But where do you begin?
A quick online search displayed a ton of DIY kits and some pre-made fire pit ideas. There are many options and fire pit ideas for Do-It-Yourselfers.
Although they look similar, each has just enough uniqueness to make the decision more difficult.
It’s YOUR yard.
It’s always been your yard. That means YOU should get to choose what fire pit you add, where you put it, and all that, right?
But then, what if your spouse doesn’t like it?
Do you tear it out and start over? All that money spent on building supplies would have gone to waste, so that won’t work. All the time you invested in putting it together is the time you would not get back.
But it’s YOUR yard.
Dude, we’ve all been there.
You don’t have to agonize over this decision. Communication is a wonderful thing.
Look around, pick out a couple of fire pit ideas that you like, then talk with your spouse. Make the decision together.
A fire pit may not seem like such a big deal, but this is a semi-permanent addition to your yard. When you sell your house and move, you will probably leave it.
So leave more than a fire pit — leave a legacy.
Backyard Fire Pits Are Becoming Popular Again
With the rising popularity of outdoor entertaining, everyone wants a fire pit now. BBQ-style cooking shows have brought backyard fire pits into the mainstream.
But is that such a bad thing? S’Mores whenever you want them?
Thank you, Bobby Flay! I’m going to have a fire pit! Bring on the fire-roasted bacon and — watermelon and bananas?
Are you seriously going to grill watermelon and bananas over an open flame? Where is my steak?
A (Very) Brief History of Fire
Humans have maintained an obsession with fire since the dawn of time. Or at least since the Neanderthal period.
Scientists are currently having a debate as to whether the South Africa Wonderwerk cave discovery is bonafide proof that humans controlled fire as long as 1.5 million years ago.
While the scientists debate how old that charred rib bone is, you can go ahead with planning your first bonfire party because Prometheus gave fire to man, right?
The Benefits of Installing a Fire Pit in Your Backyard
At this point, you are probably asking why on earth you are even considering a fire pit for your backyard. The reasons are many. To keep your spouse happy is the least among them.
Here’s the real bottom line:
Our homes are a reflection of ourselves. We take pride in them. We spend hours landscaping, planting flowers, mowing the grass, and making them look beautiful.
Pet owners diligently go out every couple of days to clear the minefield. We love it when our friends (or even a stranger) compliments us on the appearance of our lawn and garden.
Backyard entertaining is a way for us to show off our handiwork unobtrusively. We invite our friends over for burgers and enjoy their compliments as they marvel at the beauty of the yard.
Those compliments are nice to hear, and they make the sweat and hard labor worth the effort. There is a multitude of benefits to be gained by adding a fire pit in your backyard.
When we buy a home, the last thought on our mind is maintaining resale value.
However, we should always be considering whether any addition to our property increases the value. In the case of a backyard fire pit, the answer is almost always a resounding yes.
Most DIY fire pit ideas are semi-permanent and will convey if and when a home sells. Adding that value, and making it beautiful in the process, is a plus in any market.
Pay Attention to Local Ordinances in Urban Areas
As you search for just the right fire pit ideas for your yard, we need to mention a few thoughts for the planning phase.
You probably already know where you want to install your fire pit. But there are things to consider before you begin construction.
Keep these points in mind:
- Most municipalities have building codes and fire regulations for backyard fire pits. Check with the local zoning commission, planning board, or the appropriate office within your city’s administration.
- You might be required to file a building permit and get a final inspection. Making sure that your DIY construction meets with all applicable codes before you start building is the best plan.
- Another consideration is how close your fire pit will be to any existing structures or landscaping. Some municipalities require fire pits to be a certain distance from any buildings.
- Also, make sure you know whether they measure from the center point or the outer circumference of the fire pit. The difference can be more than two feet for some DIY fire pit designs.
- If the fire pit you have selected requires you to dig, call 8-1-1 at least two or three days before you plan to dig. This nationwide service will tell you where all your underground cables, pipes, and drainage lines are before you dig.
This service is free. Use it. Even if you only intend to dig two inches down to remove sod, it is better to call and be safe.
That little shallow spot in your yard might look like a perfect location for your fire pit. But if that sheltered dimple collects water after a rain, your fire pit won’t be much use to you.
