Last summer, we posted a very cool picture on The Money Pit Facebook Page that was shared with us. It was actually a mind-blowing backyard idea: build an in-ground surround for a plastic kiddie pool that can be removed in winter and used as a fire pit! We’d thought the post might inspire a few of you to take on a project like this over a summer weekend. Well, we were off by a bit – since the post went insanely viral and reached an audience that exceeded 24 million!
The post also generated thousands of comments ranging from the overwhelming “great idea” to the cautionary “you’d burn down the house!” But many, many of the more than 20,000 Money Pit fans that commented just wanted to know how to build this the right way – so putting on our “reverse engineering” hats, we came up with a few tips to guide the project.
Pick Your Plastic Kiddie Pool
The size of the kiddie pool you use will drive the project dimensions, so that is the best place to start. You’ll need a sturdy plastic pool, and not one that’s inflatable. Plastic kiddie pools seem to be generally available in either a 4 or 5-foot diameter so choose one that’s big enough for kids or pets to enjoy. And, since you’ll be building a fire pit around this that will last a lot longer than the plastic pool, I’d pick up an extra pool or two to save as a “replacement liner” for the future. These pools usually cost $20 or $30, so it’s well worth having a spare and not having to search for another of the same size a year or two down the road.
Locate and Lay Out
Next you’ll need to choose a location for your kiddie pool/fire pit project. Unlike the picture that inspired this project, be sure to keep this a safe distance from your home! Remember that this fire pit will likely be too large for any type of screen cover so you’ll need to be concerned that embers won’t fly up and land on your home or any other combustible in the area.
Once you have picked your location, you’ll need to find out if there are any underground utilities running through the area you’ll need to dig. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy process. Just dial “811” which is the national number for the “call before you dig” folks, a free service that will send a friendly utility worker out to your home in a day or two to mark out any place underground utilities could be a problem.
Get Ready to Dig
Once the location is confirmed, mark off your hole and get ready to dig. You can do this by flipping the pool upside down and marking off an area that’s about two feet wider than the width of the pool. So, if the pool is 4 feet wide, you’ll be excavating an area that’s about 6 feet wide, or 7 feet wide of you are using a 5 foot pool. You can also use a stake and string as a makeshift compass to lay out the pool as well. Just make sure the distance between the stake and the end of the string is half the width of the hole you need. Plant the stake in the middle and swing the string around the entire circumference, marking the soil as you go.
Build the Surround
Next, you’ll need to get your hole ready for the pool/pit. Basically you are building a below ground retaining wall that is sized to allow the pool to fit inside. Once the hole is dug and level, stack your block or bricks to the height of the pool plus about two inches. Then fill in the hole with two inches of playground sand so that the pool will be well supported and the sand is there as a base for the fire pit once the pool is removed for the season. Lastly, fill in the soil outside the brick or block edge of the pool, fill the pool with water, and get ready to jump – or maybe just step – in!
Drain and Maintain
Many of the posts asked how such a pool could be drained and maintained. There were many spirited answers but here are a few ideas:
- First, remember that a kiddie pool can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So, it’d be best to drain it between uses, or come up with some sort of cover.
- Use a bucket to remove as much of the water as you can. There’s really not that much so this could be pretty simple, then you can lift the pool out to drain the rest. OR, if you have a wet-dry vac, use the vac to suction out the rest of the water. By the way, a wet-dry vac is also a super handy tool for clearing a clogged drain too – and works a lot better than using chemical cleaners!
- Before inserting the pool for the new season, be sure to clean out any of the old firewood and ash that’s left behind, so that you are left with a relatively clean, level and smooth sand surface.
We hope this clears up your questions and inspires you to take on a similar project this summer. Enjoy your new backyard fun spot and please share photos of your finished project!