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    Tractor Supply Company

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    How to Build a Fire Pit: Ideas & Inspiration

    Authored by Tractor Supply Company

    Spending more time outside means time for a great backyard setup. Adding a backyard fire pit invites friends and family to stay awhile and extends your outside time later into the cooler months. The best part is you can build a fire pit yourself easily.

    Building a backyard fire pit takes good planning to get just right. Take time to research and find the fire pit idea you love. Decide the type of outdoor fire pit you want, which materials you plan to use and what tools you’ll need. Finally, grab a few friends and get some help with the build.

    Before making plans and buying materials for your DIY backyard fire pit, there’s a few places to contact to be sure a fire pit is legal in your area.

    Local government agencies. Check with your city and county building permit departments to see if you need a permit to build your fire pit. Also, find out what kind of restrictions your city has on days or hours that you can legally burn in your fire pit.

    Homeowner’s associations. Some homeowner’s associations have tight restrictions about what you can build in your yard. Read through your association’s covenants, conditions and restrictions to make sure you can build a fire pit in your community.

    Insurance. Talk to your insurance agent before building a backyard fire pit. In some areas, you may have to tell your insurance company about your fire pit for your policy to be valid. In other places with high fire danger, having a fire pit may affect your coverage.

    Types of DIY fire pits

    Deciding what type of fire pit to build begins with fuel type – wood or gas. There’s a few pros and cons to each:

    Wood burning fire pit: If you love the sound of a crackling fire, a wood burning fire pit is the way to go.

    • Less expensive and faster to build than a gas fire pit
    • Harder to clean
    • Need a good supply of firewood handy

    Gas fire pit: If you love the idea of an outdoor fire pit but want it to be environmentally friendly, then a natural gas or propane gas fire pit is a good choice.

    • Easier to clean than a wood burning fire pit
    • Can be more expensive to build due to installing gas line
    • Propane tanks require additional storage

    Fire pit materials

    DIY outdoor fire pits need strong, sturdy materials that can take the heat. Best choices are stone, brick or concrete. Most fire pits are built in a circle, but you may also want a bigger barrier around your fire ring. These larger fire pits can be oval or square with a fire bowl in the middle. Also consider the best outdoor seating options for your fire pit area, as well as outdoor lighting to make the most of your new space.

    Stone. Stone fire pits blend in great with your outdoor landscape. Stone is a natural material, and each stone has a slightly different shape, so you’ll get the chance to be more creative when stacking them together.  

    Brick. Bricks give you that outdoor feel but are more uniform than stone. That makes them easier to stack since they’re all rectangular. For the inside of your fire pit, use fire bricks rather than regular bricks. Fire bricks are built to withstand heat. Bricks can be more expensive, but a brick fire pit looks great in the backyard.

    Concrete. Get a high-end look with ready-made concrete components.  Depending on the style, the smooth lines and unique shapes you can get by using concrete give your fire pit a more sophisticated style. However, a better DIY route for a concrete fire pit uses concrete pavers, which can be stacked like bricks. You can also use pavers to build a fire ring around a prefabricated concrete fire bowl. Concrete pavers come in different shapes, so decide on the shape before buying your pavers.

    When choosing your materials consider how you’ll use it. Fire pits for cooking can be more basic and you may want to include cast-iron components for barbecuing. If it’s all about relaxing by a crackling fire, you’ll want to design your seating areas and choose your outdoor lighting for the fire pit area before deciding on the design and materials.

    Tools and materials needed to build a backyard fire pit

    Gather all the materials you will need for the entire project ahead of time, including your tools. A little planning ahead of time will help make your DIY project a success.

    Tools: The tools you’ll need for your backyard fire pit project are simple. You need:

    • Shovel
    • Level
    • Tape measure
    • Spray paint to mark off your fire pit size and shape
    • Trowel and a wheelbarrow
    • Large bucket for mixing mortar
    • Stakes and string for marking off a perfectly round area

    Materials: In addition to a good supply of bricks, stone, or concrete pavers, you’ll need a few other materials to hold everything together.

    • Concrete or crushed rock makes a good base for the bottom.
    • You’ll also need masonry adhesive to keep all the other layers in place.
    • To protect the bottom, use a prefabricated fire bowl or plan to fill the bottom with river rock.
    • You also might want to use mortar for bricks or for a finished look for your stone or pavers.
    • Also, adding a few different materials like lava rocks can give your backyard fire pit a rustic, unique look.

    Gas fire pits need a few additional materials, including a fire pit burner, control panel, gas line and tank. Use a fire bowl to hold the burners. Hire a professional to install the natural gas line or the line leading from your propane tank to your fire pit. As a finishing touch, fire glass crystals look great on a gas fire pit and add an extra sparkle to the fire.

