Enhance your yard with a contained campfire
Fire pits are campsite-like locations where friends and family can gather to enjoy the warmth of the fire, good conversation, a drink or two - even roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the open fire -- while savoring beautiful spring, summer, or fall days and evenings. Location is important - fire pits must be placed away from trees, structures, and underground wires and cables. Level ground is best, but you can work fire pit designs into slopes.
There are a variety of fire pits that are easy to build. There are stone, bonfire-type pits, temporary cinderblock or brick pits, and permanent stone or brick pits. It's easy to acquire the necessary materials -- if you don't mind a little dirt under your fingernails and sweat on your brow, your fire pit can be completed in as little as one day.
Basic building steps
- Begin by driving a stake in the ground at the center of the pit; attach one end of a 1½-foot string to the stake and the other end to a large nail.
- With the nail, mark a circle for the pit. Remove sod and dig 12 inches deep. At the center of this hole, dig a hole that is six to eight inches in diameter and 12 inches deep.
- Fill both holes with pea gravel for drainage - gravel in the large hole should be four inches deep. Add three inches of sand to contain fires.
- Place three rows of concrete blocks around the perimeter of the pit. Do not use adhesives or fillers to seal gaps - melting can cause dangerous fumes, and fillers decrease ventilation.
Fire pit safety
Some local codes prohibit open fires; check restrictions before building a fire pit. Only designated fire starters should be used in fire pits. Always pre-water surrounding grass, trees and shrubs to keep flying sparks from starting fires. Have a garden hose, bucket of water, and/or fire extinguisher handy whenever using your fire pit. Stack wood securely to avoid shifting that can release sparks and start fires.