The flexibility of masonry materials adds considerably to the fun of working with them; you can be imaginative and creative when tackling outdoor fireplace landscaping. A concrete slab does not have to be a hot prairie playground; the surface is not limited to “smooth” or “rough”; the color is not limited to cement gray. Brick and masonry units, thanks to new developments, are no longer prosaic, uninspiring building materials.
The truth about an amateur project is that the results can be every bit as good as a job done by a professional. Both in appearance and structurally, the job you do can rate A-l on the building inspector’s card. There will be a difference in time due to the fact that the pro can work faster, but the amateur need not worry about .speed–the end result is more important than the time needed to accomplish it. The mixture for concrete, actually an artificial stone, consists of a blend of fine and coarse aggregates, each piece of which is completely surrounded and held to its mates by hardened Portland cement paste. A chemical reaction, which occurs ideally due to favorable temperatures and the presence of moisture while curing, causes the paste to harden. The water to cement ratio is probably the most important factor as far as the strength of mix is concerned. Too much water will result in a thin, diluted cement-paste that will be weak and porous when it hardens. It will not bond the aggregates nor will it be watertight. The correct water-cement paste, and this is important, produces a mix with maximum strength which is necessary for outdoor fireplace landscaping. The amateur will often use more water than necessary because it makes a more fluid mix that flows easily into the forms. Such a project may look O.K. to begin with (although there will probably be finishing problems due to excess moisture), but it will eventually be discovered to lack strength and durability.