Creating A Low Cost DIY Fire Pit

One thing is for sure, the fire pit always made an evening seem more than magical. And that is exactly why when we moved to the new farm this year, building one became a top priority. In fact, it was one of the very first projects we completed.

Building a fire pit really can be both simple and inexpensive. The secret to success starts by employing a few basic fire pit building techniques that make it both strong, beautiful and functional. Then, by using natural and locally available materials, you can give it an incredible look that also happens to be quite economical.

Our new fire pit at our new farm. The entire fire
Our new fire pit at our new farm. The entire fire pit was built for just under $50, thanks to using stone we found at the farm.

Both of our fire pits were constructed for under $175 using the same process. In fact, our newest fire pit was actually built for under $50! Here is a step by step look at how we created our fire pit, along with a few tips on the best way to keep your project affordable.

Using The Earth As Your Friend – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit

The first key to building a functional fire pit is to keep it slightly below the soil line. Burying the pit a bit under the ground has several big advantages when creating and maintaining a fire.

First, it helps to keep your fire pit safe by preventing the embers of a burning fire from jumping out. It also helps keep the wind from becoming too much of an issue. Both when starting, and for keeping smoke out eyes.

But by burying your fire pit into the earth, it also helps to insulate it. That means a bit slower burn of the wood, and more even heat across the fire. That is not only great for sitting around the flames, but also for cooking as well.

Creating A Template For Your Fire Pit – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit

We created our circular fire pit layout using a 36″ piece of string tied to a round rebar post. We began by driving the rebar post into the ground where we wanted the exact center of the fire pit to be.

Using a spray can, we then marked out a perfect circle by spray painting a line on the ground as we walked with the string around the post. It makes quick work of what can be a difficult task for measuring an exact circle.

Once the lines were marked, we removed 16 inches of the soil inside of the line. By using a 36″ string, we ended up with a hole that was 72 inches in diameter, and 16 inches deep all the way around.

The 72″ diameter may sound large, but stone will be going inside of this to form the fire pit circle. It also allows enough space as you will see later for our cooking bar base to go in. Of course, you can create your circumference any size you wish. Just keep in mind you will lose some space as you stack the stone to form the circle.

The Cooking Bar Install

This is a purely optional step. But we can tell you, if you plan on cooking over your fire, this is far easier and cheaper than purchasing costly triangle supports. If you want more information on this step and process, we do have a complete article on the cooking bar here : (See : DIY Cooking Bar Project)

In a nutshell, the cooking bar is created with 1″ common black iron threaded iron pipe. This can be found at any hardware store, and creates a strong, sturdy cooking bar.

Using two 90 degree angle threads, we create a “U” shaped bar. The bar then slides down into two slightly 1.25″ larger pipes dug into the ground.

Our new fire pit with the cooking bar installed. T
Our new fire pit with the cooking bar installed. The hooks on the bar are perfect for hanging pots of stew or soup. You can also smoke meat right over the fire with them as well.

The cooking bar can easily be removed when not in use, and a threaded cover cap can be screwed to cover up the pipes in the pit. It is also extremely easy to use ready made outdoor cooking grates over with the fire pit as well.

We use a Hikeman folding grill in our fire pit to cook hamburgers, chicken, steaks and more. It simply sits within the fire pit on fold out legs and makes cooking anything a breeze! Product Link : Hikeman Folding Grill Top

Creating The Base – How To Build A DIY Fire Pit

A strong base is a key to a sturdy, long lasting fire pit. Especially one that will use stacked stone to create its walls. For our base, we use inexpensive limestone screenings. They can usually be found at a quarry, or small gravel or sand lot locations as well.

At around $7 to $10 a ton, a small pick-up load usually runs around $4. Some places will even allow you to take the screenings in 5 gallon buckets for about $1 per bucket.

Screenings are made up of small bits of limestone and the dust from the limestone rock. The limestone screenings pack down strong and give a firm, level base for a fire pit.

Limestone screenings are a by product of quarries
Limestone screenings are a by product of quarries as they create gravel. It makes for a great packing base, and is extremely inexpensive.

A four inch base of limestone screenings at the bottom of a fire pit are more than enough to create a great base for the stone layers on top. And it still leaves the pit depth at around 12″ down into the soil.

