How to Build an In-Ground Fire Pit

Introduction: How to Build an in Ground Fire Pit

By Braxton Wirthlin BraxtonWirthlin.com

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About: I’m a stay at home dad and woodworker, I have a youtube channel where I upload builds, tips, and how-to videos. More About Braxton Wirthlin »

I recently built an in ground fire pit in my backyard using landscaping flagstone and construction adhesive. With a total cost of around $80 and an afternoon of work I’ve got a fire pit that will last a very long time. Here’s how I did it!

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Split 80 Bricks in Half

  • Cup the brick in your hand, keeping your fingers below the top edge of the brick.
    • Pro tip: Our mason doesn’t use gloves, but we suggest you do!
  • Give the brick a solid tap (a very solid tap for firebrick) on the outside edge near the center hole.
  • Avoid hitting your hand. Repeat 79 times.

Upcycle a Beer Keg

Tony Whiston

It probably doesn't sound pretty retooling a beer keg into a fire pit, but it can be. It depends on your skills and how much time you want to invest in this project. As long as you know how to use a welder, an angle grinder, circular saw, drill, or Dremel, you can cut down these steel receptacles (either vertically or horizontally) and add vent holes. Also, stainless steel beer kegs can be sanded and polished to a mirror finish: you only need time and a little bit of elbow grease to class up these simple containers.

Step 6: Brush Off the First Layer and Glue and Stack the Remaining Stones

Once the first layer is flat and level brush off any excess dirt to prepare for gluing the next layer. Apply a liberal amount of construction adhesive to the bottom of another block, turn it over and stack on top of the first layer. Over lapping two blocks on the layer below it. Continue gluing and stacking the remaining stones on the second level. Glue and stack the third level in the same way making sure you offset that level as well. Check the top layer for any wiggly blocks. If you find one, remove it and add a liberal amount of extra construction adhesive. Replace the block and allow it to settle down gently in to the pile of construction adhesive. This way when the adhesive dries the block will be firmly connected to the layer below.

Finish Off the Top Lip

  • Mortar the brick caps.
  • Finish the pit with a matching “row-lock” cap using regular face brick set on edge.
  • You’ll need about 40 face bricks for this cap, which will:
    • Help protect the wall joints from rain
    • Keep sparks contained
    • Give you a nice ledge to warm your feet on.
  • Work with 10 to 12 bricks at a time.
  • Lay a 3/8-in. bed of mortar and lay the bricks on edge, then butter each brick on the outside edge as you go and press it into place.
    • Pro tip: We used brick, but you could use natural stone for a different look.

DIY Retaining Block Fire Pit

Thrifty Little Mom

After her husband cracked their clay chimenea, Kim Anderson of the Thrifty Little Mom blog decided she wasn't about to give up her backyard fire source.

So they purchased retaining wall blocks from their local home improvement store and stacked them four tiers high, using the lawn as the pit’s floor. To increase the oxygen flow, they cut one of the blocks in half and placed each half on opposite sides near the bottom of the ring to form the necessary vents. Retaining wall blocks effectively form the pit walls thanks to their angled sides, creating a perfect circle without gaps.

4. Above Ground DIY Fire Pit

An above Ground fire pit is the perfect DIY fire pit solution for those who do not want to put in the effort to dig a hole into the ground. First, select some handsome gravel for your foundation, spread it out to create your overall fire pit space, then stack your fire pit stones in a circular shape. For this design, be sure to select precut stones that are even and fit together perfectly. With this, you’ll be able to create a large fire pit or a small fire pit depending on what you prefer. The concrete block firepit pictured above was built with crushed concrete rock with some additional aesthetic details. However, there are many different rocks you can choose from such as stone brick or cinder brick. 

The pit’s stones ought to be more than heavy enough to be dry-stacked, meaning there is no need for adhesive or cement. Hang some outdoor lights above your fire pit and decorate with flower pots to make the most out of your outdoor living space.

How to Build a Fire Pit Safely

Building a fire pit isn’t terribly difficult, and now that you have a good handle on the dos and don’ts, check out this high-level overview to get you started on crafting your own backyard fire pit.

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First, gather all the supplies you’ll need to construct your fire pit. Determine the size, site and specific footprint of your fire pit. Clean up the site, removing grass and weeds if necessary.

Excavate about eight inches of dirt from the bottom of the pit, and then lay down about two inches of sand into the excavated area. Tamp down the sand to compact and level it.

Construct the walls of your fire pit, ensuring they’re level and stable. Finally, add a layer of gravel on top of the sand at the bottom of the pit

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tools Materials

  • Brick hammer

    Brick hammer

  • Cold chisel

    Cold chisel

  • Spade

    Spade

  • Hoe

    Hoe

  • Metal rake

    Metal rake

  • Tamper

    Tamper

  • Level - 2 foot

    Level – 2 foot

  • Level - 4 foot

    Level – 4 foot

  • Mallet

    Mallet

  • Caulk gun

    Caulk gun

  • Pointed trowel

    Pointed trowel

  • Power grinder

    Power grinder

Fire Pit Parts: An Overview

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

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.

2. In-Ground DIY Fire Pit

The in-ground fire pit is becoming increasingly popular among DIY fire pit builders. Before digging into the ground, make sure you call 811, the federally mandated “Call Before You Dig Number.” Someone will come to mark the approximate location of any underground lines, pipes, and cables so you can dig safely. A typical in-ground fire pit can range from 1 to 3 feet deep. Once you dig your fire pit to the desired size, line the dirt walls with stones or brick. Follow these additional steps to get started:

  1. First, you will want to create a bottom layer of gravel or lava rock, then cover it with the base of your fire pit — larger stones or bricks or an even covering such as quick-drying cement.
  2. Consider adding a drain during this step to keep the pit from filling with rainwater and attracting mosquitoes. You can do this by digging a trench from the center of the pit outward. If you want to add a pipe, install it about 10 feet from the firepit.
  3. Place your bottom layer of stones and make sure they are level so when the stones are stacked they’re flat. 
  4. Once the first layer is flat and level, brush off any excess dirt to prepare for gluing the next layer. Apply some construction adhesive to the bottom of another block, turn it over, and stack it on top of the first layer. Continue this process until your firepit reaches the top of your hole. 
  5. Backfill the edges and compact the dirt around the fire pit.
  6. Allow at least 24 hours for the construction adhesive to cure before starting a fire.

Winterizing a Push Mower

According to Lawn Doctor, a homeowner can carry out maintenance work on a push mower at any time of the year, but the best times to do it are before and after the season in which it is used most often – usually at the beginning of the summer and in autumn – since specific tasks must be carried out before it goes unused for several months. By winterizing a push mower, it will be that much easier to use it when spring arrives, and there will be less damage to the lawn and the mower itself. At the end of the season, replace or fix any bent or damaged blades, as they can cause grass to have ragged edges, which can kill it over time.

According to Consumer Reports, it is crucial to remove fuel before storing the mower for the winter to avoid a costly push mower carburetor cleaning by a professional. If it is an electric push mower, the battery should be removed and placed in an area with no temperature fluctuation. A push mower battery lasts longer when stored in temperatures between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Manufacturers will differ on how a mower’s gas should be removed and the appropriate temperature range for the battery, both of which will be spelled out in the manual.

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