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Wood-burning fire pits are wonderful focal points for the gathering space in your yard.

Bonus: They’re easy to build in an afternoon. Here’s how.

Select a Site

Before you even look at your yard, you need to check with local restrictions, building codes and homeowners association rules to make sure you can have a fire pit. You’ll also need to read your homeowners policy to make sure it doesn’t affect your coverage. Choose a site well away from the house and with plenty of room to sit around the fire. Clear away any plants an debris from your site.

Get Ready to Build

To make a circular pit, put a stake in the center of the site and mark out a circle where you want the pit to go. The diameter you draw out should be slightly larger than the outside dimensions of the fire pit ring you’re going to build. Clear out the sod and dirt down to a depth of about seven inches and keep the area level as you work. Pack the remaining dirt down solidly with a hand tamper.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need trapezoidal blocks, which are more narrow on one side to allow the edges to fit snugly together in a circle. The bottom of the fire pit will be crushed gravel paver base, available at your local hardware store, that’s about five inches thick. Put the gravel down and then wet it with a hose and tamp it down. Make sure the surface remains level.

Put down the first layer of blocks around the hole, checking that it remains level as you work. If you need to, add leveling sand beneath blocks to keep it straight. Assemble the next row of blocks, staggering the joints. Before you add adhesive, put in the fire bowl or ring to check the fit. Make sure the lip rests on the edge and adjust the positioning as needed. After you’ve checked to make sure it fits well, then reassemble the blocks with construction adhesive. Test fit each layer before you add adhesive.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your adhesive to determine how long it needs to cure before you can use your fire pit.


Power washing basics

Summer weather means spending more time outside. And while you’re out there, you may notice that the winter months took a harsh toll on your exterior surfaces.

Fortunately, power washing can get most of your surfaces sparking again. Keep reading for more tips on how to choose a power washer and use it safely.

Types of Pressure Washers

Pressure washers take low-pressure water from your garden hose and push it out through a nozzle at high pressure. Pressure washers can be powered by electricity or gas. Electric pressure washers usually cost less and run quieter than gas-powered models, but the trade off is that they’re less portable (you’ll need to have power wherever you use it) and usually less powerful than gas-powered washers.

Gas pressure washers are good for larger jobs such as decks, patios, sidewalks and siding. You can get gas washers with an electric start to make it easier to start up. With gas washers, you’ll need to be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for mixing the oil and gas for the machine. You may even have to vary fuel types depending on your climate.

Nozzles

A pressure washer will usually come with a variety of nozzles to do a variety of jobs. These may include:

0 degree nozzles: the most powerful, concentrated nozzle setting.

15 degree nozzles: used for heavy-duty cleaning.

25 degree nozzles: used for general cleaning.

40 degree nozzles: Used for vehicles, patio furniture, boats and easily damaged surfaces.

65 degrees: A low-pressure nozzle used to apply soap and other cleaning agents.

Always read the instruction manual that comes with your pressure washer and make sure you know how to how to quickly turn it off and release the pressure. For safety’s sake, stand on a stable surface while you’re pressure washing.

Wear eye and ear protection and never leave a spray gun unattended. Never point the spray gun at people, animals or plants and keep the spray away from electricity.

Maintenance

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance of your machine. In general, you may need to regularly maintain the washer’s pump and, for gas motors, you’ll also need to tend to the air filter, oil and spark plug.


Regularly power washing will reduce dirt and debris on outdoor furniture.

Good power washing will lead to clean outdoor spaces.


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