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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research, he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
There’s something so memorable about evenings around a fire pit under the stars, whether you are using wood or gas. Humans have been gathering around hearth fires for centuries, coming together in the darkness to share food, drink, and stories.
Luckily, in the 21st century, you don’t have to worry about the more mundane aspects of fire pits. With built-in propane lines, log lighters, and electronic ignition switches, you can enjoy the warmth and comfort of a fire without a lot of fuss.
If you want to build a DIY propane fire pit in your outdoor area, be sure to space it well away from flammable objects and give yourself plenty of room in which to work.
Materials for a DIY Propane Fire Pit
If you’re planning on building your own DIY propane fire pit, you have many factors to consider. Certain materials, like river rocks, are off-limits because of safety issues, such as cracking or exploding under high heat.
A fire pit pan is necessary if you’re using propane, and the size of your fire pit depends on the BTU output necessary for your outdoor space. Finally, you should make sure that your DIY fire pit has the necessary ventilation, a convenient ignition switch, and flex lines.
Propane is colorless and odorless and won’t emit sparks or any floating embers as a traditional fireplace would, but it comes with risks of its own.
Propane fire pits do emit heat. Locate your DIY propane fire pit well away from any flammable surfaces as a fire from propane has been known to melt vinyl siding if placed too close.
Propane is also highly volatile so you'll need to follow propane fire pit safety tips when handling it. If you aren’t using a direct propane line, you need a secure place to store propane tanks away from direct sunlight, areas with high heat, and on a flat surface to prevent the tank from tipping. The space should also be well-ventilated to cope with potential leaks.
1. BTU Output
A liquid propane tank or LPT will limit the size of your fire pit as it will only give off 90k BTUs of heat at a time. However, with a built-in propane line, you can increase the amount of BTUs. The shorter the fire pit’s length to the propane tank and the wider the fuel line, the bigger your fire can be.
2. Burner Size and Shape
With a lesser amount of BTUs, you should look for burners 12” or less. If you have a propane line to your fire pit, you can increase the burner size to 24”.
Your burner’s shape doesn’t impact heat distribution, but it does influence the pit’s style and how it blends with your outdoor décor. You have a lot of options when it comes to the shape of your burner. You can choose one that stretches out in a long, lean pipe for a rectangular fire effect, or you could pick a square one (the easiest to create on your own) for a circular result.
3. Ignition Choices
The ignition choices range from the most straightforward – match lit – to the most complicated in terms of installation, but luckily, none of the ignition methods are challenging to install and lighting a propane fire pit should be simple.
You will need both a propane air mixer and vents on the base of your DIY fire pit. The mixer is a fan that pulls oxygen into the fire pit to ignite the propane. Your flames won’t get the oxygen they need to stay lit without it, and your fire pit will not work.
5. Flex Lines
For a DIY propane fire pit, you need two flex lines to attach the ignition fuel line and the burner to the ignition. Look for flex lines made out of stainless steel so that they don’t whistle, a common complaint with these systems.
You can get an all-weather cover to protect your newly built fire pit from the elements. A glass wind guard is also helpful as it helps keep your flames burning straight and true, despite any breezes that are afoot.
Steps to Setting Up Your DIY Propane Fire Pit
Once you have your material selected and collected, you can begin work on your DIY propane fire pit.
Step 1: Lay a propane line
To ensure that the lines from the propane tank to your DIY fire pit are correctly installed, get a propane technician or other professional to lay them.
Step 2: Cover the drain
Many fire pits have drains in the center, primarily if they are raised. Cover the drain with wire mesh so that it doesn’t become clogged and unusable.
Step 3: Put in gas burners
Log lighters, also known as gas burners, are what release the propane into the atmosphere, where it ignites. Before you begin work, you should make sure the gas supply is turned off to avoid any safety concerns. After you’ve connected the log lighters, give them a test run.
Step 4: Adjust and protect log lighters
Once you’ve checked the flame, turn off the gas and wait for the elements to cool down. When they have, turn the burners down so that the air intake holes and the propane ports point toward the ground. Using the same wire mesh you used to guard the drains, cover the bases of the gas burners or log lighters.
Step 5: Add fire media
Once you’ve got the ports pointed in the right direction and covered, you can add the media in and around the burners. Fill material like lava rocks or fire glass are your best options. Do not choose anything that could contain moisture, as this could cause the stones to explode.
Once you’ve completed these five steps, you’re ready to enjoy the warmth and solicitude a DIY propane fire pit can provide.
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