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How to Build a DIY Fire Pit

Give your patio a warm focal point with this easy-to-build DIY fire pit.

Fire pits are fun and festive, adding a welcome element to backyard gathering spots and boosting appeal for potential homeowners, too. While some DIY fire pits have a range of amenities -- gas lines, seating -- you can construct a basic DIY fire pit that isn't too expensive, difficult, or time-consuming.

This DIY fire pit burns wood or charcoal. Although it includes a concrete base and mortared bricks, you can find pre-made retaining wall units for the DIY fire pit enclosure that may cut down on your labor.

The best site for your DIY fire pit is one that's flat and about 10 feet in diameter, as well as far away from flammable structures such as decks or shrubs. For safety, you should also surround your DIY fire pit with a nonflammable surface material such as granite or pavers.

Materials You'll Need:

  • Garden hose or string
  • Wooden rod
  • Spray paint
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Tamper
  • Quick-set concrete
  • 14-inch or longer 2x4
  • 6-inch manhole blocks
  • Refractory mortar
  • Spray bottle
  • Trowel
  • Capstones
  • Safety goggles

Create a DIY Fire Pit in 8 Steps

1. Check your local building codes. Some municipalities prohibit open fires, while others have size and placement restrictions. Before you make a plan or buy a brick for a DIY fire pit, look into the rules in your area.

2. Mark out the DIY fire pit outer perimeter, inner edge, and center. Once you've gotten the go-ahead from your local building department, so use a garden hose or string to mark out the size and location of the inside wall of your fire pit. (For convenience and ease of use and construction, most DIY fire pits are circles.) Using your markings as a guide, insert a wooden rod in the center of this inner circle.  Then, cut a string the length of half the diameter of your DIY fire pit. Using the string and a can of spray paint, mark the inside of your fire pit. Paint another circle, this one an additional 12 inches outside your original circle. These form the boundaries of the trench.

3. Dig a trench. Using the painted outline as a guide, dig a 12-inch-wide by 10-inch-deep trench.

4. Fill the trench. Line the bottom of the trench with a 2-inch-thick layer of gravel; tamp it firmly down. Working quickly, cover the gravel with concrete until it reaches ground level. Remove any air pockets with a shovel, and level with the side of a 2x4. Let the concrete harden then cure according to package directions.

5. Mist the cured concrete with water; spread with refractory mortar according to package directions. Leave three equidistant 3/4-inch gaps in this first course to serve as air vents.

6. Dry-lay a second course of 6-inch manhole blocks over the first (do not use mortar). The blocks should be flush with one another, and the internal edges should line up from first layer to second layer (you will have a small outer lip).

7. Mist the blocks of both the first and second course with water, then apply surface-bonding cement to the exterior. Smooth the surface with a wet trowel. Keep the top edge clear of cement to ensure that the cap will bond with the wall, and do not cover the air vents.

8. Cut fireproof brick capstones into wedges using a circular saw with an abrasive masonry blade and chisel (wear safety goggles). After surface-bonding cement has cured, mist the fire pit with water. Fill in the block hollows, and add a coating of mortar to the top edge. Top mortar with brick wedges. Let the fire pit cure for 30 days.

Tip: If you are concerned about the risks of flying embers, add a mesh screen cut to fit the top of the fire pit. Burning pressed logs also generates fewer sparks and reduces the amount of remaining ash.


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