So be aware of where rainwater collects in your yard when selecting the perfect location.
General Fire Safety Hints, Tips, and Pointers
Another consideration, while you are collecting fire pit ideas, is to think about safety rules for your new fire pit.
Discuss fire safety with the younger members of your family. While it may seem unnecessary, it is a discussion that should take place.
A quick list:
- Always supervise young children around a fire
- Set a boundary or “no-play zone” around your fire pit
- Check for nearby flammable items before lighting your fire
- Never leave your fire unattended
- Have a plan on how to put the fire out before you light it
- Check the weather before a fire to avoid high winds/blowing embers
- Be aware of local burn bans (these change) or burn ordinances
- Keep the area around your pit clear of leaves and other debris
Before you build your fire pit, even if no local ordinances exist, make sure that you have at least 10 to 15 feet between your pit and any existing building. It is a safety measure that you shouldn’t ignore.
Burning bans may change with the seasons, so always check before lighting your fire.
Areas suffering from drought, high winds, or other variable issues may enact a temporary local ordinance prohibiting open-air fires.
Raise your hand if you know that person who thinks it is a requirement to pour a gallon or two of gasoline or other accelerants on a pile of logs to start a roaring fire.
Fire starting 101 is now in session:
You don’t need any accelerants. If you absolutely must have something, grab a tea candle or two. You’ll see how to use those in a minute.
Lighting your fire without chemical accelerants
A fire needs three things to burn properly — fuel, oxygen, and heat.
If those three items are present, you will have a fire. With that in mind, you can build your not-yet-flaming logs into a perfect fire.
Starting with your fire pit empty (or building on a bed of ashes from your last fire), crumple a sheet or two of newspaper and place it in the center of the pit.
Add some tinder on top of that. Tinder is easily flammable “debris” you can find almost anywhere. Dry leaves, dry bark, some forest fungi, and dry grasses will all work.
If you are a city dweller, some everyday household items that burn easily are dryer lint, fabric softener sheets, steel wool, and wax (remember those tea candles?).
On top of that, add some kindling, or small, dry sticks broken into short lengths.
These are larger pieces than tinder and are designed to catch fire and stay lit long enough to ignite the bigger logs that are added next.
Kindling sticks should be no bigger around than your thumb and about the length of your hand from wrist to fingertip.
Always start with dry logs if possible.
With many different ways to build a fire, the key thing to remember is to leave space between logs for oxygen to flow.
Starting with smaller logs, build your tepee, log cabin-style, or pyramid-style base. You can add larger logs once you get the fire roaring, but for now, try to stick with logs less than the diameter of your arm.
Using charcoal to light your fire
Many people find that using charcoal as a small base layer on their tinder and kindling assists in lighting their fire.
There are two ways to do this:
1. You can put the charcoal or hardwood briquettes directly onto your fire pile as they come out of the bag. Then light your tinder and kindling as you normally would.A better method is to grab a chimney starter. These are available at most local home stores and hardware stores. When the coals are burning well, pour them over your set up logs trying to get the hot coals into the center as much as possible.
Blowing gently on the coals will ignite your tinder and kindling. Or you can save your breath and cheat by grabbing a battery-operated air mattress pump to blow on your hot coals.
General Tips and Reminders
Start by collecting twice as much tinder and kindling as you think you might need. Because this is, by nature, highly combustible material, it will burn hot and fast.
Hold some aside to add after you light your fire.
Use the driest wood you can find, especially for tinder and kindling. Twigs should snap and break when you bend them.
If they are pliable, they are too green to use for tinder and kindling. Set them aside because you can use them later.
Your fuelwood can be a little damp, or green. It will make your fire smokier, but once it is burning well, they will catch and burn just fine.
Fire Pit Ideas Without Real Wood
While most people consider a campfire, or backyard fire pit, to be for burning only real logs, there are quite a few alternatives.
If you have the ability to have a natural gas or ethanol system installed, you could install a natural gas/ethanol fire pit.
You can also opt for Duraflame logs or artificial logs.
These logs are compressed and made with renewable fibers, recycled materials, and wax (remember those tea candles?). They are rated by how long they will burn, some at three hours and others longer.
