How to Build a Firepit

Family sitting near firepit

 

noblige / Getty Images 

Overview
  • Working Time: 6 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 wk, 6 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $400-450

Imagine gathering with friends and family around an inviting, crackling fire built in your own backyard firepit. What could be cozier? 

Measuring 51 inches (outer diameter) and 16 inches high, this DIY backyard firepit can be built in less than half a day. The outer ring is large enough for up to six guests to pull up a chair and chat, and the inner 32-inch-diameter pit area provides ample room for a roaring fire. Because this backyard project uses inexpensive masonry materials, costs are kept in check. No special skills are needed, either. The hardest part is transporting the heavy materials home and moving them into place. But with store delivery directly to your home, and with the help of a partner or two, back-breaking work is kept to a bare minimum. 

Check Local Restrictions

Before you build, check on local permitting requirements. Some municipalities require a building permit even for simple fire pits of this type that are not serviced by a gas line. If your home is part of a homeowners' association (HOA), you may be required to seek permission from the HOA board before building the firepit. Also check on restrictions about exposed fires in your area as well as required clearances around a firepit.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Caulking gun
  • Shovel
  • Hand tamp
  • Bubble level
  • Tape measure
  • Twine
  • Stake (any piece of scrap wood)

Materials

  • 72 retaining wall blocks (each 4" high, 8-1/2" wide, and 8" deep)
  • 3 cubic yards 1/4" granite drainage gravel
  • Fire pit ring insert
  • Landscape block adhesive
  • Spray paint

Instructions

  1. Find a Suitable Location

    Locate the firepit well away from the house or any combustible materials such as fences and trees. Also stay clear of windows that often get opened, as well as any kind of fan intakes and air conditioning units.

  2. Mark the Area

    To draw your perimeter, find what will be the center, drive a stake into the ground, and attach a string the length of the radius. At the end of the string, hold the can of spray paint and paint a circle around the center point. The inner section will be your dig area.

  3. Dig the Foundation

    With your shovel, dig out that area down about 2 inches deep. Removing the turf itself is sufficient depth since turf extends about 2 inches down into the ground. Use the bubble level to check if the dug-out surface is level and adjust by adding or removing more dirt.

  4. Add Drainage Gravel

    Shovel the ¼” drainage gravel into the garden cart or wheelbarrow and empty into your dug out area. Spread evenly and check that it is level again. Adjust as needed with more gravel and tamp down with a hand tamp.

  5. Set the First Tier of Blocks

    Portion out 18 of the retaining wall blocks to use for the first tier. Set down the ring insert and place the first 18 blocks around the insert. Lift the insert and set aside to continue the block laying process.

  6. Set the Second Tier of Blocks

    Place the second tier of blocks on top of the first tier. Stagger the blocks so that each block of the second tier straddles two blocks of the first tier. This is a common method of arranging blocks that provides greater strength to the unit.

  7. Glue the Blocks

    To keep your shape, pick up 2 blocks at a time, apply your glue, and place the 2 blocks back and continue around. Cut off the end of the tube of landscape adhesive and use the piercing device that is built into the caulking gun to pierce the end of the tube (through the nozzle). Fit the landscape adhesive into the caulking gun and pump a few times to work the adhesive into the nozzle.

    Run a thick bead of adhesive around the top of the block on the first row. Don’t overdo it so that you don’t have glue coming out the sides. You don’t need as much as you might think.

  8. Set the Third and Fourth Tier

    Lay a bead of landscape adhesive on the second tier. Lay the third and fourth tiers of blocks on top in a similar staggered fashion. Do not add adhesive to the top of the fourth tier.

  9. Insert Ring

    Lastly, place the insert ring into the center of the fire pit. Let the adhesive fully cure, about 7 days, before using the firepit.