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7 basics of an outdoor fire pit

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May 13, 2011

There are few things cozier on cool autumn nights than a fire pit in the backyard. Very different from the small deck furnaces that have become popular in recent years, a fire pit is usually much larger and more dramatic. If a fire pit is the perfect addition to your backyard, check out these building basics.

Building an outdoor fire pit

Before you begin, check your local building codes and ordinances. Some codes require that a fire pit be built a minimum distance from any structure, or built to certain specifications. If there are any codes to be met or permits to be obtained, get it done before you start work.

Ready to begin? Here's how:

  1. Using custom-cut bricks or a cast-concrete alternative, lay out where your fire pit should go. A thick steel ring should line the interior of the pit to help contain the heat and flames. Set the steel ring in the center and build up the bricks around it. Then, carefully mark the area just outside the bricks with a thin line of spray paint.
  2. Move the bricks and ring out of the way to start digging a trench. Using the spray paint as a guide, dig a straight trench about 12 inches deep and wide enough to hold the row of blocks. When that is done, dig out about six inches of soil from the center and level out the ground inside the fire pit.
  3. Fill the trench with six inches of drainage gravel, pressing it down as you go to create a firm and level surface for the bricks.
  4. Place the blocks in the ring, making sure they are perfectly level. Press them tightly together around the pit. You might have to tap the last one in place with a mallet.
  5. Lay the second row of bricks. Use masonry adhesive to hold the second row tightly to the first row. Line up the bricks over the seams of the first row, making sure they fit as tightly as the first row.
  6. Fill the pit with six inches of gravel, and then start with the third and fourth rows. After the fourth row is done, work the steel liner into the pit. Fill any gaps between the liner and the bricks with a handful of drainage gravel.
  7. Cap the bricks with one final layer. If you are using natural stone to cap the fire pit, use plenty of mortar to hold them in place. Wait at least two days before lighting your first fire.

Not sure you can handle the project on your own? Call a local contractor to help you create your fire pit.

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