Best Rocks For Inside Your Fire Pit [16 Expert Tips]

Best Rocks For Inside Your Fire Pit [16 Expert Tips]

What Are Backyard Fire Pits , And How Much Do They Cost?

At the most basic level, a fire pit is a container where you can make an outdoor fire.

The name itself seems pretty self explanatory, but there are actually a few different types of fire pits you can choose from: in-ground, permanent above-ground and portable fire pits.

These are less-expensive options if you want to add a fire feature to your backyard, compared to a fireplace. A fire pit can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand, depending on the size, materials and type you want installed — whereas a fireplace can be anywhere from $5,500 to $10,000.

Fire pits also give you a 360-degree view of the flames and can create a center focal point for you and your guests to gather around. They are more versatile and give you a wider range of options when it comes to where they are installed.

To get the most from your fire feature and ensure its safety, here are seven things to think about when constructing a backyard fire pit.

Will gravel explode in a fire pit?

Some materials like hard rock, gravel, or sand weren’t meant to reach high temperatures and can spark and explode if your fire gets too hot. Sandstone, river rocks, natural rocks, and gravel are not ideal fill for fire pits because they are more likely to crack or explode under high heat.


Finish the Footing

  • Shovel in the remaining concrete until the forms are filled to the top and tap the tubes gently with a sledgehammer until the concrete mix is level.
  • Recheck level, hammering the forms down if necessary, and smooth the top of the footer.
  • Let the concrete completely set up overnight and then remove the forms.

Mortar the Firebrick

  • Firebrick is mortared with refractory cement, which, unlike regular masonry mortar, can withstand high heat.
  • Refractory cement comes premixed in a bucket and has the consistency of peanut butter.
    • Pro tip: A margin trowel makes it easier to scoop cement out of the bucket and butter the bricks. And a tuck pointer is useful for cleaning up the joints.
  • Work with four bricks at a time.
    • Pro tip: The secret is to trowel the cement on thin, like you’re spreading peanut butter on toast, and use the tightest joints you can.
  • Butter a thin layer of cement on the footer and position your first brick.
  • Butter the second brick and butt it against the first.
  • Continue around the circle checking level side-to-side and back-to-front as you go.

2. How Are You Going To Build?

The first thing to consider when planning a fire pit is to decide how portable you want your fire pit to be. If you want it to be a permanent fixture in your backyard landscaping, a traditional in-ground fire pit is the perfect option. However, if you want to move it around, you might consider purchasing a pre-built portable fire pit or a fire table. You will also need to decide whether you want an above-ground or below-ground fire pit, and how you are going to build it. Once you’ve decided on the type of fire pit you’d like to build you can start purchasing the materials you’ll need. You’ll need to know the best rock for inside a fire pit and how deep to make it. Most DIY fire pits are below ground because they are the most basic and easiest to build. Some tools and materials you’ll need to build your fire pit are:

      • Wheelbarrow
      • Shovel
      • Garden rake
      • Tape measure
      • Work gloves
      • Hand tamper
      • Garden hose
      • Level
      • Firebricks
      • Retaining wall blocks
      • Lava rocks for the fire pit
      • Construction adhesive

There are great guides on DIY construction for backyard fire pits, with step-by-step instructions to help you get started. If you prefer an extravagant fire pit design or want something more complicated, a contractor is a faster and easier option than building a fire pit yourself. Hiring a contractor to build your fire pit is also a great idea if you’re looking to add more value to your home, because of the quality of the craftsmanship.

How much clearance do you need above a fire pit?

Make sure to check the specifics on how far away from the house a fire pit should be in your area. This also reduced issues with wind direction pushing toxic fumes your way. Most places require a clearance above the fire pit of 21 feet, to allow for overhead branches.

How to Build a Fire Pit Safely

Building a fire pit isn’t terribly difficult, and now that you have a good handle on the dos and don’ts, check out this high-level overview to get you started on crafting your own backyard fire pit.


First, gather all the supplies you’ll need to construct your fire pit. Determine the size, site and specific footprint of your fire pit. Clean up the site, removing grass and weeds if necessary.

Excavate about eight inches of dirt from the bottom of the pit, and then lay down about two inches of sand into the excavated area. Tamp down the sand to compact and level it.

Construct the walls of your fire pit, ensuring they’re level and stable. Finally, add a layer of gravel on top of the sand at the bottom of the pit


Accounting for Height in Fire Pit Design

The height and the circumference of your fire pit are critical details that should also be given attention. It’s not uncommon for do-it-yourselfers or even landscapers that haven’t built a lot of fire pits to build them too high.

This is typically an effort to make the fire pit safer by preventing logs or embers from rolling out and keeping the fire contained. However, what ends up happening is that the kids need to lean over to roast their marshmallows—in actuality making the higher fire pit less safe.

In general, a good height for the outside edge is between 6 and 12 inches tall. This is enough of a safety buffer to keep logs from rolling out but it’s not too deep that there is a need to “lean in” to get close to the fire.

Are Backyard Fire Pits Safe And Legal ?

We’ve all heard the saying about what happens if you play with fire. So, it’s only natural that you would wonder how safe fire pits really are.

Backyard fire pits can be a safe feature for your outdoor space if you take certain precautions. Here are some ways to ensure your fire pit is safe:

  • Keep fire pits at least 15 feet away from your house, other structures and combustible materials (ex. leaves, wood, chemicals, etc.). It should be in an open space, like on your patio or a cleared part of your landscape. Don’t put it on a wood deck.
  • Avoid lighting the pit during extremely windy weather, as the embers might go somewhere you don’t want them.
  • Make sure you have a bucket of water, hose or extinguisher nearby before lighting the fire.
  • Watch children near fire pits so they don’t get burned.
  • Keep the flame small: The larger it is, the bigger chance you have for it to get out of hand.
  • Never use gasoline to start the fire.

