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Building a DIY Fire Pit

A fire pit is the most basic, but also the most attractive, type of garden heater and it can be built very simply with a limited amount of DIY skill.

What is a fire pit?

A fire pit is nothing more than a hole in the ground into which wood or coal can be placed and ignited. Most fire pits are however more involved than this and their design takes account of aesthetics and a more permanent structure.

Generally some form of seating or benching, along with a hard landscaped area, are also part of most fire pit projects.

The basic design

The main functional feature of a fire pit is an excavated hole in the ground. This hole is usually circular and has a diameter of not less than 18 inches. Most fire pits will be between 2 and 3 feet in diameter and the base of the pit will be between 6 inches and one foot below the surrounding finished ground level.

In order to make the fire pit more functional, more attractive and more versatile, a small wall is built around the perimeter of the pit. This enclosing wall will usually be between 12 to 18 inches high. It acts to contain the fire, tidy up the appearance and radiate and convect heat outwards from the fire pit.

A more complete design also supplements the fire pit with some surrounding hard landscaping and masonry bench seating.

The build

1. The first task is to find a suitable location. This should be away from buildings and other flammable materials and vegetation. The area should be generally flat and well drained.

2. Next, sand or chalk should be used to make a visible impression of the pits shape on the ground enabling the pit to be excavated. The base of the pit should be made of at least 6 inches of concrete, or better still 6 inches of compacted hardcore with a further 6 inches of concrete on top. This would require a dig of about 18 inches. This should require nothing more than a spade.

Important: If you intend to build the “fire pit wall” on a concrete base, then the pit diameter should be adjusted to allow for the additional width of the fire pit wall. This will save the need for a separate footing.

3. Once the fire pit base is complete and the concrete has set, it will be possible to build the fire pit wall. The wall will run around the perimeter of the fire pit and enclose it.

This wall may be made of loose-laid stone or brick, or of mortar bonded masonry. If the latter is the case, then an additional mortar layer can be used to line the internal surface of the wall. In either case the stones or bricks should be staggered for stability and appearance.

4. Whilst this completes the main fire pit project, pavers, paving slabs, cobbles or brick sets can be used to create a clean and hard wearing surface around the fire pit.

Additionally, a simple but attractive seating area can be built around the fire pit by using the same style of stones or bricks to make a basic flat topped bench.

Keeping things simple

Although it is comparatively easy to build a fire pit using any number of easily available masonry materials, many companies sell fire pit kits (for more info see []) and these come with all of the materials necessary, plus DIY instructions. Basic kits may include the pit, base and wall materials, but the deluxe kits will include everything necessary to create a complete patio and seating area around the fire pit.