Introduction: Backyard Firepit

For this project you’re going to need a can-do attitude and three times more trips to Lowes than you initially planned for. Also, hiring some fluffy project managers is a must.


Treated wood 4x4x8 - Severe Weather 4-in x 4-in x 8-ft Standard Pressure Treated Lumber

Wood screws - Hillman 1/4-in x4-in Black Ceramic Hex Washer Exterior Landscape Screws

Rebar - Steel Rebar (Common: 0.5-in x 4-ft; Actual: 0.5-in x 3.9167 Feet)

Round rock
Lava rock - Greensmix 0.5-cu ft Red Lava Rock

Retaining wall block - Basic Gray Retaining Wall Block (Common: 4-in x 12-in; Actual: 4-in x 11.5-in)


Pick axe
Impact driver
Circular saw

Step 1: Pick Your Spot and Clear It Out

First, pick the spot you’d like your firepit to be. Make sure to look up local rules for fires and fire pits (HOA, city regulations), so you won’t break rules with your plans. If you’re ambitious, you can choose a spot deep in the woods of your property, so you have to dig out to make it level and get rid of the plants. Would’ve been so much easier to pick a flat spot! Instead, we used the shovel and pick axe to start the clearing and leveling process. Luckily, we had a friendly neighbor who also helped us out with his back hoe for a few hours when we hit clay beneath the top organic layers of soil, but your level of work will depend on your soil type.

Step 2: Level and Prepare for Retaining Wall

After weeds, roots, and grass are clear, get to work with a level. Try to get it as close to level across the length of the firepit. Work alternating with the hose to get the ground wet and compactor to pack the dirt. Since this area was dug out, you also needed to setup a retaining wall to block off the side that was dug out.

Step 3: Setting the Bottom Layer

The bottom/start of the wall is important to make sure the wall is level, not leaning in one direction, and giving it stability to build up the next 8 layers. After the holes were dug to hold the bottom layer and rocks were leveled out, boards were cut and lined up. The bottom layer was also where you should drill holes (using an impact driver) for rebar and used a sledgehammer to pound it in, 2-3 holes depending on the length of the boards.

Step 4: Building the Wall

To build the wall, boards should be stacked and staggered how you like the joints to look. We went with tinker toy/lego overlaps on the corners, but they could have been cut straight. On each layer, wood screws should be used to attach them to the layer below. If cuts are need to match up the stagger, use a circular saw.

Step 5: Deadman's Hook

To secure the wall even more, lay a "deadman" or t-shaped block, dug into the dirt behind the wall. This will hold the wall upright and prevent it from leaning from the weight of the dirt. Add one "T" to each portion of the wall (x3 for us).

Step 6: Top of the Wall

Finish off the top of the wall with however many layers you need, we had 8.

Step 7: Digging Out the Fire Pit

After the main retaining wall was complete dig out the fire pit. For this, lay out the retaining wall bricks in a circle to determine the appropriate size. When the size was drawn out, and bricks put to the side, dig in to make it level. When the pit itself was level, replace the first brick layer. Then lay layer number 2, and glue with concrete sealer. Then layer 3, then layer 4 to top it off. Place lava rock at the bottom of the fire pit and you can insert a metal fire ring if desired.

Step 8: Spreading Rock

For this step, spray weed killer, lay weed barrier down, and then spread round rock evenly over the top using a shovel and the hoe.

Step 9: Just When You Thought You Were Done...framing Wall

Just when you think you are done, the rocks may start spilling down the hill. Framing it with more of the boards on the sides and downhill side is the solution to keep the rocks contained and level. The puppy supervisors can help you get more boards, cut the shapes, restart the process to lay the base boards, then build up 3 layers to contain all of the rocks.

Step 10: Last Step: Enjoy

For the last step, build a table, set up some chairs, and start the fire!

Backyard Contest

Runner Up in the
Backyard Contest