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Picture of $50 fire pit using concrete tree rings

We recently moved from the remote north woods of Wisconsin where people create great lakeside campfires by digging large fire pits into the ground and lining them with large rocks. We now live in a residential neighborhood in the Central Valley of California. Here, campfires are confined to pre-built pits or structures. People build only small controlled fires to minimize the risk of sparks blowing into neighboring combustibles when the fire is left unattended. These smaller campfires are also easy to extinguish, with less risk of embers continuing to burn.

Even with these restrictions, our family still loves to sit outside around an evening fire in the backyard. But we didn’t want to spend a small fortune on a pre-manufactured patio fire pit or a contractor built unit. We were also not sure where we might permanently want the pit located. So we needed something we could take down and move to a different spot without a lot of trouble or expense.

Fortunately, while cruising the aisles of Home Depot recently, we saw concrete tree rings (circles that are used for flower beds at the base of a tree) on sale for $2 a section. We borrowed a tape measure and quickly determined that the rings might make a dandy low cost fire pit that would incorporate a small Weber grill (which we already owned) as an inner firepot, allowing a very controlled burn and positive air shut-off to extinguish the fire when we were ready to call it a night.

Materials:

  • Weber Smokey Joe Portable charcoal grill or equivalent 14" diameter grill to be an insert in the rings ($30 new)
  • 4 sections of 14" inside diameter concrete tree ring ($2 to $3 each = $8-$12 total) -6 sections of 24" inside diameter concrete tree ring ($2 to $3 each = $12-$18 total)
  • 2 cubic feet of small stones, pebbles, road gravel or decorative rock ($0-$20 depending on how fancy)

Total cost: $50-$80 depending on your taste in stones.

 
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Step 1: Constructing the inner ring.

Picture of Constructing the inner ring.
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Find a nice level area of your yard or create a level circle approximately 3 feet in diameter. It's not absolutely necessary but we sprayed our pit area with weed and grass killer to make a bare spot. You will notice the ring of browned grass surrounding the pit in the final photos. This is due to the weed killer and not the result of heat from the fire. We also placed a layer of weed barrier cloth under the pit to prevent grass/weed from growing up into the pit. The tree rings will be more stable on bare earth than on grass, particularly if you have Bermuda grass like we do. Also, you should have no problem if you want to place your pit on top of a concrete or brick patio.

The trick to turning tree rings into a decent looking fire pit is to make the ring two sections tall by turning the fluted top sections upside down so they interlock with the fluted bottom sections. The first photo shows what the 14" tree ring sections look like when you buy them from the store and the second photo shows them stacked. They don’t fit perfectly but the small air gaps look sort of decorative in my estimation and are barely noticeable once the unit is being used.

Step 2: Adding an outer ring

Picture of Adding an outer ring
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We thought the 14" tree rings looked a little puny by themselves, so to give the fire pit more mass we surrounded the inner ring of 14" tree ring sections with an outer ring of 24" diameter sections. The sections are 2" thick, so the outer diameter of the completed fire pit will be 28".

Note that the 24" outer rings have a very convenient tab type locking design. One end of each section has a tab and the other end has a slot. This helps a great deal to stabilize the rings when they are stacked two high.

Step 3: Filling the void

Picture of Filling the void

You will quickly notice that when the 14" rings are stacked inside the 24" rings that there is a 3" gap between the inner and outer rings. You will also notice that each 14" ring is about an inch shorter than each 24" ring. To solve both of these problems the outer ring is erected first and then filled approximately 2" deep with small stones. The inner ring is then set on top of those stones. You’ll have to do a bit of trial and error to insure the tops of the inner and outer rings will be level when they are completed. Once the inner and outer rings are in place, fill the 3" void between the rings with more stone.

