It’s time to rekindle that fire — a fire that has echoed through the souls of man for years. The drive to take an idea, make a plan, gather materials, and build something where there was nothing before. It’s time to return to confidence, determination, self-belief. One of man’s greatest accomplishments was to harness fire, so why not start by building a fire pit?
The steps below are an outline of how to build a fire pit. This guide will serve as the spark to get you started on your project. There are many different approaches, from minimalist to extravagant, so do as you please. As you get started, take comfort in knowing that mistakes will be made along the way, but your final product will bring warmth to your friends and to yourself.
Choose Your Spot
Consider where your fire pit would make the most sense. In addition to thinking through backyard flow and aesthetics, consider these few important aspects:
- Is there anything nearby that can catch fire? A nearby bush, low hanging tree limbs, your house …
- Will you want furniture around your fire pit? Allow for enough space to furnish appropriately.
- Are the neighbors going to be annoyed — or annoying?
After you’ve found the perfect spot, determine what size you want your fire pit to be. The smaller the fire pit, the smaller the heat output and seating area for friends to gather. The bigger the pit, the larger the fire needed, as well as the amount of space between friends to converse across. We suggest a fire pit with an outside diameter between four and six feet, depending on the thickness of the wall of your fire pit. For height, think about how tall your furniture will be and shoot for something that is a couple of inches shorter. This will allow for both optimal heat and fire viewing enjoyment.
Make a Plan
There are many different ways to build a fire pit. Some might choose to use cement to build a base and hold together an inside ring of heat-friendly fire bricks and an outside layer of face stones. Others might be happy with a rudimentary ring of big rocks (use igneous rock instead of rock like sandstone, which has air pockets). We think there is a place in the middle that looks good, works well, and doesn’t cost too much time or money. A solid fire pit can be built by creating a safe and attractive base, using large rocks — and proper stacking technique — to build a ring with an open and natural look or with an added fire bowl.
How to Build a Fire Pit
Follow these steps to build your very own primitive hotspot:
- Ground: Your fire pit should sit on a level ground. Mark out the shape of your fire pit — the outside circumference — on your lawn (you can use a screwdriver and string to measure). Then remove 2-3 inches of the topsoil layer in that area to make room for your base. Stamp down the soil and make sure it is level. Feel free to use proper tools or your hands and feet — get creative.
- Base: Fill the 2-3 inch void with gravel or sand to create the base on which your fire pit will be built. Stamp down and equally disperse the base material so it is flat and level.
- Stones: You can go two ways here, depending on how much you want to pay and what you want your fire pit to look like. The easy way means going to your big box hardware store for pre-cut fire pit stones, the other means picking up landscape or field stones from your local landscape supply store (or field). Either source (except the field) can help you pick the right rock for your project. With either option, consider using a landscape adhesive between stones to keep them in place. Otherwise, let gravity do its job.
- Pre-cut fire pit stones: Take a look at the ready-to-go stones or full kit from Lowe’s. A kit is an easy option, but you can buy the individual stones to reduce costs and increase your creative control. This is a basic but solid option.
- Landscape/field stones: Working with a knowledgeable landscape staff member, pick out stones of various sizes and patterns. Make sure they are fire-friendly. This option will result in a rustic and natural product, but will likely cost quite a bit more and require thoughtful stacking technique.
- Finishing touches: Once the wall of the fire pit is complete, you can leave it as is or add an appropriately sized fire bowl for aesthetics and easy clean-up.
Invite Friends and Family
Your hands might be bandaged, toes stubbed, and mind tired from setbacks — but you’ve done it. You’ve harnessed the power of fire. Well, almost. Call up your friends and get your family over to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s time to relax and spend some time with your loved ones. At some point in the night, though, when things are dying down and you find a quiet moment besides the fire, think of those that came before you and how they too stared into the flame wondering about the mountains, the moon, and, perhaps, what to build next.
Article originally published March 2017. Last updated December 2018.
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