Content of the material
- #1 Choose Wood Instead of Gas
- STEP 4: Mark Your Fire Pit Seating Area and Path
- How to Measure a Perfect Circle Fire Pit Seating Area
- Level the Pit
- Materials Needed for a DIY Fire Pit
- Here’s a list of DIY fire pit materials you can consider:
- Dry-Set the Firebrick Liner
- #4 Don’t Do Custom Anything
- STEP 12: Add New Fire Pit Seating!
- DIY BBQ Fire Pit
- Get Classic Lines With Cinder Block Caps
- 9. All Squared Away
- Most Important Things to Consider When DIY Fire Pit
- Local regulations
- Fuel source
- Safety precautions
- Dangerous materials
- FAQ About Building a Fire Pit
- What do you put in the bottom of a fire pit?
- How do you prepare the ground for a fire pit?
- Can you build a fire pit on dirt?
- What is the best base for a fire pit?
- Fire Pit Parts: An Overview
- Building a Fire Pit: Steps to Follow
- Prepare the Area
- Dig and level the Base
- Lay the Foundation
- Constructing the Walls
- Adding the Fire Bricks
- That’s it!
- Sign up for the Newsletter
#1 Choose Wood Instead of Gas
Gas fire pits are more expensive because you’ll have to hire a plumber to run the gas line and an electrician to power the pit.
A wood fire pit has none of that cost, which will run at least several hundred dollars. Besides, who doesn’t love the smokey ambiance of a wood fire?
STEP 4: Mark Your Fire Pit Seating Area and Path
Usually, fire pit seating areas have a path that leads “to” and “from.” Not always, unless you’re just creating a circle fire pit seating around the fire pit. But if you’ve got a patio or deck, you may want to create a walkway leading to the fire pit seating area.
The biggest challenge will be: KEEPING IT STRAIGHT! You don’t want any “wonky walkway” that looks like a novice DIYers got their hands on it.
I love walkways that have some curve to them when the fire pit seating area is off-set. In my case, the fire pit was directly in front of the patio, so there was no need to get all fancy. I just needed a straight walkway leading to the fire pit seating area. To keep it straight, I simply used a board measuring about 36″ long as a gauge of how wide my fire pit walkway would be.
Last year when I put in the fire pit by itself with no defined walkway or seating area, I simply set the stones in place and dug around the stones to mark where the fire pit was going to be placed. I used a shovel along the edges to mark the grass where the stones would be sitting.
Then I moved them out of the way and started digging a little deeper to define that DIY fire pit circle location where the fire pit will site. Note: If you’re only putting in a DIY fire pit, then you can simply start digging and follow the other directions for a DIY fire pit. But if you’re putting in a seating area as well, then you’ll just need to mark the location of your fire pit bricks because you have a bit of marking left to do.
How to Measure a Perfect Circle Fire Pit Seating Area
The easiest way to create a perfect circle around your fire pit is to put a stake in the center of the fire pit and attach a string to it, going around the circumference so that all your measurements from the center of the fire pit would be perfect.
In my case, I didn’t have a stake or a string, so I simply measured 5’5″ from the edge of the fire pit bricks and marked the length with spray paint.
Level the Pit
- Shovel out the soil to a depth of 8 in. for your fire pit base. Don’t disturb the underlying soil.
- Check the bottom of the hole with a level.
- Remove high spots in your in ground fire pit by scraping off soil rather than digging.
- Pro tip: That way, you won’t loosen the underlying soil.
- Compact the soil with a hand tamper or a 4×4 post.
Materials Needed for a DIY Fire Pit
Once you’ve decided on the fuel source for your fire pit, it’s time to pick up some supplies. Of course, the exact materials you need will depend on the type of fire pit you are making and where you plan to put it in your yard.
In general, you will want some sort of stone or cement, a way to attach them to one another, and a way to make a hole for the firepit to drain.
Here’s a list of DIY fire pit materials you can consider:
- Concrete Blocks
- Shovel (to dig)
- Cement mix
- Steel Pit Ring
- Metal Grate
- Rubber mallet
- Paint if you desire
Although bricks and concrete blocks are the easiest materials to make a DIY fire pit with, you can use other materials like glass, recycled metal, or even old flower pots.
Just be sure whatever you use is fireproof, and know that if it is metal, it will be hot to the touch when a fire is in the pit.
Dry-Set the Firebrick Liner
- Because regular clay brick can crack at high temperatures, we’re using firebrick (also called “refractory” brick) to line the inside of the easy fire pit walls.
- Pro tip: Firebrick is a dense brick that’s kilned to withstand high temperatures. It’s larger, thicker and wider than regular brick, and you can find it at most brickyards. Firebrick is more expensive, but it will stand up to nightly fires for years to come.
- You’ll need 25 firebricks for a 3-ft. diameter pit.