Step 4: Installing the Weber

Picture of Installing the Weber
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The Weber Smokey Joe grill may come with legs attached. If so, unscrew the 3 connecting screws and set aside the legs. In an amazingly beneficial coincidence, the Weber grill is perfectly sized to slip right into the inner circle of the pit and just enough lip remains above the surface of the pit for the cover to fit tightly in place. Once the Weber is in place and you start a fire, it would be difficult and perhaps hazardous to adjust the lower air vent of the grill. So set the vent opening however you want before you put the grill in place. I set ours about half open and it works great for creating nice small fires. And when the cover is put on and the top vent closed, the fire will go out in very short order. If you want or need more or less bottom air for your fire, you can easily remove the grill to adjust it between fires when the unit is cool.

Step 5: Light it up

Picture of Light it up

Get out the graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey bars. It’s time to enjoy your fire pit.

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Hlhall made it!2 months ago
I just finished mine. Very excited. I couldn't get the smaller tree ring so I figured something else out. Did u put sand in the bottom of the grill to keep it from melting?
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dewey302 (author)  Hlhall2 months ago
I have not put sand in the bottom of the grill but I do leave in the smaller grill plate which keeps the wood/fire about an inch above the kettle itself. Once the fire gets going, however, the hot coals do fall down and sit on the bottom. But I haven't found that to be any sort of a problem in terms of melting or warping the kettle. BTW, your pit looks great with the modifications you had to make.

I couldn't find the small tree rings either so I used the same as you did only I arranged it a little different.

JulieS815 days ago

I couldn't find the smaller inner tree ring, so I improvised with the small circle edgers. (That's all I could find at Menards or Home Depot) I also used an ash pan/drip pan from an old smoker since I didn't have a Smoky Joe. It worked great. I also added colored glass marbles to give it a little extra sparkle. (not pictured.) Thanks for the great idea.

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Caddisfly16 days ago
$64 bucks total! Thanks for the great idea. I couldn't find the inner rings so I went with a terracotta planter pot 17" across and 16" deep for the middle. Had to go one ring higher. Put 2" brink underneath the pot to raise it to the 18" ring height. No need for a weber. I like the looks of mine better, but would like to have a lid. Looks and works great! :-)
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Niteskilz made it!25 days ago
Thanks for the idea, I literally spent 42$ for a last minute thing.. and voilà.. works great!
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What is in the middle? That doesnt look like a grill...
Jrt1011 month ago
How tall are these? We can only find 6" tall ones. Not as easy as it seems.
buck2217 Jrt1011 month ago

wow That is fantastic looking, even better than the original, will have to try this way as can't get scalloped tree rings here, good work

dewey302 (author)  Jrt1011 month ago

The rings used in this instructable are 6" tall. So hopefully you have the right ones.

Dana MaeE1 month ago

We just finished ours yesterday. We also could not find the inner rings, so we decided to fully modify ours based on HlHall's modification. We used crescent bricks for the entire project. Buying an equal number of red and grey stones for a checker board look. We used 14 crescent bricks/layer (5 layers all in all) for the inner rings & 28 crescent bricks/layer for the outer rings which creates a 4 inch gap for the crushed stones. We decided to only make the outer ring four levels high to have a stepped look, but can be built to five layers for the flat look. Also with the five layers the pit sits higher than the original tree rings. Total for the build in cost was around 140$ including the grill, ( there are alot of cresent stones needed instead of a few tree rings), still not too bad on cost and still cheaper than buying a fire pit kit, and more original looking as well.

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I can't seem to find the supplies? Can anyone help me

clsnx7 months ago
These tree rings are no longer available anywhere but Canada or California. I found 24" tee rings at Menards in Ohio, but they aren't curved enough to make a round circle. The 14" tree rings might still be available in California but no other state that I could find, so it is impossible to duplicate.
FrazyCucker clsnx3 months ago

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-1-1-2-ft-Concrete-Tree-Ring-Section-100002704/100426893

jcrow3969 clsnx4 months ago

Available in Maryland.

They have these in our state, Fl. At every garden center or stone store here!

