Instructables
Picture of $50 fire pit using concrete tree rings.
We recently moved from the remote north-woods of  Wisconsin where large lakeside fire pits were simply dug into the ground and lined with large rocks creating great campfires.  We now live in a residential neighborhood in  the Central Valley of CA.    Campfires here are confined to  well defined containment systems and  small controlled fires which can be easily extinguished with no sparks or embers that can continue to burn or blow into neighboring combustibles when the fire is left unattended. 

Even with these restrictions, our family still loves to sit around an evening fire.   But we didn’t want to spend a small fortune on a pre-manufactured 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 isles of Home Depot recently, we saw concrete tree rings on sale for $2 a section.   We borrowed a tape measure and quickly determined 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. ($30 new)

    4 sections of 14" inside diameter concrete tree ring ($2 to $3 each = $8 to $12 total)

    6 sections of 24" inside diameter concrete tree ring ($2 to $3 each = $12 to $18 total)

    2 cubic feet of small stones, pebbles, road gravel or decorative rock ($0 to $20 depending on how fancy)

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



   
 
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Step 1: Step 1 Constructing the inner ring.

Picture of Step 1  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: Step 2 - Adding an outer ring.

Picture of Step 2 - 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: Step 3 - Filling the void.

Picture of Step 3 -  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: Step 4 - Installing the Weber.

Picture of Step 4 -  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: Step 5 - Light it up.

Picture of Step 5 - Light it up.
Get out the graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey bars.   It’s time to enjoy your fire pit.
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ksdulany1 year 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.
2013-07-02 15.13.23.jpg2013-07-02 15.13.37.jpg

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.

awesome
dewey302 (author)  ksdulany1 year 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.
yes they can they are made from a type of ceramics
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.
Valster1 month ago

Love it!

BTW, you're featured on Mother Earth News today (7/23/14). Congrats!

http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/$50-fire-pit-tree-rings-zb0z1307zhla.aspx?newsletter=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=DIY%20eNews&utm_campaign=07.23.14%20DIY#axzz38Ir45jKA

sirmorrow made it!1 month ago

Completed mine today. Couldn't find the 14" rings so I substituted " breeze" or crushed flagstone for the entire inner ring. I also added a ring of pebbles to prevent embers from burning the grass. Thanks for the idea; can't wait for Fall to try it out.

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Is there a reason that a weber grill is required? Could you fill up the inner circle about halfway with stones and just build your fire directly on that?

dewey302 (author)  buildandsewandstuff1 month ago

My only reservation with not using the Weber insert is that concrete doesn't particularly like high heat. It expands and contracts which eventually leads to cracking. So I recommend the fire be kept away from direct contact with the tree rings. As an inexpensive alternative, you might be able to make the inner circle out of heavy gauge sheet metal (think very large diameter stove pipe) instead of the inner tree ring. Put your stones between the sheet metal and the outer tree ring to insulate that outer concrete and then, as you suggest, fill the bottom about half way or so with stones. Might make for a nice little fire pit.

bullseye7591 month ago

Hi-I'd really like to make this but I can't find anyone who sells the concrete tree rings. Any suggestions or alternatives?

Thank you

Dean

bsbfan8tic made it!4 months ago

I just finished building this in our backyard! Only thing I did different was mortar the tree rings together (at the request of my mother who worries WAY too much!). But it still looks great and we can't wait to use it this weekend!

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Thats amazing. I cant find these in tree rings in the uk :( sadness

ahyman14 months ago

Man, I looked all over Austin, TX for these tree rings! No luck so far.

bajablue8 months ago
love, Love, LOVE this, Pen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
tinpusher1 year ago
Beautiful, I love it. This is going straight on my favorites so I can do it if I ever get out of this apartment.
if u have an fire escape u could do a smaller one with. clay pots . max would be 9 in. across tho.
Dark Solar1 year ago
love it, want to build it. having trouble sourcing tree ring parts; searches continue to yield wussy little 3-tooth radius segments :( recommendations?
soo u make yr own forms. then use concrete. bingo never ending supply.
dewey302 (author)  Dark Solar1 year ago
It seems a couple other folks who replied are having the same problem. Apparently Home Depot (and possibly other lawn/garden stores) stock these tree rings on a regional or local basis...not all stores stock the same items. However, I believe you can order the rings either at the store or on-line for in-store delivery (you don't pay shipping that way). The SKU# for the 24" edging is 630756. The Home Depot web site also shows what they call the 1 1/2 foot version of the edging which I believe is the the 14" size. Unfortunately they don't provide the measurements in the product specs so I can't be certain, but if the "foot and a half" (18") is the outside diameter for the ring, then the inside diameter will be 14"...which is the size you need. The SKU# for the 18" ring is 630748. Hope that helps.

