CHARLOTTE MASONRY BLOG
An Outdoor Fire Pit Plan
Adding a stone or brick masonry fire pit can transform any outdoor space into an inviting place to relax or entertain family and friends. While there are numerous portable fire pits options available, permanent built-in stone features dramatically enhance the fit, feel, and finish of your home's exterior. Depending on how big you're willing to go, your imagination is the only limit when creating a new fire pit layout.
One of the most important things you'll want to take into consideration when adding a fire pit to your backyard (or ideal spot) is its location. When you come up with your ideal spot, you want to make sure it is positioned far enough away to prevent smoke and ash from coming in contact with your home, trees or landscaping. Accessibility is also an important factor to consider when brainstorming build-outs. After all, you'll want your new fire pit to be easy to get to. Try to envision the best spot for family and friends gather and this will help to find the best position on your property.
The size of the pit is another important factor to think about when nailing down a location. A larger size feature works well if you plan on entertaining a bigger group of people. Bigger designs also work well if you enjoy roaring fires that keep you warm in the cold months. If ambiance is more your style, then a smaller footprint can be a nice direction to go. Smaller size designs can blend in more seamlessly to your surrounding landscaping as well.
Gas vs. Wood Burning
Whether you love that memorable smell of campfire burning or prefer the ease of use and modern feel of a gas fire - there's a place for both gas and wood-burning units. For fuel availability, if you live in a rural area, gas may not be an option if you don't have access to LP or Natural Gas. If you don't have or don't want to install a gas line, then wood burning may be the better fit. If it's hard to find a steady supply of wood in your area, gas may be the route you choose to go. Gas does burn cleaner than wood, however, wood is a renewable resource. So, from an environmental standpoint, both are fairly even. Gas does have the edge from a convenience standpoint, but many prefer the ambiance you can only get from wood-burning fires. Either route you choose, both will dramatically improve your outdoor living experience.
Whether you prefer big or small, gas or wood, there's a perfect fire pit design out there for you. We know that many of our customers have a hard time deciding with all the different options available. That's where we can offer different suggestions based on our experiences and previous installs. We enjoy working with our customers and offering feedback to help them come up with a design that is both beautiful and functional for all to enjoy!
From the first stone structure built by man, up to today, there have been numerous advances in the field of masonry. Until the 19th century, masons had to use manual labor to quarry, transport and form the materials necessary for construction. When the Industrial Revolution took place in America and Europe, machines were invented that significantly increased the efficiency of large-scale masonry projects. This allowed for increased speed and more elaborate building designs which further helped accelerate the industrial and cultural growth in America and Europe. However, it's important to note that for precision projects, machines can never replace that of a skilled mason. Many 18th century historic and iconic buildings in Washington DC illustrate the amazing and breathtaking results created in the pre-Industrial Revolution era.
The Heritage of Brick
The use of brick in construction has a long and storied past. From fireplaces to spectacular cathedrals, brick has been a cornerstone in man-made structures since the beginning of civilization. Let’s jump right in the history and basics of brick. The first discovered bricks were composed of clay, however, today bricks can be composed of clay-bearing soil, sand, lime, or concrete materials. The three types of brick manufacturing classifications are air-dried brick, fired brick, and chemically set bricks. Air-dried or mudbricks are the oldest and earliest types of manufacturing methods while fired and chemically set bricks are what is used in modern construction today.
Air-Dried or Mudbrick
Dried bricks were the earliest forms used and they were made from clay-bearing earth or mud where they were typically dried by the sun to provide rigidity and strength. The oldest air-dried bricks date back prior to 7500 BC and were discovered in western Asia. Homes and cities were built using this air-dried mudbrick material. Air-dried brick became obsolete around 4400 BC with the introduction of fired-brick.
Moving forward a few centuries, and a new and improved form is discovered called fired brick. The earliest forms of fired bricks were composed of red clay and they were exposed to fire above 600 degrees C on all sides. They were initially used to construct flooring in houses and later used to pave roads and build foundations. The first record of mass-produced fired brick being used was in the ruins of Western China dating back to 1046 BC. Fired bricks typically contain the following materials: Silica, Alumina, Lime, Iron oxide, and Magnesia.