- Because firebrick is so dense, it’s tougher to split than regular brick. “Soldiering” the brick (standing it on end) minimizes the amount of splitting and lets you easily accommodate the curve of the pit.
- You’ll only need to split four firebricks (use the technique shown in step 11), which you’ll place across from one another around the pit to create draw holes for oxygen for your fire.
- After you split your firebricks, dry-set them in place on top of the footing.
- Adjust the spacing between bricks so you won’t have to cut the last brick to fit (cutting firebrick isn’t easy).
- Mark the position of every brick on the footing.
#4 Don’t Do Custom Anything
You can have a fire pit designed just for you. One-of-a-kind. But unless you’re a trust-funder or just like spending money like one, stick with a contractor’s standard build. Most offer prefab, modular units that cost at least half as much as a custom build.
“I’ve put in custom fire pits that cost as much as $7,000 — just for the pit,” Rogers says. That means the patio cost even more. Yowsa!
STEP 12: Add New Fire Pit Seating!
The last critical step is to add new seating around your fire pit! These awesome chairs were sent to me by a friend I met several years ago at the Florida Home Show. He’s the CEO of a company called GloDea. I knew these fire pit chairs would be the perfect addition to my DIY fire pit (thanks, Dan!).
DIY BBQ Fire Pit
Most backyard fire pits offer the charm of flames that can roast marshmallows. But Stacy at Red Door Home wanted a completely functional fire pit that can be used for cooking throughout the summer.
Two full-size grills rest atop a ring of retaining wall blocks, allowing Stacy to cook anything from steaks and kebabs to s'mores. Extending the use of the fire pit ensures that it can be used for more than just the summer season.
Get Classic Lines With Cinder Block Caps
Fire-resistant cinder block caps can be artfully designed into a square, contemporary-styled fire pit with clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic. Although cinder blocks are fire-resistant, they are not fireproof and, over prolonged use, will eventually crumble. To protect and extend the viability of your fire pit, consider using a fire ring as a liner or fire bricks.
9. All Squared Away
If a concrete square is a little too spartan for your tastes, but a circle seems passé, try a concrete block square! Using blocks in a square avoids the time consuming process of cutting the blocks to fit into a tidy circle.
Most Important Things to Consider When DIY Fire Pit
You may think that a fire pit is a mere hole in the ground, but there are a lot of things to consider before building one.
Local regulations and ordinances govern how and whether a fire pit is permitted in your neighborhood. Certain fire pit codes are designated as outdoor burning or recreational fire codes, while others are included in the broader local fire code.
Before you begin creating your new patio fire pit, check to see if it is legal and if any restrictions apply. You definitely want to avoid spending money on your perfect patio fire pit only to be fined and forced to remove it.
Fire pits can have different fuel sources, such as propane tanks, natural gas, gel, or wood. When compared to wood-burning fire pits, propane fire pits are simple to use, easy to light, and burn quickly.
Because they produce no ash or smoke, they can typically be used notwithstanding municipal fire restrictions. Additionally, they are much easier to clean.
After determining the size of the tank required for non-wood patio fire pits, the following step is to select the size of the tank. This will vary according to the size of your fire pit and the frequency with which you intend to use it.
Along with keeping your patio fire pit clear of existing structures, it’s critical that it’s situated or built on level ground. If you’re utilizing a wood-burning fire pit, a metal screen is necessary to assist contain sparks and ash.
Keep it clear of overhanging trees and bushes, and away from important sidewalks and paths to avoid being a nuisance.
Fire pits come in a variety of styles. The most popular types are fire bowls and square-shaped bowls. A bowl is a fantastic solution for tiny yards and is often popular for portable designs. You can pick between square or rectangular fire pits for huge, permanent fire pits.
Apart from their varied shapes, they also feature a variety of designs. Select those that will fit comfortably in your space. After settling on the best size and location, consider function.
By answering a few broad design and style questions, you can begin the process of selecting or building the ideal patio fire pit for your backyard.
Fire pits are often composed of an inner and outer wall, a cap, and decorative stones or other materials placed at the base of the pit.
The inner wall must be constructed entirely of fireproof materials, preferably fire brick; the exterior walls must still be resistant to heat but may be constructed entirely of masonry block, stone, or even heat-resistant outdoor stucco or tile.
Flagstone is an excellent material for the cap of the fire pit. No component of the fire pit should be constructed using nonporous or flammable materials that retain moisture. That means you should avoid compressed concrete blocks, river rocks, or pea gravel.
FAQ About Building a Fire Pit
What do you put in the bottom of a fire pit?
You’ll want to start with a layer of sand at the bottom of the pit, and then top the sand with gravel, lava rocks, fire pit glass, paving stones or even bricks for your fire pit. Alternatively, you can simply use dirt.
