Pair VERSA-LOK with pavers to make your own backyard retreat
The crackle of a campfire, the aroma of roasting hot dogs, crisp fresh air and a starry sky overhead. Sound like camping? With a little imagination and a modest landscaping investment, it could be your back yard.
More and more, homeowners are finding new ways to entertain right outside their back door. Using a modern segmental retaining wall system in combination with concrete paving stones, even the most mundane yard can be transformed into a cozy, relaxing retreat for friends and family.
“With versatile, easy-to-use systems like VERSA-LOK retaining walls, paired with concrete pavers, most do-it-yourselfers have the basic skills required to install their own backyard fire pit and patio,” says Andrew Higgins, landscape designer with Villa Landscapes in Oakdale, MN. And if you don’t, many landscape suppliers offer free training seminars on installing the products they sell.
“Creating a place to cook and entertain in your yard doesn’t require a full-blown outdoor kitchen,” says Higgins. “We’ve designed many patios incorporating just a fire pit and simple seat walls that were not only beautiful but also very affordable.”
Higgins says a system like VERSA-LOK is capable of building walls with curves, corners and radiuses without using specialty pieces.
“VERSA-LOK wall units are solid rather than hollow, so they can be easily modified using a mallet and masonry chisel without compromising their strength or stability,” says Higgins.
To design your own backyard fire pit, first decide what size and whether you want a square or round patio. Then you need to determine whether you want your fire pit set into your patio or built above-ground.
“There are a wide variety of manufactured cast-iron fire pits from which to choose, or you can build your own from retaining wall units,” explains Higgins. If building it from block, line the inside of the pit with fire brick, he advised.
Next, pick out a pattern and paver product for your patio.
To complete your patio fire pit, you’ll need freestanding seat walls around the perimeter to accommodate your guests. These should be a comfortable sitting height—between 18-24 inches, or three to four courses, depending on the size of retaining-wall blocks you use. Finish the walls on the top with matching caps that serve as a seating surface.
Most retaining-wall suppliers also make paving stones in matching colors. Get creative and use complementary colors such as red pavers with charcoal walls, or different colored caps, for nice visual contrast.
Other amenities may be added to your patio firepit, such as columns on the ends of your seat walls, or even bench seats built into your wall. Ask your supplier to show you some pictures of other projects for ideas. Some may sell ready-to-build systems already designed and packaged.
Or, you can go all out with an outdoor kitchen, including a counter, grill and refrigerator. Landscape lighting will add a touch of elegance to your outdoor entertainment area.
“The possibilities for what you can do yourself with retaining-wall systems and pavers are limited only by your own skills and imagination,” concludes Higgins.