I've also found two manufacturers for the rings. Mission concrete products which supplies Orchard Supply and . Basalite which supplies Home Depot among others.
If you have an Orchard Supply. They both have web sites you can google.
dewey302 (author)  dewey3021 year ago
Another option is to consider making your own tree rings. Here is an instructable that might give you some ideas how to do it. http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Make-Concrete-Tree-Rings/
mharper81 year ago
So any suggestions for how best to construct this on a brick patio? Our yard is not conducive to open flame elsewhere (think low hanging pine and palms). Thanks!
dewey302 (author)  mharper81 year ago
From our experience using this pit, there seems to be very little heat generated down at ground level. The fire itself is contained in the Weber which is a few inches off the ground plus the 2" layer of stones which the center rings sit on. I'm no expert on patios, but I don't think there would be any problem at all putting this on concrete or brick in exactly the same way it is set on bare ground. For those who are concerned, I suspect you could insulate even further by setting the unit on a heat resistant pad...such as the ones indoor wood burning stoves are set. I'm even of the opinion this pit could be placed on a wood deck, but there I would use the hearth insulating pad for sure, just to give you peace of mind.
actaualy if yr doing that that use the concretye boards 3x5 . at least 2 of them. the cover with 3-5 inches, deep then u'd have no problem just keep the flames low. an keep that extinusher nearby tho.
mhale41 year ago
restock.....
I think you just answered the question I have jumping around in my brain, so please help me out! I was wondering if the weber grill bottom & top would be necessary?? If I put down sand, then level some rock or a few pavers, then put the pit up as directed, would it hurt to burn just inside the center ring, without the weber products??? I'm a DIY woman, out of necessity, and don't want to cause a fire hazard. Help??!!
Thanks, LOVE this Idea!
DIY in TN.
should be a problem just make shure u have at least 4-6 feet of clear dirt or play sand on the ground abut 3-4 inches thick. then a couple of bucket worth of play sand near by just in case.
dewey302 (author)  mhale41 year ago
Hope you don't mind if I toss in a couple comments on your question, even though it was directed to restock. I think you could try this combination (no weber grill) but you'll want to keep a close eye on that center ring. Concrete will expand and contract a good deal due to the intense heat of fire in direct contact. It could shatter or crack the interior ring. I don't know for certain this would happen, but I have built concrete and stone fire pits in the past and they come apart fairly quickly due to the concrete failing.

If you tried it you might want to consider banding the outer rings just to be on the safe side. Basically you would be using some sort of material to wrap a belt fairly tightly around the outside rings to maintain the integrity of the pit should the interior rings shatter or crack rapidly.

Hope that helps your thinking a bit.
helzerr10 months 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.
Nicely done...
dewey302 (author) 10 months ago
Strolling through my local Home Depot here in Merced, CA this morning (10/7/13) I nearly fell over when I saw this display out in the garden department. Pretty cool. Either some HD employee came up with the same idea or more likely, there are HD employees who are fans of Instructables.com Either way, fun to see. And hopefully will encourage other HD stores to carry these sizes of tree rings all the time.


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thirdt1 year ago
You only have to buy enough fancy rocks to fill the top 2-4 inches of the gap, you can't see the rest so it can be cheap ugly gravel.
Dr.Bill thirdt1 year ago
Or Sand
dewey302 (author)  Dr.Bill11 months ago
Dr. Bill. Sorry for the very long delay but I didn't think through the "sand" option the first time I saw your post. Since the tree rings have some fairly large air spaces when they are assembled (see photos), sand might not work well as a filler. I think it would leak out.
Dr.Bill dewey30211 months ago
That's ok. I didn't think out the sand thing either. The fire pit is really a nice touch to the pool area any way ya build it.
dewey302 (author)  thirdt1 year ago
Good thinking thirdt. Thanks for the additional tip.
foxtrickle1 year ago
Very cool. What's preventing the top outer ring from falling off? It seems like the rocks inside would be creating and outward pressure. You said below that you could put your feet, but is there any worry of it coming down followed by a bunch of rocks?
I was interested in your point about the top ring slipping off and it occurred to me that because the joint between the rings is a scalloped edge and it is radially fitted together, there is no way the ring can slip sideways. It has to raise up the depth of the scallop before it can move sideways. The rings are locked in place by there shape. Their opposing edges being keyed into each other even further locks them in place. I think the use of the rings is perfect and this is a fantastic project.
dpoarch11 months ago
How tall is the pit after everything?
dewey302 (author)  dpoarch11 months ago
12 inches.
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