When we bought this house this past summer, there was already a fire pit. Really, it was a big hole in the yard with some river rock tumbling into it. My sons and I pulled the river rock out- and found an enormous black widow living deep in the recesses. We lined the walls with fire brick, and just this past weekend, added a sandstone cap. My colleague Johnny prepared the cap pieces for us, trimming down a pile of scrap stone from the shop to make them all. There are fifteen pieces total! The fire pit is almost six feet across. I worried that it would seem too big, but I prefer it this way. When I’m starting and tending the fire I can sit on the cap, which is nice. We had a fire this weekend, complete with s’mores.
Last week we finished this project on Sunset Mountain in Asheville. We built two small patios of Tennessee Crab Orchard stone, a gray sandstone from Tennessee. There’s a long low fire pit. And plenty of wall.￼
The walls are made of a local stone that comes from Daggett Mountain. It’s a fun material, lending itself to interesting fits and the opportunity￼ to work a bit more freely, less reliant on the level. It can be challenging for the same reasons. It’s a hard stone to get in good supply. Everyone has it, but the supply is very junky, at least for the types of walls we like to build. Buying it in bulk or even on pallets, half of the stone we would get- if not more- would be wasted. So we go and pick every piece individually from stone yard piles around town.
There is a freestanding wall that separates the driveway from the patio. That wall is mortared. There is also a retaining wall that leans against the bank, where the fire pit is nestled. That wall is laid dry.
The two walls intersect at a boulder, that was already on site, but needed to be relocated. ￼￼
In this picture you might notice that the patio is two toned. In the foreground is an existing mortared walkway but the owner didn’t care to replace. We took out a couple of stones so that our new patio could be connected to that walkway. As the stone weathers it will blend together better.
The last detail at the Beast Wall project was to add a low fire ring in the back yard. Accessed by the bridge we built, the fire ring is made of stone that we found on site way back when we built the big wall last fall. The stone was salvaged or scavenged from old Asheville walls by a previous owner. You might see paint on some of the stones or old mortar. The ring is five feet in diameter and there’s about three feet clear in the center for the fire. We lined the interior with fire brick to protect the stone. Te gravel bottom will allow it to drain rain water. By the nature of the rough salvaged stone, we mortared the exterior part of the ring together. The fire brick are embedded in mortar and the area between the brick and stone is also plugged with mud.
This is a wall and fire pit project from a couple of years ago. We had done a front walkway for this client. He enjoyed the experience so much, he came to work for Hammerhead. Newly retired, he wanted something to keep him busy and learning. We can do that! While he was in our employ, we collaborated on this backyard project at his house.
I don’t think you can discern from the pictures, but this patio is elliptical. If I recall, it’s 12 feet from the entrance to the fire pit, and 15 feet long. It’s a tricky business laying out an ellipse on this scale. It involved multiple pivot points and just the right sized loop of string. I like the elliptical shape, though it gave us some challenges as to how to lay out the openings in the wall. The walls at the far ends create unusual angles at the entries. Not terrible, just a little weird.
The concept was at the fire pit was set into the wall, as a way of preserving patio space. I like how the seating cap of the wall becomes the cap of the fire pit. The wall is laid dry, though there is a bead of mortar under the capstones. Years ago I bought that big chunk of sandstone which we used as the hearth. I do that sometimes, buy some thing I think it’s cool not knowing where it will go. Those things always find a home.
We build the wall and the fire pit. The homeowner/coworker did the patio himself. I think he did a great job!
We are just finishing up this large backyard transformation. We’ve been collaborating with BB Barns on this project. All of the work is laid dry, except there is mortar utilized in the fire pit, to stabilize the refractory brick and to ensure the cap does not move.
There’s at least 30 tons of Tennessee sandstone used in the walls flagstone patio’s in paths and steps. More pictures to come when BB Barns has completed planting and mulching around all of the new stonework.
Hammerhead completed the Sacred Circle Fire Pit in January of 2014 for clients hoping to use the space for ceremonial gatherings. The photo below is of the fire pit after completion from down here on solid ground.
And here is a photo of the completed fire pit from Google Maps from up above.
Sacred Fire Circle in Alexander, NC
Hammerhead completed the fire circle in January of 2014 for clients hoping to use the space for ceremonial gatherings.
Rays of black granite shoot out from the central fire ring in the cardinal directions until they meet the four large site boulders. Each site boulder frames one side of the four semicircular stone benches that border the circle. Reclaimed granite of various colors and patterns give each planet orbiting around the fire ring its own distinct look.
We just finished transforming this Black Mountain backyard from a ragged old deck with drainage issues into a dynamic living space with a fire table. Over the course of the last year we have been using larger and larger slabs of flagstone, but keeping our very tight tolerances for the joints. The results are more like a floor in terms of level and walking comfort than the typical concept of a patio, which is often as much filler as stone. All of the work here is drystone, except for the fire table, which has some refractory mortar in the fire brick for stability. I’ll post about that when I have some good images of it in use.
We recently completed this large patio and fire pit project in Atlanta. We built the whole patio here in Asheville and then created a detailed map of how the stones went together, before loading it on pallets and freighting it to the job site. It took us two and a half days to fix a slack grading job, reassemble the patio and build the fire pit. They were long days of hard work and great fun. The hosting house had a pool table, which was a nice bonus. This was very much an experiment, but I feel like it worked so well and we learned so much, that we can start offering our particular styles of flagstone patios to areas outside of Asheville.
We’re creating an outdoor space for a family in Montford. Part of the design is an invisible fire pit, a technique we developed as a way to save patio space. We use fire brick to create the place to burn below grade. We don’t go too deep, so the fire is able to draw air from above. If it was too deep the fire would starve for oxygen. The lid is quite thick and heavy enough that we decided to cut it into three pieces, making it much more manageable. 99% of the time, it’s just a patio, but when you want to have a fire, you open the lid (handles provided) and enjoy the ambiance.