A fire pit area and walkway built using timber and paving bricks.
This is an outdoor project on a large unused area of our back yard. We have a one-acre block in the suburb of Mundaring in the Perth hills, a lot of it being just bush. Having this much land can be daunting when trying to create a garden, so each year or so we select a small area of the property to work on. This way, we aren’t trying to do the whole block in one hit and it is not so overwhelming. There was also no rush to get things done, so we took our time with everything, making sure we got it done just the way we wanted.
The area outside the kitchen window was very messy, so prior to building the fire pit garden, we put in a small patch of lawn and some garden, which now gives us a nice vista to look over.
We also put in some bird baths and regularly watch honeyeaters, fantail wrens, red-capped parrots and many more bathe in them.
One of the things we wanted to achieve when creating our garden, was to create it in such a way that you couldn’t see what was coming, so you were always wondering what was coming around each corner when walking our paths.
The fire pit garden was one of the larger areas we attempted and whilst we plan ahead, there were aspects of this area where we didn’t know what we wanted to do with it. We knew we wanted the fire pit and walkway, and that we wanted it to blend in with the natural bush surrounding it, but that was about as much as we knew. We hoped that as we went along we would get some ideas.
We started by hiring a Dingo digger, and my son and I went about cleaning and levelling the area. Our block slopes to the right, so rather than fill it and level it, we decided to work with it. Once it was cleared, I got a better idea of where we wanted things. Fortunately, there was a natural clearing amongst the trees where the fire pit would go, so we marked that out.
We then proceeded to put in all the holes using an auger on the front of the Dingo. Surprisingly, most of the holes went in without incident, however there were a few where we hit rock and had to change things up as we went along. The levelling and hole drilling took a full day to do.
With the holes in, the next stage was the fencing and walkway. We bought 73 Pine poles and I started cutting them to size and putting in the fence. The Pine pole brackets from Bunnings are awesome. They look good and made the job of putting up the fence a lot easier. The walkway was quite difficult, as I was doing it all myself. I am a total amateur and had no idea of how to do it, so I looked around and took photos of other walkways and basically copied what I found.
One of the biggest issues I had to deal with was the fact that the Pine poles varied significantly in thickness from one end to the other, so getting them level was a nightmare. A spirit level wasn’t much use to me at all. I basically had to eyeball each post individually and get them as close to level as I could. Also due to the slope of the block, one end of the walkway was much higher than the other, so getting the Pine poles on the top in place, and then screwing them in was quite tricky. To do this, I got two pieces of metal and screwed them to each end of the Pine poles, leaving about 3 - 5cm of overhang on both metal pieces. I called them wings. I was then able to lift the poles into place and just hang them there while I screwed in the Pine pole brackets. The bonus doing it this way, was that the wings held the pole perfectly level for me and I was able to do it all by myself.
For the walkway roof, I used Pine pole splits. As I was selecting them in Bunnings, a random gentleman came up to me and asked what I was using them for. I told him they were the roofing for my walkway and they would span about 2m across the top. He told me that within a couple of years they would all be sagging in the middle. This is not something I had considered, so I needed to come up with a way to stop this happening. To prevent the sagging, I bought the smallest diameter of Pine pole I could get and then ran them down the middle of the roof, underneath the Pine splits, hopefully giving them enough support to prevent them sagging. To fit these smaller Pine poles, I used the same Pine pole brackets, but modified the shape of them using a vice and a hammer. I flattened out one end and tightened the curve on the other to fit the smaller pole. They did the job perfectly, and I have had no sagging.
With the fencing in and the walkway up, the next step was the paving. I left this job to the experts, and fortunately my wife’s nephew is very good at it. We were quite specific about how we wanted the circular paving laid. Every second paver had to be cut twice. It was a huge job and the paving took a lot longer than I had wanted and pretty much blew what was left of the budget. He also put the limestone wall around the back of the fire pit. I had planned to put in electrics for lights as well, but due to the budget overrun in the paving we were unable to do it. We have however had the conduit for electrics laid under the paths for when we become more financial.
When we started, we had no idea what we wanted to do with the area outside the small room. We eventually decided to put in a garden with a small path leading to an Illawarra Flame Tree, I removed one of the railings from the walkway to allow access to this area. This is going to look stunning in the summer once the tree matures. In the garden we have planted many natives including quite a few Kangaroo Paw plants.
All in all, this was a very rewarding project. We are very happy with the result and our fire pit area has now become a popular place for our family to come over and enjoy a BBQ or pizza together. Quite often our local wildlife such as possums, bandicoots and boobook owls hang around us while we are out there.
Tools and materials used in the project: