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A fire pit can add so much to a yard. Whether you’re looking for a rustic feature or a source of outdoor warmth as the seasons change, you can find it all with a fire pit – and you don’t even need real fire to achieve it.
While building a custom fire pit is still a popular option, several types of fire pits have recently hit the market and now allow even those who can’t fit a pit into their yard to enjoy the benefits of a warm fire.
Let’s walk through a few potential fire pit ideas and then learn how easy it is to build your own pit.
Fire Pit Ideas
The rustic brick or stone fire pits of yore are now joined by several more modern models that fit in any yard. If you’re hoping to build your own fire pit but it simply won’t work in the space available, check out these other convenient options:
Wood Burning Fire Pits
Wood burning pits are the most common model because they replicate the campfire experience: warmth, smoke, and even the opportunity for occasional s’mores.
You’re likely to find these structures as a wood-burning grill, outdoor fireplace, or as a DIY fire pit. We’ll cover the steps for building your own wood burning fire pit later in the article.
Wood burning pits will typically require more maintenance than other models both because of the design and the need to buy and store wood for the fire.
Wood pits can also be built to your custom specifications – step-by-step instructions will be provided at the end of the article.
Gel Fuel Fire Pits
If you’re looking for a fire pit but aren’t worried about using it to cook or enjoying the rustic, smoky smell, then a gel fuel pit may be a suitable option.
These fire pits are also ideal for small spaces because they’re easy to move and can even be found in tabletop size models.
In fact, you can even find indoor versions of these fire pits.
Propane Fire Pits
Propane fire pits provide a convenient option for a fire pit if you don’t have the time or space to build your own.
These can be portable or a permanent fixture in outdoor living space. If you see a table fire pit, you’re often looking at a propane model.
Propane pits are great because you can still heat a space or cook on them, but they don’t offer the fire aesthetic some look for. Additionally, you’ll have to buy and store propane, but you need to buy and store any fuel source when building a pit.
Natural Gas Fire Pits
A natural gas pit allows you to take the concept of the propane fire pit a step further by creating a permanent structure with constant access to a fuel source.
These are easily the most costly fire features not because of the cost of the build or monthly cost of natural gas but because of the installation of a natural gas line. You’ll also need to consider the permanence aspect: you’ll never be able to move the pit without also moving the natural gas line.
Types of DIY Fire Pits
You’ve got a few options for building DIY fire pits.
The most commonly built ones are made of stone pavers because they’re cheap and sturdy. These are also the most common DIY kits available in the store for building your own pit at home.
However, brick fire pits are also common and still relatively simple to build.
The steps required to build a fire pit depend on whether you’ve chosen to build a stone or brick fire pit with brick requiring a greater investment of both time and money in materials. However, it’s possible to go over the basic steps for building your own pit here.
How to Build a Masonry Fire Pit Without a Kit
Building a masonry fire pit is a fairly straightforward process. In fact, greater emphasis is placed on planning the fire pit because once it’s appropriately placed and measured, all you need is a bit of labor to get it up and running.
Here are the steps in order. Simply integrate whatever materials you’ve decided to use in the instructions below.
If you’re building from scratch to create a custom fire pit, the planning phase will take the longest.
The most important thing to think about when planning and designing the feature is how you anticipate using it long-term.
Do you want a simple pit built into the ground or a pit designed to match existing outdoor features? Maybe you want something so simple that going back to a DIY kit is the best solution.
Whatever you decide, make sure it’s in line with your vision for both the use of the pit and how you foresee your outdoor living space changing over the years.
The second element of planning is finding the best space for the pit. You may envision a very particular spot, but your dreams may not be a suitable place for a fire.
Here’s where you should always avoid building the structure:
- Under low-hanging branches or limes
- Under power lines
- Near or over a septic tank
- Near or over a wellhead
- Near or over a leaching field
- Near or over a property line
Check with your local city council or fire department to see how far away from your neighbor’s property line the pit must be to avoid conflicts.
Choose Your Size
A good size fire pit will be 36” to 44” in diameter, providing you with enough room to safely build a fire within the circle while also achieving a nice size fire.
A three-foot fire pit is best because you’ll get a good size fire but you’ll still be able to sit close enough to one another to chat.
To see what size circle best fits your space, take your stones and build a circle with them prior to digging the pit or removing any other pavers.
Measure the dimension to ensure you rebuild the correct size once you’ve dug the hole.
Dig the Hole
Whether you’re building in a grassy area or within an existing patio, you’re going to need to dig a hole.
Start by either removing the existing pavers or slabs from the area in the shape of a rough circle. Once the circle is created, you’ll dig a pit between 8” and 12” deep as a minimum.
You’ll also dig a pit that’s 3” wider the minimum diameter of your fire pit, so you’ll dig the pit to be 3’3” in diameter. The extra space accounts for the bricks or stones included in the pit.
Line the Hole
The difference between a dangerous bonfire and a relaxing evening by the fire is placing fire-retardant lining in the hole.
How you line the hole depends on how large and how permanent you’d like your fire pit to be.
Option #1: Stone Lining
The simplest option is to line the bottom of the pit with gravel and the sides of the pit with stones (or even brick). You’ll then line the gravel on the bottom with additional stones.
Option #2: Cement
Adding a concrete footing will provide more stability for the walls of the pit, but it will make the pit more permanent.
To create a cement lining, you’ll first create the forms required for pouring the cement. You can purchase the forms or make your own with scrap hardboard laying around. Two forms are needed: a 36” circle for the pit itself and a 48” circle for the outer wall.
Place the forms in the pit and follow the manufacturer’s directions when pouring the cement. Let the concrete set for at least 12 hours (ideally overnight) before removing both forms.
Build the Walls
The process involved in completing step 5 depends on whether you’re using stone or brick to build the pit itself.
If you’re using firebrick, then you’ll build the walls using mortar, working with four bricks at a time.
However, you don’t need to build such a sturdy structure when using stone. With stone, you have the option to cut space in the dirt for the stones (or bricks) before dry stacking the layers on top of them, using quick-dry cement as necessary.
Building a Fire Pit is Easy
You don’t need technical know-how to build your own fire pit. All you need is a few readily available materials and a solid plan for the build. Within a day, you could have your very own fire feature and a source of memories of pleasant evenings for years to come.
Don’t have the time or space to build your own fire pit? Not a problem. From table top fire pits to portable pits, there are plenty of options available regardless of your space. You don’t even need wood for many of them.
Have you built a fire pit in your yard? What tips do you have for finding precisely the right position for your pit? Share your tricks for cozy evenings in the comments below.