How to Build a Fire Pit

How to Build a Fire Pit for Perfect Evenings Outside

A fire pit is a classic backyard amenity, providing endless entertainment for families and friends alike. Even better? A fire pit is a relatively easy project that somewhat handy people might feel comfortable tackling on their own.

If you want to learn how to build a fire pit cheaply, read on for the step-by-step instructions—you’ll be ready to enjoy s’mores with the family or guests in no time.

Affordable Fire Pit Ideas

Since pre-made fire pit options can get expensive fast, let’s zero-in on budget-friendly fire pit ideas with simple supplies and instructions.

Rather than building an elaborate flagstone patio or seating area, create a DIY fire pit on a grass, dirt, or gravel surface that you already have on your property. Then, all you’ll have to do is pull up your lawn chairs and bring on the fun.

Keep in mind that local building codes strictly govern fire pits, and there may be special requirements. Learn about the code that pertains to your neighborhood before you begin a backyard fire pit project.

Instructions for How to Build a Fire Pit with Bricks

First, gather the following materials:

  • Shovel
  • Level
  • Metal fire pit ring
  • Retaining wall blocks
  • 7″ square pavers or firebricks
  • Pea gravel
  • All-purpose sand

Then, identify the area where you want your fire pit to be located. Choose a flat, level area a minimum of 25 feet from buildings and trees. If you plan to build on a grassy area, remove the top layer of sod with a shovel. Planning to build the fire pit on level gravel or dirt? You are ready to go with no extra prep necessary.

After choosing your fire pit spot, follow these steps:

  1. Use the size of your metal fire ring to determine how large the pit will be. Place the metal ring on the ground with the retaining wall blocks surrounding it, and then mark the outside with the shovel’s sharp edge. This will identify the area that needs to be cleared.
  2. Move the blocks and ring out of the way and dig inside the marked hole to make it at least 7″ deep.
  3. Line the hole with a 1″ layer of the sand and tamp the sand down flat to create a level surface. Use the level to ensure you have an even surface.
  4. Lay the first layer of blocks neatly inside the hole, placing them on the outer edge of the hole to create a circle.
  5. Place the metal ring inside the first layer of blocks.
  6. Insert the firebricks or square pavers in the bottom of the pit, covering as much of the area as you can.
  7. Fill the gaps in between the blocks and pavers with the pea gravel.
  8. Stack the remaining retaining wall blocks until you reach the height you want. Stagger the blocks so that the seams are not aligned, creating both a nice look and a more solid structure.

How to Build a Fire Pit with Rocks

If you prefer the rustic look of stacked rocks for your fire pit, you won’t need the metal ring or pea gravel. Line the ground with a 1″ layer of sand, covering a foot or so outside of the fire pit for additional protection. Make sure there is no yard matter or grass within two feet of the pit. Then, stack the rocks as securely as possible. Use non-flammable landscape adhesive, masonry adhesive, or liquid nails to provide additional staying power.

Give your Fire Pit some Flare

To level-up your fire pit without burning up your budget, consider some of these decorative options:

  • Add a smoker fire basket, also known as a vertical drum. Insert it into the center of your fire pit and secure it tightly with the rocks or bricks.
  • If you choose the brick pit option, you can top it off with a fire bowl. Build the first layer of the pit securely around the screen top of the bowl.
  • Hang outdoor lights above the fire pit to create an inviting ambiance.
  • Place comfortable outdoor seating around the fire pit along with trays or small tables for holding s’mores ingredients and drinks.

Protect Your Yard from Mosquitoes for the Ultimate Backyard Experience

Spending time outside in the evening can mean spending time surrounded by pesky mosquitoes. Don’t let mosquitoes take the fun out of your new fire pit! The experts at your local Mosquito Joe perform seasonal mosquito treatments to protect your yard and allow you to make the most of your backyard fire pit experience.

With barrier sprays that repel not only mosquitoes, but also fleas, ticks, and some flies, you can enjoy your s’mores without the hassle of insects. Give us a call at 1-855-275-2563 or contact us online so we can make the backyard fun again for you and your family.

Don’t have time for a DIY? Get The Grounds Guys involved for any of your backyard landscape design needs. Like Mosquito Joe, The Grounds Guys is a fellow member of the Neighborly® family of home service brands.


Backyard Activities for Kids

Enticing kids away from electronics to enjoy the great outdoors is a challenge most parents can understand. With the right backyard activities for kids of all ages, you can keep toddlers, preschoolers, and even teens entertained for hours.

