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Make a Backyard Bonfire Pit: DIY Guide to Build the Perfect Firepit (2023)

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how to make a bonfire pitYou’re itchin’ to build a fire pit to bring friends ‘n family together, but aren’t sure where to start. I get it, building a fire pit seems complicated but it don’t have to be. This guide’s got ya covered with tips from a landscape pro who knows fire pits like the back of his hand.

We’ll walk ya through pickin’ the perfect spot and materials so you can build a backyard bonfire pit that’s safe, cozy, and fun for all in less than a day. And I’ll share insider tricks so your DIY fire pit feels like it was built by a pro, not an amateur.

Follow along, and you’ll be hosting memorable bonfires before ya know it. But be sure to check local codes first – safety comes first when building a fire pit.

Let’s get to it!

Key Takeaways

  • Follow the code for sizing and materials.
  • Use nonflammable and heat-resistant materials.
  • Remove grass and mark the layout before digging.
  • Locate the pit at least 15 feet from structures and trees.

Select Location and Layout

Select Location and Layout
When laying out your bonfire pit, be sure to mark a circle at least 15 feet from any structures on nice, flat ground. This safe distance helps prevent accidental spreading of sparks or embers. Determine the size of your pit based on the diameter of a metal fire ring you plan to use.

For a 3-4 foot diameter ring, mark a 6-7 foot circle. Use sticks, rope, or spray paint to outline the full pit on level terrain. Before deciding on the site, check for overhead branches or power lines. Careful planning of the location and layout ahead of time ensures that your new gathering spot brings warmth and connection for years to come, without endangering your home.

Mark and Prepare the Fire Pit Site

Mark and Prepare the Fire Pit Site
Before you start digging, you’ll want to choose the perfect spot for your new fire pit. Make sure to select a central location with enough clearance from structures and vegetation, taking into account prevailing winds.

Then mark off a circle and remove any grass or roots from the area where you’ll dig the foundation. Once the location is prepped, you can start building up the fire pit with gravel, sand, and blocks according to code.

Having the right site will ensure you can enjoy cozy backyard fires for years to come.

Fire Pit Location

Keep that new pit at least 15 feet from any structures, neighbor. Position it on flat, level ground with no dugout area or hole, so the flames stay a safe distance from houses or trees. Make sure the ring sits entirely on nonflammable surfaces like gravel, concrete, or brick.

Having an excavated area under part of the metal ring can lead to dangerous pit fires spreading underground. Careful planning keeps everyone comfortable while you share stories around the warmth.

Fire Pit Seating

Place chairs around the fire pit or build benches for gathering ’round the flames.

  1. Use heavy paving stones or bricks to make benches.
  2. Place square stepping stones around the pit for additional seating.
  3. Fill bags with landscaping stones to create sturdy, movable seats.

Arranging seating around the fire invites people to come together and connect. Sturdy, well-placed seating enhances the coziness and enjoyment of backyard bonfires.

Decide on Size and Materials

Decide on Size and Materials
Hi there! When planning your new fire pit, the first things to decide are the size and materials. Take into account how much space you have available in your yard or patio. Will you use a pre-fabricated steel fire ring or build your own structure from landscape blocks? Consider aesthetics and how the fire pit will coordinate with hardscapes.

Popular options for DIY construction are tumbled landscape wall blocks or concrete retaining wall blocks. Stack them in layers, staggering the seams. Leave space for a gravel base for drainage. Take care to follow safety codes for minimum clearance distances when determining the layout.

With smart planning upfront, you’ll have a cozy backyard fire pit you can enjoy for years.

How Much Space Do You Have?

Measure your available backyard space first before deciding on the fire pit dimensions. Take into account proximity to structures, trees, and seating areas. A smaller 3-4 foot diameter fire pit is suitable for most suburban yards.

For larger gatherings, consider a 5-6 foot diameter pit. Keep at least 10 feet clearance from buildings.

Are You Using a Fire Pit Ring?

Since you love gathering with friends, grab that durable steel fire pit ring and transform your backyard into a cozy escape. With that sturdy ring secured in place, you can build up the pit walls around it using landscape blocks or bricks.

Make sure to add a gravel base beneath for drainage. Stack the blocks in offset layers and fill the gaps with mortar. The shape of the metal liner will allow you to easily achieve the perfect round pit.

