Landscape Contractor / Design Build Maintain

AUG 2017

LC/DBM provides landscape contractors with Educational, Imaginative and Practical information about their business, their employees, their machines and their projects.

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34 LC DBM not handle heat," said Castellanos. "They start to change color, crack, or they can even explode. It is always a good idea to line a fire pit." For Washburn, Belgard's 'Stonegate Country Manor' kit was the way to go. After building the fire pit around the gas line, a steel disc was set on top. The gas line hooked into a burner sized to the in - side dimension. Karp's masonry fire pit has a concrete block foundation with firebrick on the in - side, a precast coping, and stone veneer that matches the rest of the backyard amenities. Completing this segment of the overall project took a couple of days. For Urban Oasis, the gas line had al - ready been installed under the existing flagstone paving, so it was a matter of ordering and placing the fire bowl. The bowl was filled with an even mix of dark gray, light gray, white and adobe red fire pebbles from the same manufacturer that produced the bowl. Traditional building materials, such as natural stone and manufactured pav - ers, are easier to arrange when used in a square configuration, like one of the fire pits TDH Landscaping built in Maryland. "When you're building a square pit it is easier to keep things plumb," said Nathan Boliek. "Building a circular pit requires lots of cutting to maintain a true circular diameter." Maintaining It All Year Long According to Washburn, fire pits "don't really take a whole lot of maintenance if they're designed and built right." He advises a once-a-year maintenance rou - tine that includes updating the glass or cinder rocks. In terms of preparing for winter and snowfall, he recommends getting either a dome shield or a hard canvas cover that can seal the fire pit for the winter – what - ever it takes, "as long as you're keeping the snow off so it doesn't build up water underneath it," he said. Some fire pits will not require any prep - aration for winter. "This one is all taken care of," said Karp. "It doesn't hurt it at all if there's snow on it." This is due to it having an open bottom so moisture and water can drain out of it. On the other hand, for wood burning fire pits on permeable surfaces, Castella - nos recommends maintenance every 12- 24 months. "Ash and debris can build up over time," he said. "This prevents water from making it down past the pavers to the soil, which will cause damage to the pit." Final Thoughts Washburn recommends having a good plan in place before getting started. "Make sure you have a good budget for it, compact everything, and build a good solid fire pit," he said. Gliksman advises careful fire bowl selection. "Origi - nally the bowl was a rustic acid stain," she said. "I thought it was beautiful, but the client thought that it looked uneven." To solve this, the manufacturer was brought in to paint the bowl with a solid black stain. Boliek believes a contractor should never stop learning. "Always learn about the latest products and technology on the market," he said. "This will help you learn what works best in terms of function, aes - thetics and budget." According to Castellanos, experience and first-hand knowledge of the task at hand will teach you to pick the right ma - terials for the job. "You have to build these pits a few times to know that using aluminum paver restraints is too restrictive. They don't bend or flex very well," said Castella - nos. "You also don't want to use plastic restraints that can warp due to heat. I've found composite works the best." Karp is also a firm believer in practice makes perfect. "Experience is going to teach you a lot as far as what materials you're going to use, the size, and how to construct things," he said. "Once a homeowner has a fire pit in - stalled, having fun with it and cooking over the top of it and enjoying people and friends – that's the best part of it," Karp concluded. LC DBM Left According to Nathan Boliek of TDH Landscaping, gas fire pits require a profes- sional to safely install the lines necessary to power them. This extra step in construction drives costs well above what it takes to build a wood-burning pit. "Wood takes more work from the client with lighting and cleaning, but is more cost effective," he added. Right The square shape of this fire pit was intended to flow with the angu- lar design theme of the main structure. The builder installed 9 square feet of firebrick throughout the interior of the pit to protect surrounding pavers and decorative masonry. "Keep in mind that wood burns much hotter than gas. Gas is between 60-120 BTUs where wood is double that," said Boliek. "Most pavers can't take the heat from a wood fire."

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