Turn your backyard into the place to be, with these activity ideas that transform your yard into a fun zone. Your kids will love having something new to do, and you will enjoy the opportunity to make memories outside with the family.

Make the Backyard a Blast for Kids of All Ages

Finding activities that appeal to both a toddler and a teen can be tricky, but it’s possible! Get hesitant teens and older kids involved by encouraging them to assist younger children with projects and games. Not only will you be helping them build teamwork skills, but the right activities will enable the kids to make sibling memories together that they will remember for years.

Giving teens and older children the task of keeping the younger ones engaged will provide them with a sense of responsibility. Once you get the ball rolling, you may be surprised to see older siblings take ownership and think of new ways to create family fun in the backyard.

Backyard Activities for Toddlers

Toddlers love to be busy. Focus on finding activities that will keep their bodies moving and their brains stimulated.

Here are some of our favorite outdoor play ideas for toddlers:

  • Draw with chalk or ice. If you have a backyard patio or sidewalk, toddlers will enjoy creating artwork with colorful sidewalk chalk or even ice cubes. Little ones will be intrigued by the watermarks they can make with ice as it melts on the surface. Let toddlers free-draw, or show them some of your artistic skills and watch them re-create their own versions.
  • Go on a treasure hunt. Guide toddlers on a backyard hunt for easy-to-find items such as leaves, rocks, a dandelion or flower, and bugs.
  • Create a kiddie pool full of fun. Fill a plastic kiddie pool or large bin with sand, water, or gravel along with fun sensory items like plastic shovels, bowls, small balls, and toys.
  • Play with a ball. Kicking a ball around the yard is an excellent way for toddlers to expend their energy and enhance motor development.

Backyard Activities for Preschoolers

Like toddlers, preschoolers enjoy activities that allow them to move their bodies. They also benefit from activities that provide an outlet for them to create and explore.

Here are backyard play ideas for children in that 3-5-year-old range:

  • Make yard art. Tape a large poster board or paper to a fence and bring out markers and finger paints to let your preschooler beautify the backyard. Clean-up is easy, and your child will take pride in making an outdoor masterpiece.
  • Wash cars, bikes, and toys. Adding water to any outdoor activity increases the fun factor for preschoolers. Fill a bucket with water and some tear-free baby shampoo and let your child use sponges or rags to clean your car or even their own scooters, tricycles, and other outdoor toys. Let them rinse everything off with a hose and show them how to dry with clean towels.
  • Create an obstacle course. Help preschoolers to work on gross motor skill development, like jumping, running, kicking, and throwing, by setting up an obstacle course. Include steps such as kicking a ball through a hoop, jumping off a step, hopping on one foot down a path, and throwing a ball into a bucket.
  • Make giant bubbles. Fill a kiddie pool or plastic bin with a homemade bubble solution made with a gallon of warm water, one cup of dishwashing soap, and two tablespoons of glycerin. Create bubble wands out of bendable wire hangers, fly swatters, and pipe cleaners. Let children experiment to find out which wand-type makes the biggest bubbles.

Backyard Activities for Older Kids and Teens

Worried your older kids and teens might think playing outside is for babies? With these activities, they will rediscover a love for the backyard:

  • Have a water balloon fight. It’s a classic backyard game that older kids will love. Fill water balloons with an outdoor hose. Supply each kid with an equal number of water balloons and see who has the most accurate throw and who gets the wettest.
  • Set up a cornhole game. Whether you decide to create a DIY version or purchase one from the store, this beanbag-toss game is a hit with older kids and teens.
  • Play giant Jenga. You can build a giant Jenga game out of 2x4s or purchase one online, but this is a game that will bring hours of entertainment for one or two older kids or even a small group.
  • Invest in a trampoline. Trampolines with a security net are a great way to tire out kids of all ages while they have a blast!

Backyard Fun for the Whole Family

Getting the entire family outside to enjoy the backyard together is a dream for most parents. Here are some family-friendly ideas you can try to engage all of your family members:

  • Play a game of chalk Pictionary. Split into teams and play Pictionary outside. Instead of using a piece of paper and pencil-like in the traditional board game, use the patio or sidewalk and chalk to draw the images. Working in teams means even the younger kids can play with assistance from older siblings and parents.
  • Set up a team scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt is a blast when the whole family is in on the hunt together. Create a list of items—some easy to find and some more challenging to find—and work in pairs to find them.
  • Have an outdoor movie night. Throw a white sheet up on an outdoor building or tall ladders and use a projector to put your favorite family movie up for everyone to enjoy. Bring out blankets and lawn chairs for seating, and serve your families’ favorite movie snacks to make it a night to remember.

