How to Build a Backyard Fireplace or Fire-pit

Backyard Fireplaces or Fire Pits are becoming very popular among house owners. If you watch celebrity house tours, more often than not they seem to own a fireplace in the backyard. If you have some space lying around in the backyard, with a little effort you could build one for yourself. Here’s how to build a backyard fireplace. 

A fireplace or fire pit can be a big project to take on by yourself. First, you need to decide which one would be best for your backyard, and then draw up a plan. Once you’ve got the equipment, you can start building! 

Building your own fireplace might be very intimidating to most people, as it involves a lot of steps and measurements. One wrong move and you can get smoke coming to your face instead of up the chimney. Don’t be too scared though, we’re here to help! If you just follow these instructions and have a clear game plan, you can impress everyone with your skills.

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Outdoor Fireplace?

A typical fireplace might cost you anywhere from about $1500 to about $20,000, depending on the size and design. The range is so large because there are many different ways to build a fireplace. You can hire a professional, you can get different types of materials, you might need different types of fire, etc. All of these variables can change the price significantly.

There are also pre-made kits available which usually cost about $1500 to $9000. Some fireplaces can even hit up to $50,000 if they are built in a huge space. So, the price can greatly vary according to your specific set of requirements, but an average would be about $3000.

Fireplaces are not like your typical house furniture. They require an investment. And a worthy one at that. They change the outlook of your home bringing class and a sense of coziness to your domain. So, their high prices are definitely worth it.

How to Draw Up A Plan for A Fireplace or Firepit?

It’s good to have a plan beforehand so you can picture what you are about to build. Start with taking measurements of the place you want your fireplace/firepit to be. Once you have an estimate of the boundary, take a piece of paper and draw up the fireplace, scaling it down. Remember to include a key for the measurement scale so that you don’t forget later. 

If you want to go the extra mile, there is software online that you can use like the CAD Pro to make a 3D model of your fireplace. Fair warning though, this is a bit complex if you don’t have experience using such software. And to be very honest, it’s unnecessary and you won’t find much use in spending all that time making a perfect design.

A simple sketch is usually enough. If you have access to it, you can get a professional’s opinion or just ask someone who has built their fireplace before. They will be able to tell you if your plan needs any changes.

Does an Outdoor Fireplace Need A Flue Liner?

Though this depends on the type of design you are using for your outdoor fireplace, the answer is no, a flue isn’t a necessity. Outdoor fireplaces usually have a large opening to their chimneys, and they don’t heat up a lot. So, a flue liner isn’t necessary.

This isn’t to say that you can’t use one though. Flue liners are great for trapping carbon monoxide and smoke and keep them out of houses. They are essential for indoor fireplaces. But for an outside fireplace, you can skip it if you want and get it if you want. It depends on your preference and the particular design of your fireplace chimney.

Do You Need Fire Brick for An Outdoor Fireplace?

Yes, you do need a firebrick for an outdoor fireplace. Firebricks are meant to contain the heat and insulate the inside of the fireplace so that the outside does not heat up. You will be able to touch a properly built fireplace on the outside and it should feel cool. 

People even mount televisions and speakers on fireplaces, so the outside edges cannot be hot. Line the inside of your fireplace with firebricks, no matter what material you are building the rest of the fireplace with. It looks good and is functional as well. Otherwise, the heat might seep out and even cause your blocks to crack.

What Can I Use Instead of Firebrick?

There are a few alternatives to firebrick if you don’t want to use them for some reason. These include a sandstone-like material called Ankara, which is found in Indonesia, regular sandstone, soapstone, and old red clay solids. 

All of these can be used instead of firebricks as they are very resistant to high temperatures and provide great insulation. Red bricks are also a great option, as they have similar heat resistance and are cheaper. You can easily buy them at local hardware stores or from a masonry store. You can also recycle them from old projects. If you are on a tight budget, red bricks can be a good alternative to firebricks.

Will Red Bricks Explode in A Fire Pit?

Red bricks have very high heat resistance similar to that of firebricks. Meaning they can withstand a lot of heat. So, they can be used in a fire pit as well, and it is unlikely that they will explode. 

However, as red bricks are very porous and can trap water inside, explosions might happen even if the chances are very low. The water trapped inside the bricks turns to steam in the heat and can cause enough pressure to build up to cause an explosion. So be careful and try not to build too large or too hot fires, as this can cause the red brick to pop, crack or even explode.

Should I Put Sand in The Bottom of My Fire Pit?

The matter of sand at the bottom of a fire pit comes down to preference. Sand helps dissipate the direct heat of the fire and prevents the metal from burning through. This can happen over time if certain areas of the metal get too much-concentrated heat. 

But sand can also restrict airflow in certain types of fire pits, depending on the design. This can prevent the fire from building easily. And if you are planning to use the wood ash from the fire later on for gardening purposes, adding sand might not be a great idea. So, it all comes down to personal preference.

How Do You Build A Simple Outdoor Fireplace? 

The simplest way to build an outdoor fireplace is to buy a DIY outdoor fireplace kit. These kits come with everything you might need and detailed instructions on how to set up your fireplace. This will save you the hassle of going out and buying everything for yourself. 

Check your local hardware store or just search up a local website online to get your fireplace kit delivered to your doorstep. They usually have helplines and experts to aid you if you have any questions and require guidance. Just read the instructions and get to work!

Look at the bottom of this article for a list of suggested companies in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and Europe, which you may want to contact and research before attempting this task on your own, depending on your capabilities and resources. There are numerous alternatives that may be less expensive and more cost-effective in the long run.

But if you are looking to build one from scratch here is a basic step-by-step outline of what you need to do to build your fireplace.

Step 1: The Foundation

Now that you have a clear idea of what you want, the first step in building your own fireplace is to lay the foundation. For this, you will need a standard concrete mix of about eight parts builder’s mix to one-part cement.

The measurements are going to vary according to your fireplace size. Place a steel mesh inside the foundation while it’s wet, for reinforcement.

Step 2: Concrete Base

The next step is to lay at least 8 inches of large concrete blocks on top of the foundation. This is what the firebox will stand on. Once the foundation has dried, just place the concrete on top.

There is no need to use mortar if you don’t want to. The weight of the concrete is enough to stabilize it. You can use rubble or rocks to fill in the gaps.

Step 3: The Firebox

This is the most important part of the fireplace, as this is where the fire will be. One wrong move and the smoke will rise into your face and not up the chimney. So be very careful while building the firebox.

This is the time to bring out your firebricks. Lay your firebricks layer on top of the concrete, using mortar. Then using your pier blocks start building up the edges of the firebox. Stack up your firebricks slightly slanted, so that the opening is wider than the back and mortar them into place.

You can choose to slant the back as well, for better luck with downdrafts. However, it should work fine even without it. You can use both concrete or red bricks for the outside edge.

Step 4: Arch Opening

Using scrap wood, you can make a form to make the arch opening that you see in traditional fireplaces. Use a mortar and cut bricks to line the top of the arch and leave it to dry for a couple of days.

Once it has dried, take out the wood and your arch should stand on its own. Cover the rest of the firebox with red brick too, if you haven’t already.

Step 5: Sloping up the Firebox 

Use a piece of steel to support the fire bricks across the front. Then you should begin to slope the firebricks up to help draw smoke up the chimney pipe.

Your opening should be matching the size of your chimney pipe. Fill in any spaces with mortar and remaining firebricks. Then place the anchor plate on top.

Step 6: Attach the Chimney

Your chimney pipe should twist on easily on the anchor plate without any sealant. Then you mortar the plate into place and install the chimney. Seal any other edges you might need to, according to your design.

You don’t even need a separate chimney flue liner for a fireplace. You can choose to skip this step entirely and make the chimney entirely out of bricks.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

Now all that’s left is to cover the rest of the chimney with bricks or concrete or whatever you were using on the outside. You can choose to go slightly thinner on the chimney for a more rounded, arched look. Or you can just simply go straight up for easier work.

You can also add in different kinds of stone on the outside, instead of the bare brick look, if you are up for it. Different stones and tiles or even rubble to add to the theme of your home. The rest is up to you.

