Want to create a dedicated area in your yard for a built in fire pit? Also want to get rid of unwanted grass at the same time? We’ll show you how to do both in this article creating a beautiful fire pit area that you will enjoy for many years.
Fire pit areas require a non flammable material around the fire pit for safety reasons. Any type of rock aggregate fits this description, such as pea gravel, recycled concrete, crushed granite, lava rocks and river rocks. Any of the listed materials make a great choice to install in a fire pit area and will last a long time. We chose the smooth river rock since we like the look the best from all the choices above.
River rock is beautiful and durable but can be very expensive. We went to a local garden center that sold all kinds of landscaping materials in bulk such as dirt, mulch and different types of rock aggregates. The cost for the river rock was $125 a cubic yard with an additional charge for delivery. We estimated our area to need 2.5 cubic yards which would have cost us close to $400 with delivery.
I started looking around for other places to purchase the river rock and came across a company that was affiliated with the railroad that sold rock aggregate. Their river rock price was much less per cubic yard and looked better, with a lower cost per cubic yard. When you have a large area, buying in bulk is better for many landscaping materials, especially very heavy materials such as dirt or rock.
Prepping your area before delivery of your rock.
Depending on where you’re placing the river rock, you might have a lot of prep or very little. Most people have grass in their backyards which will have to be removed before the river rock is dumped on top of it.
If you don’t remove or cover the grass with a thick barrier, it will grow through the rock. You don’t want weeds coming through your river rock. You can cover the grass with a thick barrier such as cardboard, wet it down, then you’re ready to put the rock on top. The cardboard will kill the grass underneath.
In our case, the area we earmarked for the fire pit area had an above ground pool that was removed. The grass was already dead underneath the pool but the remaining area still had grass that I had to remove. This is a labor intensive process since you will need to dig underneath the grass to loosen it and pull up the roots.
Luckily I only had about 20 sq ft to dig up so I did it by hand. If you have a larger area, you can rent a sod cutter. This cutter makes sod removal very easy, as you simply walk behind the equipment as it removes the grass and leaves a fairly level patch of dirt.
Once you have the area prepped, you’re ready for your river rock. Access to the area will determine how much work will be required to install and spread the rock in the defined area. In our case, the delivery truck could dump the rock right on our fire pit area. In hindsight, the truck did leave large divots in the grass, from turning and backing up, due to how heavy the truck was loaded with the rock.
Having access to dump the rock in the fire pit location made spreading the rock much easier. If it’s not possible to dump the rock in the backyard you will have to move all your rock by hard to the backyard. The easiest way to move the rock will be with a wheelbarrow or dump cart.
It took me two to three hours to spread the river rock around the lined out area, leaving about a foot on the perimeter to install the landscape edging to make a half circle. We purchased the larger river rock, which proved difficult to move with an iron rake. I had most success with filling a bucket on the highest part of the pile letting gravity do most of the work. Once the pile was lower, I used a shovel to move the rest of the rock.
Fire Pit Edging Options
To keep the river rock confined, you should have some type of material to use on the perimeter or edge of the fire pit area. The different choices for landscape edging is plastic or rubber edging. Since it’s very malleable, you can create many different shapes and even tight circles. It’s fairly inexpensive and easy to install. There is an aluminum edging that is similar to the plastic edging but is more sturdy than the plastic version. It is also malleable, but not as bendy as the plastic. Since the metal is aluminum it won’t rust. For a more substantial edging look, you can also choose brick, pavers or concrete.
We chose the metal edging since we liked the look and durability of the aluminum edging along with the ease of installation. The aluminum edging costs more than the plastic edging you can buy at your local lowes or homedepot but in my opinion looks so much better.
It’s bendable, so you can make different shapes with it which was perfect for our half circle. It took a couple of hours to install the metal edging along the perimeter. Once the edging was finished, I moved the river rock up to the edging to cover the entire dirt area with rock.
The river rock and metal edging looks great in the backyard. The finishing touch will be our paver fire pit to be installed next week. I can’t wait for our first fire!