Make Sure Your Backyard Fun Is Mosquito-Free

Are you worried mosquitoes might put a damper on your backyard family fun? Let your local Mosquito Joe keep pests, including mosquitoes, ticks, and flees, away with effective lawn barrier treatments. Call 1-855-275-2563 or connect with us online to schedule expert mosquito control services designed to keep your backyard activities bite-free.

You don’t want your kids running around on a busted deck. Contact your local Mr. Handyman for help repairing your deck or building a new one. Like Mosquito Joe, Mr. Handyman is a member of the Neighborly® family of trusted home service brands.


Patio Design Ideas So You Spend More Time Outside

Explore Inspiring Patio Design Ideas

Do you love the thought of spending more time outside with your family or guests but feel like your outdoor living space is less than desirable? Get ready for some serious inspiration with these patio design ideas to transform your yard.

Whether you’re looking for patio ideas on a budget or you’re ready to make all your wildest patio dreams come true, we have tips to breathe new life into your patio.

Let’s make it your new favorite spot for relaxing and entertaining.

What’s Your Patio Budget?

When considering patio design ideas, it is a good idea to determine your budget upfront. Knowing how much money you want to spend on the project will guide you as you plan out the new area.

Keep in mind that upgrading your patio can be an investment that boosts the overall curb appeal and value of your home. By spending time and money to make the most of your living space, you’re also investing in family time, recreation, and the hours of personal enjoyment you will experience once your new patio is complete.

Small Patio Design Ideas on a Budget

If you wish to take a budget-friendly approach to your patio transformation, there are plenty of low-cost ways to upgrade. You can make a big change to your small patio by adding a pop of color, thoughtful décor, or a few pieces of stylish, comfy furniture.

Here are some of the best small patio design ideas to meet your goals and budget:

1. Plants make patios prettier.

Adding attractive potted plants gives your patio a focal point of interest. Flowering plants and greenery naturally add beauty and life. Plus, you can purchase several plants without blowing your budget. Consider incorporating a trellis with whimsical vines or add your favorite flowers to several small pots or a large planter. If you cook with fresh herbs, why not incorporate potted basil, rosemary, and thyme? The herbs add eye-appeal, bring nose-pleasing aromatherapy to the patio, and make it easy for you to grab a few sprigs while cooking.

2. Spruce up the patio with stylish furniture.

Investing in a few pieces of fashion-forward patio furniture can make a big impact on your patio vibe, functionality, and appearance. Choose a comfortable chair and table set so you can take dinner outside. Cozy lounge furniture will encourage long, leisurely hangout sessions enjoying nature’s ambiance. If you do not have shade on your patio, consider purchasing a table with a built-in or removable umbrella to create a shady place to chill, even on the warmest summer day.

3. String up some illumination.

Hanging up a string of white lights or lanterns, or using torch lamps is an easy way to turn your patio into an inviting space for evening fun and entertaining guests. The lights not only help with safety and vision—they turn a humdrum patio into a twinkling retreat.

Dream Big with Next-Level Patio Design Ideas

What if you don’t have to adhere to a strict budget for your patio project? Perhaps you’re ready to go big and make this space your personal backyard oasis that’s the talk of the neighborhood.

Let’s explore some of the dreamy additions and improvements you can make to create the patio environment you’ve always wanted:

1. Build an outdoor kitchen.

Fresh-air kitchens are all the rage. If you have the space available, turning part of your patio into an outdoor kitchen is an on-trend idea that will boost home value and make cooking more enjoyable than ever. Want to add a built-in grill with a smoker or a fantastic stone pizza oven? Or maybe your goals include convenient outdoor cabinetry and countertops with plenty of food prep space. You can have everything you need to whip up a feast for the family and entertain guests.

2. Install a gas fireplace or stone firepit.

There’s just something about a gas fireplace or firepit that takes an outdoor living space to the next level. Who doesn’t love lounging around a cozy fire on a crisp fall evening? There’s a fireplace to complement whatever style you prefer—from rustic to high-end luxury with all the bells and whistles.

3. Install a chandelier or unique light fixtures.

Illuminate your outdoor patio with light fixtures that are as beautiful as they are functional. A chandelier adds elegance to the space, while well-placed task lighting can be exactly what you need to create a masterpiece in your outdoor kitchen.

