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Enhance Your Outdoor Space With A DIY Fire Pit

Enhance Your Outdoor Space With A DIY Fire Pit

Home Sweet Home is presented by The Washington State Housing Finance Commission

Creating an outdoor living space is more than a trend. It provides a place to enjoy spending time outdoors with family and friends, and the money spent will likely increase your home value. An outdoor fire pit offers a cozy centerpiece for your yard and allows it to be used even in colder seasons. And, you don’t have to be a professional to build one! Just follow these simple steps, and you’ll be roasting marshmallows in no time.

Check on Regulations

Before you get started, check your local government ordinances and home association for any restrictions on fire pits. Guidelines may include size restrictions, including a fire-resistant surface area, distance from property lines and structures, supervision rules, and the types of materials you’re allowed to burn. It’s also a good idea to see if your home insurance requires disclosure of a fire pit. 

Choose the Location

Use the regulatory guidelines in selecting the location for your fire pit, so it is the proper distance from your home and property lines. You’ll also want to consider factors such as wind direction and where you have enough space for the pit, seating, and other additions. Avoid areas with low-hanging trees or near dry brush if you live in a drought-prone area.  

Decide on a Design

Here are the main choices when designing a DIY fire pit:

  • The shape. Most pits are circular or square but can be rectangular as well. 
  •  The level. Will your fire pit be in-ground or built on the surface?
  •  Build it or fabricate it? If you build it, you’ll most likely use bricks or stone to create the retaining walls. The other option is to use recycled materials such as a planter pot, old tire, pond insert, or dryer drum as the container.
Photo: Andriy Bezuglov via 123RF

Select your Materials and Gather Tools

Many options are available, so research what will work best for your project. Materials and tools needed will include:

  • Surface area materials (dirt, gravel, sand, or patio tiles)
  • Fire pit wall materials (retaining wall bricks, pavers, cement bricks, poured cement, or recycled materials, plus adhesive)
  • Tools (shovel, tamper, tape measurer, cement scraper). 

You may also want to use lava rocks to raise the height of your fire or protect any liner you are using from rusting. Use metal fire pit rings for additional shaping and fire protection. Common ring materials include steel, cast iron, or copper. 

Porous rocks that soak in moisture and that may shatter when heated should be avoided. These include river rocks, pumice, limestone, and sandstone. 

Prepare the Area

Clear the area around your chosen location and remove any debris or vegetation that could catch fire. Remove any sod, especially in dry areas, and create a ring around the fire pit with non-flammable material such as dirt, gravel, or patio pavers. Six to seven feet in all directions from the fire pit is a recommended distance to reduce the risk of fire outside of the pit and to provide enough space for seating. 

Next, use a tape measure, the steel ring, or the building materials laid out to outline the shape of the fire pit. The ideal size for your fire pit is between 36 and 44 inches wide, including the wall’s width. Finally, level out the fire pit area or dig the hole if you are building an in-ground pit. 

Build the Fire Pit

How you build your fire pit will depend on your materials. You will generally line the pit by laying down bricks or stone, staggering the joints. You may need to cut some to get your desired size and shape. A fire pit height of 12 to 14 inches allows guests to prop their feet on it while seated or 18 to 20 inches tall is preferable for sitting on the edge of the pit. Once you have the shape and height, apply construction adhesive to keep materials together. Then add additional materials such as lava rocks or an edging to the pit. 

Now you are ready to build the first fire in your fire pit. Be sure to use dry wood to avoid creating too much smoke, supervise the fire at all times, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. Don’t forget the s’more ingredients and enjoy your DIY backyard fire pit!

Home Sweet Home is brought to you by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission’s Washington Homeowner Assistance Fund. The Homeowners Assistance Fund helps homeowners who have fallen on hard times because of the pandemic. Call 1-877-894-4663 for more information on how they can help.