Introduction: How to Build Your Own Fire Pit

Picture of How to Build Your Own Fire Pit

There are few things as relaxing as a warm fire on a cool evening. An outdoor fire pit makes any patio or backyard into a great gathering place where friends and family can eat, talk, or just rest by the fire.

While you can build a fire pit from rock or have one poured, this fantastic do-it-yourself version from the folks at Progressive Farmer magazine uses bricks or cinder blocks and offers clear step-by-step instructions and a materials list to help make your project both fun and easy.

The installation is pretty quick — you can build a fire pit in just one day — and doesn’t cost a whole lot, especially if you look for a sale on bricks at the end of the season at Lowe’s or Home Depot. You can even occasionally find bricks for free when someone tears down a structure or replaces their driveway.

Step 1: Preparation

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STONES We built this fire pit from landscaping blocks. You can use field stone or other materials too. Do not use stones that have been submerged in water; they can explode with the heat of the fire. Concrete blocks may deteriorate from the heat, but they are cheap to replace.

DRAINAGE In the bottom center of the pit, we dug a fencepost-sized hole 2 feet deep and filled it with gravel. The hole works like a sump, helping to drain rainwater.

ADHESIVES We dry-stacked the stone. It's a quicker way to build the fire pit. If you have to replace cracked or broken stones, dry-stacking makes that job easier as well. If you want to cement the courses, lay cement down only on the outside half of the stones to protect the cement from the heat. Adhesives may melt and give off fumes; we advise against using them.

SAFETY This fire pit is built in a wooded area. Before we started the fire, we soaked the area around the pit with water. We also had 5-gallon buckets of water and a shovel handy to put out any stray fires.

What You'll Need

98 retaining wall blocks

steel pit ring with tabs

metal grate



We bought the ring and grate as specialty items from a garden store. We couldn't find a place to order these pieces from on the Internet, so we'd suggest welding your own or having them produced at a welding shop.

The retaining wall blocks used in this project were 12 inches wide, 4 inches high and 8 inches deep.

We purchased about one-half ton each of sand and gravel.

Total Cost: about $500

Step 2: Dig a Hole

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We dug a hole 2 feet wider than the fire pit--about 7 feet across. Make the hole round by hammering a stake into the center of your fire pit area. Loop a 3 1/2-inch length of string over the stake and mark the circle. Dig out 12 inches of soil. Shovel in 4 inches of gravel and 4 inches of sand. Tamp that layer flat. Onto that base, lay down the base course of blocks. Make sure this course is level in all directions. Fill the space outside of the blocks with gravel. This nearly buries the first course, making the stone base strong.

Step 3: Lay the Courses of Stone

Picture of Lay the Courses of Stone

Lay additional courses of stone. We used the steel ring that will hold the grill in place to ensure each course is round and of the correct diameter. We purchased the ring from a garden supply store. To keep the courses perpendicular to each other and level to the ground, hang a piece of string over the edge of the top-most course. When each course touches this string--and the string is touching the base course--all the courses are roughly perpendicular. The middle of our pit was 32 inches in diameter.

Step 4: Stack Additional Layers

Picture of Stack Additional Layers

Use a brush to clean debris from the surface of the previous layer. Overlap the layers of stone, leaving three or four random gaps between stones in every course. The gaps allow the fire to draw air into itself. We dry-stacked the stone. They may get out of alignment, but realignment is easy. We learned something the hard way: put gravel into the center of the fire pit after you've stacked a couple of courses. Then spread it evenly when you're finished. We shoveled the gravel into the pit after it was completed and found lifting the gravel that high was unnecessary work.

Step 5: Steel Ring

Picture of Steel Ring

Before you lay the final course of stone, set the steel ring in place. Then add the final layer of stone onto the lip of the ring. As originally built, the fire pit was seven layers tall--each layer took 14 stones--and about 25 inches tall. But we have found that the fires burn even better once we removed one layer of stone.

Step 6: Video

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Our detailed video demonstrates the making of this easy DIY project from start to finish.


nutley (author)2015-12-21

Smoke nuisance. People have fire pits so they can stare into the flames when they are drunk.

nknight8 (author)nutley2016-08-10

Exactly. That's why our family has one!

