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How To Build A Backyard Fire Pit

Updated on March 23, 2013
Enjoying the backyard fire pit this last summer
Enjoying the backyard fire pit this last summer

How To Build A Backyard Fire Pit

Just imagine... A cool summer evening, not a cloud in the sky and after a day of ruckus on the lake with some friends, you retire to your place to continue the party. But, really... who wants to stay inside this time of year?! It's a beautiful summer evening and you need to enjoy it while it lasts! Especially if you're in the Northwest where cold weather is rampant and warm summer days are a rare feast to be had.

Think of how great it would be to continue the party with an outdoor fire pit where you can circle around and tell stories, share laughs and even better, engage in the epic activities of roasting s'mores, hot dogs and just enjoying a tasty adult beverage with your friends! Sounds fun doesn't it?

While it may seem like a daunting or impossible task to some, the reality is, building an outdoor fire pit is actually a very simple and very rewarding project that you can finish in one short afternoon pretty easily. Once the location of your new fire pit is determined, the rest of the project only requires a little bit of time, labor and cash.
For most people, building a fire pit will include a trip to their nearest home improvement store like Lowe's or Home Depot and will cost between $80-$100 plus a couple of hours. Though, in some cases, an outdoor fire pit has easily ran costs in upwards of $7000! However, the only reason for the price to increase this much is only dependent on how elaborate of a fire pit you decide to build. For us, we'll be building a very simple, cost effective and extremely functional fire pit that also looks great and will be enjoyed and remembered by your entire family and friends.

Safety First

Before we get started, you need to always remember, SAFETY FIRST!

When it comes to the labor side of this project, always practice moving, bending and kneeling the right way. Use you legs to lift the river rock, not your back!

If you're sensitive to fumes of any kind, wear a mask when working with the can of athletic chalk to prevent you from inhaling the compressed fumes.

Last but not least, grab a pair of safety goggles. You can never be too careful with your safety.

After-all, we want to enjoy the fire pit right? We don't want to get halfway done then end up spending the rest of the season cooped up in the house with a cast or eye patch... Arrrrrrrrrr!

Now The Fun Begins!

The most basic below ground, backyard fire pit will add many years of enjoyment to your summer get-togethers and can be built with the following items:

- Measuring Tape
- 1 Can of Athletic Marking Chalk (Krylon 5895 Marking Chalk works very well)
- Shovel
- River Rock (various sizes)
- Dirt

Once you have these items, then the fun really begins!


First order of business is to determine the location of your new fire pit.
Typical locations for most people are the back yard of their home.
Find a location in your back yard that is at least 25ft. away from structural or combustible material for obvious safety reasons. Last thing we want is for your house to catch fire or for anybody else' for that matter! Even if it's that nosy, annoying neighbor... I know, I know... But, we all need to practice safe fire pitting.

Once you've determined the location you'd like to build your fire pit, take your can of marking chalk and mark a single dot in the center of where you're envisioning the center of the pit to be.


Now, with your tape measure, you should measure out from the center, 4 ft. all the way around to create the outside diameter. Just mark a dotted circle again with your marking chalk.


Now that your diameter is created, it's time to bust out that shovel and start digging!
Starting at the edge of your lines, dig toward the center to create your pit. General rule of thumb is to dig a depth of 6 inches to 1 ft. with a gradual decline toward center to create the bowl.


Once your bowl is dug, in comes the river rock. This is the really fun part because it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle! C'mon... Bring out your inner child!
The goal here is to line the outer rim and the outer walls of the bowl with river rock, leaving the center and bottom of the fire pit as only dirt. The river rock will help to contain the fire so it doesn't spread to the outside of the pit. The dirt in the center will also help to contain the fire in a single area.

Begin by lining the outer edge with the river rock to create a border around the fire pit. Once you've placed the rock to create a border, start to build up the interior walls of the bowl in the same fashion. Build the walls to the point of the bowl where it begins to level out toward to bottom.


After all of the river rock has been placed, take the dirt you dug up to create the fire pit and begin filling in the spaces between the rocks. This is much easier if done by hand rather than with your shovel because you can pack it down and be sure it's secure. This also works a lot better if the dirt you have is slightly moist. Just make sure it isn't wet mud. Depending on your geographical location, the dirt should be sufficient as is and will require zero added water.

After you're done filling in the spaces with dirt, make one final pass over to ensure the pit is stable. If you find any lose areas, repeat step 5 until the pit becomes stable enough. The more dirt you use and the harder packed it is, the stronger the fire pit will be.

Wrap It Up!

That's it! Now you have a fully functional outdoor fire pit that can be enjoyed all season!

Now, go grab some firewood, marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers and some franks! It's time to enjoy the summer evenings in style!!!

What type of outdoor fire pit do you prefer?

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