4. Incorporate a Jacuzzi for the ultimate relaxation.

Jacuzzi time, anyone? Imagine how much your family and guests would dig a Jacuzzi built-in to your patio. Surround it with a decorative pergola, enhance with ornate stone steps, or install it next to the fireplace to create a Jacuzzi experience you can enjoy year-round.

Is Your Backyard Ready for This?

While it’s fun to dream about incorporating some of these fabulous patio design ideas, it’s important to make sure your property is ready for the upgrade. Nobody wants to hang out in a Jacuzzi or cook in a glorious outdoor kitchen while the mosquitoes are swarming around family members or guests.

Give your property the treatment it deserves this season with a barrier spray application from your local Mosquito Joe. We provide effective mosquito, tick, and flea control solutions to help you enjoy your new and improved patio without the hassle and annoyance of biting pests. Contact our team today, and we will recommend the outdoor pest control treatment that is ideal for your property. Give us a call at 1-855-275-2563 for more information or request a free quote online.

The Grounds Guys offer quality hardscaping services designed to bring your dream patio to life. The Grounds Guys is a fellow member of the Neighborly® family of trusted home service brands.


West Nile Virus Prevention Basics

West Nile Virus Prevention for Your Family

Are you concerned about protecting your family from West Nile virus? The thought of anyone in your family contracting an illness from an infected mosquito may be enough to make your shelter inside, especially if the virus has been identified in your area. Don’t let worry about the West Nile virus keep you and your family members from spending quality time together outside.

To prevent West Nile virus transmission, Mosquito Joe has prepared some tips so you can combat the mosquitoes in your yard and take the proper steps to make your property an itch-free zone.

How to Prevent Getting West Nile Virus

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for West Nile virus, so the number-one way to prevent virus transmission is to stop mosquito bites in the first place.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:

1. Use an effective mosquito repellent product.

Look for insect repellant products registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Products containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), and 2-undecanone have been proven to repel mosquitoes and other biting insects. These products are an effective solution for everyone, even women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, these repellents are not recommended for young children. Always read product labels and check the EPA site for product safety and effectiveness.

2. Wear long sleeves and pants.

Covering as much skin as possible is a good way to keep mosquito bites away. Neutral-colored, loose-fitting clothing is best. Avoid bright colors or flower patterns that can attract mosquito attention, as well as tight clothes, which can make it easier for the mosquito to penetrate through the clothing to the skin. Tuck pants into socks and consider wearing a hat for additional protection.

3. Treat clothing with permethrin.

Permethrin is a common mosquito control product that can be sprayed on clothing and shoes. The product is irritating to mosquitoes which keeps them from landing and biting, and can even kill them on contact. The product can be sprayed on all clothing, or you can purchase clothing that has been pre-treated with permethrin. However, do not apply the spray directly to the skin. Read the product label to determine how long the pesticide protection will last.

4. Avoid going outside at dusk and dawn.

Dusk and dawn are when mosquitoes are the most prevalent. If possible, avoid going outside during these times. Another time to stay inside is immediately following a rainfall, when mosquitoes may be hanging out near standing water in and around your yard.

5. Avoid and prevent mosquito high-traffic zones.

In addition to steering clear of stagnant pools of water like puddles, birdbaths, and clogged, water-filled gutters, it’s a good idea to avoid areas including garbage cans, flowerbeds, piles of leaves, shrubbery, orchards, and wooded areas—all tend to be high-traffic areas for mosquitoes.

You can also take these steps to make your property less attractive to the biting pests:

  • Empty standing or stagnant water around the property on a regular basis.
  • Keep your lawn and shrubbery trimmed and tidy so mosquitoes have fewer places to lurk and rest.
  • Stay on top of gutter maintenance to avoid dirty gutters with stagnant water accumulation.
  • Repair leaky outdoor faucets and store garden hoses properly.

6. Additional steps to protect children.

Not every insect repellent that’s approved for adults should be used for infants and young children. Always read product labels and check the EPA list for registered insect repellents to determine which products are right for your child. Do not use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children younger than three years old.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), insect repellent use on infants under two months old is not recommended.

Whether your child is too young for insect repellants, or you would like to find alternatives, here are other and West Nile virus:

  • Cover baby carriers and strollers with protective netting.
  • Clothe baby head-to-toe in loose-fitting, neutral-colored clothing; include a hat to protect head and ears from bites and shoes or socks to protect feet.
  • Avoid the use of strongly scented soaps, lotions, hair products, and perfumes.
  • Keep the baby inside as much as possible if your yard does not have proper mosquito control.