With some elbow grease, you’ll have a welcoming backyard bonfire pit ready for memories.

What Stone to Use for Fire Pit?

Stack the fire pit with smooth river rocks for a natural look.

  • A gravel base provides drainage.
  • Retaining wall stones give stability.
  • Fireplace bricks withstand heat.
  • Paver bricks offer uniformity.
  • Concrete pavers are long-lasting.

Choose materials mindful of aesthetics, safety, and longevity. Create a cozy gathering place to enjoy with loved ones.

Tumbled Wall Block

Y’oughta select those weathered blocks for encircling the flames ’cause their aged look’ll complement the cozy gatherings.

Material Shape Bonding Method
Tumbled wall block Irregular Construction adhesive between layers
Natural stone slab Rectangle Mortar between layers
Concrete paver Square Joint sand between pavers

Stacking irregular tumbled wall blocks in offset layers bonded with a flexible construction adhesive creates an organic, natural stone look for the pit surround that welcomes folk in, while keeping the fire safely contained.

Retaining Wall Blocks

You’d stack retaining wall blocks in layers around the fire pit’s perimeter to hold back the earth. Interlock the paving stones tightly and stagger the seams between rows. Choose a heavy-duty DIY stone able to withstand heavy rain.

Place the metal ring on a layer of blocks, then continue stacking up the stone perimeter.

Prep the Ground for DIY Stone Fire Pit

Prep the Ground for DIY Stone Fire Pit
Before you start building that cozy stone fire pit in the backyard, you’ll need to properly prepare the ground beneath it. First, determine if you should put it directly on the grass or dig out a pit, then mark a layout and remove any grass or roots inside the circle.

Adding a gravel drainage base will prevent your DIY fire pit from sinking or becoming waterlogged after rain.

Should You Put a Fire Pit on Grass?

Don’t put the fire pit directly on the grass or it will damage the lawn. Instead, mark out a layout and dig down at least 6 inches into bare dirt. Completely remove grass roots from the designated circle. Prior to constructing the block walls, add a drainage base of pea gravel.

Firmly tamp down the gravel using a hand tamper. Stack rows of blocks, ensuring there is an inner diameter for small pavers.

Lay Out Your Pavers

Once you’ve staked the pattern, start setting those pavers inside the marked circle. Lay down a nice compacted gravel base first – this will give those pavers something solid to sit on. Then carefully place your concrete block pavers in the design you want. Dab some construction adhesive between them to hold them together.

Crushed gravel in the gaps will finish it off real nice. You should end up with a fine-looking fire pit surround in no time.

Dig Cut Line Into Grass for the Stone Fire Pit DIY

After carefully marking the layout, cut into the grass to create a clean edge for your stone fire pit. Using a sharp shovel, slice a circle about 6 inches deep into the grass, removing any roots or debris.

This cut line keeps the pit contained and defines a crisp border between the grass and gravel base. Ensure you dig deep enough to allow several inches of gravel for proper drainage. A clean, well-defined grass edge makes for a professional-looking finished fire pit.

Remove Grass

Haven’t you cleared out all the grass and roots inside the marked circle where you’ll build your stone fire pit?

  1. Dig down 6-8 inches.
  2. Remove all roots and plant material.
  3. Level the soil.
  4. Compact with a tamper.

Now you have a clean base ready for the first row of blocks that will become your backyard gathering place.

Add Drainage to Fire Pit

Add a gravel base to improve drainage for the fire pit. Dump stones like pea gravel or crushed rock to create a 4-inch deep foundation. Compact the gravel firmly and evenly using a hand tamper. This layer of drainage prevents the accumulation of groundwater beneath the fire pit blocks.

Allow it to absorb and filter through the soil. A proper gravel sub-base will keep your DIY fire pit dry and stable for countless gatherings around the flames.

Build the Fire Pit

Build the Fire Pit
You’re ready to start building your backyard bonfire pit, so let’s go over the key steps.

First, build the initial layer of fire-rated bricks or stones, making sure they’re level.

Next, stack subsequent layers, staggering the blocks and using mortar or adhesive between each row.

Once you’ve built the pit to the desired height, insert a steel fire ring to contain the wood and flames.

It’s important to put sand in the bottom under the first row of blocks, but avoid flammable materials like mulch or peat moss.

With proper preparation and materials, you’ll soon be enjoying cozy nights around the fire.