John D Costa (author)2016-07-03

Nice blog for how to build an outdoor fire pit. I'm searching google for some amazing review of outdoor fire pit. Suddenly I find this and hope it will also help you to know details about an outdoor fire pit.

hearthworld01 (author)2016-05-25

I truly love this! Thanks for sharing these simple steps

AndrewS45 (author)2015-05-28

In my experience, it’s very important to include ventilation
holes when constructing a <a href="">paving
brick fire pit</a>. Otherwise, it can be a challenge providing sufficient
oxygen to the flame, which makes it hard to get a fire started.

markcorp (author)2014-07-15

Hi there,

This is a pretty good design and build. I am pleased to see the drainage included, as many people tend to skip this stage. However, I prefer to have a 6" deep layer of gravel over the whole area of the bottom of the fire pit. 1. Its easier than digging a two foot deep hole. 2. It works perfectly for drainage, as it is a large surface area. 3. It forms an ideal base on which to set your fire.

For those people who have commented that they could not find a fire pit liner online, you could visit

As an alternative you can also use the same fire pit liner to make an in-ground fire pit. You can find instructions for how to do it at



desertyweed (author)2014-05-29

We used a washing machine bowl and attached it to an old mowed frame so we could move it around,also put in storage when not needed.

Shawn Stanford (author)2011-08-12

My brother and I built one based on this design in a couple hours after a $200 trip to Lowe's. The hardest part was digging the hole. I didn't build it as high or line it with any sort of ring. We did gap the bottom two courses of bricks and snug the top course to allow for air flow (put one less brick in the top course). This created an awkward spot or two where the courses almost lined up, but no show stoppers. The bottom is lined with a few inches of sand, no gravel, and the bricks are simply stacked with no mortar or glue. In place for a month and getting heavy use (2 or 3 times a week); working great. The pic was taken a couple days after the build using the RetroCamera app (hence the odd look).

Hi, just wondering if you had any issues with cracking/exploding bricks? I have built one similar and haven't lined (didn't realise I needed to) and now I'm a bit anxious about lighting it up!

After a couple years of use, some of the bricks are starting to crack. I'll have to replace a few come spring. No explosive cracking, the cracks just seem to show up.

Hycro (author)2009-01-23

I used an old piece of large metal pipe, an old big-rig rim, and a random steel screen made from 1/4" bars woven together...oh, and a metal hub cap to stop the coals from falling through the hub hole in the middle of the rim.

No_Where_Fast (author)Hycro2010-03-01

I've also seen many fire pits made with the drum from an old washing machine too. The drum in a dryer is not as easily removed as it is from a washer. 

Annie1948 (author)No_Where_Fast2013-12-09

Problem is, the washer tub doesn't have holes in it, for the air to flow through to heat up the fire. The dryer tub is better.

chip123 (author)2011-06-01

I based my fire pit on this, kind of. i had the drum from an old washing machine just lying around, and a little camping barbeque busy dying. They just happened to fit together perfectly, and looks rather nice. I'll post a pic if anyone wants to see it.

Fire is fun :D

DAND (author)chip1232011-06-01

I want to see! Sounds pretty interesting!

chip123 (author)DAND2011-09-09

Here you go then :)

Annie1948 (author)chip1232013-12-09

I use these tubs to filter the smaller stuff out of my compost pile, because of the holes around the side. Just up-end it, like it is in a dryer, and put a wheel-barrel under it to catch the "filtered" compost. Mine is up on a frame and still attached to the motor etc. of course.

armedtodream (author)chip1232012-04-07

Wow! This looks incredible! I never would have imagined the tub of a washing machine being so aesthetically appealing. Thanks for sharing.

dwilliams37 (author)chip1232012-03-26

I really love this! Fantastic idea

theweldingwizard (author)chip1232011-09-17

Yesss amaking great idea Chip123!!!

