DIY Fire Pit

What you need to know before placing a pit in your yard.

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While visiting my parents recently, I noticed something new just beyond the edge of their property.

“Is that a fire pit?” I asked.

“Oh yes, the neighbors built that themselves,” my father said, shaking his head. “On cold nights they bundle up, drag a few chairs right to the edge and drink beer with gloves on.”

He said this in an “aren’t-they-crazy tone?” and I dutifully agreed—but all I could think was how awesome that scenario sounded. So I called Patrick Devereux, owner of Stone Oak Landscapes in Cudahy, Wisconsin, to find out just how easy DIY fire pits can be.

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Portable Tripod Grill for campfires

A convenient alternative to a permanent fire pit or outdoor grill is the Lumberjack Tripod Grill which can travel anywhere and offers you an 18 inch grill that is heavy-duty, nickel plated steel.

Decorative Steel Fire Torch

For those looking for something more decorative and ornamental than a standard fire pit there are intriguing alternatives such as the Desert Steel Passion Flower Torch which is constructed of galvanized steel and operates on torch fuel.

Beachfront Fire Pit With Bench

In this beachfront backyard, a flagstone bench has the double advantage of providing cozy fireside seating and support for the sandy "floor."

Photo By: Margie Grace

Stone Bench and Seaside Fire Pit

This seaside fire pit includes a stone bench that's seamlessly integrated into the surrounding landscape. Blue and striped yellow pillows add a hint of color and graphic pop to the picturesque hang-out spot.

Contemporary Backyard With In-Ground Fire Pit With Fire Glass

This Contemporary backyard features an in-ground fire pit with fire glass and wrought iron trellis with low voltage lights. The fire pit is framed with a wooden/metal pergola.

Photo By: Zack Benson

Fire Pit: Beachfront Oasis in Islamorada, Fla.

There's no reason to stop the party when the sun goes down. Set up shop around the fire pit under sweeping starry skies.

From: EWM Realty International and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: EWM Realty International, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Fire Pit and Pool: Beach Villa Beauty in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Gather around the fire pit on cool nights or to warm up after a dip in the pool.

From: P.V. Realty, S.A. de C.V. and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: P.V. Realty, S.A. de C.V., a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Yard With Hot Tub and Fire Pit

A stone amphitheater and fire pit are the center of social gatherings in this amazing backyard. Low stone benches on one side of the pit allow for the other side to serve as a stage, additional seating or even a spot for sleeping bags. The cedar hot tub is nearby, far enough away to be private, yet still enjoy the fire's flickering glow.

Outdoor Fire Torch

Fire pits can provide intriguing sources of light at night but there are other alternatives such as the Desert Steel Saguaro Cactus Torch which is 25 inches wide and 78 inches tall and definitely qualifies as garden art.

Linear Fire Pit Parallel to Poolside Seating Area

This unique fire pit matches the home's modern style. The poolside fire pit has a dual purpose of providing warmth and an architectural element to the outdoor space.

Photo By: Siggi Ragnar

Devereux, who’s put sticks and stones together in the Wisconsin area for more than 20 years, says fire pits help people warm up to the idea of heading outside when it’s cold. “They extend the time people spend outdoors late into the fall and much earlier in spring,” he says. “Clients often build entire outdoor rooms around them.”

Before you head out back with a lighter and a frosty beverage, here’s what you need to know about creating your own fire pit:

A Good Match – Fire pits should always be at least 10 feet away from the house and as far as possible from overhanging trees. “Different municipalities have different regulations and some have none,” Devereux says. “Fire pits should be the focal point outside, like it would be in a great room or den.”

Ground Control – Once you’ve nailed down a location, there are a few more decisions to make: Wood burning or gas? In- or above-ground? Devereux says most clients are asking for above-ground fire pits that are chair height to keep curious children out and the fire in.

Material World – Devereux suggests using materials that complement the architecture of your home. One of the simplest ways to create your own fire pit is to purchase an old cast-iron sugar bowl originally used to process sugar cane. Stacked stone is also super simple and doesn’t require any masonry at all.

The Heat Is On – If you’re making a wood burning fire pit, get a metal liner to act as a heat shield between the fire and the stone, then fill the bottom with pea gravel to allow for drainage. Gas pits can be constructed with a manual match light or remote control, and Devereux says bigger is better when it comes to the actual gas ring.

The Big Screen – Check the local laws: Some municipalities require a spark screen, or a metal mesh guard, to prevent sparks from getting into roofs or trees from wood burning fire pits.

Still digging the idea? Good. Grab a shovel and let’s get started:

  • Dig the ground out about 6-8 inches deep, and lay 6-8 inches of compacted gravel.
  • Lay out the stone in the correct shape, making sure the course is level in both directions. Bury the first course about halfway into the ground.
  • Start the second course of stone, staggering the joints in a bond pattern.
  • Courses can be laid dry or connected with masonry adhesive, which can be purchased at most landscape supply stores.
  • Continue until you’re up to about 18 to 24 inches. If you’re going to use a cap or coping, install it now, using mortar or masonry adhesive to set it into place.
  • Add a foot of gravel inside the fire pit for drainage and so the fire is at a visible level.
  • Add the metal liner or gas burner. Consult with a plumber before installing the gas line.
  • If using a cast-iron bowl, drill a hole in the bottom for drainage.
  • Light the fire, sit back and bask in the glow of your accomplishment!

According to Devereux, fire pits require a low level of upkeep. “Once in awhile you’ll have to shovel out the ashes, but otherwise they’re relatively maintenance free,” he says.

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