    Steps to build your backyard fire pit

    1. Choose the location of your DIY backyard fire pit and use spray paint to mark off the area. You’ll need to know the total finished size of your fire pit project from the outside line of your bricks, stones or pavers so they all fit within the marked area.

    • If you’re building a round fire pit, drive the stake into the ground in the center and tie string to it. Make a mark on the string at half of your finished fire pit’s diameter. Pull the string tight and walk around in a circle, spraying paint at the string mark to form your outline.
    • If you’re building a square or rectangular fire pit, measure all four sides then spray paint lines to mark off your fire pit’s outline.
    • If you’re using a prefabricated bowl, use the spray paint to mark off its size in the center of your fire pit area. That way, you can stack your stones, bricks, or pavers to leave plenty of room for the bowl.

    2. Dig out the entire marked area to about five inches deep.

    3. Use concrete or crushed stone to build an even base for your backyard fire pit.

    4. Start stacking your materials in the shape you want, one layer at a time, using masonry adhesive in between. If you’re using stone, stack the full ring first before using the adhesive to be sure it’s the look you want. Save some of the nicest looking bricks, stones, or pavers for the top. Stop at each layer and check to be sure everything’s level.

    5. If you’re building a gas fire pit, leave gaps for the control panel and the gas line coming from underneath.

    6. Lay out the top layer before using adhesive. If you’re using a prefabricated fire bowl, lay it in to be sure it fits well. Check everything to be sure it’s level, then use the adhesive to seal everything together.

    Now you’re ready for some finishing touches.

    • If you’re building a gas outdoor fire pit, place the burners in the fire bowl and connect the control panel and gas lines before using adhesive to attach everything.  
    • For a wood burning outdoor fire pit with a prefabricated fire bowl, attach the bowl with masonry adhesive to the top.
    • For a wood burning outdoor fire pit without a fire bowl, add a layer of decorative river rock to the entire bottom of the fire pit.
    • To make a fire barrier, remove grass and weeds around the fire pit and add a layer of decorative river rock. You can keep laying bricks or concrete pavers to make a complete patio area for your backyard fire pit. A pea stone patio is also a great choice to keep it simple. Likewise, it’s a good idea to build a retaining wall to keep fire away from buildings. Use retaining wall blocks or the same materials you used for your fire pit for a consistent look.

    Ways to make the most of your backyard fire pit

    Your new DIY fire pit can be the center of activity in your backyard. A great seating area and the right outdoor lighting makes your DIY outdoor fire pit area even better. Leave plenty of room for people to sit and places for them to put their drinks and food.

    Seating: Outdoor seating is a must for your backyard fire pit. Go as simple or fancy as you want – but make it flexible so you can enjoy an evening with a few friends or host a big family get-together. The Adirondack chair is a favorite because they’re comfortable, durable and most are made of composite materials that hold up well to harsh weather. If you’re incorporating your fire pit into a patio, built-in outdoor furniture is a great option because you can add design touches that match your fire pit materials. Include tables between seats for plates and drinks.

    Lighting: Balance lighting by your backyard fire pit with the effect you want from your fire. Choose some festive string lights or even a few torches for some great ambient lighting that will glow in the background. It’s enough to light the way for safety while still enhancing the fire pit experience. Be sure to hang your wiring where it’s off the pathways.

    Cooking: Your new DIY backyard fire pit is built to last, so you’ll get years of enjoyment for all your backyard gatherings. For added fun, you can grill up a great meal on your fire pit with the right equipment. Find a grilling grate that fits over your fire pit and you’re ready to grill anything you want, from a juicy steak to hotdogs to meat and veggie kabobs. There are plenty of grilling accessories you can get that let you cook over the open flame. For extra flavor, use hickory or mesquite wood to top off your fire.

    If you’ve opted for a decorative DIY fire pit, reconsider using it for grilling as grease will be tough to clean. Also, always keep safety in mind when grilling over your fire pit. Keep water nearby.

    Return on your investment

    A backyard fire pit will can get an average of over 60% of the money you spent on your fire pit project back as added resale value for your home. When you consider all the time you spent enjoying your fire pit yourself, the return on your investment is even greater.

    Landscaping adds to the market value of your home, and when that includes outdoor spaces with a fire feature and places where people can gather, it’s even more attractive to sellers. Most people love backyard fire pits, even in places where it’s always hot.

    Consider the resale value even when you’re first deciding on the type of fire pit and the materials you’ll use. If you’re a wood burning fire purist but plan on selling your house in the next few years, consider going with a natural gas fire pit, because that type has the highest resale value.

    A backyard fire pit is the perfect DIY project that gives you added value in case you ever sell your home. You can make it even more special by inviting close friends and family to help on the project and include their own special touches. Be creative and build a DIY backyard fire pit that shows off your skills, craftsmanship and creativity and you’ll have a great outdoor space that you and your friends and family will love for years to come.