Annie1948 (author)2013-12-09

You can also build a circular redwood top, with screw-on handles, to keep the rain out. It doesn't HAVE to be circular, just looks nicer. You can also use the top to help dowse the fire a little, in case some jerk throws in a handful of leaves and makes sparks fly into the trees!

ringmybell460 (author)2008-04-12

my family made this last summer-ours was a little smaller but we used an old wheel well for our ring-worked great

bcavaciuti (author)ringmybell4602013-06-20

Great idea . Could you even use the spokes if you rearranged them so they were all level i wonder if that would work...maybe weave/weld a spiral of metal going round...dont know if spokes are safe though- might be galvanised ,could replace them .

Jon_M (author)2013-05-03

Instead of a ring to hold the grate couldn't you just use some metal rods going across?

sorebikr (author)2010-10-25

WHERE can I find a steel ring and grate similar to this one? I can't seem to find it anywhere online.

Just buy a large grate for a weber charcoal grill or similar. build a small lip into the inside of the pit, to hold up the grate. best luck!

jsage (author)2012-06-03

If using a steel ring, those gaps will not be adding any airflow, as the steel ring will then block it. You could prop the ring up a bit and leave gaps in the bottom course.

Zilliquister (author)2012-05-22

I have used a store bought fire pit and enclosed it in a ring of stones this works well as when you are done you put the fire out as usual and then remove the bowl and place the ash in a ash can/bucket. I use a storage bucket with multiple holes drilled in the bottom to allow water to drain from it, placed 1 inch above the bottom of the container not through the bottom as it will cause dripping when removing to curb for disposal. An image of a 50 dollar pit is attached.

nightmareofdarknes (author)2009-07-29

If you added firebrick to the inside, would it last longer?

yes but it would eventually rot w/out being covered. Firebrick doesn't like moisture, unfortunately.

arpruss (author)2011-09-25

Can one use ordinary exterior wall bricks? Or will the heat destroy them?

kberry_78 (author)2008-08-15

Great way to reuse paving bricks and old metal drums. Ace project

servion (author)kberry_782009-06-29

It's not reused at all, it costed 500 bucks of brand new material XD Real DIY project would be to make your own rocks. That's what I'm gonna do

Perhaps, but he does give me a great idea on how to reuse metal drums.

This is a good idea, but as I've never re purposed a steel drum do they come with a removable steel lid? How do you clean them out?

shtonkalot (author)Phoghat2011-09-18

To clean them out I'd suggest lighting a fire in them ;)


Phoghat (author)servion2010-09-11

Yeah but that would take a few million years

servion (author)Phoghat2010-09-15

Um I meant with cement or heat proof concrete..

syco123 (author)servion2010-09-09

If you're making them be careful they don't explode. Test them in a safe environment (where they can explode safely) up to operating temp. Porous rocks and home made clay bricks are potentially dangerous. Don't use porous rock and learn how to fire clay bricks safely.

theRIAA (author)2008-01-07

needs some holes at the bottom for air. cool, but not worth $500, it can be done for much less you could make it with recycled bricks, and an old BBQ rack for free

tango_down (author)theRIAA2008-01-08

Looks great. I wouldn't mind spending that money for something that looks great and adds value to a home. Nothing lowers your property value more than a pile of garbage bricks and an old BBQ grill

edasenbrock (author)tango_down2011-05-29

I'm pretty sure I can think of quite a few things that lower property value more than a pile of garbage bricks and an old BBQ grill. lol Although I agree, it would probably be more enjoyable if it was pretty to look at too.

red-king (author)tango_down2010-03-01

 it's only "a pile of garbage bricks" if you don't know what you're doing

wocket (author)theRIAA2008-03-22

Very true, and it ends up looking really good!

CementTruck (author)theRIAA2008-01-08

Ditto on RIAA's comment/s. Still, cool Instructable.

plznothanks (author)2011-05-15

Bear Grylls is the champ at this

Wyle_E (author)2009-07-29

A 3 1/2-inch length of string? Shouldn't that be 3 1/2 _feet?_

syco123 (author)Wyle_E2010-09-09

Spinal Tap anyone?

Phoghat (author)syco1232010-09-11

Does it go to 11? Why? Well 11 is 1 more than 10 isn't it.
Seriously it's a nice project and I'm planning on building one when I move which isn't too far away.
Can you use charcoal instead of wood? That way it would make an awesome charcoal grill and if I could find a cover, a smoker as well

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