How to Make and Maintain a Backyard Fire Pit
Adding a fire pit to your home can amp up its curb appeal. Whether you choose to place one in your backyard or on your front patio, it's a welcome addition to your abode. While buying a fire pit is an option, a built-in fire pit offers a bespoke look, and crafting your own can really be as simple or as elaborate as you wish; you can choose materials that complement the rest of your home's style, including flagstone pavers, and steel, or select something different that really pops. If you're thinking of a DIY, you could create a fire pit from scratch or buy a kit ($325, homedepot.com), which would save you time and effort since everything you need is already included. Ahead, we're breaking down the key steps to creating your own fire pit, plus offering tips on how to maintain yours so that it lasts for many years to come.
Pick a safe spot.
"Be mindful of your surroundings," says Emily McGee of the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association. "Make sure there are no overhanging branches or other flammable materials nearby." The pit should also be at least 20 feet from buildings, wood fences and decks, and hedges. It should offer some wind protection to avoid smoke problems. Consult your town's building code for specific guidelines in your area.
Decide on a style.
There are a variety of materials you could use to build a fire pit's retaining walls, including stone, brick, and precast concrete. Once you determine which look you like the best, you'll need to decide on a style. A round pit calls for trapezoidal blocks; a square shape uses rectangular blocks. Most fire pits are made from three or four rows of blocks, and McGee says they should always be built on a fire-resistant surface like stone or brick, not something flammable like wood.
Gather what you'll need and get the area ready.
For a project like this, your materials will vary based on the type of fire pit you choose to create. At the very least you'll need gravel, stones or bricks, a metal ring, bonding adhesive, and a level. After marking the spot, remove grass and dirt to a depth of two inches. Create a solid gravel base and tamp down to ensure the ground is level. Add more gravel and tamp down again.
Lay the blocks.
Lay down the first row of blocks, using a level to keep all everything at the same height; you'll also want to make sure they're all touching. Place the metal ring, which helps the blocks last longer by not drying out, in the center of the pit to make sure it fits. If it does, move on to laying the second row of blocks.
Adhere the blocks to one another.
When you're satisfied everything fits, remove the top row of blocks and add a bonding adhesive to the underside of each, then reposition them back on the lower level of blocks. Set the ring back inside.
Get ready to enjoy it.
Fill the pit with lava rocks before adding kindling. Once the fire has started, add wood. "For a wood-burning fire pit, use only well-seasoned dry wood to lessen the smoke," says McGee.
Consider the alternatives to making your own.
If you'd rather buy a pre-made fire pit instead of crafting your own, there are plenty of options available to you. From the circular fire pit table pictured above ($487.89, target.com) to the rectangular iron fire pit ($449.99, wayfair.com) pictured below, many home goods retailers offer the perfect addition to your outdoor living space.
How to maintain your fire pit.
Besides cleaning out the ashes regularly, avoid using accelerants like gasoline to start a fire—it's not only dangerous but it could also damage the fire pit. Another thing you should never add? Water. If the fire is doused with water, the pit could crack because of the rapid change in temperature. Let the fire burn out on its own, and never leave a burning fire unattended.