How to Build a Fire Pit

I’m sure all of you are sitting there thinking to yourself, “Self, don’t read this.  It’s a waste of time.  It’s stupid easy to build a fire pit.”

And you’d be right.

However, there’s one tip I have to offer that might save you some headaches.  Besides, I took pictures of the build process damnit… so I have to post them on the internet.

Pictures like this one:


When we moved out here, the first “project” I finished during our inaugural weekend after it was too dark and we were too exhausted to carry one more box… was to drag some random rocks out of our woods, circle them up in the back yard, scavenge some limbs, wait until dark, crack open a beer, and light up a fire.

That first fire was glorious… and that primitive stone circle saw a lot of use.

But, it was something else to mow around.  Plus, you need to know my least favorite chore is weed-whacking.  I have a really nice Stihl string trimmer I’m thankful to have, but I don’t enjoy the work.

So just a couple weeks after our Version 1 of a firepit was born, and for much of its life, that stone circle would be more overgrown than a 1980’s centerfold and always badly in need of a trim.


Last week I was walking through the big box store and saw these retaining wall bricks on sale for $0.99 each.  Along with those, I bought these 2″ tall 12″ x 12″ patio stones.  Ready to go, I ironically began building my fire pit on the hottest day of the summer.

My primary goal was to have something with a sunken stone border around my ring I could mow over, to keep the grass under control.

Yep, obvious to many I’m sure.  But in case it’s not to you – this is the only way to go.

I made sure the new fire pit would be a safe distance from the house and within convenient vicinity to our firewood, threw all my materials in the general area, ignored the old unused satellite dish I cut out of the ground earlier that morning (and is now in the hands of some eccentric CraigsLister)… and got to work.


How to Build Exactly This Fire Pit:

  • Purchase or otherwise source thirty-three retaining wall bricks, twelve 12″x12″x2″  patio stones, and three bags of pea gravel.
  • Dig a square hole 52″x52″ at least 2-3″ deep.
  • Pour pea gravel in the hole, but don’t fill it.
  • Level the gravel as much as possible.
  • Place your patio stones in the hole, creating a 4’x4′ border.  You want these stones to be even with your yard, or just slightly above it so your mower will roll right over them, preventing grass from cozying and then growing right up next to the retaining wall bricks.

HoleYeah, I was just measuring here and hadn’t put down the gravel yet.

  • Lay out eleven retaining wall bricks in a circle, three layers tall.  Stagger the upper layers so the bricks cover the gaps in the layer below it.
  • Work around any obstacles or challenges due to the lay of the land.



  • Have your safety foreman check for proper depth.


  • Wait until dark.
  • Crack open a beer.
  • Avoid eye contact with your neglected weed whacker.


Question of the Day: What’s your least favorite chore?  Did I mention I hate weed whacking?  Did I mention we have a metric crap ton of split rail fence around our place?  I’m (too) slowly establishing wildflowers and other other stuff under the fence to cut down on trimming time.

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22 comments on “How to Build a Fire Pit
  1. Ann says:

    So cool! I might lobby my hubs and inlaws to build one of these at our cottage as we are currently fire-less. Added benefit if your sunken design might be that you could cover it and make it into an outdoor oven?
    Ann recently posted…Bee-ing healthy again — Bee Pollen Oat SquaresMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      You know, I forgot to mention in the post that another reason for wanting a taller, better built fire pit like this is it will make a great wind break when using my cast iron dutch oven outside.

      Previously I’d pile up the old stone circle rocks to make a bit of a wall, but only had enough to do it on the windward (leeward?) side. Which one means to block the wind? 🙂

    • Mike says:

      I still need to scrounge a grate from somewhere so we can cook over the top of the fire’s coals.

  2. Penny says:

    Good timing. I was just about to go buy material to build a fire pit. I think your design will be much easier than what I was planning. Thanks!

  3. Aly says:

    It looks great! Nice design.
    Aly recently posted…Herb and Green Onion BreadMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Aly. Do you guys have a fire pit out there? Think how nice those 3AM feedings would be if you had a relaxing flicker to gaze into and some s’mores.

  4. That looks great! I especially love the picture of your kiddo “helping” – mine are the same way. It takes three times longer to do anything with them, but they learn so much (and feel so helpful) that I have to include them!
    Heidi @ Pint Size Farm recently posted…Polenta with Kale and Portebella Mushrooms RecipeMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      I love having him help out, and he loves it more. He has his own set of tools and is now at the age (almost three) that he can sometimes actually do some things – “Can you hand daddy the screw driver?”

  5. Vickie says:

    I had to smile when I saw the pictures of your helper. It looks like he is just absolutely spent, laying over the blocks! How hard did you work that poor boy! 😀 Thanks for making me smile today.
    Oh yeah – the fire pit looks great! My brother-in-law used to cook the best chicken and dumplings in his cast iron dutch oven. I would always bring the ingredients and then beg him to make it every time we went camping together. Do you have a special recipe you cook in the dutch oven in the fire pit?
    Vickie recently posted…Chinese Plum SauceMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Unfortunately I don’t have enough experience to have special recipes yet. I’d throw something in the outside dutch oven maybe once a month, but it’s been less than that this summer.

      This is far from special, not the healthiest thing in the world, but is so easy… it seems the favorite D.O. concoction is a fruit cobbler, with the main ingredient being apples or peaches out of a can. 🙂

  6. Valerie says:

    Ha ha love the pic of the little one. How about coming to build a fire pit for me?

    Thanks for sharing at Green Thumb Thursday.


    Cottage Making Mommy

  7. James Nasium says:

    So here is what I would add after doing this:

    Don’t be shy about leaving space between the bricks on the first layer it helps to let the coals. Heck possibly the second layer too. This will.

    Make sure you level as you go along and keep things level. I build a deck with my cousin Vinny last summer and he taught me to be anal about those details.

    Buy an extra bag of pea gravel so that you can backfill around your foundation. Perhaps with how deep I dug I dug too deep but the slope I was working on required additional leveling.

    It came out great – cheap project that I will get a lot of use out of. Let me know if you find a grate.

  8. Awesome post Mike! I wanted to build a fire pit, but my husband was all “we have low branched pines everywhere!” He worries too much.

    Anyways, I wanted to let you know that you are my Featured Post for Green Thumb Thursday. I wrote something just for you, so be sure to swing by and check it out.
    Jessica | The 104 Homestead recently posted…Miracle MarigoldsMy Profile

  9. Nina says:

    I found an old grill on curb waiting for garbage pick up & snagged the grate off it. No shame either😉
    Power washed & oiled it so no rust & wahla

  10. John Dean says:

    This is such a great design, I like it. I found this post pretty innovative and I like to keep this article to create a fire pit project in my backyard.

  11. Wow, awesome post Mike! I wanted to build a fire pit as well.

  12. I like the look of your fire pit. Regardless of whether you garden or not, you can use a fire pit to provide a focal point in your outdoor space. You can create this focal point by strategically placing other pieces of furniture such as plants, garden art, torches, and others around your fire pit. Fire pit art is beautiful when done right.

    Cheers then.
    Isabelle Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of hot peppersMy Profile

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