How to Build a Fire Pit – The Hottest New Addition to your yard

stone fire pit with outdoor chairs, enjoying the sunset and landscape.

If you have that bag of perfectly squishy marshmallows for s’mores, some new outdoor chairs, and a friend who tells a chilling ghost story, a DIY fire pit is all you need to bring all of these elements together for summer—as well as spring, fall, and winter—nights in your backyard or on your concrete patio

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, backyard fire pits were 2016’s top outdoor design element. And they’re a perfect DIY project. Sure, you can buy all kinds of premade outdoor fire features, or even a tabletop fire pit. But if you want to go full paleo, check out these tips on how to build a DIY fire pit in your backyard, from why you need a fire pit liner to the choice between wood-burning fire pits and gas fire pits.

Building a DIY fire pit

Expert’s stresses that you never set one up near low-hanging branches or close to a structure that could easily catch fire, including a deck. Choose a flat, level spot in your yard or on your patio that has plenty of room for the seating area. Also consider the size of the pit.

If you decide to construct a fire pit on your concrete patio, be aware that the heat will eventually damage or mar the surface. It’s a safe place to build a fire ring, if you don’t mind a permanent mark on the concrete.

Get the right DIY building materials

Large stones or cast-concrete curved blocks are the building materials of choice for a backyard DIY fire pit. If you’re going with stones or pavers, always check with a stone supply store to make sure your selection is suitable, as natural stone can crack or break in intense heat.

Decide between a wood-burning or gas fire pit

For some, nothing beats a crackling wood fire in the backyard. It’s more of a DIY outdoor fireplace—you’ll find yourself using it sometimes even when you’re not cooking.

Unfortunately, some municipalities don’t allow wood-burning fires due to the smoke. In that case, gas will be your only option—and we must say, there’s something nice about the convenience of a fire pit with the turn of a knob. You can hook up a gas line to a barbecue propane tank, or install a propane line connected to what’s powering your kitchen.

Obviously, when you’re dealing with gas, safety is paramount. So, if you’re nervous or unsure about what to do, hire a professional to install the gas line and you can stick with just building the fire pit as enough of a DIY project.

Choose a shape

You can find DIY backyard fire pit designs in just about any shape you want, from round to square to octagonal. In general, a circular fire pit spreads heat the most evenly. A square fire pit may be the easiest to build. (If you’re using a liner, it can serve as a handy building guide; just place it on the ground where you want your fire pit, then place your first layer of stones around it.)

Once you’ve placed the first layer of rocks in the desired shape, use a shovel tip to outline the outer perimeter on the ground. Then remove the stones (and liner if you used one) so the area is clear for the next step.

Get digging

Calling it an in-ground pit is somewhat misleading, because you don’t want your fire to be down in the ground. But you will need to dig down and remove a couple of inches of dirt from your pit. After you dig, fill the hole to almost ground level with gravel, lava rock, or sand. The gravel or sand provides drainage so your fire pit doesn’t turn into a pool of water the instant it rains.

Start stacking

Once your pit is properly dug and layered for drainage, place the first layer of stones along the pit’s perimeter just below ground level, followed by additional layers depending on the height you want your fire pit to be. Use concrete or concrete adhesive to hold each layer together. You can also dry-stack the stones.

Reach the right height

The height of your fire pit is largely up to you, although 1- to 2-feet foot tall is generally good, because that’s high enough to keep the ashes in but low enough so people can admire the fire and cook those hot dogs.

Add a floor

You can add a floor if you want, by laying pavers inside your pit. Use square pavers and fill in along the edges with triangular pavers. Fill in cracks with paver sand or gravel.

What about a brick or stone fire pit?

Building a pit as we just described for a backyard fire is fairly simple. If your neighbors built a stone fire pit or a beautiful brick fire pit, you may be tempted to try to keep up. Building a brick or stone pit will require building a concrete footing first. You can’t just start stacking bricks on dirt. You’ll need masonry supplies and equipment, including face bricks, fire bricks, mortar, refractory cement, concrete mix, and rebar. It can be a DIY project, but it’s not as simple as using concrete blocks or large stones.

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