How to Build a Fire Pit

bonfire on fire pit

Create a Warm, Inviting, Outdoor Entertaining Space

Building a fire pit is an easy enough project that even a homeowner with no masonry experience can make one in a weekend. Add beauty and equity to a home with this simple, satisfying project.

Step One: Where to Put the Fire Pit

A fire pit can be located near the house or in a secluded corner of the backyard. Be sure to take into consideration local building codes before deciding on placement. Some cities place restrictions on setbacks from property lines and distances from structures.

Once the location is set, use landscaping spray paint (available from any home improvement store) to draw an outline of the proposed fire pit and seating wall. The edge of the seating wall should be approximately three feet from the closest (outside) edge of the fire pit.

Step Two: the Foundation

Dig out a shallow foundation, following the spray-painted lines on the ground. Mix concrete and pour into the foundation, making sure that the foundation is level. See figure one below.

Step Three: Build the Basic Structures

Use 8x8x16 concrete blocks, stacked two high, to create the seating bench. The joints should be staggered for maximum strength. This requires either one of the large blocks to be split in half for the ends of the top row, or for two 4x8x16 blocks to be bought. See figure two below. Fill the cores with concrete. Rebar can be added for additional strength, but is not necessary for low seating walls.

Use 8x8x8 concrete blocks to build the circular fire pit. The fire pit should be only one course of bricks tall. See figure three below. Fill the cores of the blocks with concrete. Use mortar and rubble to fill the gaps in the exterior circumference of the fire pit circle. Use mortar to line the fire pit with fire bricks; these are built to absorb the heat and will keep the structure sound, even through raging bonfires.

Step Four: Finishing Touches

Finish the vertical surfaces. Stucco is an appealing option, and goes on quickly. Stacked stone veneer is another very popular choice right now, and gives a high-end look. Choose a finish to suit the style of the rest of the landscaping. See figure four, below.

Cap the seating wall and fire pit. Natural stone like flagstone is heavy and a little tricky, but very attractive and luxurious. Use cardboard to trace a template for the desired piece of stone, and use an angle grinder with a masonry blade to cut the stone to shape. See figure three, below. Alternatively, custom concrete caps can be purchased to fit the project.

Variations

  • Shape. Fire pits can be made in any shape. Choose a shape that suits the aesthetics of the rest of the yard and have fun with the design.
  • Height. Fire pits work best when they’re no taller than approximately 12” tall. Some wind-break is desirable, but the higher the fire pit is, the less air gets to the fire. A fire will burn better with a lower wall.
  • Fuel. These directions are for a wood-burning fire pit, but are easily adaptable to gas. Consult with a licensed plumber.

A fire pit is just one element of a beautiful backyard. Consider an outdoor kitchen to compliment the new entertainment area, or a raised garden bed. All are projects entirely within reach of the average do-it-yourselfer.

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