Beyond being safe, you also want to make sure your fire pit is legal. The city of Idaho Falls allows fire pits and other enclosed outdoor fire features (ex. fireplaces) that are at least 15 feet away from structures and combustible material. They also require that they are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

(Each city’s fire and burning codes are different, so check with your local municipality before you install a fire feature.)

Operation Guidelines

  • One of the most important things you can do when prepping your fire pit area is removing any combustible materials from around the pit. Any mulch, brush, leaves, and pine needles should be removed. You can collect it and use it in your fire as a starter or kindling to get things going. Many local laws say the distance that needs to be cleaned around the pit is anywhere between 15 and 25 feet.

  • There should always be a responsible adult tending to the fire until it has been extinguished completely.

  • Many local laws say that you must have a mesh screen cover handy to contain any sparks and embers that may get out of control.

  • You must keep fire suppression equipment close enough that it can be used immediately if the fire should start to become a problem. Acceptable items would be a fire extinguisher, garden hose, water buckets, and sand.

  • You must keep the fire in outdoor fire pits to a reasonable and controllable size.

  • Keep a bucket of sand nearby to help in an emergency, or if windy conditions increase.

  • The only firewood allowed is dry, clean, and seasoned firewood; no lighter fluid or other flammable materials may be used.

Do Not Burn:

  • Wood products that contain glue or resin

  • Garbage, including food waste

  • Treated or unpainted wood, like materials from wood decks.

  • Unseasoned or wet wood

  • Animal carcasses

  • Yard waste

  • Construction material

  • Anything that will release toxic emissions, strong odors, or dense smoke when burned

  • Materials that contain grease, plastic, asphalt, paint, rubber.

Tools Materials

  • Brick hammer

    Brick hammer

  • Cold chisel

    Cold chisel

  • Spade


  • Hoe


  • Metal rake

    Metal rake

  • Tamper


  • Level - 2 foot

    Level – 2 foot

  • Level - 4 foot

    Level – 4 foot

  • Mallet


  • Caulk gun

    Caulk gun

  • Pointed trowel

    Pointed trowel

  • Power grinder

    Power grinder

Fire Pit Alternatives

It’s important to mention that a fire pit is not for everyone. For instance, if you have a property that is perpetually windy and you don’t want to deal with trying to make a fire pit work, you might opt for something different. There are other options that can allow you to still have a fire feature on your property such as a gas-powered fire bowl or table.

You might also consider an outdoor fireplace over a fire pit. A fireplace takes up less patio space and has a chimney that can direct the smoke upward. But it still gives you the beautiful look and warmth of a fire.

Fire Pit Distance From House, Property Line, and Other Structures

  • The first rule of thumb as far as placing your fire pit is to make sure it is a safe distance from the building and other structures and items that are flammable. This includes your house, sheds, fences, bushes, trees, and shrubs. Make sure to check the specifics on how far away from the house a fire pit should be in your area. This also reduced issues with wind direction pushing toxic fumes your way.

  • Most places require a clearance above the fire pit of 21 feet, to allow for overhead branches.

  • Be mindful of your property line. Many places have restrictions on how close a fire pit is allowed to be to the border of your property. The distance varies depending on your county or municipality, so be sure to check out the specifics where you live.

  • Avoid placing your fire pit on uneven ground.

  • Make sure you are not placing your fire pit underneath any power lines.

Fire Pit Parts: An Overview

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

A built-in fire pit is a glorified campfire, with sturdy walls of stone that help contain the flames and heat. That’s especially important in the parts of the country where there’s a risk of brush fires. So the first task in building any fire pit is checking local codes on open flames. The pit must be located far from overhanging trees, the house, and any other flammable structure.

To make building stone walls easier, you can use blocks made from cast concrete and molded to look like real stone (available at any home center). They’re flat on the top and bottom so they stack neatly, and some interlock for added strength. Glue them together with masonry adhesive. Choose a block with angled sides, meant to form curves when butted against each other. The optimal size for a fire pit is between 36 and 44 inches inside diameter. That will create enough room for a healthy fire but still keep gatherers close enough to chat.

As an added precaution, the fire pit should be lined with a thick steel ring like the ones used for park campfires. These protect the concrete in the blocks from the heat, which can cause them to dry out and break down prematurely.

A fire pit should sit low to the ground, with walls rising no more than a foot off the ground. But for stability, the base of the wall must be buried below ground in a hole lined with gravel, providing drainage and protecting against frost heaves in winter. The gravel also creates a level base for the stones to rest on. Most concrete blocks are about 4 inches high, so if the first course and a half sit underground, and there are two and a half courses above ground with a cap on top, you’ll end up with a foot-high wall—just right for resting your feet on while sitting in an outdoor chair.

16. Conclusion

you got this!

Your backyard fire pit is a great addition to get-togethers, parties, and family events. Some proper planning on how big to make your fire pit, the best rocks for inside your fire pit, and what kind of outdoor furniture to use around your fire pit, can help your fire pit add a lot of value to your home. Don’t underestimate how fire pit glass and fire pit glass rocks can impact the look of your outdoor fire pit. Now that you know what to put in the bottom of your fire pit you can enjoy the outdoors year-round and create memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t forget to add in some high-quality outdoor furniture from RST Brands to complete your outdoor landscaping look and environment. Like what you read? Share it with your family, friends. and colleagues.Updated on 04/21/2020 Original post from 10/8/2018 


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