How to Make a Fire Pit

Creating A Low Cost DIY Fire Pit

One thing is for sure, the fire pit always made an evening seem more than magical. And that is exactly why when we moved to the new farm this year, building one became a top priority. In fact, it was one of the very first projects we completed.

Building a fire pit really can be both simple and inexpensive. The secret to success starts by employing a few basic fire pit building techniques that make it both strong, beautiful and functional. Then, by using natural and locally available materials, you can give it an incredible look that also happens to be quite economical.

Our new fire pit at our new farm. The entire fire
Our new fire pit at our new farm. The entire fire pit was built for just under $50, thanks to using stone we found at the farm.

Both of our fire pits were constructed for under $175 using the same process. In fact, our newest fire pit was actually built for under $50! Here is a step by step look at how we created our fire pit, along with a few tips on the best way to keep your project affordable.

Using The Earth As Your Friend – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit

The first key to building a functional fire pit is to keep it slightly below the soil line. Burying the pit a bit under the ground has several big advantages when creating and maintaining a fire.

First, it helps to keep your fire pit safe by preventing the embers of a burning fire from jumping out. It also helps keep the wind from becoming too much of an issue. Both when starting, and for keeping smoke out eyes.

But by burying your fire pit into the earth, it also helps to insulate it. That means a bit slower burn of the wood, and more even heat across the fire. That is not only great for sitting around the flames, but also for cooking as well.

Creating A Template For Your Fire Pit – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit

We created our circular fire pit layout using a 36″ piece of string tied to a round rebar post. We began by driving the rebar post into the ground where we wanted the exact center of the fire pit to be.

Using a spray can, we then marked out a perfect circle by spray painting a line on the ground as we walked with the string around the post. It makes quick work of what can be a difficult task for measuring an exact circle.

Once the lines were marked, we removed 16 inches of the soil inside of the line. By using a 36″ string, we ended up with a hole that was 72 inches in diameter, and 16 inches deep all the way around.

The 72″ diameter may sound large, but stone will be going inside of this to form the fire pit circle. It also allows enough space as you will see later for our cooking bar base to go in. Of course, you can create your circumference any size you wish. Just keep in mind you will lose some space as you stack the stone to form the circle.

The Cooking Bar Install

This is a purely optional step. But we can tell you, if you plan on cooking over your fire, this is far easier and cheaper than purchasing costly triangle supports. If you want more information on this step and process, we do have a complete article on the cooking bar here : (See : DIY Cooking Bar Project)

In a nutshell, the cooking bar is created with 1″ common black iron threaded iron pipe. This can be found at any hardware store, and creates a strong, sturdy cooking bar.

Using two 90 degree angle threads, we create a “U” shaped bar. The bar then slides down into two slightly 1.25″ larger pipes dug into the ground.

Our new fire pit with the cooking bar installed. T
Our new fire pit with the cooking bar installed. The hooks on the bar are perfect for hanging pots of stew or soup. You can also smoke meat right over the fire with them as well.

The cooking bar can easily be removed when not in use, and a threaded cover cap can be screwed to cover up the pipes in the pit. It is also extremely easy to use ready made outdoor cooking grates over with the fire pit as well.

We use a Hikeman folding grill in our fire pit to cook hamburgers, chicken, steaks and more. It simply sits within the fire pit on fold out legs and makes cooking anything a breeze! Product Link : Hikeman Folding Grill Top

Creating The Base – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit

A strong base is a key to a sturdy, long lasting fire pit. Especially one that will use stacked stone to create its walls. For our base, we use inexpensive limestone screenings. They can usually be found at a quarry, or small gravel or sand lot locations as well.

At around $7 to $10 a ton, a small pick-up load usually runs around $4. Some places will even allow you to take the screenings in 5 gallon buckets for about $1 per bucket.

Screenings are made up of small bits of limestone and the dust from the limestone rock. The limestone screenings pack down strong and give a firm, level base for a fire pit.