Building The Stone Wall

With the base complete, we began building the stacked stone wall. Although you can purchase rock at a stone center, it can be unbelievably expensive. One of the best ways to save is to purchase your rock at a local quarry instead.

For our first fire pit, we used rip-rap mixed size rock found at a nearby quarry. At around $20 per ton, we were able to get all of the rock we needed for around $80.

For our new fire pit, we were even more fortunate. When the crews were digging for our septic and water tanks, they unearthed tons of rocks. Mary and I quickly went to work snatching them up, and were able to build the new fire pit entirely from rock from the farm – and absolutely free!

The point is, however you, find your rock, there are better options that purchasing palletized stone. With a little leg work and creativity, you can save big for sure. Even old brick or broken concrete can look great with its jagged edges.

For our fire pit at the new farm, we were lucky en
For our fire pit at the new farm, we were lucky enough to score rock right from the land. You can also purchase large rock from a quarry at a significant discount.

The Building Process – How Top Build A DIY Fire Pit

Building a stacked stone fire pit is all about being patient and working slow. We presorted through the rock, setting out the largest stones for the base. From there, we built up with the remaining rocks. We set aside the flattest of the rocks to create the top of the pit. 

The key is to set one course at time. Try several rocks in different places, and with patience, you will find rocks that fit perfectly together. Work slowly and make it fun. The beauty of stacking dry stone is it is easy to fix and change. It also makes it nice if a rock is ever damaged to simply put a new one in its place.

Finishing The DIY Fire Pit

For the sitting area around our fire pit, we used limestone screenings again, and then covered with inexpensive pea gravel. It not only looks great, but drains well after any rain.

First, we sprayed the sitting area with high strength vinegar to kill off the grass. Next, we put down a two to three inch layer of limestone screenings to form a strong, hard base.

We use a limestone screening base and then cover t
We use a limestone screening base and then cover the area around the fire pit with #8 pea gravel. It fills in around the buried stone and makes the entire area look complete.

Once we had a level and firm base, we followed with a 2 inch top coat of #8 pea gravel.  We have used this combination of a limestone screening base / pea gravel top coat with great results to inexpensively build walkways as well. It looks great and lasts forever!

The limestone screenings form a near concrete-like base, and can be applied right over the existing soil to level it out and create the walkway.

It’s fast, easy and long-lasting. It is also easy to keep completely free of weeds with a few applications of vinegar spray a year.  In square footage cost, it runs right around .5 to .10 per square foot to use, and that’s hard to beat!  

Here is to creating your own amazing DIY fire pit in your backyard! Happy building – Jim and Mary.

As always, feel free to email us at thefarm@owgarden.com with comments, questions, or to simply say hello! You can sign up for our free email list in the subscribe now box in the middle of this article. Follow us on Facebook here : OWG Facebook. This article may contain affiliate links.

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Ready for your DIY Outdoor Fireplace project?

If you are thinking that you want a fun, rewarding, and budget minded DIY project, look no further than Backyard Flare. We can help you with mentorship opportunities while you build. We will be there for you along the way with help, tips, answers, etc… Yep, you’re not alone in your quest for a gorgeous DIY backyard space. Go to www.backyardflare.com today and start your journey or get ahold of us using the contact found on the website. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and as we always say, “happy building”.

Modern Outdoor Fireplace

A cutting list, diagrams, step-by-step directions, and plenty of photos will help you build this modern outdoor fireplace. It's a smaller, portable fireplace so you can move it where you see fit. Inside is room for a propane tank so you don't need to run gas to this portable fireplace.

Modern Outdoor Fireplace from Family Handyman

DIY Outdoor Fireplace Costs Broken Down

Each building material has a cost, so for ease of explanation, let’s use $1.00 as the cost for a block, $3.00 for a bag of concrete, and $4.00 for a bag of mortar. Let’s then throw in $300.00 for other build materials like firebrick, wood, angle iron, and rebar. If you have a fireplace design that would require 150 blocks, that is $150.00 to start. Let’s say 10 bags of mortar and 15 bags of concrete also, so that would be $40.00 and $45.00, respectively. With the added $300.00, the total would be approximately $545.00 for the rough building materials.