Fireplaces are very customizable, so you can choose to do whatever you want with them. This is just one of the basic ways to build one. You can use many different techniques and incorporate other items into your fireplace. You can use different kinds of materials for the build as well.

With certain DIY kits for instance you don’t even need mortar. Just a special kind of glue and the rest of the structure is held together by the weight of the concrete blocks. So, there are many different ways to go about building a fireplace.

You have to take your circumstances into account and see which one works best for you. It is best however to get opinions/help from a professional or just get a DIY kit for first-timers.

How to Build a Backyard Firepit? 

Making a firepit is much easier. It just depends on your design and the magnitude of your process. A simple fire pit is as easy as making a hole in the ground.

You are going to need cinder blocks to make the base of your fire pit. Score out the edges of the ground where you want your fire pit and try to level the edges as smooth as you can. The ground that the first layer of cinder blocks sit on needs to be extremely flat, as this can ruin the whole project.

Once you have smoothened the surface of the ground, start by placing your cinder blocks in a rectangle or square, according to your design. The blocks should line up exactly with each other and be completely level. Once you have that, just stack the outside edges with cinder blocks, until you have your desired height. Cover the top with rubble or with cinder caps.

And that’s it pretty much! You can cover the edges with small decorative rocks or use any kind of decoration you want. You can buy large metal bowls for your fire pit, or just use it as it. Fire pits are also very customizable and therefore there are many different ways to go about this project as well.

If you are interested in learning about a few event ideas to arrange centred on your firepit, I recommend that you check out this article.

Do I Need Consent for An Outdoor Fireplace?

Whether or not you will need consent or a permit to build an outdoor fireplace depends on where you live and what size your fireplace is. For example, if you are in New Zealand, as of August 2020, you won’t need consent to build an outdoor fireplace up to a height of 2.5 meters and a cooking area of 1 square meter. But if you cross this limit, you’ll need a permit.

So, it is best to speak to an expert about this or just search up your state laws online specific to where you live. These precautions are usually to avoid accidental fires or hazards to the area. So, make sure to get a permit if you need one, before attempting to build a fireplace in your backyard.

To learn more about having a fire in your backyard and the legalities of considering it, please click here. 

Alternatives to Fireplaces or Firepits

If fireplaces or fire pits aren’t good enough for you, you can also think of building your very own pizza oven in the backyard. It’s much easier than you think. Much like the fireplace or firepit, the most important part is the foundation.

Get a good level foundation, and then the rest is just stacking up a few red bricks and a couple of concrete layers. Stack up a few layers of red brick, kind of like you would build the firebox, with an opening on one side. Then place a large layer of concrete and repeat for a second layer.

The opening on the ground is where you will build your fire, and the opening at the top is where your pizza will go! And that’s it, a simple makeshift DIY pizza oven for that authentic stone oven taste.

You can also check out DIY grill stations, which are built similar to fireplaces but with a grill station built into the structure. These are all great ideas to spend more time outdoors, but still in the comfort of your own home.

Outdoor fireplace companies around the world

New Zealand based outdoor fireplace experts

AZTEC -FIRES

This is a business that began in Whakatane on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island and specializes in selling  DIY packages with easy-to-follow directions for fireplaces and pizza ovens. If you’re thinking of creating an outdoor fireplace, go to AZTEC-FIRES  ‘website, which has helpful PDF downloads no matter where you are in the world.

Custom Outdoor Fireplace
Custom Outdoor Fireplace photo by Photo 41841091 / Artistic © Jamie Hooper | Dreamstime.com

TRENDZ FIREPLACES

Specializing in all-inclusive, ready-to-install pre-cast premium style fireplaces and accessories such as cooking grills. This company also produces awesome pre-made fire pits. TRENDZ FIREPLACES  is a family-owned company based in Taranaki, New Zealand, that ships to Australia.

Stylish Fire Pit
Stylish Fireplace photo by https://www.twenty20.com/photos/

The United States / Canada based outdoor fireplace experts

WOODLAND DIRECT

One of the largest online e-commerce companies that focuses on fireplaces I would strongly recommend visiting the  WOODLAND DIRECT website to get a sense of what is available, as they provide expert advice on fireplace insulation and a wide range of products. BBQs, firepits and pizza ovens.

