How to Build a Fire Pit

Embrace one of the hottest outdoor living trends by building a fire pit. Learn what steps to take before getting all fired up.
Building a Stone Fire Pit

Building a Stone Fire Pit

Kick off your outdoor enjoyment earlier in the year by building a fire pit in your yard. Whether you opt for a traditional bonfire, a sleek gas-fueled flame, or a portable bowl-type pit, you can build your own fire pit. DIY kits make it possible to build even a gas-fueled fire pit. Discover what you need to know to learn how to build a fire pit.

The first step before you build your own fire pit is checking with local authorities. A fire marshal or fire department is a good place to start. First, find out if fire pits are permitted. If they are, learn what the rules are concerning size, proximity to surrounding structures, and other considerations. Fire pits for decks are strictly forbidden in some areas, but patio fire pits are permitted. 

In some communities, you may need a permit. Fines can be stiff if you fail to follow proper channels. You may need an inspection before you can break ground to check site safety measures, as well as prevailing winds and possible smoke-generated problems for neighboring homes or businesses.

Call your insurance agent before building a fire pit. In drier regions, agents must be alerted if you plan to add a fire pit to your property. In other parts of the country, a fire pit may not have any impact on your insurance fees. Also educate yourself on fire pit safety.

Consider many different fire pit designs and plans before you choose one. Fire pits can be temporary, permanent, or portable. Some are designed specifically for heating a patio or outdoor living area; others feature cooking surfaces. Two popular fire pit designs are a bowl and low square or rectangular table-type pits. 

DIY fire pit kits allow you to create a custom look with a smaller investment. The cheapest type of fire pit is a depression in the ground surrounded with a circle of stones to contain burning logs. You can also build a temporary fire pit using stacked bricks or paver stones. Editor's Note: Make sure the manufacturer of the materials you are using to build your fire pit (whether brick, stone or concrete) has deemed them safe for a fire pit application. For extra security, when you are using brick, stone or pavers to create your fire pit, line the inside of the fire pit with a fire-rated brick.

Every fire pit needs air flow to provide oxygen to flames. This becomes more of an issue when you light a fire contained within an aboveground walled pit. Place one 2-inch hole every 24 to 36 inches around the base of the pit. Keep holes cleared of ash and other debris to ensure adequate air flow. Avoid using PVC or plastic pipe for air holes. Those materials will melt and release dangerous fumes.

When building a fire pit, include some type of drainage. For a permanent fire pit, consider adding a 3- to 4-inch steel drain pipe to the floor of your pit. A typical shower drain cover works well to keep debris out of the drain pipe. A 12-inch-deep gravel layer can provide sufficient drainage for many DIY fire pits. Depending on how often you use your fire pit, you might want to invest in a cover that protects your fire pit from rain.

Most fire pits range from 20 to 45 inches in diameter. Before selecting the size, consider how you’ll use the fire pit. Will you typically host large or small groups? In general, plan a 3-foot diameter pit for three to four people, 6 feet for six to seven people, and 8 feet for eight to 10 people.

Incorporate room for seating in your design so folks can linger around the blaze. Best fire pit safety practices recommend a six-foot or wider pit for safest fireside seating. With some fire pit constructions, you can use the fire pit coping as seating. Make sure the pit is wide enough that guests seated on the coping won’t get overheated.

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