Build First Layer of Fire Pit Stones

Stack those stones sky-high on the base you just built, pal! Set that first row of concrete blocks right on the level gravel base you prepped. Stagger the blocks and check if they’re plumb. This sturdy first layer of interlocking blocks is key for building up the remaining circular courses.

Take your time to get that initial stability and round shape just right before stacking additional layers.

Finish Building Fire Pit and Add Ring

Let’s finish this fire pit so we can get cozy.

  • Layer of grass for drainage
  • Pit bowl inserted
  • Outside diameter marked clearly

Align the last blocks. Check dimensions. Add pea gravel base for stability. Insert prefabricated pit bowl, ensuring it sits flush with finished blocks. Surround with chairs to enjoy warmth and community. Safety first – follow local codes.

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

You’d cover the bottom of that fire pit with gravel to promote airflow and drainage.

Material Thickness Purpose
Gravel 4-6 inches Drainage
Sand 1-2 inches Level surface
Fire bricks or stones 2-3 inches Insulation

A gravel base allows proper drainage and airflow under the fire, while sand provides a level surface for the fire bricks. Fire bricks absorb and reflect heat to contain the fire. Proper construction ensures a safe and long-lasting pit.

What Should You Put in the Bottom of a Fire Pit?

Spread a layer of sand across the bottom before stacking your first row of blocks. This creates a hard layer to prevent weeds and grass from growing up through the pit. It also helps level your first row. Next, set your metal ring in place and fill inside with firebrick or pavers.

Apply construction adhesive between each outer block layer to bond them together. Stagger the blocks and tamp each layer flat as you build up the bonfire pit walls.

What Should You NOT Put in the Bottom of Your Fire Pit?

Don’t stack flammable materials under those blazing logs, or your fire pit will rage out of control.

  1. Leaves – They can ignite easily and burn out of control.
  2. Cardboard – Flames will quickly consume cardboard boxes.
  3. Newspaper – The paper will feed the fire uncontrollably.
  4. Dry grass – It’s a tinderbox waiting to ignite.

Instead, use non-flammable materials like gravel, sand, or concrete blocks to build up the base of your fire pit.

Take care to situate the pit away from structures, overhangs, and foliage. Follow local regulations and fire codes. With some common sense precautions, you can enjoy cozy evenings around the fire for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of permit or approval do I need for a backyard fire pit?

You’ll need to check with your city for any fire pit regulations. They often require permits and may have rules on placement, materials, and safety. For everyone’s protection, follow the guidelines. Then build your fire pit and enjoy backyard gatherings.

How far should the fire pit be from trees, fences, or other structures?

Keep the fire pit at least 15 feet from structures. Avoid placing it near trees, fences, or other combustibles. The greater the distance, the safer it becomes. Follow local fire codes for mandatory clearances.

Mind the surroundings and position it thoughtfully. Safety trumps convenience for peace of mind.

What is the best material to line the inside of the fire pit?

Consider firebrick or steel to line the inside. While wood burns beautifully, its unpredictable nature demands sturdier containment. Choose materials wisely for lasting safety, then relax confidently around the crackling flames.

Should I build an elevated fire pit or a ground-level one? What are the pros and cons?

Elevated lets you enjoy the flames at eye level and allows seating on all sides. However, it’s trickier to build, less stable, and you’ll need more materials. Ground level is simpler to make, safer, and you can sit on the ground around it.

But viewing the fire is not as immersive. Evaluate your DIY skills, budget, and goals before deciding which design fits you best.

How can I make my DIY fire pit smokeless? What design tricks help reduce smoke?

Install a chimney or vertical vent, use seasoned hardwoods only, let the fire get hot before adding more wood, don’t overload the pit, make sure there’s adequate airflow, and build your pit at least 15 feet from structures.

Avoid soft, wet woods that smolder and smoke heavily. Letting the flames establish before adding more wood is key to clean, smokeless burning.


According to statistics, over 70% of homeowners enjoy having an outdoor fire pit. When you’re ready to build your own backyard bonfire pit, remember to choose a safe location away from trees and structures.

Carefully prep the site and use high-quality materials like firebrick and steel rings. Follow proper construction methods when stacking blocks and setting the fire bowl. With smart planning and quality materials, you can create a bonfire pit that will provide years of warmth and great memories with family and friends.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.