Welcome to our guide to building your very own awesome backyard fire pit!
Campfires are one of our favorite outdoor summer and fall activities.
There’s something about sitting around a roaring fire in the backyard, roasting marshmallows, telling scary stories, or simply relaxing in the company of good friends that just is so perfect.
Fire pits provide all the warmth and ambiance of an indoor fireplace, but allow you to watch the night sky, feel the cool autumn breeze, and it’s much easier to fit chairs around a fire pit than it is to squeeze more people into your living room!
It’s really no wonder that fire pits are so high on homeowners’ wish lists. When it’s just the two of you, the warmth of the fire can be romantic and sparks might just fly!
With so many different options to choose from including style and material, it’s best that we just start from the very beginning. Let’s get planning!
Based on Robin Horton’s article (used with permission.)
Find more backyard ideas in our definitive guide to backyards!
1. Plan It Out
The style of fire pit you’ll want should fit your lifestyle and the experience you desire. Do you want to designate a large area as the spot for parties and other gatherings? In this case, you’ll want to make the fire pit the visual and decorative focal point of your patio.
Would you rather use the fire pit to warm up chilly fall evenings, extending your outdoor season? Maybe you really like to camp, but can’t find the time to get away. Your fire pit could instead be a cooking area for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.
Either way, you need to know what you want to do with your fire pit.
2. Location, Location, Location
Once you have your plan in mind, your next step is to pick the perfect spot. Evaluate your space. How much room do you really have? While there’s a fire pit to fit any space, you’ll want to know exactly what you’re working with before you get to the dirty part of the job.
If you have a large piece of property, you can be a little more free while selecting the spot, but you’ll still want to make sure the spot you’ve selected is safe and convenient.
You’ll want to begin by checking your local ordinances and HOA rules to make sure you’re following all regulation. Plus, then you can be sure that your HOA won’t show up in the middle of your project and tell you that you have to demolish all your hard work!
The area you pick will want to have at least seven feet clear all around it, so you can be sure that you have enough seating. You’ll want the space to be flat and about ten feet from the nearest structure and plants. No fires here!
You’ll also want to consider what direction your prevailing wind blows in at, to avoid smoke and embers blowing in your face.
3. Choose Your Style: Custom, Prefab, or Portable
Once you’ve selected the perfect spot, it’s time to decide which style direction you want to go in. Will you want a permanent or portable fire pit? Portable can be a great option for those who have limited space or want to take it camping.
Permanent or portable, both options come in a ton of shapes, sizes, materials, and design styles. You can opt to have your permanent fire pit custom built, or, if you’re handy, build it yourself.
The options are many, and whatever you choose should depend entirely on your taste, available space, location, and, of course, your budget.
Fueling The Fire
If you really love the scent of a wood burning fire, you’ll want to pick out a nice wood-burning fire pit. If you’re more concerned with keeping the pit clean and having an easy-to-light fire, you might prefer a gas-fueled pit.
Gas fire pits are more costly, as they require you to install a gas line, and are much more labor intensive, so if your budget is tight, you may want to steer clear of a gas fire pit. The upside to gas is that they’re very easy to light and keep clean.
Another option is to light your fire pit with clean biofuel, which comes in cartridges and does not require a gas line.
Permanent In-Ground and Above Ground Fire Pits
Recessed fire pits are usually round, and have a really cool effect on the ambiance, since the flames appear to rise up out of the ground. However, the pitfall edge means that it’s really easy to stumble into them and fall–something to consider if you have small children or plan to have friends with small children over regularly.
You get more shape options with above ground fire pits, which can be square, rectangular, or round, simple or elaborate. You’ll want to pick non-combustible materials like concrete, fire bricks, or stone to construct your pit. They have to be able to withstand extreme temperatures.
The inner ring of your above ground fire pit should have a metal fire ring to contain the fire and protect the stones from heat. Without one, the stones will dry out and crumble over time.
Regardless of whether you purchase a pit, custom build one, or DIY your own, you have a lot of design and material options to choose from. Cast-fiber concrete, brushed stainless steel, carbon steel, and other synthetic composites are available commercially.
When designing seating, think creatively and multi-functionally. Use a coffee table with an inset fire pit, or use benches surrounding the pit for seating. If you have a small space, finding a multi-functional solution is the best way to make sense of your space.
If you need it to be portable, metal fire bowls are available in many sizes and designs. Some have legs, while others are placed on the ground. You can find a traditional, rustic fire bowl, or go for a more sleek, ultra-modern look. If you want a truly unique experience, you can find a fire pit that doubles as a sculpture to create a focal point.
4. DIY: How To Build A Fire Pit
If you are crafty and want to build your own, you can at a very reasonable budget. Check out the following directions to build your very own fire pit!
- Measuring Tape
- Spray paint to outline the shape and size
- Wood stake
- Concrete blocks, fire bricks, landscaping
- Rubber mallet
- Masonry adhesive
5. How to Enjoy Your New Fire Pit–Safely
Safety should always be your first priority. Install your fire pit on a concrete surface, over pavers, or on bare dirt. Don’t install your fire pit on a wooden deck or surface.
Fire Safety: What to Burn
If you choose to install a wood-burning fire pit, you can burn a variety of woods like hickory, oak, maple, beech, birch, or elm, among others.
You shouldn’t burn painted, stained, or treated woods like plywood, particleboard, chipboard, or railroad ties, because they emit toxic fumes. Try to burn mature, dry wood, since green woods generate a lot of extra smoke.
Although garden waste and weeds are safe to burn, you’ll need to check with your city ordinances to make sure they aren’t prohibited. Never use accelerants, like gasoline or kerosine, and don’t burn household trash or plastics.
For added safety, you can consider topping your fire pit with a screen to prevent popping and flying embers. Even when not in use, a cover will help keep it clean.
If you’re ready to roast marshmallows or entertain around a roaring fire, then it’s time to get started on your brand new backyard fire pit!
Images and content used with permission by Fix.com
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