How to Build a Fire Pit in 9 Steps

Kaitlyn Pacheco
Written by Kaitlyn Pacheco
Updated December 14, 2021
Backyard circular fire pit with burning fire
Mila Naumova – stock.adobe.com

Get ready to bust out the s'mores

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There’s just something so magical about relaxing in front of a crackling fire on a chilly day, s’more stick in one hand and mug of hot cocoa in the other. It’s a common homeowner fantasy that’s easy enough to turn into reality. All you need to do is follow these instructions on how to build a fire pit, and you’ll be enjoying your backyard long after the temperature drops. 

Difficulty: Medium (3/5)

While this DIY fire pit project is beginner friendly, it requires lots of manual labor and can be physically challenging. 

Total Project Time: 1–2 days

Cost: $300–$1,400

The cost of building a fire pit varies widely depending on the type of fire pit kit or metal ring insert and block/pavers that you buy. Typically, DIY kits typically range from $200 to $400. 

Tools

  • Wheelbarrow

  • Shovel

  • Level

  • Hand tamper

  • Rubber mallet

  • Caulk gun

  • Circular saw with concrete blade (only if you need to cut blocks to size)

  • Safety equipment: eye protection and respirator mask (if you need to cut blocks)

Materials

  • Fire pit ring kit* OR metal fire ring insert (liner) with trapezoidal concrete blocks

  • Paver base

  • Noncombustible crushed stone or lava rocks

  • Concrete adhesive

  • Marking paint

  • Landscape stake

  • Mason string

*A fire pit ring kit will have all the materials needed to build a wood-burning fire pit. If you decide to buy the materials yourself, you’ll need to figure out how many concrete blocks to buy. The recommended total width or diameter for a fire pit is between 3 and 4 feet. It typically has three or four rows of blocks. Measure the bricks and calculate how many you need. 

How to Build a Fire Pit Step by Step

Ring fire pit and two adirondack chairs in a spacious backyard
Javani LLC – stock.adobe.com

This method is for building a wood fire pit using a metal ring insert, as it is relatively easy and good for all experience levels. You can also skip the ring insert and build a square fire pit or other custom shape using these steps. However, you may have to cut your bricks to size using a circular saw and concrete blade. 

Important: Before you build your fire pit, check the rules of your HOA or city to make sure that it’s allowed. 

1. Scout Your Yard for the Perfect Spot

Decide where you’re going to put your fire pit. Look for a flat location in the grass that is a safe distance away from your home. It should also be clear of low-lying tree limbs and tall grasses. 

You may want to spend a few days observing the movement of the wind to avoid blowing smoke toward your home or your neighbor’s whenever you have a fire. 

Important: Before you dig, call 811 to check for buried utilities. 

2. Mark the Fire Pit Layout

As mentioned above, the diameter for a fire pit is between 3 and 4 feet. Decide how large you want your pit to be, and place a stake in the middle of what will be your fire pit location. 

Tie mason string that is half the size of the diameter of the pit to the stake. Hold the string taut, and walk slowly around the stake in a circle, marking the perimeter with paint as you go. This will create a circular outline in the grass. 

3. Dig Out Your Lawn

Once you mark your circle, dig out the area starting about 3 inches outside your outline. Slide your shovel under the topsoil to save as much grass as you can. This will be used to patch in around the fire pit when you’re done. Dig down to a depth of about 8 inches. 

4. Add Pack In

Pour paver base into your wheelbarrow and tip about 2 inches of paver base in the hole. Spread it out evenly across the dirt, then pack it down until it’s level using a hand tamper. Check the area with the level. 

Repeat this process one or two more times until your pack lies 4 inches below the grass. 

5. Lay the Block Base

Place your metal fire ring in the middle of the circle on top of the paver base. This will be your guide to set the blocks. 

Set the first block tightly against the ring. Pound the block with a rubber mallet to set it in place. Check the block with the level to make sure that it’s level end to end and across. 

Place the next block right against the first block, and pound it in. Check that the two blocks are level. Repeat this process until you have laid out the first row of blocks. Remove the ring. 

Note: If you purchase a kit for this DIY project, your blocks should fit together without any trouble. But if you buy your metal ring insert and blocks separately, there’s a chance you’ll have to cut some of the blocks to ensure they fit together. To do this, wear safety gear and cut the blocks to size using a circular saw with a concrete blade.

6. Stack the Next Rows of Blocks

Each time you add a row of blocks, you’re going to stagger them so the middle of the top block rests on the joint between two bottom blocks. Clean off the top of the first row of blocks, then add concrete adhesive to bond them together. 

If possible, leave small, sporadic gaps between the blocks so the fire can breathe. (If you want to avoid cutting the blocks, lay out the blocks to ensure you have the space for small gaps before adding adhesive).

Repeat this staggered-block process for the third row of blocks and optional fourth row. 

7. Fill the Pit with Crushed Stone

After constructing the fire pit wall, place the ring insert back into the pit. 

Next, fill the bottom of the pit with about 4 inches of crushed stone or lava rock—basically, fill the pit up to the bottom of the ring with the stones. Use a shovel or rake to even out the stones. 

The stones will help protect the blocks from the fire, as well as help with water drainage when it rains. Whatever rocks you choose, make sure they’re noncombustible so they don't explode when exposed to heat.

8. Put the Grass Back

Fill in the gap between the fire pit and the grass with topsoil and add chunks of your saved patches of grass on top.

9. Light Your Fire

As soon as your adhesive is fully dry (about two days), call your friends to schedule your backyard bonfire! Keep in mind that some woods can be toxic to burn, like green wood and softwoods. Stick to safer woods like oak, ceder, and elm.

How to Build a Fire Pit Ring on a Patio

Beautifully landscaped backyard overlooking mountains and a river at twilight, plus a ring fire pit with a fire on a patio
Neil – stock.adobe.com

If you’re building your ring fire pit on top of a patio instead of your lawn, you’ll need to lay down a protective surface, such as a fire pit mat or fire-rated bricks. This is especially important if your patio has joints with polymeric sand—common with brick patios. 

  • Set your metal ring insert on the patio, on top of a fire pit mat if you’re using one.

  • Lay your first layer of blocks around the insert, then remove the ring.

  • Stack the next row of blocks on top, staggering them so the middle of the top block rests on the joint between two bottom blocks. Use concrete adhesive to glue them together.

  • Repeat this process until you have three or four rows of blocks.

If you’re using fire-rated bricks instead of a fire pit mat, you’ll need to cut the bricks to fit inside the fire pit ring. Use a circular saw with a concrete blade to cut them to size. 

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