In the South, few things say summer better than a backyard barbecue. Once the sun has gone down, your party may still be going strong. Many patios have lights so that you can keep socializing well into the night.
A fire pit is another way to provide light and a gathering place for your friends and family. Outdoor fires are always an attractive feature in any backyard retreat. Building a DIY stone fire pit can be as easy as stacking paving or retaining wall stones together, or as complicated as fitting together custom-cut imported stone.
How to Build a Stone Fire Pit
Building a basic stone fire pit is an easy project which you can complete in a weekend!
- Before you begin, check with your local building department to see if there are any restrictions or codes on outdoor fires.
- Determine where you are going to put your fire pit. You can either make your fire ring the focal point of your backyard, or place it as a more private and intimate gathering area.
- Measure the area where you will place your fire ring. To determine the location of the edges, cut a piece of string or tape to be half the length of the ring’s final diameter. In other words, for a 6-foot fire pit, your string needs to be 3 feet long.
- Place a piece of rebar in the exact center of the space. Tie your string to stretch from the center point to the desired edge of the fire pit. Using your string or tape as a guide, walk around the center point and mark the edges with spray paint.
- Cut out the grass inside the circle using a sod cutter or shovel.
- Remove enough dirt that the ground level inside the circle is about 5-6” below the surrounding surface. Level the newly exposed dirt. At this point, you can either sink the area where you will eventually place the fire, or you can leave it level. If you sink the area, you can fill the bottom with gravel to allow for optimal drainage.
- Mark the location of the interior fire pit walls. Cut a second piece of string to the length of the first piece minus the width of the fire pit walls. If you want a foot wide wall for your 6-foot fire pit, then you need to cut your string to 24”. Loop one end around the rebar at the center and mark the edges of the interior wall with spray paint.
- Prepare your concrete following the product’s instructions, then pour into the area between the central circle and surrounding grass. This will be the footing for your fire pit’s walls. Add cement until it reaches about 1 ½” below the landscape grade.
- While the cement is still wet, place 2-foot pieces of rebar onto the cement at even intervals and submerge them by tapping them down with your shovel. The rebar will provide extra support for your fire pit’s walls. Let the concrete dry.
- Place the first row of stones along the grassy side of the ring. If you are filling with mortar, apply as you go and make sure that the tops of the stones are level.
- Lay the first level of fire brick along the inner edge of the facing stone and apply mortar. Check that the tops of the bricks are level.
- Repeat, alternately placing the facing stones and fire bricks until you have reached your desired height.
- Choose capstones for your seating area, selecting the stones which lay flat. Spread mortar over the top row of stone and apply your capstones, making sure everything is as level as possible. Smooth excess mortar when you are done. Let dry.
- Create your seating area. Cut one final piece of string to mark the desired edge. It’s best to leave excess room to give your fire pit a comfortable and welcoming appearance. Mark the edge of the seating area with spray paint and cut out the grass.
- Remove dirt until you have excavated about 3 inches. Cut landscape fabric to fit into the space, then top with crushed stone or sand.
- Congratulations! You’re done!
Fire Pit Tips
- Keep in mind that fire pops and sends up sparks, so avoid placing it under low-hanging trees or too close to buildings.
- While it may look nice and uniform, don’t stack your bricks or stones in a straight row. Avoid wall weakness by staggering them instead.
- Spray painting the fire bricks with black stove paint will give them a nice and uniform appearance. However, regular usage of your fire pit will naturally give the bricks a rustic, charred appearance.
- Building in drainage will help keep your fire pit from becoming a small pool during rainy spells.