wander at how much they have seen and been witness to over the passing years.  Who graced the hearth and seating around these graceful structures?  What conversations and decisions took place in front of the fire?

Imagine the fireplaces in the homes and parks of West Virginia that kept home owners and those fighting in the civil war warm.  They used them every day during the harsh winters.  Imagine the fireplaces in the Grand Canyon lodges that kept tourists warm during the 1930s when the park was really becoming a destination.  Now those are old fireplaces with stories too abundant for us to even imagine.

How About the New?

Shopping center outdoor fireplace
Fireplace spotted in an AZ shopping center

But let’s think about how we can create our own memories and stories around an outdoor fireplace.  When you spot an outdoor fireplace at an outdoor shopping center, stop and check it out.  Sit on the hearth and if it is providing heat, enjoy it for a few minutes.  Relax and even grab a drink if you have time.  Become the history that can be told by that fireplace 100 years from now.

Pay attention to where you are and if you see an old or even a new fireplace that needs to be in a photograph, take a pic and send it to us at, dan@backyardflare.com.  Let us know where and how you found it.

Thanks and as always, happy building!

Cinder Blocks Explained

Cinder Blocks Explained

Cinder block sizes vary and many different shapes are available for your outdoor projects.  There are short ones, tall ones, solid ones and some are made with holes/voids.  Not only are they different sizes, but some that are classified with the same dimensions can be slightly different allowing them to be used in a different manner.

You can build outdoor structures such as fireplaces, kitchen, and pizza ovens using primarily the blocks that are described in this article.  Just for a bit of clarification, most people will call them cinder blocks but there is a slightly more technical term for them.  They are sometimes referred to as concrete masonry units (CMU) by the folks that make them and sell them.  When shopping for these blocks, you only need to call them cinder blocks though and know a little about how they are sized.  The cinder blocks sold in the United States are sized in inches.

Cinder Blocks and Sizes Explained

8x8x16 Block

8x8x16 block

The most common cinder block is an 8x8x16 as seen in the adjacent picture.  These measurements are the depth, height, and width respectively.  Most construction projects, needing any structural integrity, will be built using this size block. These blocks have voids, designed to be filled with concrete, which provides great strength.

 

 

8x8x8 Block

8x8x8 block

These 8x8x8 cinder blocks are perfect cubes that are widely used in conjunction with the 8x8x16 cinder blocks.  These blocks also have voids which allow them to be filled with concrete.

Some have notches manufactured into them for rebar, but the notch will not be used most of the time.  When you are building using a running bond/staggered pattern, these will certainly be useful.

 

8x4x16 block

8x4x16 block

An 8x4x16 cinder block is half as tall as standard 8x8x16 cinder blocks, so they are very good to incorporate into your structure. These cinder blocks are used as a transition block when only a little bit of height is needed as they are only 4” tall.  These blocks also have voids.

 

 

 

4x8x16 block

4" block used for your outdoor fireplace
4x8x16

Occasionally, you will need a cinder block that is only 4” in depth.  These cinder blocks are measured 4x8x16. They have much smaller voids in them which makes them harder to fill with concrete.

A lot of cinder block walls are constructed using these blocks.

 

 

 

8x2x16 cap block

Use these cinder blocks for finish work and solid surfaces.
8x2x16 cap block

One of the last widely used cinder blocks is an 8x2x16 cap block.  When you only need to add a couple inches to your structure or to close off a section, you will use these blocks. These cinder blocks are solid and are also used when a flat surface is needed for finish work.

If you are interested in building an outdoor fireplace or kitchen there are great ways of building them.  Cinder blocks are just one way of constructing them, but it’s a fantastic way to build a structure with great integrity and strength.  Visit www.backyardflare.com for great outdoor fireplace designs, ideas, and DIY construction plans.