projects: fire and roses

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I’m full of ideas. Lots and lots of them. And that can be a trial to my family. I do as much as I can myself, but sometimes I need just a little a lot of help.

We had some extra patio pavers sitting around and I came up with the brilliant idea to install a backyard fireplace. A casual bid from a mason came to $5000-$8000 dollars– at which I choked and coughed and decided to build it myself.

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So I went to Home Depot and bought 144 cinder blocks, 20 feet of rebar and 8 bags of cement.

“No, no,” I told Erik, “this won’t eat up your Saturdays and holidays. I’ll build the whole thing myself. One block at a time.”

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Um, yeah. That didn’t last long. Those cinder blocks are HEAVY (especially for someone with a bad back) and well, I’m not the best at using a level. Erik looked at my uneven masonry in dismay and pulled on his work gloves. I didn’t take many photos of the early stages because well, it wasn’t looking good…
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We borrowed a friends tile saw, burned out the motor and bought a new saw. Ben cheerfully sacrificed a few Saturdays for the cause. And I say cheerfully without the slightest tinge of sarcasm. Ben loves to build and always makes every project happier.

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It started coming together– we arranged our scraps in all kinds of creative ways and called it art. A huge stroke of luck came when I talked to some stucco guys who just happened to be in the area and they finished the entire back for $100. What was once an uneven mess became a smooth perfect surface. EI3C9717 copyEI3C1047 copyBen and I spend one afternoon constructing a surround for our pizza oven. We’ve had this CampChef pizza oven for a few years, but it’s always been so tipsy. With just a few more cinderblocks and extra tiles we created a sturdy masterpiece. OK, let’s be honest. I supervised while Ben did 90% of the work.EI3C9972 copyAnd since we’re super nice, we saved plumbing the gas log for Stefan. Yes, a wood burning fire would be much more fun, but wood fires are banned in Salt Lake City 99 days out of 100. I found this cheap little gas log on Amazon; it’s fantastic, but finding the right connectors took a half dozen trips to Home Depot. But isn’t it lovely? And with all the supplies and the log the cost added up to about $550. Of course we didn’t have to buy the tile– that might have doubled it. Oh and I found the brick on a clearance pile– I have enough extra for another fireplace if you want it.

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At the same time– because one project just isn’t enough– we built an enormous arbor in the side yard. In my defense, it was Erik who transformed my idea of a rose arch into an archway– a grand allee. I found this lovely arch online but Erik determined her could make it better, stronger and much cheaper. We started with dreams, then measurements, then visited Wasatch Steel. Before we knew it, we were in Mapleton getting the steel curved in an ancient workshop.


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This project was much more popular because it involved WELDING, but also digging 18″ holes in our rocky soil and mixing and pouring an entire bag of cement in each hole.

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The boys finished in just a few days and loved it so much, Ben’s starting a business building archways. So, if you’re interested check out These aren’t your ordinary arches– they’re custom sized, constructed from thick steel tubing and cemented in the ground.

I can also recommend Ben as possibly the most cheerful, entertaining worker you’ll ever meet. Yes, does like to listen to history lectures or Learn German tapes while he works, but he’ll turn those off and chat with you anytime. He’ll even recommend and/or plant roses for you and wire in lights.

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I’ve already figured out the next project. Don’t you think we need a bench near the rose arch? I found this gorgeous one with a canopy, but I’m pretty sure we can make it for one fiftieth the price. I have sketches and measurements and….

June 7, 2015



  1. Michelle

    June 12, 2015


    And I’ll spread the word on the new business! 😉

  2. Jessica

    June 17, 2015

    I just sent in a comment about getting a bid for an archway. So beautiful!!! xo

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