We have tons of these in Lowes all over eastern NC. I am sure other places have them too. For many stores they are seasonal, so they will probably start to come out in late March. Our store happens to sell them year round.

ksdulany2 years ago
I loved your idea and wanted to do something similar. Since I live in Spain, those tree rings are hard to come by and a bit expensive, however, terracotta planters are in abundance and relatively cheap. So, I took and modified your idea and I think it turned out really nice.
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bciocco ksdulany7 months ago

I like this. It is very portable.

Really?..how much do the cement tree rings weigh?

dewey302 (author)  ksdulany2 years ago
Just wondering if you intend to use a "fire pot", like the Weber grill, to slip into the inner planter? Also, let us know how it holds up to the heat of a fire. It will make for a nice alternative to the tree rings if the terracotta can take the heat. And you are right, it looks terrific.
Teracota will have no problem handling the heat. Keep in mind that it is used for chimneys all over the country.

It's not terracota, it's a cement tree ring.

yes they can they are made from a type of ceramics

Very nice! May I ask what size of planters you used here?

I really like your benches, too! :-)

Brilliant!

I like this even better because the
exterior is smoother. How does this hold up with the heat. It also
looks more portable. We have this custom one out in our woods

http://www.thefirepitstore.com/fire-pit-art-asia-3...

But these terracotta ones would look nice closer to our patio and would have less smoke as well.

mfeelinz ksdulany11 months ago
awesome
I think it would be worth it not to have the tree rings to be able to have terra cotta planters in abundance! How awesome for you! I think I like your fire ring better.
odellkevin5 months ago

It's not so much a "fire pit" as it is more of a "weber holder", but it is still really nice. Also, you can still put charcoal in it and use it as a regular BBQ grill. I recently bought a house and while clearing out brush/weeds around the back property, I found about 15 - 20 of these pieces that, I'm assuming, a previous owner threw out there because they didn't want them and they were too heavy for the trash. So, it looks like I'm going to be making one for free.

klw2996 months ago

The tree rings used in these pictures are HUGE!?!? Where do you find them? Share a link - or be very specific about the dimensions of the tree rings.

The dimensions are in the description. The inner ring has 14" and the outer ring has 24" rings
dewey302 (author)  klw2996 months ago
I think you will find everything you are looking for in the original post and comments. As noted in paragraph 3 of the introduction, the source of the rings was Home Depot.

As noted in the materials list the smaller inside ring has a 14" inside diameter and the larger outside ring has a 24" inside diameter. They are identified this way at the store. Step 2 notes that each ring section if 2" thick thus making the completed outside diameter of the pit 28"

When reading the other comments you will also find that the rings are pretty scarce in some parts of the country while readily available in others (at Home Depot, Lowes, or other gardening or big box stores). Commentators have also offered up a variety of optional ways to build tree rings or use alternative materials for building a similar pit.

klw299 dewey3025 months ago
I've never gotten so many passive-aggressive responses to one comment. Whover said that the rings described in the post are only available in limited areas (CA & WA) year round was dead on. I live in Georgia and a call to Home Depot requesting a site-to-site transfer was declined. Don't worry, I built my own firepit with some repurposed brick I had at my home and it looks great!
Klw299. If you would of read the instructions you would of seen they did add dimensions for users. Also where to purchase the materials. HOME DEPOT & inner rings are 14" and outer is 24" tree rings.idk if your not able to see the instructions or what. But they are helpful to have.
perez5520 klw2996 months ago

You will quickly notice that when the 14" rings are stacked inside the 24" rings that there is a 3" gap between the inner and outer rings. You will also notice that each 14" ring is a

What are you using to start the fire and to keep it burning?
Huh? Um, wood..... annnndd, wood.
helzerr1 year ago
Does anyone know of a source for these Basalite tree rings in the southeastern US? I've searched my local home centers, Amazon, eBay, but none have rings quite like these.
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