Let’s say you were able to pour your own foundation for $300.00 in materials. Also, that you found a great looking veneer for a total of $500.00. Adding these costs to the rough build, your total build materials for the fireplace would be approximately $1,345. With no labor costs, and only sweat equity and a whole lot of fun, your costs wouldn’t exceed that for the most part.

This is our Cholla design built by a DIY homeowner
This is our Cholla design built by a DIY homeowner

Building an Outdoor Stone Fireplace

This stunning stone fireplace can be built by following this free plan. Besides instructions on how to build it, there's also a lot of advice on how to design a fireplace that will meet your needs.

Building an Outdoor Stone Fireplace from q[x]

How to build an Outdoor Fireplace Cheap?

There are many ways to build an outdoor fireplace cheaply. One way is to use cinder blocks. Cinder blocks are readily available, and they are a very affordable option. Another option is to use bricks. Bricks can also be found at most home improvement stores, and they are relatively inexpensive.

Another option is to use stone. Stone can be more expensive than other materials, but it can add a lot of character to an outdoor fireplace. Another option is to use concrete. Concrete is a very affordable option, and it can be molded into any shape or size that you want.

Finally, another option is to use metal. Metal is the most expensive option, but it can last for many years without rusting. Metal is also very durable and can withstand the elements much better than other options.

Things You’ll Need

  • Detailed construction plan
  • Masonry, including stone finishing, bricks, concrete blocks and ceramic bricks for the firebox
  • Fire-retardant grout
  • Hand trowel
  • Mortar mix
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Duct or pipe to serve as the flue
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Clay tile for flue liner
  • Metal grate to hold the wood in the hearth
  • Pre-fabricated metal damper
  • Screened flue cap

Do you need fire brick for an Outdoor Fireplace?

The answer to that question is, “It depends.” If you are using a metal frame and just want to line the inside of the fireplace with fire brick, then you probably don’t need any. However, if you are building an Outdoor Fireplace from scratch, then you will definitely need some fire brick. In fact, most people recommend using fire brick for any kind of outdoor fireplace, since it is more durable and can withstand higher temperatures.

When purchasing your fire brick, make sure to get the right type. There are two types of fire brick: soft and hard. Soft fire brick is cheaper but less durable, while hard fire brick is more expensive but lasts longer. Make sure to consider your budget, as well as what you will actually be using the fire brick for.

Once you have purchased some fire brick, make sure that it fits in your Outdoor Fireplace. If it does not fit perfectly, then do not use any more of the bricks. Instead, cut a piece of plywood or cardboard and place it over the area where you are using the fire brick. This will help to keep the space cool, as well as prevent any burns from occurring if sparks or ashes fly out of control when lighting your Outdoor Fireplace.

Budget-Friendly Pre-Engineered Masonry Fireplace Kits

Both options produce impressive structural results, but there are several advantages offered by pre-engineered kits that merit strong consideration – not the least of which is greater affordability. Masonry fireplace kits are superior to scratch built units in many ways but to state it in the simplest terms: masonry kits provide a better functioning fireplace at a lower price than scratch built.

So for budget-minded consumers a masonry fireplace kit just makes good sense.  A fireplace project’s cost depends on two variables:  materials and labor.  A pre-engineered masonry fireplace kit delivers discounts in both columns.  The necessary materials to assemble a high functioning fireplace are all provided right off of a pallet.  The components are then simply stacked, mortared together, firebricks added, and finally the veneer is applied resulting in fireplace that looks and burns like skilled mason’s best work ever – and for a lot less money.

Think about it this way: Masonry fireplace kits cost less in terms of materials than a high end scratch built system.  They also take much less time to install.  This translates directly into significant savings.  What used to take weeks can now be done in a matter of days.

Benefits of Using a Fireplace Kit

If you have plans to build a real outdoor fireplace but you need to do so on a tight budget, you should seriously consider purchasing a masonry fireplace kit.  Selecting the right kit will ensure that your end result is a fireplace that performs better than a scratch built system and one that can be assembled for about half of the total cost.

To recap, masonry fireplace kits:

Budget-minded buyers should beware of both costly scratch built fireplaces and cheap imitations.  Only the right masonry fireplace kits can provide the same impressive structural results of traditional outdoor fireplaces at a fraction of the cost.  

So come on homeowners, do your homework and find a masonry fireplace kit that will work for your yard.  You can experience all of the enjoyment of an outdoor fireplace for half the cost.

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