Content of the material
- Creating A Low Cost DIY Fire Pit
- Using The Earth As Your Friend – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit
- Creating A Template For Your Fire Pit – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit
- The Cooking Bar Install
- Creating The Base – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit
- Building The Stone Wall
- The Building Process – How Top Build A DIY Fire Pit
- Finishing The DIY Fire Pit
- Fill Gaps
- Upcycle a Beer Keg
- Fire Pit Parts: An Overview
- Dry-Set the Firebrick Liner
- How to Make a Campfire: 5 Different Methods
- The TeePee Fire
- How to Build
- The Upside Down (Pyramid) Fire
- How to Build
- The Star Fire
- How to Build
- The Lean-To Fire
- How to Build
- The Log Cabin Fire
- How to Build
- Unconventional Fire Pit Shapes
Creating A Low Cost DIY Fire Pit
One thing is for sure, the fire pit always made an evening seem more than magical. And that is exactly why when we moved to the new farm this year, building one became a top priority. In fact, it was one of the very first projects we completed.
Building a fire pit really can be both simple and inexpensive. The secret to success starts by employing a few basic fire pit building techniques that make it both strong, beautiful and functional. Then, by using natural and locally available materials, you can give it an incredible look that also happens to be quite economical.
Both of our fire pits were constructed for under $175 using the same process. In fact, our newest fire pit was actually built for under $50! Here is a step by step look at how we created our fire pit, along with a few tips on the best way to keep your project affordable.
Using The Earth As Your Friend – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit
The first key to building a functional fire pit is to keep it slightly below the soil line. Burying the pit a bit under the ground has several big advantages when creating and maintaining a fire.
First, it helps to keep your fire pit safe by preventing the embers of a burning fire from jumping out. It also helps keep the wind from becoming too much of an issue. Both when starting, and for keeping smoke out eyes.
But by burying your fire pit into the earth, it also helps to insulate it. That means a bit slower burn of the wood, and more even heat across the fire. That is not only great for sitting around the flames, but also for cooking as well.
Creating A Template For Your Fire Pit – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit
We created our circular fire pit layout using a 36″ piece of string tied to a round rebar post. We began by driving the rebar post into the ground where we wanted the exact center of the fire pit to be.
Using a spray can, we then marked out a perfect circle by spray painting a line on the ground as we walked with the string around the post. It makes quick work of what can be a difficult task for measuring an exact circle.
Once the lines were marked, we removed 16 inches of the soil inside of the line. By using a 36″ string, we ended up with a hole that was 72 inches in diameter, and 16 inches deep all the way around.
The 72″ diameter may sound large, but stone will be going inside of this to form the fire pit circle. It also allows enough space as you will see later for our cooking bar base to go in. Of course, you can create your circumference any size you wish. Just keep in mind you will lose some space as you stack the stone to form the circle.
The Cooking Bar Install
This is a purely optional step. But we can tell you, if you plan on cooking over your fire, this is far easier and cheaper than purchasing costly triangle supports. If you want more information on this step and process, we do have a complete article on the cooking bar here : (See : DIY Cooking Bar Project)
In a nutshell, the cooking bar is created with 1″ common black iron threaded iron pipe. This can be found at any hardware store, and creates a strong, sturdy cooking bar.
Using two 90 degree angle threads, we create a “U” shaped bar. The bar then slides down into two slightly 1.25″ larger pipes dug into the ground.
The cooking bar can easily be removed when not in use, and a threaded cover cap can be screwed to cover up the pipes in the pit. It is also extremely easy to use ready made outdoor cooking grates over with the fire pit as well.
We use a Hikeman folding grill in our fire pit to cook hamburgers, chicken, steaks and more. It simply sits within the fire pit on fold out legs and makes cooking anything a breeze! Product Link : Hikeman Folding Grill Top
Creating The Base – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit
A strong base is a key to a sturdy, long lasting fire pit. Especially one that will use stacked stone to create its walls. For our base, we use inexpensive limestone screenings. They can usually be found at a quarry, or small gravel or sand lot locations as well.
At around $7 to $10 a ton, a small pick-up load usually runs around $4. Some places will even allow you to take the screenings in 5 gallon buckets for about $1 per bucket.
