How to Build A Fire Pit – The Tough Questions?

simple in ground fire pit
simple in ground fire pit photo by 70676731 © Aneta Pancerz | Dreamstime.com

Whether it’s a barbecue or a get-together, it feels incomplete if there’s not a fire pit in the backyard. The joys of sitting by the fire on a cold winter night and listening to horror stories are truly unmatched. But do you know how to build a fire pit in the ground for that ultimate winter warm-up or Hawaiian luau backyard party?

Building a fire pit doesn’t take much if you have the right tools and proper determination. The first precondition is to have enough room (Generally 12″ + 32 feet on all sides) for the fire pit in your backyard. Once you meet that criteria, the rest is as easy as it gets. 

To help you out further, this article contains some well-researched responses to the trickiest fire pit questions on the internet. Please look into them to find out more about a fire pit’s proper construction and maintenance.

How to Build A Fire Pit in The Ground?

Depending on the design, the size and depth of a fire pit will continue to vary. Here’s a step-by-step guide you can follow to know about the building procedure of fire pits in general.

Step 1: Prepare the Workstation

Needless to say, that you need proper tools to build anything no matter what it is. And when it comes to a fire pit, the simple tools in your workshop will do the trick. You don’t have to invest in any fancy equipment.

Here’s what you might need for building an in-ground fire pit in the backyard:

  • Marker/Chalk
  • Hose/Bucket (for water)
  • Flathead shovel
  • Construction adhesive
  • Flagstones/Concrete blocks
  • Pickaxe
  • Spirit level
  • Rubber mallet
  • Rocks
  • Soap (or anything waterproof)
  • Electrical cord (with a grounded plug)

Step 2: Mark the Space

Considering how spacious your backyard is and how wide a fire pit you want, mark out the proper spacing area. Mark or set the stones in a circular pattern for proper airflow.

Make sure that there’s at least a 12″ clearance on all sides of the fire pit. Again, remove any flammable objects within 32 feet around the circumference. Low-hanging trees or wires are a huge no-no as well.

Step 3: Dig the Selected Area

Use the sharp end to cut out a specific digging area in the ground according to those markings you made. This corresponds to the outermost layer/edge of your fire pit.

Remember to keep the depth at least one inch more than the stones you’re using. If it’s too shallow, the fire will burn right off.

Step 4: Level the Stones

Once you’ve dug out the fire pit and placed the bottom layer of stones, it’s time to level them. Levelling is important because if the bottom stones aren’t flat and level, the overall construction will get weak from the inside.

Measure the widest part of the construction. If any parts aren’t level, use a rubber mallet to hit the stones softly. The hitting will make the dirt underneath more compact and help the stones to set in nicely.

Step 5: Give the Final Touches

Once your base is levelled, gather the rest of the stones and layer them up one by one. You can use adhesive or wet cement to make sure they stick together. Remember to brush off the extra dust and debris every time you finish a layer before moving on to the next.

When the adhesive is firm enough, use the extra dirt to make the edges more compact and firmer. And wait at least a day or two before starting a fire in your brand new in-ground fire pit. The adhesive or cement needs time to settle down nicely and properly.

Can I Dig A Hole for A Fire Pit?

Actually, digging holes is exactly how most makeshift fire pits come into existence. You can use a shovel to dig a hole for a fire pit.

Furthermore, you can also go for clamshell buckets and excavators for more efficient digging. They dig much faster than mere shovels. Also, since they dig proportionately, the soil doesn’t compact over time either.

How Do You Prepare the Ground for A Fire Pit?

While building a fire pit, choose a ground that’s flat and firm. Rocky or uneven spaces cannot provide proper drainage or stability.

Here are a few tips on preparing the ground for a fire pit:

  • Clear all sorts of dirt and debris from the area
  • Use a spade or shovel to loosen the soil
  • Dig down to bedrock if possible
  • Add gravels on the base for proper drainage
  • For long term usage, use a concrete mixture
  • Use fire-safe rocks like lava rocks for the base
  • Remove all dry roots from the soil mixture
  • Use a mortar or blunt end of a shovel to press down on the soil for better stability.

What Is the Best Size for A Fire Pit?

It’s best to keep the size of a fire pit between 36 to 44 inches within diameter. This size range is perfect for building a safe fire circle that doesn’t spread over nearby surfaces.

If you want a seating area around the fire, make sure to keep at least 12-18 inches of space outside the fire. Again, keep the fire away from any hanging trees, clothes, powerlines, etc., especially if they are flammable.

How Deep Should an Inground Fire Pit Be?

Generally, about 12 inches of depth is considered a standard for normal fire pits. But if you’re looking to use the fire pit as a make-shift grill as well, you can adjust the depth accordingly.

Again, the wood or logs you burn in the fire pit plays an important role in choosing the depth. The length of the logs should never exceed the depth of the fire pit. If that happens, the fire sparks will start to fly all over the place.

What Do You Put in The Bottom of a Fire Pit?

The bottom constitutes the base of a fire pit. So, it needs to be sturdy and stable to handle all the firepower.

Put something porous like sand on top of the base once you have arranged all the stones. The stones will keep the pit insulated from the ground. And the porous sand will ensure proper drainage in case of water overflow.

Can You Build A Fire Pit on Dirt?

It’s not a wise idea to construct a fire pit directly on the dirt. Dirt-filled soil doesn’t have much intermolecular stability to support enough weight.

So, if you build a fire pit on dirt, it will corrode or sink into the ground easily. That’s why paving stones or hard-core bricks are a much better option than dirt and debris.

What Rocks Explode in The Fire?

Some rocks have water or hollow space trapped within themselves. When these rocks are exposed to extreme heat, they can explode after cracking.

For example – limestone, agate, pumice, obsidian, sandstone, quartz, shale, etc. Basically, while building a fire pit, stay as far from porous rocks as possible.

How Much Room Do You Need for A Fire Pit?

When it comes to a fire pit, it’s best to have a spacious backyard with an open enough surface. The risks of fire-related injuries increase exponentially if you try to build a fire pit in a compact backyard with zero room.

If you are building a fire pit for a gathering, it’s best to keep the pit at least 18×18 inches deep. Again, you have to keep 12″ from the outer edge as that’s the red zone while the fire’s burning. Go a little higher for extra security if you’re expecting toddlers in the gathering.

Is A Fire Pit Considered an Open Fire?

While a fire pit isn’t necessarily on the ground at all times, it’s considered an open fire in most cases. I guess you can decide it yourself by determining how deep your fire pit is.

If the pit’s comparatively closer to the surface, the fire can access the ground easily. It can spark the flammable objects in the near distance and spread the sparks over by the wind. If there’s such a possibility, then that particular fire pit is most definitely an open fire.

Conclusion

So, now you know how to build a fire pit. It turns out, if you’re handy with the mechanical tools, such a project shouldn’t even break a sweat for you. However, don’t forget to exercise proper precautions in all the excitement.

Safety is of utmost importance. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck

2 thoughts on “How to Build A Fire Pit – The Tough Questions?”

  1. I like to do these things myself. But I had no idea where to start building my fire pit. I will start by preparing the ground. I would like to dig one that has a diameter of 40 inches. I already have some gravels so I already have what I will put on the  base. Having proper drainage is important.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Abel. Making sure you place the stones evenly and measure your hole in alignment with bricks or other structures is important to make it more efficient so heat doesn’t escape from an area’s edges. I hope this project goes well!

      Many Blessings

      J W RIDDELL – THE FUN HUB

      Reply

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