I’ve been staring at the dirt circle in my backyard where our trampoline used to be for a couple of years now. I’ve been diligently killing anything that grew in the circle as the plan was to build a circular fire pit in that location.
This spring, my wife and I finally decided to put our plan into action, and head to a local big box hardware store to get some information on our DIY fire pit project. We thought it would be a great project to work on together, with a finished product that we could enjoy for years to come.
During the process we learned five important tips everyone should know before taking on a complicated DIY project.
1. Research the Materials Needed
We asked the store associate questions about fire pit kits, as well as how to calculate the number of paver stones that would be needed to build the area around the pit for a set of chairs.
He then brought us over to a landscape estimator terminal that would help us select the paver stone style and pattern. When we were done it printed off a list of materials along with the cost and directions of how to build our fire pit and seating area.
As we navigated ourselves through the process, our excitement turned into doubts that doing the project ourselves was the best idea. Understanding all the materials we needed put our project into better perspective — for both our time and our wallets.
2. Estimate the Entire Cost
We figured we would have to buy the fire ring, and paver stones, however it also turns out, we also need sand and a paver base to ensure the pavers sit on a solid foundation. We also need locking sand to pour between the pavers, once we’re done, so they stay put. Because of the extra materials, the price of our project increased.
As you’re researching all the materials and putting your DIY project together, try to include everything you’ll need so you can accurately estimate what it will cost. To be safe, it’s a good idea to add a bit more cushion to your budget in case you go over the original estimate (which is likely in DIY projects).
3. Understand the Process
After making an entire list of all the materials needed, we found out that we would have to dig out about 7 inches of dirt around the fire pit, in order to install the sand, base, and then the paver stone. In other words, the project was definitely going to involve more work than we initially thought.
As you prepare for your DIY project, chat with an expert, or do some research online, so you can fully understand what the process will entail. It’s likely that you will end up spending more time and money than when you set out, so keep this in mind.
4. Figure Out the Tools Needed
The paver base for our fire pit needs to be solidified using a compactor, which is a motorized tool we have to rent from a store, or borrow from a friend. Before starting, determine what kind of tools or equipment is needed for your project.
If you’re unable to borrow what you need from a friend or family member, do some research to compare prices with different stores where you can rent the tools you need for the job.
5. Know Construction Rules
The employee at the hardware store reminded us that if we were going to dig 7 inches into our lawn, we should contact the city to have them mark where the utility lines are on our property. Hitting a utility line while digging could result in loss of service to our home, and possibly injury.
We haven’t decided on whether or not to go ahead with the project ourselves, or hire someone to do it. But at least we now have all the information to make a budget-savvy decision.
Do it yourself projects can save a lot money, but you have to know what you’re doing — otherwise they could end up costing you more than you bargained for. Even if you plan to do it yourself, it’s wise to talk to a professional to gather all the information to safely and correctly complete your project while staying on budget.
Are you thinking of starting a DIY project? What’s another tip for spending smart?