DIY Fire Pit Construction
Creating a Relaxing Backyard Fire Pit
My family and friends have enjoyed many nights around the fire pit in our backyard, sipping lemonade, cocktails or hot chocolate (depending on the season) and great conversation. From early spring through fall, there are few nights that don’t lend themselves well to this relaxing activity. What most people who don’t own a fire pit don’t know, is that they are actually really easy to build and, depending upon from where you procure your materials, they can be pretty inexpensive to build as well.
If you are fortunate enough to have a Habitat for Humanity Restore available in your community you can often get bricks or retaining wall blocks for rock bottom prices. If not, watch your local hardware store (the big ones like Menard’s, Lowe’s or Home Depot will have better sales) for closeout or end of season sales or sales on discontinued items.
First, decide where the pit will be constructed. This should ideally be in an open area that is not too close to your home, shed, fence or other construction. This will help reduce chance of fire spreading as the result of errant embers.
Next, decide how large to make it. This will depend upon the number of people you pan to have around it, as well as the size of the space into which you will construct it relative to other buildings as stated before. You will need to allow space for an area around the pit that will catch floating embers and absorb heat before it reaches drier areas such as grass or fallen leaves. This space will need to be laid with protective covering of pea gravel.
Check w/ Fire Marshal
Bricks or stones
Select safe area
Stake or paint outline of area
Fire Pit Liner
Spray Paint OR String and Stakes
Sand and Pea Gravel
Garden Edging or Extra Bricks
Before purchasing your items and preparing your area, it would be wise to check with your local fire department about local fire codes. This will help prevent citations and possible removal of the fire pit. It also helps assure that you are building a feature that is safe and reduces chances of accidental fire on your property.
When purchasing your materials, be sure to let the staff know that you are using the bricks or stone to construct a fire pit. They will be able to recommend the best type of stone to use as there are varieties that may explode after exposure to excessive or prolonged heat. If you use a steel fire pit liner, it will significantly reduce the chance of exploding rock. The steel helps to reflect heat and direct it out of the pit. Without this feature, the most of the heat will be absorbed into the rock. Liners are available home improvement stores for about $100. They work well whether you are constructing an in-ground or above-ground pit.
Map out the entire area using spray paint or string and stakes. Remove grass from the area if applicable. Make sure that ground is level and that fire pit area is centered. Dig hole (maybe coffee can sized or slightly deeper) as a drainage element so that rainwater is able to drain from the pit. As an alternative you could also make the entire pit area a drainage area by digging it about 6 inches deep and filling the entire area with stone. Create decorative edging around full perimeter using extra bricks or garden edging that can be obtained from home improvement store. Place a layer of sand inside the edging and tamp down. Cover with a layer of pea gravel.
To construct fire pit, stack bricks or stone in circular pattern around the fire pit liner, assuring that your drainage hole in centered. Use cement to secure bricks or stones. Do not forget this step, as you do not want guests accidentally toppling the stones into the fire. Because fire depends upon oxygen for fuel, and if you have not used a fire pit liner, leave gaps between some of the bricks/ stones to help increase the life of your bonfire. It will also help reduce stress from the heat on the bricks/ stones and promote a longer, safer life for the construction.
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