Limestone screenings are a by product of quarries
Limestone screenings are a by product of quarries as they create gravel. It makes for a great packing base, and is extremely inexpensive.

A four inch base of limestone screenings at the bottom of a fire pit are more than enough to create a great base for the stone layers on top. And it still leaves the pit depth at around 12″ down into the soil.

Building The Stone Wall

With the base complete, we began building the stacked stone wall. Although you can purchase rock at a stone center, it can be unbelievably expensive. One of the best ways to save is to purchase your rock at a local quarry instead.

For our first fire pit, we used rip-rap mixed size rock found at a nearby quarry. At around $20 per ton, we were able to get all of the rock we needed for around $80.

For our new fire pit, we were even more fortunate. When the crews were digging for our septic and water tanks, they unearthed tons of rocks. Mary and I quickly went to work snatching them up, and were able to build the new fire pit entirely from rock from the farm – and absolutely free!

The point is, however you, find your rock, there are better options that purchasing palletized stone. With a little leg work and creativity, you can save big for sure. Even old brick or broken concrete can look great with its jagged edges.

For our fire pit at the new farm, we were lucky en
For our fire pit at the new farm, we were lucky enough to score rock right from the land. You can also purchase large rock from a quarry at a significant discount.

The Building Process – How Top Build A DIY Fire Pit

Building a stacked stone fire pit is all about being patient and working slow. We presorted through the rock, setting out the largest stones for the base. From there, we built up with the remaining rocks. We set aside the flattest of the rocks to create the top of the pit. 

The key is to set one course at time. Try several rocks in different places, and with patience, you will find rocks that fit perfectly together. Work slowly and make it fun. The beauty of stacking dry stone is it is easy to fix and change. It also makes it nice if a rock is ever damaged to simply put a new one in its place.

Finishing The DIY Fire Pit

For the sitting area around our fire pit, we used limestone screenings again, and then covered with inexpensive pea gravel. It not only looks great, but drains well after any rain.

First, we sprayed the sitting area with high strength vinegar to kill off the grass. Next, we put down a two to three inch layer of limestone screenings to form a strong, hard base.

We use a limestone screening base and then cover t
We use a limestone screening base and then cover the area around the fire pit with #8 pea gravel. It fills in around the buried stone and makes the entire area look complete.

Once we had a level and firm base, we followed with a 2 inch top coat of #8 pea gravel.  We have used this combination of a limestone screening base / pea gravel top coat with great results to inexpensively build walkways as well. It looks great and lasts forever!

The limestone screenings form a near concrete-like base, and can be applied right over the existing soil to level it out and create the walkway.

It’s fast, easy and long-lasting. It is also easy to keep completely free of weeds with a few applications of vinegar spray a year.  In square footage cost, it runs right around .5 to .10 per square foot to use, and that’s hard to beat!  

Here is to creating your own amazing DIY fire pit in your backyard! Happy building – Jim and Mary.

As always, feel free to email us at thefarm@owgarden.com with comments, questions, or to simply say hello! You can sign up for our free email list in the subscribe now box in the middle of this article. Follow us on Facebook here : OWG Facebook. This article may contain affiliate links.

Video

Video

DIY Mini Fire Pit

Evansville Living

Here's a true mini fire pit made using a flower pot to create the size and shape. Your fire pit will take the form of any large plastic container you choose, such as a flowerpot or urn.

For this DIY fire pit, Deb McDaniel at Evansville Living sprayed the inside of the container with non-stick cooking spray and poured in quickly setting concrete. Set one or more gel fuel canisters into the wet concrete to create the right-sized space (coat the canister with non-stick cooking spray for easy removal). Place rocks or beach glass into the still-wet, pliable concrete mix for a sparkling finishing touch. When the concrete dries, remove the container (gently break it apart if necessary or glide the concrete out of the container) for your unique fire pit.