REGENCY-FIREPLACES 

If you’re looking for a more upscale gas fireplace and have the means, I recommend paying a visit to REGENCY-FIREPLACES They have been in operation in Canada since 1979 and provide a wide range of qualified technical experts.

Morden Fire Pit
Morden Fire Pit photo by https://www.twenty20.com/photos/

OUTDOOR PIZZA OVENS 

A local Canadian business focusing on pizza ovens but provides convenient connections and good tips worth visiting  OUTDOOR-PIZZA-OVENS for outdoor fireplace kits and outdoor custom kitchens.

ROMAN STONE HARDSCAPE

If you want to do it yourself, this business in the United States specialized in brick fireplaces is for you; this company has tutorials, instructional links, and so much more. You can purchase kits from them directly and get tips on laying building bricks. Consult ROMAN-STONE HARDSCAPE to establish the groundwork for a successful fireplace, regardless of whether you want to purchase a kit or not.

 

Backyard Patio Fireplace
Backyard Patio Fireplace https://www.twenty20.com/photos/

PATIO & PIZZA

This company was founded in Canada and offers a variety of products, including fireplaces, fire pits, and pizza ovens. The website can assist with your research into an installation in the form of blogs, videos, an amazing place to visit  PATIO & PIZZA with a fantastic price range on DIY outdoor fireplace packages.

Europe Based Outdoor Fireplace Experts

 BD DESIGN

Unique artistic sculptural fireplace For customers in Europe, this enterprise has several modern choices. It is a London-based company created and exclusively operated by Cathy Azria Burkeman, a French sculptor and designer. While this is not a mass-production business, but it is worth looking into BD DESIGN if you want an innovative fireplace for your backyard.

 

sphere.modern,design
Sphere. modern, design Fireplace photo by https://www.twenty20.com/photos/

STOVES ARE US

This company delivers high-quality heating solutions and is based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, UK. If you’re looking for a fireplace, a fire pit, or other heating solutions, STOVES ARE US has several awards for outstanding service.

URBAN FIRES

Not only does this company provide designer fireplaces and firepits, but even offers incredible outdoor kitchens with a more sophisticated line of fireplaces. Visit URBAN FIRES and browse their website’s gallery for inspiration.

Handy DIY Site New Zealand  

MITRE 10

You might find it useful to visit the MITRE 10 website to assist with the building of a firepit. This is our large DIY department store chain in New Zealand that provides guidance and suggestions on a wide range of DIY ventures

Conclusion

A backyard fire attraction can be a great way to spice up your daily lives and incorporate a fun outdoor activity to do in the comfort of your own backyard. It’s a great way to spend time with family, friends, and guests alike.

With this guide, you now know everything about how to build a backyard fireplace or firepit! Impress everyone at the next barbeque party with your skills.

4 thoughts on “How to Build a Backyard Fireplace or Fire-pit”

  1. Being South African, we have always had an outdoor fireplace, actually it’s been two on occasion. So this is great to find this post on how to build a backyard fireplace. We have an outdoor barbecue area (or braai as it is called here) and also an outdoor fire pit (known as a lapa here) where everybody can sit around the fire, warming their feet, roasting marshmallows and enjoy the outdoors even when it is cold

    Reply
    • Thank You, LineCowley.  I have a friend who built his own, and I’ve helped him as well as built a rocket oven brick fireplace. At my current address, we have a propane fire pit. I really fascinated to hear another name, Braai. Thank you for the insightful input.

      J W RIDDELL
      THE FUN HUB 

      Reply
  2. Fantastic. I would love to have a fireplace in my backyard but daresay it’s too small.  However, my father has an allotment and a very big garden, he’s always burning, building and tinkering in the garden. He would love this.  Thanks for taking the time to layout out the design, foundations for building a backyard fireplace, it’s all here, thanks

    Reply
    • Thank you for your feedback, Jamila. Perhaps a propane mini firepit might be a better choice for your small backyard. You could help your Dad out with it, have an excellent central point for family meetups, and maybe have a winter warm-up party. Ethier way, a firepit is an awesome investment for family fun at home.

      Reply

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