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How to build a fire pit

24 October 2018

Do you dream of cosy evenings around a fire pit, watching the flames dance as you chat late into the night? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to toast marshmallows around the campfire with your kids. Or host intimate bonfire nights at home?

Building your own fire pit means you can do all of these things.

Here, we’ll talk you through the basics of fire pit design, and give you some ideas - including portable fire pits, quick and easy tutorials, and more permanent models landscaped into your garden.

What’s your dream?

wine glass in light of fire pit
What does your fire pit dream look like?
Image: SVSimagery

Start with the vision you have for your fire pit. Will it impress everyone with its beauty? Will it warm guests on a cool evening and, if so, how many guests? Will it double as a barbecue? Will it do all of these things?

Once you know what you want your fire pit to do, you can start thinking about size, location, shape and style.

How big should it be?

large stone firepit
You’ll need plenty of space to accommodate a large fire pit like this one.
Image: Neil Podoll

Big isn’t always best. Build a whopping fire pit and the resulting blaze will be mighty hot. A big fire pit might not create the effect you’re after - you’ll have to sit further away from the flames and you won’t be able to chat over the fire.

A smaller fire creates a more intimate, cosy atmosphere. As a guide, aim for a fire pit with an inside diameter of around 60-100cm (2-3’).

Next, determine the best height for your fire pit - do you want to sink it into the ground, raise it up to table height, or have it somewhere in between?

If you want to cook on your fire pit, think about how many people the grill needs to cater for - perhaps measure your current barbecue as a guide.

Lastly, how much space have you got to spare in your garden? Remember to factor in room for seating at a comfortable distance from the flames. You’ll also want a log store nearby so that it’s easy to keep the fire burning.

What shape and style do you want?

classic circular firepit
Classic fire pits are circular.
Image: Sarah Hart Morgan

Circle, rectangle or square? Traditional or contemporary? Sleek or rustic? What shape and style of fire pit would you prefer? The aesthetics of your fire pit will determine the materials, skills and time required to build it.

For inspiration, check out these how-to guides from top DIY bloggers:

1. Rectangular fire pit tutorial

kezzabeth's rendered rectangular firepit
Kerry’s rendered rectangular fire pit is on trend and easy to build.
Image: Kezzabeth

Kerry of Kezzabeth created this stunning fire pit using engineered bricks, render and masonry paint. With a table top to keep the pit dry in wetter months, and a removable grill, it’s a really versatile addition to her garden.

Kerry’s easy-to-follow tutorial is here. Using donated bricks and low-cost materials, her overall outlay came to a tiny £24!

What’s more, Kerry’s rectangular shape meant she didn’t need to cut any bricks - making the build quick and easy to achieve.

2. Round fire pit tutorial

metal firepit bowl in brick surround
Nadine designed her fire pit around a pre-made fire bowl.
Image: Juggle Mum

Nadine Hill of Juggle Mum sourced a fire pit bowl online and designed her structure around it. Her builder husband created the curve by splitting bricks in half to get the right return. The same effect could be created using tapered wall blocks or stones.

The fire pit bowl sits on top of the structure and creates a great focal point for the family as they enjoy their outdoor fire.

This build requires a little more time and know-how to get right, but the effect is superb.

3. Portable fire pit or chimenea

waltons campeche firepit
Walton’s Campeche Steel Fire Pit (£49.99) turns into a barbecue in seconds
Image: Waltons

Maybe you’d like a fire pit that’s a little more flexible and portable? With a readymade fire pit or chimenea you can have an outdoor fire whenever and wherever you like.

For smaller gardens, a fire basket can be a better option, as they take up less horizontal space. Families with young children might prefer a chimenea, as the fire is contained and the smoke channelled through the chimney and away from little eyes.

4. Upcycled washing machine drum tutorial

upcycled washing machine drum firepit
An old washing-machine drum makes a great upcycled fire pit.
Image:
The Newhouse Family

If you’d like a portable fire pit, but are keen to make your own, try upcycling. Oil drums, air cylinders and washing-machine drums can all be converted into good fire pits.

Hazel of The Newhouse Family Blog converted an old, battered washing machine into this beautiful fire pit. All it took was some brute force and a sledge hammer to free the drum.

Keep safe

safely cooking on firepit
Keep children safe around the fire.
Image: akvals

We all know fire must be treated with respect. And there are a few safety considerations to follow when installing a fire pit in your garden.

  • Never use wet rocks or stones to build a fire pit. They can explode and injure people.
  • Position the fire pit well away from wooden structures - like fences, bench seating, decking, trees, and overhanging branches.
  • Keep fires under control by building them in proportion to the size of your fire pit.
  • Never leave children unattended around a fire.
  • Lastly, always have a fire extinguisher or bucket of water nearby.

We hope you feel inspired to bring a fire pit into your garden. Send us a photo of your completed project and let us know if you come up with a new design that we can share.

Lead image: Shutterstock

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