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How to Build an Awesome Backyard Fire Pit: An Interview with Miguel Morales of Los Amigos Hardscape

By Miguel Morales

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

My job consists of hardscape and design. However, we're a little more inclined into masonry. We do all kinds of jobs that include pavers, stonework, retaining walls, pillars, waterfalls, and patios with flagstone and Mexican style. We also cover outside kitchens and fire pits.

What are some of the basic decisions homeowners need to make before building a fire pit?

First of all, the area can't be too hot, otherwise the homeowner won't use the fire pit much. I'd recommend them in areas that are colder. Another thing to consider is to have at least an area of 20 ft around of the fire pit for the wood and 15 ft for gas fire pits. However, it's better to check with the city before building it, given that each city has different rules regarding fire pits.

What should be taken into consideration for the location of the fire pit?

First, we need to take in consideration what kind of fire pit will be needed; you can either build one for gas or for wood. If you wish for it to be a gas fire pit, some of them are sold; you just need to install it and cover it with the material of your liking. If you want a wood one, the recommendation for the inside of the fire pit is to have it made with lava rock. This way it can keep the heat and at the same time the temperature won't crack the rocks and injure someone in the process. For the outside, you can have it built with whatever material you wish, preferably stone.

Can you briefly talk about a few of the most popular designs and materials for fire pits in Northern California right now?

We use real rock. We also install fire pits that have been built already by a few companies such as McNear, Pavestone, Basalite and others. The most popular designs for the fire pits are round, squared, and chimney-like: half-circle and the rest covered with a counter top. For those we can build it with concrete and build the veneer with pavers or any material you wish to have it built with that isn't wood.

What do you think are one or two of the biggest differences between hiring a professional mason/paver to build your fire pit versus doing it yourself?

If you plan on doing it yourself, the best way to do so is by buying one that has been built already and following the instructions on how to install it. If you wish something that is more detailed you need to hire someone who knows what they're doing so that accidents can be avoided. There are many materials that cannot handle the heat and they crack, often sending shrapnel-like debris. I would say this is the biggest difference, you can customize your fire pit when you hire a professional mason/paver.

Do you have any advice to help people build a fire pit that they'll love using?

Of course, the first thing they must do is make sure that they have the area where they won't cause a fire. In this case, it's better to build a round fire pit, this way your family could sit around in it and have a great time! You must also remember always not to leave a child alone by the fire pit when it's lit.

Do you have any tips about maintenance after the fire pit is built?

Yes, there are three ways to do it. The most common ones are to leave a slope at the bottom of the fire pit that leads to a drain pipe, which can be easily cleaned out when wood is used. Others choose not to use this pipe and rather clean the ashes with a vacuum cleaner. Another common one is to have a sort of steel plate at the bottom where the ashes can fall. This steel plate must be similar to the shape of the fire pit and it must have handles that will allow you to pull it out, but this should only be done when the ashes have completely cooled off, otherwise you can injure yourself.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

People can contact us through email at miguel.a.morales.v@gmail.com. They can call me or text me on my cell phone at (707) 495-8479. Remember always to contact your local contractors first that have the experience in the job you want done, and if you want someone from out of town, always make sure to ask for references. It would be better if you could even visit some of the projects that they built. This way you can avoid phony promotions.

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