Screenings are made up of small bits of limestone and the dust from the limestone rock. The limestone screenings pack down strong and give a firm, level base for a fire pit.
A four inch base of limestone screenings at the bottom of a fire pit are more than enough to create a great base for the stone layers on top. And it still leaves the pit depth at around 12″ down into the soil.
Building The Stone Wall
With the base complete, we began building the stacked stone wall. Although you can purchase rock at a stone center, it can be unbelievably expensive. One of the best ways to save is to purchase your rock at a local quarry instead.
For our first fire pit, we used rip-rap mixed size rock found at a nearby quarry. At around $20 per ton, we were able to get all of the rock we needed for around $80.
For our new fire pit, we were even more fortunate. When the crews were digging for our septic and water tanks, they unearthed tons of rocks. Mary and I quickly went to work snatching them up, and were able to build the new fire pit entirely from rock from the farm – and absolutely free!
The point is, however you, find your rock, there are better options that purchasing palletized stone. With a little leg work and creativity, you can save big for sure. Even old brick or broken concrete can look great with its jagged edges.
The Building Process – How Top Build A DIY Fire Pit
Building a stacked stone fire pit is all about being patient and working slow. We presorted through the rock, setting out the largest stones for the base. From there, we built up with the remaining rocks. We set aside the flattest of the rocks to create the top of the pit.
The key is to set one course at time. Try several rocks in different places, and with patience, you will find rocks that fit perfectly together. Work slowly and make it fun. The beauty of stacking dry stone is it is easy to fix and change. It also makes it nice if a rock is ever damaged to simply put a new one in its place.
Finishing The DIY Fire Pit
For the sitting area around our fire pit, we used limestone screenings again, and then covered with inexpensive pea gravel. It not only looks great, but drains well after any rain.
First, we sprayed the sitting area with high strength vinegar to kill off the grass. Next, we put down a two to three inch layer of limestone screenings to form a strong, hard base.
Once we had a level and firm base, we followed with a 2 inch top coat of #8 pea gravel. We have used this combination of a limestone screening base / pea gravel top coat with great results to inexpensively build walkways as well. It looks great and lasts forever!
The limestone screenings form a near concrete-like base, and can be applied right over the existing soil to level it out and create the walkway.
It’s fast, easy and long-lasting. It is also easy to keep completely free of weeds with a few applications of vinegar spray a year. In square footage cost, it runs right around .5 to .10 per square foot to use, and that’s hard to beat!
Here is to creating your own amazing DIY fire pit in your backyard! Happy building – Jim and Mary.
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- Add a small amount of mortar to the joints to fill any gaps.
- Check level frequently and tap gently with a brick hammer to adjust the spacing.
- Leave a 1-in. overhang on the outside to allow for rain to drip off.
- Once all the bricks have been mortared in place, strike the joints for a smooth, finished look with a concave jointer.
Upcycle a Beer Keg
It probably doesn't sound pretty retooling a beer keg into a fire pit, but it can be. It depends on your skills and how much time you want to invest in this project. As long as you know how to use a welder, an angle grinder, circular saw, drill, or Dremel, you can cut down these steel receptacles (either vertically or horizontally) and add vent holes. Also, stainless steel beer kegs can be sanded and polished to a mirror finish: you only need time and a little bit of elbow grease to class up these simple containers.
Fire Pit Parts: An Overview
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.
Dry-Set the Firebrick Liner
- Because regular clay brick can crack at high temperatures, we’re using firebrick (also called “refractory” brick) to line the inside of the easy fire pit walls.
- Pro tip: Firebrick is a dense brick that’s kilned to withstand high temperatures. It’s larger, thicker and wider than regular brick, and you can find it at most brickyards. Firebrick is more expensive, but it will stand up to nightly fires for years to come.
- You’ll need 25 firebricks for a 3-ft. diameter pit.
- Because firebrick is so dense, it’s tougher to split than regular brick. “Soldiering” the brick (standing it on end) minimizes the amount of splitting and lets you easily accommodate the curve of the pit.
- You’ll only need to split four firebricks (use the technique shown in step 11), which you’ll place across from one another around the pit to create draw holes for oxygen for your fire.
- After you split your firebricks, dry-set them in place on top of the footing.
