6 votes

Questions about construction materials and any design advice that you may have

My wife and I live in very rural upper north east of the US. We learned the hard way that concrete eventually crumbles due to the harsh weather conditions (especially the extreme cold).

We are planning on building a smallish rectangular ramada.

At one end of this structure we'd like to have a large fire pit (not a fire place nor chimney to avoid all the cleaning) with a way to reflect the heat back at us.

The general idea here is function. A place to sit outside, stay out of the rain, snow, or sunlight with a large fire that won't be put out by rain or snow.

So, what materials and/or design would you suggest for the fire pit? Do you have any further advice for the ramada?

17 comments

  1. [2]
    Hidegger
    Link
    How you mix your cement determines how durable it will be against various things. You can make your own blocks or large wall forms if you mix it yourself. Guide for that here...

    How you mix your cement determines how durable it will be against various things. You can make your own blocks or large wall forms if you mix it yourself. Guide for that here https://www.hunker.com/12000698/how-to-make-fireproof-concrete
    If your cement crumbled last time it wasn't mixed properly, same with the different blocks you can buy, how well they were mixed will determine how well they hold up. Generally you want a denser block for handling both summer and winter without cracking.
    Refactory mortar should be used to seal your blocks around the fireplace so that it can withstand the heat over time.
    You can build up a bit of a back wall to the fire pit to keep the heat under the roof and direct wind from coming in and hitting the fire and blowing it straight to where people will mostly be. The roof will have to be metal protected and angle up to a peak vent style thing to let smoke escape fairly easily.

    3 votes
    1. suspended
      Link Parent
      Wow! Thanks for all of this and I'll be sure to discuss it with our handy man.

      Wow! Thanks for all of this and I'll be sure to discuss it with our handy man.

      1 vote
  2. [4]
    Amarok
    Link
    Rather than a real fire pit I much prefer having my fires in a proper steel cauldron. It's mobile, the fire burns far better drawing air from below, it's easy to clean and empty, and they come...

    Rather than a real fire pit I much prefer having my fires in a proper steel cauldron. It's mobile, the fire burns far better drawing air from below, it's easy to clean and empty, and they come with grill and lid attachments that make cooking a breeze. There are as many varieties out there as you could possibly want.

    These devices couldn't care less about the weather, either. ;)

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      Those steel varieties are worth considering. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Those steel varieties are worth considering. Thanks for the suggestion!

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Amarok
        Link Parent
        It frees you up worrying about the 'fire' part of it at least. If you worry about wind, you can get the varieties that have a close screen lid, it'll keep anything big from escaping other than a...

        It frees you up worrying about the 'fire' part of it at least. If you worry about wind, you can get the varieties that have a close screen lid, it'll keep anything big from escaping other than a few sparks. Some come with quenching capability too, so you can just close the vents by pulling a lever, then put a solid top on, and it'll go out in short order. All you have to do is prepare an area for it and choose one that fits the decor you're looking for.

        2 votes
  3. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    I don't know anything about it, but if there's no chimney then it seems like wind direction would be important?

    I don't know anything about it, but if there's no chimney then it seems like wind direction would be important?

    1 vote
    1. suspended
      Link Parent
      I'm fairly well-informed about the prevailing winds here and, yes, it is something to consider. Add the wind factor to precipitation and we get sideways rain/snow. We've got a handy man here who...

      I'm fairly well-informed about the prevailing winds here and, yes, it is something to consider. Add the wind factor to precipitation and we get sideways rain/snow. We've got a handy man here who is going to share some of his advice as well but I thought I'd put the feelers out.

      2 votes
  4. [3]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    In the back yard of our first house here in S.Ontario (which has cold, icy/snowy winters too) we had a large outdoor firepit that was made of bricks, and it lasted the entire 10+ years we lived...

    In the back yard of our first house here in S.Ontario (which has cold, icy/snowy winters too) we had a large outdoor firepit that was made of bricks, and it lasted the entire 10+ years we lived there. When I stopped by the house 15-ish years later (after having moved around a whole bunch), the nice people living there at the time gave me a tour, and the firepit was still there and still looking great for its age. So... have you considered using brick for the firepit, at least? And I hear you can make decent patios using the material too. ;)

    p.s. I just checked google, and the satellite photo shows the firepit is still there. :P

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      Someone else that we know mentioned brick but my wife and I are clueless. Based on your experience it may be a strong candidate for consideration. Would you happen to know any more information...

      Someone else that we know mentioned brick but my wife and I are clueless. Based on your experience it may be a strong candidate for consideration.

      Would you happen to know any more information about the type and/or composition of the brick? We have no idea if there are different types of brick that would be more suitable for the region that we live in.

      No worries at all if you are as clueless as we are.

      We'll eventually figure all of this out and thanks for the input.

      1 vote
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Despite my snark ;) I am probably just as clueless as you as to the specifics... but these might help: https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/ideas-how-to/outdoors/patio/how-to-install-patio-pavers.html...
        1 vote
  5. [4]
    spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    I'm not sure I understand this part of it. You want it to radiate heat towards you, but not any smoke, and also not require any cleaning. And unless I misunderstand, be just a static fire pit...

    At one end of this structure we'd like to have a large fire pit (not a fire place nor chimney to avoid all the cleaning) with a way to reflect the heat back at us.

    I'm not sure I understand this part of it. You want it to radiate heat towards you, but not any smoke, and also not require any cleaning. And unless I misunderstand, be just a static fire pit without any moving parts such as fans directing airflow?

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      patience_limited
      Link Parent
      This isn't actually contradictory. What you want is enough thermal mass of brick, concrete, or stone to continue distributing radiant heat, while surfaces and convection confine/carry the smoke...

      This isn't actually contradictory. What you want is enough thermal mass of brick, concrete, or stone to continue distributing radiant heat, while surfaces and convection confine/carry the smoke away.

      A chimney is the ideal way to do this, but /u/suspended indicates they don't want the maintenance bother. The trick is going to be protecting an open fire from rain/snow, while ensuring that flammable parts of the ramada aren't exposed to heat and sparks. I'd start with local building codes - a firebox and screened chimney might be required by law if the fireplace is inside or adjoining occupied structures.

      Otherwise, you might be able to get away with a vented sheet metal roof, and a central firepit made of brick and heavy stone.

      2 votes
      1. suspended
        Link Parent
        Fortunately for us there are no building codes here and thanks for the feedback.

        Fortunately for us there are no building codes here and thanks for the feedback.

        1 vote
  6. [2]
    0x4A
    Link
    Rather than attempt to build something that would survive ice, water, and fire, I just expected my fire pit to eventually fail, so I built it out of stacked landscaping blocks. It’s circular,...

    Rather than attempt to build something that would survive ice, water, and fire, I just expected my fire pit to eventually fail, so I built it out of stacked landscaping blocks. It’s circular, about five feet in diameter, four courses of 6” block, one and a half of which are below the surface. The very bottom is filled with a few inches of stone with roughly 3” of sand on top to make shoveling out easier.

    I think it’s been there for about seven years now, and I’ve replaced one block. I keep a few spares under my deck. Landscaping block comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so you can be a bit creative with it.

    1 vote
    1. suspended
      Link Parent
      This is what I had built when we first moved here and it crumbled and fell apart. Thanks for the feedback though.

      This is what I had built when we first moved here and it crumbled and fell apart. Thanks for the feedback though.