Building a fire pit yourself can be done quickly and easily. I was surprised at how fast this all went together. Even better, it was about $110 cheaper than buying a similar "kit" from a big home improvement store. My total cost was about $80.
To build this fire pit you will need a few items to work with:
- Pickax/Grub Ho (optional)
- Rubber mallet (optional)
- 36 concrete pavers
- 1 bag of gravel
Description of the Fire Pit
This fire pit is very simple, which is the great thing about it. It is essentially 3 courses of concrete pavers. The ground is dug out so the first set of pavers is almost below grade. The other two courses are above ground. The bottom of the fire pit is lined with gravel to help with drainage.
Choosing a Location
First things first, you need to pick a location for the fire pit. There are several things to consider:
- Safety – you want to be far enough away from any structures that there is no risk of your fire spreading
- Ease of use – pick somewhere that is convenient. This will make it more likely you will use it
- Terrain – choose relatively flat land. The side of a hill won't work that well.
Once you've picked a location, get a piece of string or wood that is roughly three feet long and lay it on the ground. This will be about the size of the fire pit and will give you an idea of how it will fit into the area you have chosen.
Finally, determine how high you want to go. 3 courses of pavers is about right. Remember that the first course will generally be below ground pavers
Source Your Material
While there are many places to get your concrete pavers, the easiest is probably from one of the big home improvement stores. There are many different types to choose from. The one's used here were specifically mentioned for fire pits for $2.25 each, which I thought was pretty good. These pavers were cut at an ange so that they could go in a circle. About 12 pavers made a good sized circle so you will need a total of 36.
Now that you have your blocks it is time to prepare your site. This is the most difficult part. Your first step will be to take 12 of your pavers and lay them out where you want your fire pit to be. This will give you one last chance to see what it will look like before you start digging.
To identify where you need to dig, take the circle of pavers and flip them away from the center of the fire pit. Now the inside edge of the pavers are roughly marking the outside edge of the fire pit. Everything inside the paver circle will need to be dug out.
You will want to dig out about 8" of soil to get your first set of block almost below grade. It doesn't have to be exact. Mine are actually sticking up about an inch. Try to make the hole about 1" wider than what you need. It will make putting in the initial course of pavers easier.
When digging the hole , you want to make sure it is level so your fire pit isn't sloping. The easiest way to do this is to get a wood board and place it in the hole. Use a level on top of the board to determine if the ground is sloping at all. You should take two readings, one for up and down (or north and south) and another for left and right (or east and west). If your hole isn't level, adjust your digging.
We used several different types of shovels when digging. We dug the initial hole with a spade but then adjusted the slope with a flat shovel. We also used a pickax to chop through roots and dig up large rocks.
Laying the Pavers
Now comes the easy part. Lay your first course of pavers into the hole. If they don't line up correctly, which mine didn't, take them out and adjust the size of the hole. At this point most of the heavy digging is done so you may just want to use a trowel. The pavers will fit together pretty well but not perfectly. You don't want a perfect fit because you want to allow air to get to the fire.
You'll also want to check the slope of the first layer of pavers. If the slope is off, your either need to dig or if only off a little use a rubber mallet to knock the pavers down a bit (This is also good to get any frustrations you may have. It makes a very satisfying sound when you hit the pavers.)
Once the first course is down, start laying the second on top of the first. When you put down your second layer, do not have them line up with the first course. You want to place this layer so that 1/2 the paver is over two pavers of the first layer. Continue until your second layer is in place. You may want to use your rubber mallet to help line up the first and second layers, either knocking the pavers of the second course in or out so it lines up with the first. Don't try to get it perfect because you really can't with these pavers due to their slightly irregular shape.
Next move onto the last layer and do the same thing.
Finally, take your gravel and put it into your firepit. This is generally to help with drainage and to keep your fires out of damp soil.
Your fire pit is almost done. The final step is to fill in any gaps between your fire pit and the outer edge of the hole you dug. I made my hole slightly larger so there was about a 1" gap all the way around. I used the dirt from the hole to fill this in. You may want to take a hose and water in the area so that the dirt settles faster in the gap and then use more dirt to fill in what is rest.
The only thing left to do is enjoy. Grab a beer or glass of wine and admire your handiwork. You can also tell yourself that you just saved $110 by building this yourself and not buying a kit. Things are so much better when you can do them yourself.