- Adjust the spacing between bricks so you won’t have to cut the last brick to fit (cutting firebrick isn’t easy).
- Mark the position of every brick on the footing.
How to Make a Campfire: 5 Different Methods
When learning how to make campfires, you’ve got five go-to choices for fire structure. Each has its own benefits. Each has its uses.
The TeePee Fire
The classic fire shape, the teepee campfire is the usual method people use when learning how to build a camping fire. It’s an easy technique to learn and is useful when boiling water, cooking, or as a means to get tinder and fire kindling started. Unfortunately, the teepee campfire also not very long-lasting as it’s prone to collapsing, so it’s best to have a backup plan in mind. I taught a nephew to build a teepee fire and then add additional firewood to form a log cabin (see below).
How to Build
- Place your tinder (dryer lint, leaves, etc) on a piece of bark, or simply on the ground.
- Get a long piece of kindling and jab one end into the ground. Use four-five pieces to form a teepee over the kindling.
- Continue to add kindling to the structure but make sure to leave open access to start the fire by lighting the tinder within.
- Once you have the fire going, and the structure burns add additional kindling and firewood. When it collapses you can start placing larger logs on the coals.
The Upside Down (Pyramid) Fire
This fire is capable of throwing off some intense heat and is a long-lasting campfire, but it takes about half an hour for it to really look like it’s doing anything. The tinder and kindling is on top, while the firewood is below. As the smaller wood burns it drops hot embers to the logs and eventually they catch fire. It takes practice, but this is another step in learning the ins and out of fire-making.
How to Build
- Layer the largest firewood on the ground with a bit of space between each log. Alternate the layers as you lay them (some go east-west while others go north-south).
- Place your kindling in the middle tier of the structure and your tinder at the top.
- Light the tinder and allow the hot embers to drop to the larger wood logs below. This can take a while and may require a few additional attempts at lighting, or additional tinder and kindling.
- Once it’s roaring, you’ve got a fire that could last as long as 7 hours.
The Star Fire
The go-to image for a campfire in the wild, the star fire is excellent for use in a larger campfire pit. Even in a smaller one, it’s great to practice this method of how to build a campfire. The main drawback is that the star fire takes some time to really get going, but when it does it’s a good fire when there is little fuel around as it uses minimal firewood and doesn’t need much maintenance.
How to Build
- Place a bit of tinder in the center of your campfire pit. Lay out large pieces of firewood radiating from this center point like you’d see on the face of a compass.
- Over the tinder add additional kindling, and once ready ignite the tinder.
- Continue feeding the fire until the radiating logs start to burn.
- You can push the logs towards the center of the fire as it burns for more fuel, or leave them alone to burn slowly.
The Lean-To Fire
Need to get a fire going in a pinch? The lean-to is your go-to. This is the simplest method for making a campfire and is probably the best to pick in bad weather. It will require you to have a good heading on the wind direction (this style of fire building doesn’t have great airflow), but it is still one of my favorite methods for starting a campfire.
How to Build
- Place a large wood log in your fire ring and place some tinder underneath it.
- Lean pieces of kindling over the tinder and onto the log.
- When it’s lit, and as the fire burns you’ll continue adding pieces of tinder/kindling on the log to keep your fire going.
The Log Cabin Fire
I saved my favorite for last. This structure can take some time to build, but it’s a beauty and gets the job done in many conditions. It provides great airflow and is ideal for mixing various firewood types together. It is resource-heavy; you’ll go through a lot of wood burning this baby to the ground.
How to Build
- Make sure to place your tinder in the center of the fire pit.
- Lay your largest kindling parallel to each other (facing east to west), about a foot apart. Place two similarly-sized pieces of kindling on the ends of these pieces running north to south.
- Continue building the log cabin until you reach a height of at least 6”.
- Light the tinder and watch it go up. As the fire grows, and starts to collapse, you can add larger kindling and fuel to the structure.
Unconventional Fire Pit Shapes
Experiment with how you stack your bricks or rocks around the fire pit. You can raise up one side or one half or create a teardrop shape around a circular pit with all bricks tapering up to a point on one side. Playing with design can leave you with something that is pleasing to the eye while also acting effectively as a windbreaker, keeping the fire alive.