These products are rated for both indoor and outdoor use. They are easy to light and will provide a nice fire without all the fuss of real wood.
Types of Fire Pits
You’ve thought about everything there is to think about, and you still want to install a backyard fire pit?
Good. Now for the hard part.
Your mission now is to select one from all the different fire pit ideas available. There are only about a million options, so no pressure, right?
Pre-Made Campfire-Type Fire Pits and Equipment
We’re going to start with some non-permanent fire pit ideas.
These are products that are readily available at your local home store, on Amazon, and camping or outdoor stores.
Some are very portable, allowing storage in your garage (please allow them to cool completely before rolling them inside).
Some are larger and not portable for daily use but can be put away during the winter months.
As the name states, this type of fire pit is a simple ring that is placed directly on the ground. It requires no preparation beyond assembly.
They normally consist of equally-sized sections that attach using bolts and nuts to form a circle. A small wrench is sometimes required, but most can be assembled with no tools.
Fire rings are probably the simplest of fire pit ideas. It is extremely portable, will effectively contain your fire, and last for many years.
A fire bowl is another simple, but effective form when it comes to the various fire pit ideas. It is a bowl and can be either square or round.
Some are quite creative, embellished with etched designs or made from hand-pounded copper. Some have a short base that rests directly on the ground.
Others have a pedestal-type base that raises the bowl higher. Some fire bowls are on a frame assembly that includes wheels, making them extremely portable.
Fire bowls are designed to be moderately portable. Although there are weather covers available, the portability of fire bowls is a nice bonus.
Most people will store them in a garage or shed during the winter months, especially if they are in a region that experiences snow or extreme weather conditions.
Chimineas were developed to allow people to enjoy the smell of burning wood while adding a decorative flair.
Although popular, Chimineas are limited in the amount of heat they offer.
Their distinctive design features give them a smaller footprint, so they take up less space. Many are safe to use on a wooden patio deck.
They are most commonly made out of cast iron or clay.
Functional Backyard DIY Fire Pit Ideas
Now, for what you’ve been waiting for:
The fire pit ideas that will allow you to explore your creative side.
There are several different types of DIY fire pit ideas. We researched and found simple instructions that will help you make your backyard fire pit the envy of your neighborhood.
Round, Non-Recessed with Solid and Gravel Bases
This type of above ground fire pit requires no digging. It can be constructed on an existing brick or stone patio, or directly over a grassy area.
Some of the methods and videos we found while researching demonstrated this type of fire pit being constructed directly on a wooden deck.
We do not recommend this practice.
The typical cost for this type of fire pit will range from $60 to $115 depending on the materials you select. All the materials are available in local home centers, garden stores, and some hardware stores.
There are kits available that include all the major components you will need. Most of the kits do not include gravel but are clearly noted if the design requires it.
Step-by-step Instructions for a Simple Fire Pit
We selected the following DIY fire pit design because it is constructed from readily available materials. Of all the fire pit ideas we researched, this was the most adaptable and versatile design.
We added several options (some from other fire pit ideas) that will work well with this design. This project will take approximately two to three hours, not including your shopping time.
Here’s how to build it:
- 1Retaining Wall Blocks (24 to 36 depending on how high you want them)
- 2Paver sand (one bag)
- 36 by 6 inches by 2-inch paving stones(the number needed will vary, but plan on about 24)
- 4Triangle pavers the same height as the square ones(8 – 10 will be needed, the colors do not need to match)
- Level (we recommend at least 2 feet long, but you can use a torpedo level)
- Measuring tape
- Hammer and chisel (You might not need this)
Procedure to Construct the outer wall of the fire pit:
Measure from the nearest structure to make sure that your fire pit is a sufficient distance away according to your local building codes.
Determine where the center of your fire pit will be and mark it with one of the small, square pavers.
Using the larger, trapezoid-shaped pavers, lay a row around the center in a circle.
You can start with the pavers touching to keep the round shape. Once they are all placed, shift each one toward the outside of the circle about two inches. That will create a slight gap between the stones.
This slight gap will also allow air to flow to the base of your fire, which will help it burn more efficiently.