West Nile Prevention for Your Property

Many homeowners find the most effective way to prevent West Nile virus transmission on their property is to eradicate mosquitoes. No mosquitoes mean no mosquito bites. And no mosquito bites means no West Nile virus.

Ready to reclaim your yard from the threat of biting mosquitoes and worries about mosquito-borne illnesses? Let your local Mosquito Joe team apply the effective barrier treatments that will keep mosquitoes away for up to three weeks. No more swatting, worrying and scratching. Your family can have peace of mind while you enjoy bite-free time together outside. Call the friendly, knowledgeable pros at Mosquito Joe today at 1-855-275-2563 or contact us online to take back control of your yard this season.

Keeping your window screens in great shape is a good way to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. Consider window screen repair or replacement services from Glass Doctor®, another member of the Neighborly® family of trusted home service brands.


How to Properly Remove A Tick

What Is the Proper Way to Remove a Tick?

Everyone and their Great Aunt Edith seem to have friendly advice on how to remove a tick. The trick is knowing how to sort the myths from the facts—getting tick removal wrong could be dangerous. Burning a tick with a match and painting over it with nail polish are not safe ways to remove ticks (no matter what Aunt Edith says). Methods such as these can result in an increased risk of diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Why It’s Important to Use Safe Methods for Tick Removal

Removing a tick is unlike removing any other type of insect from the body. While you can simply brush away most bugs, a tick attaches to the body, bites the skin, and begins drawing blood. Ticks differ from most biting bugs in that they tend to burrow into the skin and remain attached to the body even after biting.  Because many ticks carry diseases, they can pass these diseases to the human host while attached.

Certain unsafe removal methods can cause the tick to salivate and regurgitate into the bite site, which may increase the risk of disease transmission.

Improper removal techniques include:

  • Applying heat to the tick body with a hot nail or match
  • Covering the tick with petroleum jelly, alcohol, nail polish, or gasoline
  • Killing the tick while it’s still attached to the skin
  • Crushing, squeezing, twisting, or puncturing the tick
  • Handling the tick body with bare hands

How to Properly Remove a Tick

While you may be eager to remove a tick from your body or your child’s body as quickly as possible, it’s important to have the right supplies on hand first. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pointy tweezers – Choose tweezers with a pointed tip, not square. Your typical eyebrow tweezers likely aren’t pointy enough and might tear the tick’s body.
  • Rubbing alcohol or soap and water – You will use this to clean the site thoroughly.

Once you have these items ready to go, take these five steps to remove a tick correctly to minimize the risk of infection:

  1. Clean the area surrounding the tick bite with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  2. Take your pointed tweezers and place the point down into the skin so you can grab as closely as possible to the tick’s head.
  3. Use slow, firm motion, and steady pressure to pull the tick straight up and out of the skin; avoid jerking or twisting. If the tick breaks, make sure to go back to the bite site to remove the remaining head. If you are unable to remove the head, seek medical attention.
  4. Once removed, avoid handling the tick with bare hands. Use the tweezers to place the tick’s body into a container with a blade of grass if you wish to keep it alive and send away for testing. Or safely dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet.
  5. Use the rubbing alcohol or soap and water to clean the bite area once again.

Tick Bite Symptoms: What You Need to Know

After removing the tick, it’s important to inspect the surrounding area thoroughly for signs of infection. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice a bull’s-eye rash, characterized by a raised spot with a clear center at the bite location.

Continue to keep an eye on the bite site in the following days and contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these potential signs of Lyme disease:

  • Body aches, muscle pain or a stiff neck
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Fainting spells
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness

If you saved the tick in a container, bring it along with you to the doctor’s appointment because it can help to diagnose disease.

Check for Ticks Regularly

The risk of Lyme disease transmission increases significantly after 24 hours of attachment, so it is a good idea to check yourself and any family members for ticks regularly. Checking at least daily for ticks is an ideal practice. However, if you, family members, or a pet are outside often, it’s wise to check each time you come indoors. Look under arms, behind ears and knees, under hair and on the scalp, inside the belly button, around the waist, and between legs.

Treat Your Yard for Ticks and Other Pests

You can never be too cautious when it comes to tick bites and preventing tick-borne illnesses. If you want to add an extra layer of protection to your outdoor fun, reach out to your local Mosquito Joe for barrier treatments designed to eliminate ticks. Call us at 1-855-275-2563 or contact us online to schedule professional tick control services.

Ticks gross a lot of people out. Check out these recommendations for cleaning gross things more painlessly from our friends at Molly Maid. Molly Maid is another member of the Neighborly® family of home service brands.