How to Build a DIY Fire Pit

Have a fire pit idea that you can’t wait to implement in your backyard? Here are the instructions to help you get started on building a basic DIY fire pit.

Supplies:

  • 100 Bricks
  • Steel Pit Ring with Tabs
  • Metal Grate
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • A Shovel

Step 1: Find a Location for the Fire Pit

The fire pit you are building is going to be a permanent installment in your backyard. Therefore you want to put it in a place where you will enjoy having it for a long time. You also need to take the ground into consideration, as flat ground with no grass works best.

Step 2: Dig a Hole

You will want to dig a hole that is about two feet wider than the desired diameter of your fire pit. So if you want a 5-foot fire pit, you’ll be digging a hole that is 7 feet in diameter. Dig down about 1 foot deep.

Step 3: Fill the Hole With Gravel and Sand

Fill the hole with 4 inches of gravel, followed by 4 inches of sand.

Step 4: Set Your Circle

On top of the layer of sand, you just placed, put your initial circle of bricks. Because this is the first layer, you will want to make sure it is level all the way around, even if you have to dig into the sand a bit. Use the steel ring to measure this circle.

Step 5: Fill the Cracks

Fill in the cracks between the bricks with sand, gravel, or cement.

Step 6: Build it Up

Follow steps 4 and 5 to build your fire pit. Use the steel ring to ensure each level has the same diameter and the fire pit doesn’t get tilted. Once you are on a layer short than your desired height, stop.

Step 7: Put the Grate Down

Place your grate down on the second to the highest level, the place the final circle of bricks. Just like that, you have a firepit.

When you light your fire pit for the first time it is suggested to have a bucket of water nearby just in case the flames get too high or if the bricks fail to contain the flames as planned.

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How to do it

Part 1

man using spray paint to form circle
Step 1

Outline DIY Firepit

Site the pit on a flat area about 12 feet in diameter. Place the stake at the center of your desired circle (ours is 56 inches in diameter), tie the spray-paint can to a string attached to the stake, and mark a circle. Dig out the dirt within the circle to about 18 inches deep.

Warning Before installing an open firepit, check local codes and beware of any burning bans.

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packing gravel into base of fire pit Step 2 Create Level Base Fill the pit with 6 inches of gravel. Rake smooth and tamp after each load to make a solid base. Then spread a layer of course sand over the gravel, tamp, and check that it’s level.

forming base to build fire pit Step 3 Mark Inner Circle Use the stake, string, and paint to mark an inner circle guide for placing the first layer of retaining-wall units. Our inner circle is 38 inches in diameter. If you’re using a fire ring, place it to be in line with the painted circle.

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man using hammer to pack stone brick into pit
Step 4

Place First Row

Place the first row of retaining-wall units in a circle. Use the mallet to set them in the sand and gravel. Check that it’s level from side to side and front to back after you place each unit.

Variation If you are using cheaper pavers, use a metal ring as a liner. The ring can help you form a base and keep the layers of stone straight, as well as making the pit last longer by protecting the pavers from crumbling.

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using seal to form stone pit wall Step 5 Finish Rows Add the second row of retaining-wall units. Many products feature a groove on the bottom and a ridge on top, allowing the rows to interlock. Add the top row of blocks and glue in place with the concrete adhesive. Make sure the blocks are clean and dry before you apply the adhesive. You can also use flat, finishing pavers on top of the regular pavers for a sleek, professional look. Adhere them to the top row as you did on the rows below.

packing bricks for patio
Step 6

Optional: Install Ground Pavers

To surround the pit with pavers, first create a 6-inch gravel base topped with 1 inch of course concrete sand. Lay the pavers in the pattern of your choice. After the pavers are in place, install a plastic or aluminum-edge restraint. Sweep concrete sand into the joints until the joints are full. Compact the surface with a hand-compactor or rent a plate contractor.

Warning Make sure a firepit is installed away from potential fire hazards, such as wood decks, shrubbery, fuel tanks, or any structures.

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