How do you prepare the ground for a fire pit?
Clear away all grass and plant material. Excavate about 8 inches of soil, ensuring that the bottom of the pit is level and the soil is compact.
Can you build a fire pit on dirt?
Yes, you can build a fire pit on dirt. Make sure the dirt is compact and level.
What is the best base for a fire pit?
You have several options. Plain dirt is fine, but sand topped with gravel makes a more attractive base.
Fire Pit Parts: An Overview
A built-in fire pit is a glorified campfire, with sturdy walls of stone that help contain the flames and heat. That’s especially important in the parts of the country where there’s a risk of brush fires. So the first task in building any fire pit is checking local codes on open flames. The pit must be located far from overhanging trees, the house, and any other flammable structure.
To make building stone walls easier, you can use blocks made from cast concrete and molded to look like real stone (available at any home center). They’re flat on the top and bottom so they stack neatly, and some interlock for added strength. Glue them together with masonry adhesive. Choose a block with angled sides, meant to form curves when butted against each other. The optimal size for a fire pit is between 36 and 44 inches inside diameter. That will create enough room for a healthy fire but still keep gatherers close enough to chat.
As an added precaution, the fire pit should be lined with a thick steel ring like the ones used for park campfires. These protect the concrete in the blocks from the heat, which can cause them to dry out and break down prematurely.
A fire pit should sit low to the ground, with walls rising no more than a foot off the ground. But for stability, the base of the wall must be buried below ground in a hole lined with gravel, providing drainage and protecting against frost heaves in winter. The gravel also creates a level base for the stones to rest on. Most concrete blocks are about 4 inches high, so if the first course and a half sit underground, and there are two and a half courses above ground with a cap on top, you’ll end up with a foot-high wall—just right for resting your feet on while sitting in an outdoor chair.
Building a Fire Pit: Steps to Follow
You have your design, materials & tools. It’s now time to get started with the fun stuff.
Regardless of the size, shape and complexity of the project, you’ll just have to follow these simple set of steps:
Prepare the Area
1. Start by marking the shape and the size of the fire pit on the ground. For square or rectangular fire pits, lay down blocks and mark the ground with your shovel around the perimeter of your fire pit.
For circular fire pits, hammer a stake into the ground and attach some string. Use the string like a compass and mark out a circle with a can of spray paint.
Dig and level the Base
You’ll need to now create a base for your fire pit. A solid base is going to ensuring its stability and longevity for years to come.
2. With your shovel, start digging up the grass and dirt inside the marked area of your fire pit; do this until the area is 5cm or 2″ deep. It’s best to place the grass and dirt into a wheelbarrow to discard easily later on. 3. Next, use your hand-tamper to tamp down the soil and make sure that the entire surface is compressed and level. You can also check its level with a spirit level.
Lay the Foundation
Once you’ve dug out the base of the fire pit, its time to strengthen the foundation! 4. Start with adding a 2.5cm or 1″ layer of gravel on the base and distribute evenly with a garden rake. 5. Lightly wet the first layer of gravel with your garden hose and tamp down the gravel with your hand tamp. 6. Next add a second 1.5cm or 1/2″ layer of gravel on top and tamp down one final time. Compressed layers of gravel will be the strong and stable foundation we need for our diy firepit.
Constructing the Walls
7. Lay the first row of blocks or bricks inside the perimeter of the base and use a level to make sure they sit evenly.
8. Once the first layer or blocks are down, place down the next layer of blocks on top and stagger them like a ‘brick wall’ until you have a two layers of blocks. We are laying the second layer of blocks to see how they will look before we apply an adhesive. (If there are any gaps in your second layer – you will need to use a saw with a masonry cutting black and cut a block to size and fill the gap. 9. If you are happy how the second layer of blocks look, remove each block one-by-one, apply concrete adhesive with a caulking gun and replace the block back in to position for permanent fixture. 10. Repeat steps 8 & 9 for each of remaining blocks until you have three or four completed layers around the fire pit. The amount of layers will depend on how high you would like build you fire pit.
Adding the Fire Bricks
Once the concrete adhesive has dried, its time to add in the fire bricks! These clay fire bricks will evenly distribute the heat and will prevent any of your blocks from cracking! 11. Place the clay fire bricks in an upright position and line the inside of walls of the fire pit. To get the correct height, you should either add a bit more gravel on the base or you can place a some of fire bricks along the bottom of the pit too. 12. Once the fire bricks are in position, fill the pit with lava rocks around 7cm or 3″ or half way up the fire bricks. This will hold the bricks into position and create a nice base to place your wood to burn.
Your DIY fire pit is ready for burning! All you have to do now is place your fire wood in and kick back and relax!
Sign up for the Newsletter
Get the latest This Old House news, trusted tips, tricks, and DIY Smarts projects from our experts–straight to your inbox.