Spring has sprung and Calgarians have been eagerly soaking up the sunshine on local patios and pathways. For the weekend warrior who can’t make it out of the city for some camping or adventures in the mountains, there’s always the option of building your own backyard fire pit. When done properly, and by adhering to the The City of Calgary bylaws concerning fire pit regulations, you can have your friends over for a cozy sit around the fire indulging in a barbecue followed by roasted marshmallows or s’mores.
1. First things first, it’s important to check your local fire codes on open flames. According to the City of Calgary all fires must be in a fire pit or non-combustible receptable, in a fire pit built into bare ground or set upon non-combustible material such as brick or stone, not within two metres of the property line building or fence or beneath any trees or branches, kept to a reasonable size, fully supervised and may begin at 10 a.m. and by fully extinguished by 1 a.m. City fines for fire pit violations range from $500 to $5,000.
2. To get started on your fire pit, choose a location in the yard in accordance with city bylaws. Fire pit stones of blocks can be purchased at your local home improvement store in a variety of sizes and colours. Once you’ve purchased your bricks first lay them out where you’d like your pit to be located to ensure the bricks make a properly fitted circle. In the event a block needs to be cut, This Old House recommends using a three-inch cold chisel and brick hammer. Be sure to wear safety glasses and consult with an expert, if this is something you’ve never done before.
3. Once your circle is laid out, use a shovel to mark the area around it. Once finished remove your blocks and dig a trench about 30 centimetres deep. Make a ring within the ring as wide as a block and 12 centimetres deep, creating a block wide trench within you pit. Place your ring of blocks within the hold to ensure they fit. If not, you may need to do some more digging until the blocks snuggly fit. Once the pit is prepared, remove the blocks and line the bottom with drainage gravel (This Old House recommends 3/4-inch).
4. Begin laying blocks within the trench of the pit ensuring they are level as you go. A small rubber mallet can be used to ensure the blocks are tightly fit together and you don’t have any gaps in your pit. Once your initial block ring is created, use a caulking gun full of masonry adhesive to glue your remaining blocks building up the fire pit. As an added precaution, This Old House recommends inserting a fire ring, much like the ones seen at Provincial Parks, into the pit as added protection for the blocks and the pit itself. For added decoration you can add cap blocks to the top of your pit blocks using glue for blocks or mortar for natural stone. Wait two days before starting a fire.
5. With the completion of your pit, you’ll be eager to invite some friends over for a barbecue and round of fireside s’mores, however, it’s important to note there are some items that cannot be burnt within the City of Calgary. These items are; treated or painted lumber, lumber products containing glue or resin, wet or unseasoned wood, leaves, brush, yard waste, garbage, rubber, tires, plastic and animal carcasses or parts.
6. Enjoy! Burn clean, dry firewood, prohibit burning the aforementioned materials and be aware of the hazards such as high winds. A metal screen or grill can help reduce a fire size as well as preventing sparks and embers from escaping and igniting nearby materials. The fire chief has the power to declare a complete ban on all burning within the City of Calgary, for more information call 3-1-1 or check out www.calgary.ca.