As a seasoned landscape architect, I’ve been crafting beautiful outdoor spaces for years. One of the most frequent requests I get is for brick fire pits. Creating a robust and safe masonry fire pit isn’t rocket science.
In fact, it’s an endeavor within the reach of any homeowner, even those with no masonry experience. With a little elbow grease, you can enhance your home’s beauty and equity over the weekend. So, are you ready to build your personal campfire spot and get a good arm workout in the process? Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Understanding Local Regulations
Before you start your fire pit project, you need to familiarize yourself with local regulations regarding open fires. Ensure your fire pit is placed far from overhanging trees, your home, and other combustible structures. If you’re unsure about these regulations, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local fire department.
Planning Your Custom Fire Pit
We’ll walk you through the process of building a fire pit on grass using ordinary retaining wall stones and clay fire bricks. However, you can also construct it on a patio. The choice of rectangular blocks allows you to easily adjust the design to fit your vision. Experimenting with different block styles can further customize the look of your fire pit.
Step One: Selecting the Perfect Spot
You can place your fire pit close to your house or tucked away in a quiet corner of your backyard. However, it’s crucial to remember to comply with local building codes during this process. Restrictions might apply regarding setbacks from property lines and distances from structures.
As a rule of thumb, ensure your pit is at least 10 feet away from structures, trees, fences, or other obstacles. After deciding on the location, use landscaping spray paint to outline your fire pit and seating wall. The edge of the seating wall should be roughly three feet from the closest (outside) edge of the fire pit.
Step Two: Laying the Foundation
This stage involves a bit of muscle work. Start by digging a shallow foundation, following the spray-painted lines. Next, mix and pour concrete into the foundation, ensuring it’s level.
Why bury your fire pit in the ground, you ask? There are several benefits. Firstly, it helps keep the embers from leaping out, reducing the risk of stray sparks. Secondly, it protects against strong winds that could interfere with starting the fire or direct smoke into your eyes. Furthermore, a buried fire pit provides insulation, resulting in a slower wood burn and more uniform heat distribution. This feature is perfect not only for cozying up around the fire but also for cooking.
The walls of your fire pit should be low to the ground, no higher than a foot. However, for stability, the wall’s foundation must be sunk below ground in a gravel-lined pit, providing drainage and frost heaves protection in the winter.
Step Three: Building the Basic Structures
Your fire pit’s inner wall should be made of fireproof materials, preferably fire brick. The outer walls need to be heat-resistant but can be made of standard brick, stone, masonry blocks, concrete pavers, or even heat-resistant outdoor stucco or tile. Flagstone is an excellent choice for the fire pit cap. However, remember that no part of the fire pit should be made of combustible or non-porous materials that hold water, as they might trap steam and explode.
For longevity, consider lining the innermost wall of your fire pit with a steel fire ring. This non-combustible material deflects heat, prevents wall material from drying, and preserves your fire pit’s appearance and structural integrity.
Step Four: Adding the Finishing Touches
For the vertical surfaces, stucco can provide an attractive and quick option. Stacked stone veneer is another popular choice that offers a high-end look. Choose a finish that complements the style of your existing landscaping.
Next, cap the seating wall and fire pit. Natural stone like flagstone is slightly tricky but highly attractive and adds a touch of luxury. To create a custom fit, use cardboard to trace a template for the desired stone piece, and then use an angle grinder with a masonry blade to cut the stone to shape. If you prefer, you can also purchase custom concrete caps to fit your project.
The beauty of building your fire pit is that you can customize it to your preferences. Here are a few aspects you can play around with:
Shape: Fire pits don’t have to be round. Choose a shape that suits your yard’s aesthetics.
Height: Ideally, fire pits should be no taller than 12 inches. A lower wall allows better air circulation, facilitating better burning.
Fuel: While this guide is for a wood-burning fire pit, you can easily adapt it to use gas. If you choose this route, consult with a licensed plumber.
Essential Dos and Don’ts
Do get permission from the appropriate authorities before constructing a fire pit.
Don’t use highly combustible or non-porous water-resistant building materials.
Do keep accessibility in mind when deciding the size of your fire pit.
Don’t build a permanent fire pit if you have limited space. A movable fire pit can be a better option.
Invest in a fire blanket and a multipurpose dry chemical fire extinguisher for emergency situations. Also, consider wearing a grill glove when handling a metal fire poker, as it can heat up if left close to the fire.
Addressing Common Queries
What to put at the bottom of a fire pit? Sand, gravel, lava rocks, fire pit glass, paving stones, or bricks can be used. Dirt is also a viable option.
How to prepare the ground for a fire pit? Remove all grass and plant material. Excavate about 8 inches of soil and ensure the pit’s bottom is level and the soil is firm.
Can a fire pit be built out of dirt? Yes, as long as the dirt is compacted and level.
Building a fire pit is just one way to enhance your outdoor space. Complement your new entertainment area with an outdoor kitchen or a raised garden bed. With a little effort and creativity, you can create an inviting and functional outdoor space that perfectly suits your lifestyle.