Chemically Set Bricks
Chemically set bricks are created using a curing process of heat and pressure in an autoclave to accelerate a chemical reaction necessary for curing. This type of brick has a high load-bearing capacity due to its high compressive strength properties. They also offer good acoustic insulation and have excellent fire resistance.
Types of Shaping Methods
There are several shaping methods applied to brick. Depending on the application there many different characteristics and types to choose from. Shaping methods include: Extruded, Molded, and Dry-Pressed.
A salmon color brick home exterior with keystone accents we completed
Extruded brick is made by forcing the material through a steel die which creates a predictable size and shape. A water and clay mixture is forced through a die to create a long strip of material which is then cut into bricks of specified lengths. This method produces very resilient, dense bricks and is ideal for structural applications. Holes through the center can be added to reduce the volume of clay required which cuts costs and makes the bricks lighter and easier to handle. Extruded are lightweight, reasonably priced and are the choice of many bricklayers today.
Molded bricks use raw clay and sand as a base. The clay and sand are mixed with water to create a specific consistency and then is pressed into steel molds with a hydraulic press. From there, the pre-cured and shaped bricks are fired to achieve the desired strength.
Bricks are solid style bricks created by compression. Dry-pressed are similar to the mudbricks of old but can be created in a matter of days rather than weeks. This method produces more accurate and defined-edged bricks. This method can be more expensive due to the greater force and longer burn time required.
Advantages of Brick
There are many different material options to choose from when starting a construction project and it always helps the know the difference between brick and comparable materials. Not only are the color and texture styles nearly limitless with brick, but there are also numerous advantages associated with it. The main benefit of brick is its excellent durability and ability to stand the test of time. Additional benefits include:
Doesn’t need to be painting or sealed making it essentially maintenance-free
Maintains its color and doesn’t fade from harsh UV light
If a section needs to be repaired, its modular nature allows for individual bricks to be removed or replaced without having to rebuild an entire section
Minimizes the transfer of heat in the summer to reduce your cooling costs and helps to hold heat in during the winter
If you live in a high wind area, brick has a very high wind rating and won’t pull off unlike wood or plastic siding
Brick is timeless from a design standpoint as it has the unique ability to look current and not appear dated over time
Brick is a wonderful construction material with limitless color options to choose from. Its storied past shows through in the countless structures that are still standing today hundreds (if not thousands) of years later. Our past project range from new home brick exteriors to brick chimney repair. Whatever your vision may be, it’s a great option to consider for your next project
A Brief History of Masonry
Masonry has played an integral role in the building of structures for over 6000 years. It is one of the oldest building techniques and it can produce amazing and longstanding results. Masonry at its core is the building of structures from individual parts, adhered together by different mixtures of mortar. Masonry materials are non-combustible, and they do not melt, twist or warp when exposed to fire. They can also withstand earthquakes and are resistant to sound. The first forms of masonry consisted of walls created with stone and caked mud to create stability. Clay, brick, concrete block eventually became mainstays for masonry construction - with marble and granite eventually finding their way into the mix. Over time, more advanced mortar mixtures were developed allowing for stronger and more resilient buildings. One of the first civilizations to take advantage of the benefits of masonry were the Egyptians. The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the Wonders of the World and it was built using basic masonry techniques and a whopping 2,300,000 block of stone were used during construction! Moving through the centuries, numerous churches, castles, dams, defensive walls and cathedrals were constructed from stone and were made possible by the knowledge advancement of masons.
A dry stacked-stone fireplace construction in new home
Today, over 70% of the buildings in the world are constructed using masonry due to its beauty, versatility, and durability. Masonry is also one of the most environmentally-friendly systems available and requires less insulation than other building techniques. One surprising fact is that masonry structures actually have lower insurance costs compared to non-masonry structures due to their resilient characteristics including moisture and mold resistance. Masonry is one of the oldest building skillsets known, however, it hasn't lost its luster in today's modern buildings. From decorative stone walls inside a home to outdoor fire pits, masonry remains a cornerstone and a perfect option for homeowners and commercial projects alike!