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.
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.
Have you ever looked at some product you found at a store and thought to yourself “why is this so expensive? I could make that.”? Chances are you have, and chances are also about 50/50 on whether you were right or not; some things are a lot more complicated than they look.
If you were hoping to build your own fire pit instead of spending what can be quite a lot of money though, you’re in luck: building a wood burning fire pit at home is surprisingly simple. It really is almost as easy as it looks.
The main difficulty comes in the first step:
The hardest part of any construction project is the planning, and this doesn’t change just because it’s a small DIY project like this.
The first thing you need to do is determine whether a fire pit is allowed where you live. Sometimes city ordinances or homeowners association requirements will prevent you from building a fire pit, sadly. If you own a home in a more rural area, this likely won’t be a problem.
After you’ve determined whether you’re allowed to start work in the first place, plan out how much space you actually have to work with, and how big of a fire pit you want to have. Keep in mind when building your fire pit that you’ll need space for people to sit around it. You’ll want the furniture to be about 6 feet from the fire to be comfortable (and avoid heating up the furniture too much, or combusting it if it’s wood).
You’ll also need to make sure there’s no wires or other utilities underneath where you’re building the pit, because you’ll need to do a little digging.
Finally, determine the shape. This is completely an aesthetic choice, but is completely up to you. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to make sure the sides are completely sealed, so a geometric shape of some sort is recommended. A square, a circle (or oval), or even something like a pentagon or hexagon works well; a star or something is going to be a lot harder to keep even and require a lot more materials in the long run. Make sure you’re up for a more complex project before attempting it.
There’s a few things you’ll need before you get started.
The first is your bricks, though that’s a loose term in this case. Any kind of solid stone building material works, so real bricks, pavers, that sort of thing are all great. Don’t use cinder blocks or anything like that though; they tend to crack and explode under pressure.
Make sure to get some kind of concrete adhesive or similar mortar to keep the bricks or pavers stuck together.
You’ll also want gloves and goggles, as well as some sturdy work clothes, of course.
A shovel and a sturdy metal rake are another necessity. Keep a bag of gravel or sand handy as well.
Finally, if you’re using very large pavers, you may want a circular saw with a cement blade, If you don’t have one and can’t justify buying one, instead buy smaller bricks or pavers; you may need a few more of them if you’re making a larger fire pit, but you’ll have less adjustment to do.
After you’ve figured out the size, shape, and location, plus gathered your tools, set one layer of pavers out in the shape you’ve chosen.
Remove the top layer of soil, down to the first two inches, so you get all that really loose topsoil out. Spend a little time pulling out any weeds and roots you see under there as well. Pull a rake across it to make sure everything is up.
Then tamp it down flat. Make sure it’s as level as you can make it. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be pretty close to completely flat.
And now, you have the outline you need!
4. Putting it All Together
Now that you have your outline, fill the bottom (where you ripped up the topsoil) with gravel or sand, and tamp it down again.
Set the next layer of pavers or bricks on top of the first layer, offsetting them in pattern; layer the center of the second layer of bricks over the cracks between bricks of the first layer.
Once they’re situated how you want them, with no major crack or seams, remove the bricks a couple at a time from the top layer and add your concrete adhesive.
Remember to wear your gloves and safety glasses or goggles at this stage, as these adhesives are a real pain to remove from your skin, and you definitely don’t want to get any globs in your eye.
Stick your bricks back on and make sure the adhesive “catches”.
Repeat this step for every layer of your fire pit. This will depend on how big you want it, but at minimum four layers or about 2 feet high is recommended.
You’ll need to wait a bit for the adhesive to completely dry and bond. This time can vary depending on the type of adhesive you decide to get; anywhere from 24 hours to about 3 weeks. Make sure you pay attention to how long your specific glue takes to fully bond.
You can’t use your fire pit until it’s completely dried, so if you want to use it immediately, use a faster drying concrete adhesive. If you’re not in any rush though, the slower drying adhesives usually do end up with a significantly stronger bond, so it might be better for the longevity of your fire pit.
After you’ve done the construction, consider spreading some river rocks or more gravel around the edges out to about 3 to 6 inches; this will help combat erosion (which can undermine the bottom layer of your pavers), and give an extra buffer around the fire pit for any grass that’s nearby.
Ultimately, all told, a small to mid sized firepit is a surprisingly quick project, the work of 2 to 3 hours at most, and that’s including a lot of the prep time. The main thing, as mentioned, is in the planning phase. Once you’ve placed this fire pit down, it’s pretty much stuck there forever.
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