Build Your Own Stone Fire Pit

Follow the directions to build a wood-burning, natural gas or propane fire pit for entertaining in the backyard.

| March 2018

  • build stone firepit
    Use native stones to create the walls of the pit.
    Photo by Pixabay/jaime410
  • portable fire pit wood fires
    Try a portable fire pit if you are unable to build your own.
    Photo by Pixabay/Ginsweeney
  • build wood fires indoors outdoors alternative fuels fire pit
    “Building Wood Fires,” by Annette McGivney, guides reader through building fires indoors and out.
    Courtesy of Countryman Press

  • build stone firepit
  • portable fire pit wood fires
  • build wood fires indoors outdoors alternative fuels fire pit

Building Wood Fires (Countryman Press, 2018), explores different fireplaces to keep your house warm in the winter. McGivney shares recipes meant to be cooked over an open flame. Use the step-by-step instruction to build your own fire pit and cook the recipes in your own backyard. Find this excerpt in Chapter 4, “Backyard Fires.”

Wood Burning Fire Pits

For all the same reasons that a fire is one of the most beloved parts of a camping trip and a crackling fire in a fireplace adds ambiance to an indoor living room, a real wood burning fire pit in the backyard is hard to beat (as long as it is legal). Compared to natural gas or propane, a wood burning fire has the ability to give off a more intense heat. Firewood is readily available and offers aesthetically pleasing aromas. Plus you can cook on the fire and the coals. And as my son and his friends discovered, there is something pleasingly primal about sitting around dancing flames generated by a technology that has been used by humans for more than a million years.

Portable wood burning fire pits are basically large metal bowls that range in diameter from about 30- 36 inches and are about 20- 28 inches deep. Most have legs to keep the container a few inches above the ground and all have tight fitting spark arrestor screens to prevent flying embers. The bowls are made from stainless steel (which is the least expensive), cast iron, or copper. Cast iron is durable and has the added benefit of radiating heat from the bowl’s surface. Deeper iron bowls often have cut- out designs on the walls that add interest and allow viewing the fire from the side as well as the top. However, iron is prone to rusting and needs to be covered when not in use to protect against moisture. Copper is visually appealing and can add an aesthetic element to backyard landscaping but it is also significantly more expensive. Copper does not rust and it gains a pleasing patina over time. No matter what they are made of, portable fire pits should be placed on concrete or stone and never on wood decks.

The main advantage to a portable fire pit, besides the fact that it is portable, is the tight- fitting spark- arresting screen and the ease of cleaning. The bowl can just be picked up and the cold ashes dumped into the garden or trash. But these pits are generally smaller than permanent fire features and they are not integrated into the backyard space the way a permanent fire pit is.

Building a fire pit in the backyard can be as simple as following these steps:

Step 1: Find a level patch of ground that is at least 12 feet in diameter. Drive a stake in the ground that is attached to a string 2– 3 feet long. Rotate the string to form a perfect circle and mark the perimeter with spray paint. Remove dirt from the circle, reaching a depth of about 18– 20 inches deep.

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