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.

Video

Video

How to Build a DIY Fire Pit

Have a fire pit idea that you can’t wait to implement in your backyard? Here are the instructions to help you get started on building a basic DIY fire pit.

Supplies:

  • 100 Bricks
  • Steel Pit Ring with Tabs
  • Metal Grate
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • A Shovel

Step 1: Find a Location for the Fire Pit

The fire pit you are building is going to be a permanent installment in your backyard. Therefore you want to put it in a place where you will enjoy having it for a long time. You also need to take the ground into consideration, as flat ground with no grass works best.

Step 2: Dig a Hole

You will want to dig a hole that is about two feet wider than the desired diameter of your fire pit. So if you want a 5-foot fire pit, you’ll be digging a hole that is 7 feet in diameter. Dig down about 1 foot deep.

Step 3: Fill the Hole With Gravel and Sand

Fill the hole with 4 inches of gravel, followed by 4 inches of sand.

Step 4: Set Your Circle

On top of the layer of sand, you just placed, put your initial circle of bricks. Because this is the first layer, you will want to make sure it is level all the way around, even if you have to dig into the sand a bit. Use the steel ring to measure this circle.

Step 5: Fill the Cracks

Fill in the cracks between the bricks with sand, gravel, or cement.

Step 6: Build it Up

Follow steps 4 and 5 to build your fire pit. Use the steel ring to ensure each level has the same diameter and the fire pit doesn’t get tilted. Once you are on a layer short than your desired height, stop.

Step 7: Put the Grate Down

Place your grate down on the second to the highest level, the place the final circle of bricks. Just like that, you have a firepit.

When you light your fire pit for the first time it is suggested to have a bucket of water nearby just in case the flames get too high or if the bricks fail to contain the flames as planned.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) FAQ

Can You Build a DIY Fire Pit With Just $50?

While it is possible to build a fire pit with just $50, you may find this a bit difficult to accomplish if you don’t have bricks or cement blocks laying around. It is better to plan at least $100 to $150 when making a DIY fire pit.

Can You Build a DIY Gas Fire Pit?

You can build a DIY gas fire pit; however, you will need to buy the gas fire component as an insert. You can buy these inserts at hardware stores or online.

How Does a DIY Fire Pit Get Air?

Most DIY fire pits have a large enough hole to get air through the top. But for those who have made their firepit too tall, you can easily remove part of a bottom layer brick and add an air vent.

Is Making a DIY Fire Pit Cheap?

Making a DIY fire pit can be cheap when you already have several of the supplies lying around and you just want to burn wood. But when you want a gas fire pit, or you need to buy all the bricks, you will find a DIY fire pit will likely still cost you a couple of hundred dollars.

Fire Pit Build Safety Tips

Building a fire pit, while it indeed can be a fun weekend project, is also a serious undertaking with high stakes for the safety of your friends and family. It’s imperative that safety is top of mind through each step in the process to ensure a final product that offers not only fun and beauty, but a safe environment for all involved.

Start by ensuring that your fire pit is built in a safe area, away from flammable structures and plant life. Ensure that every material used in your pit is fire-resistant and safe for high-heat situations. This includes the stones, adhesive, and mortar you use to construct the fire pit. Build the pit carefully and solidly, and when enjoying an evening around your pit, always have a fire extinguisher or water source close at hand in case things get out of control.

  • Do not use regular bricks to build a fire pit. They may crumble and degrade or, worse, because they may contain trapped water and gases, they can explode.
  • Do not use river rocks as the base layer of your pit. They, too, can contain moisture that can explode.
  • If possible, have a second human on the premises when you’re constructing your pit. If a heavy block lands on your foot or if you get carried away with the rock chisel, it’s good to have someone nearby to render first aid.

Concrete Tree Rings

Instructables

For less than $50, you can stack concrete tree rings into a circle shape, going as high as you like for a unique-looking fire pit. Concrete rings come in different shades of white, beige, orange, and pink hues, giving you many options, and some have scallops to them. Not all concrete is fire-safe, so line the inside of any concrete fire pits with fire brick and fire clay mortar to keep your fire pit intact or use a protective fire ring as an inner liner.

Get Classic Lines With Cinder Block Caps

Delia's Photos

Fire-resistant cinder block caps can be artfully designed into a square, contemporary-styled fire pit with clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic. Although cinder blocks are fire-resistant, they are not fireproof and, over prolonged use, will eventually crumble. To protect and extend the viability of your fire pit, consider using a fire ring as a liner or fire bricks.

Mark Out the Fire Pit

The first step to make your own fire pit is to dig out a dedicated space in your yard for the fire pit base. The following are the fire pit dimensions we used for this project.

  • A 3-ft.-diameter in ground fire pit creates enough room for a good fire, yet keeps everyone close enough to chat (and complies with most codes).
    • Pro tip: To make measuring the pit and pouring the concrete footing easy, we used two cardboard concrete form tubes (purchased from a concrete supply company).
  • You could also make your own forms by screwing together 1/8-in. hardboard. For a non-traditional fire, opt for a smokeless fire pit.
  • Rip a 4 x 8-ft. sheet into four 8-in.-wide strips.
  • Carefully bend and screw two strips together to create a 36-in.-diameter circle, and use the other two to make a 48-in.-diameter circle.
  • Set the larger form in position and spray paint around it. Dig a hole about 8 in. deep and 3 in. larger in diameter than the form.

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