Using your level, make sure that your pavers are level. If all you have is a torpedo level, you can use that on a flat board laid across the pit to check the level from side to side.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the stones should be level enough to support another layer with no wobble.
Begin your second layer by centering the first block over the crack between two blocks on the first layer. Continue around the circle.
The second layer should leave approximately a one-inch overhang into the center of the fire pit.
Once all the blocks are on the second layer, use your level and make sure that you don’t have high spots or wobbles.
If you opted for a short-walled pit, you have finished. If you want a taller pit wall, you can add a third layer of pavers.
We recommend using three levels of pavers, as this gives your fire pit a nice protective sidewall while still allowing a good view of the fire.
Procedure to finish the inside of the fire pit:
The outside of your fire pit looks great. Now it’s time to lay the pavers to make the inside awesome.
You should still have the stone in place marking the center of your fire pit. Building out from that, lay your square stones out side by side and fill the bottom of your pit.
Optimally, you will be leaving a small gap not larger a quarter inch between each paver.
You can use the triangle-shaped pavers to fill in the edge areas because filling a round pit with square pavers won’t quite result in a perfect fit.
Now is when that hammer and chisel may be needed. You can chisel small chunks off the corners to help them fit better if the pavers don’t quite fit.
Once you have your pavers laid out, check them with your level.
Make minor adjustments as needed so that none of your base pavers are wobbling and the bottom of your fire pit is as level as possible.
They don’t have to be perfect, but there should not be noticeable uneven spots.
Pour your sand in on top of your bottom layer of pavers. Using a broom, spread the sand out to fill in the small gaps between the pavers.
Step back and take a picture of your handiwork.
Additional options for any fire pit ideas:
There are several alterations to the basic instructions above.
Look at these variations:
If you don’t want a solid base, you can skip the square paving blocks and pour a couple of bags of landscaping gravel into your fire pit.
This option allows the ashes to drift down through the gravel decreasing the need to empty them periodically.
Adding a layer of sand beneath your square pavers will help in leveling them.
Mixing a bag of Quickrete with a bag of sand will add longevity to your base layer. Use half of the mix, dry, under your square pavers. Use the remainder to fill the gaps in your pavers.
You can spray water onto it, or just let the next rain do the trick for you.
The diluted Quickrete will harden, but not be so hard it is difficult to remove when your spouse decides they want a pool in that spot next summer.
Some people have used contractor’s adhesive between the layers of bricks to add stability to their fire pit. While not a requirement, it will add even more permanence to your backyard masterpiece.
There are a lot of DIY fire pit ideas and different variations available. You can create an entire backyard patio area centered around your new fire pit. We even found plans for a beautiful sunken fire pit.
Not every yard is right for a round fire pit, and we totally understand that. There are plenty of options for DIY square fire pits also. Whatever type of fire pit you decide on, there is an option out there for you.
DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Any professional will, of course, tell you that you should have a professional install your fire pit. While it is true that a professional can take care of all the nitty-gritty for you, it is not necessary.
A contractor will check local ordinances, file for a building permit if needed, and do the heavy lifting of all the stones.
If you have opted for a natural gas or ethanol-based fire pit, you should hire a contractor.
No products found.
No products found.
But if you selected one of the DIY wood-fueled fire pit options, you can save a lot of money doing the work yourself.
The materials are readily available. There are professionals at your local home store that will answer questions and provide tips.
You can totally do this.
Are You Ready to Build Your DIY Fire Pit?
You still haven’t decided on a design yet, have you?
That is probably the most daunting part of this whole project. And we’re about to make it worse by leaving you with a list of additional designs to consider.
All are easily constructed DIY projects. Most have easy-to-understand instructions that leave very little guesswork.
- From DIY Network, a beautiful flagstone fire pit.
- HomeBNC offers 27 different designs, each with step-by-step instructions.
- Family Handyman offers this gorgeous double-walled brick fire pit.
- Morning Chores did a lot of homework and has a collection of 57 different fire pit ideas with links to complete plans and instructions for all of them.
- The home experts at Zillow offer this easy 7-step fire pit.
That concludes our excursion into the world of DIY fire pit ideas. We will leave you with one final thought. No matter what design you decide to build in your backyard — YOU GOT THIS!