Every house or property NEEDS to have an outdoor fire pit. Some of our family’s favorite memories have been spent around a bonfire or campfire. Whether you like to roast marshmallows, make mountain pies, or simply listen to the crackle of the warm fire on a fall night, having a fire pit in your backyard is one of the best pastimes.
If you feel the same way about backyard campfires as we do but were never quite sure how to build your own fire pit, then you are exactly where you need to be! In this post, I want to talk about our experience building what I consider one of my favorite fire pits to date.
Hannah and I have built fire pits at each house we have owned in our ten plus years of marriage. We have owned four houses in the course of our marriage and each one has provided memories of sitting around an evening fire that will last a lifetime.
The first thing to note is that there are many ways to build a fire pit. There are stone fire pits, landscape fire pits, old wheel rim fire pits, wood-burning fire pits, gas-burning fire pits, and the list goes on. Our go-to fire pit is a classic woodburning fire pit with some form of a fire ring built to contain the fire. In this most recent fire pit build, we used landscape blocks to construct the fire pit.
So if you’re not afraid of a little bit of sweat equity and elbow grease, then keep reading and by the end, you’ll be ready to build a fire pit in ONE HOUR! If you learn better by watching, then check out our YouTube video (or click the link) of the whole fire pit building process at the end of the article!
Step One – Initial Considerations for Building a Fire Pit
But before we get into the details, I want to talk about a couple of key elements to consider when building a fire pit.
- SAFETY – The first and foremost consideration when building a fire pit is to plan a safe location. Be sure that you are not building your fire pit in an area with highly combustible materials nearby. You want to ensure that the fire pit is a safe distance from any structures or other areas of concern.
The bottom line is, use common sense and good judgment when choosing the location for your fire pit. Lastly, in the realm of safety, only plan to have fires large enough for the location that you choose.
Don’t let your fires get out of control, and have a backup plan in the event something unforeseen happens. It is always a good idea to have a bucket of water nearby or an accessible water hose.
- Good Ventilation – Ventilation is key when designing your fire pit. Fire needs three things to live; fuel, heat, and oxygen. Without any one of these items, your fire will suffer or simply not exist. So when you are planning your fire pit, make sure that you allow for proper airflow through your fire pit walls. If you build tall fire pit walls without venting, not only will you have a hard time starting your fire, you will have a hard time keeping it lit.
Step Two – Design and Materials for Your DIY Fire Pit
Your first step is going to be deciding on the design, style, and construction of your fire pit. For this post, I am going to show you how we built our most recent fire pit, and hopefully, you can use that for the inspiration of your own fire pit!
One design characteristic that is solely up to you is the size of your fire pit. Our fire pit has an inside diameter of nearly four feet. I would highly recommend building your fire pit to be at least three feet wide when measured on the inside. If you make it any smaller, I think you’ll regret it and wish you had made it larger down the road. It will also decrease your airflow and available oxygen the smaller you make it, so plan for the largest fire you expect to have.
For the structure of our fire pit, we purchased landscape blocks from Lowe’s. They are affordable, decorative, and hold up to heat fairly well. The blocks we chose for our fire pit are a common design and consistently available at our local Lowe’s. So if one breaks or crumbles over time, it will be easy to replace.
Apart from the landscape blocks, you’ll need a few more items before starting your fire pit project. Below is a complete tool and material list:
Tools for Building Your DIY Fire Pit
- Spade shovel
- Gravel rake
- Three foot (or larger) level
- Caulk gun
- Wheelbarrow or lawn cart and tractor (Optional – helps save your back)
Materials for Building Your DIY Fire Pit
- Landscape blocks – we used thirty (30), costing $2.38/block
- Two bags of Paver Base (we used one, but we needed more) – we used Step-1 Paver Base Stone from lowes, costing $3.98/bag
- Two bags of Paver Sand – we used Step-2 Paver Sand, costing $3.48/bag
- Two tubes of Liquid Nails Ultra Duty Poly (we used one, but we needed more) – costing $6.99/tube
Step Three – The Building Phase of Your DIY Firepit
Now that you have all of the materials needed, you are ready to build your fire pit!
We filmed our whole building process and left the camera rolling so we could make a timelapse of the entire build project. The entire project From start to finish (not including our trip to the store), the entire fire pit build took almost one hour exactly.
So once you have your materials and design in mind, if you build a fire pit similar to ours, I would expect the construction to take approximately one to two hours barring any unforeseen hurdles or struggles.
Below you will find a step-by-step list of our construction phase. Follow along!
1. Lay out one layer of the block in a circular design to mark where you need to dig. – Once you lay out your block you can simply take your spade shovel and score a digging line around the outside of your blocks on the ground. If you have a nicely shaped circle of blocks laid out, you’ll thank yourself later. Your first digging circle will be the form for where your blocks will be set later.
2. Dig out your grass and dirt as deep as you would like to lay your first foundation of blocks. – How deep you dig is ultimately up to you. We only used two layers of blocks, fifteen blocks on each layer totaling thirty blocks used. Keep the sod that you dig up (sod is the grass with a dirt and root base still attached). You can use the sod to fill holes, divots or low spots in your yard if needed.
* NOTE: Our fire pit location was on a slight grade and we had to dig deeper on the upslope side of our fire pit to get a level working surface. You want your fire pit base to as level as possible. Not only will it look best when level, but the construction will also be far more solid and stable.
3. Using a level, check the excavated area to ensure that the dirt base is level from side to side. – Make sure that your dirt base is level at this stage will make leveling your paver stone and sand much easier later. Again, having a level base now will make your fire pit look much nicer later!
4. Pour your Step-1 paver stone base onto the excavated dirt base and use the level again to make certain that the area is level from side to side. – Walk on the paver stone base to tamp the material in and create a solid base. You can also use landscape stones to do the same thing. Just make sure that your stone base is still level after tamping it in.
5. Repeat step four using the Step-2 paver sand without tamping the sand in. – The paver sand should cover the Step-1 stone base all in one layer. We didn’t buy enough Step-1 stone base for our project and had to mix some sand in with our stone to get our first layer base. Learn from our mistake, and make sure you buy enough stone and sand!
You do not need to tamp the sand in as your landscape blocks will compress the sand layer and settle in as time passes.
6. Lay your first layer of block upside down with the textured side face down on the sand base. – This will leave the flat-surfaced side of the block facing up and will be important when laying your second layer of block. When you lay your first layer of blocks down, gently press and wiggle the block from side to side, seating the landscape block firmly into the sand base.
7. Using the caulk gun and the Liquid Nails to adhere your landscaping blocks together. – To do this step, dispense a bead of adhesive on the top, flat surface of each landscape block on your first layer of block.
Make sure that you put enough adhesive on each block to make a good bond. If you don’t get enough on there, the block may become loose and separate later.
You can always fix this later by adding more adhesive.
8. Place the next layer of blocks on your first layer of block. – The second layer should overlap the seam of the bottom blocks. The textured side of the block on your second layer should face up, leaving the two flat sides bonding together.
The block placement on your top row should half lap over two blocks on the bottom row. When you place the top layer of blocks, you can again wiggle the block slightly from side to side to smear the glue slightly to get good adhesive coverage.
FINAL STEP – Enjoy Your Fire Pit!
Now that you have read through the entire tutorial on how to build your own fire pit, you’re probably wondering, “is it really that easy?” The answer is simple: YES!
If you can spare an hour or two putting in a little hard work and planning building your fire pit, you’ll have years of enjoyment! Having a backyard bonfire is one of our favorite things to do and we hope that you can enjoy the same!