How to Make an In-Ground Fire Pit

How to Make an In-Ground Fire Pit

Best Locations for a Fire Pit

One of the first things you should do when considering adding a fire pit to your yard is where you’re going to put it. It’s important you choose a space that makes sense for entertaining while also ensuring it’s at least 10 feet away from your house and any tall trees or fences. The area above where the fire will be lit should be completely clear—no low-hanging vegetation. Nothing around the fire pit area should be flammable, so don’t locate it near any tall grass. And, make sure the area is level— don’t build a fire pit on a slope.


DIY Mini Fire Pit

Evansville Living

Here's a true mini fire pit made using a flower pot to create the size and shape. Your fire pit will take the form of any large plastic container you choose, such as a flowerpot or urn.

For this DIY fire pit, Deb McDaniel at Evansville Living sprayed the inside of the container with non-stick cooking spray and poured in quickly setting concrete. Set one or more gel fuel canisters into the wet concrete to create the right-sized space (coat the canister with non-stick cooking spray for easy removal). Place rocks or beach glass into the still-wet, pliable concrete mix for a sparkling finishing touch. When the concrete dries, remove the container (gently break it apart if necessary or glide the concrete out of the container) for your unique fire pit.

5. What Kind Of Rocks Explode In Fire?

Nearly any kind of rock has the potential to explode – especially if it is porous and wet. When wet rocks heat up, the trapped air and water expand very quickly and forcefully break the rock apart, sometimes causing it to explode. Some of the most common rocks that should be avoided in fire pit construction include sandstone, limestone, pumice, gravel, and river rocks because of their porous nature and tendency to hold water. Hard rocks like granite, marble, or slate are much denser, and therefore less likely to absorb water and explode when exposed to heat. Other rocks that are safe to use around and in your fire pit include fire-rate brick, lava glass, lava rocks, and poured concrete. This is one area where you can use lava rocks for fire pit safety. If you have rocks in or around your fire pit, be cautious when lighting fires after it has rained. Wet rocks are much more likely to explode than dry rocks. If you frequently use your fire pit, you may even consider covering your fire pit in adverse weather to keep it dry and keep yourself safer.

14. Find The Right Furniture

Portofino® Comfort 8 Piece Motion Fire Seating – Taupe Mist for enjoying a great time with your friends with comfort.

The outdoor furniture you choose really helps dictate your outdoor design. To make your home feel larger, make sure the design from inside the home flows over into the design of your backyard furniture. This will make your space feel more cohesive and more like one large space from inside to outside. You should also consider the quality of materials your furniture is made of. By far the best (and most popular) material is aluminum. High-quality outdoor furniture will last you for years to come. No matter what kind of outdoor furniture you purchase, make sure it is safe for use around fire and is non-flammable. Remember to keep all furniture at least 3 feet from your fire pit for added safety.

5. Concrete Tree Rings Fire Pit

This petite fire pit stands out for its unusual design and colour. Now that scalloped edges are currently on trend, this is the most fashionable fire pit in our list!


2. Tabletop Fire Pit

This chic fire pit is a elegant alternative to the traditional garden pit. Although you probably won’t be using it to cook anything, it will bring a touch of luxury to your patio. Just add your favourite garden furniture set nearby and enjoy watching the flames flicker.


4. Stack the Rocks

Temporarily lay out the fieldstone around the outside of the fire pit so you can select the size, shape and 'face' of the rocks as you need them to build the ring. Beginning with the larger rocks, position the stones at the base and against the earthen wall of the pit.

As you place and stack the stones next to and on top of each other, only the front facing surface of the rock will show. Work around the circle of the pit, staggering the placement of the stones to create a small stone wall all of the way around the ring. Take care when placing the rocks to stabilize each one against the pit wall and against the surrounding stones to build a sturdy and good looking stone wall.

Continue placing the stones and building up your wall until the field stone ring is at least 24" high. Save some of the flatter stones to use as "cap" stones to top off the walls of the fieldstone fire pit.

Fire pit surrounded by pea stone

Set the Face Brick

  • To keep your mortar joints between courses a reasonable width, lay a 2-3-in. thick bed of mortar right on top of the footing.
  • Let it set up slightly (give it at least 15 minutes) and smooth out the top.

Gas or Wood?

The type of fire pit you choose is another big decision. If you’re looking for the most leisurely option, you might like a propane fire pit, which they have easy, instant fires. If you want something that burns brightly, smells delightful and is used for more than just decor, you might want an authentic wood-burning fire pit. This decision can also impact your location choice, so take that into consideration.

FAQ About Building a Fire Pit

What do you put in the bottom of a fire pit?

You’ll want to start with a layer of sand at the bottom of the pit, and then top the sand with gravel, lava rocks, fire pit glass, paving stones or even bricks for your fire pit. Alternatively, you can simply use dirt.

How do you prepare the ground for a fire pit?

Clear away all grass and plant material. Excavate about 8 inches of soil, ensuring that the bottom of the pit is level and the soil is compact.

Can you build a fire pit on dirt?

Yes, you can build a fire pit on dirt. Make sure the dirt is compact and level.

What is the best base for a fire pit?

You have several options. Plain dirt is fine, but sand topped with gravel makes a more attractive base.

DIY BBQ Fire Pit

Red Door Home

Most backyard fire pits offer the charm of flames that can roast marshmallows. But Stacy at Red Door Home wanted a completely functional fire pit that can be used for cooking throughout the summer.

Two full-size grills rest atop a ring of retaining wall blocks, allowing Stacy to cook anything from steaks and kebabs to s'mores. Extending the use of the fire pit ensures that it can be used for more than just the summer season.

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.

Create Air Holes

  • Leave gaps in the firebrick in four opposite points around the ring and then fill them with half bricks. These gaps are “draw holes” that feed air to the fire.
  • Prop up the half bricks until the mortar sets.
  • Check for level across the DIY fire pit and the vertical level of the bricks as you go.

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.

Fire Pit Safety Tips

Use caution and common sense! Safety is always the number one priority.

  • Check with your local zoning department for any regulations or permits required for building a fire pit and for burning in an open pit.
  • Be careful in selecting rock for building your fire pit. Rock can be porous, and some river rock can retain moisture that will crack and explode when heated by the fire.
  • Use good common sense when building camp fires. Do not create a raging bonfire that is too large for your small backyard fire pit.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose near the fire pit area to quench any wayward embers.

The Fieldstone Fire Pit Is Ready! Bring on the S'mores!!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Anthony Altorenna

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 safety is important for every member of the family to follow. If you are planning on having a fire with your loved ones around the fire pit in your backyard, be sure to practice proper fire safety to prevent emergencies and injuries.


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