Building a fire pit in the garden | homify
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Building a fire pit in the garden

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
industrial  by CLASS MANUFACTURING SA, Industrial
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Outdoor fires are a hot thing, now and way back when. Even from the Stone Age, there was just something about creating a spark that has stayed with humankind throughout the centuries.

Today, people are going ultra-retro and getting their heat from stone-walled fire pits built into the Earth. And why shouldn't they? A toasty warm fire pit is a marvellous way to ward off the chilly winter, and it also allows you to warm up with friends and family on a summer’s night. And whether your outdoor snack choice includes either melted marshmallows or a bottle of Merlot (or why not both?), there is no denying that socialising ambience that a decent fire pit exudes. 

With some stylish garden entertaining in mind, homify is taking you on a DIY home improvement project to creating your own fire pit. Let’s get started!

Plan your fire pit design

A garden fire pit is not just a practical invention – it is also one stylish landscaping feature. Available in a wide assortment of different models and styles, fire pits are attractive, functional, and provide a fun outdoor gathering place that is considered, pardon the pun, hot. 

Ideally, a fire pit is constructed from fireproof material on a flat, level area at least 25 feet from a house or tree (safety first!). However, it’s not a ‘free for all’ regime. Fire pits are strictly governed by local building codes (some codes, for example, require the pit to be encircled by a border of sand or gravel). Therefore, before you start digging away in your back garden, be sure that you are informed regarding your local area code.  

The style and shape of a fire pit can vary. Our homify DIY model is about 60 cm tall x 150 cm diameter, with a 90 cm interior diameter.

Measure where the fire pit will go

rondo firepit: minimalist  by wood-fired oven, Minimalist
wood-fired oven

rondo firepit

wood-fired oven

Secure a 2-foot rebar piece in the centre of the fire pit location with a stone hammer. This is to guide you throughout the project. Cut a piece of string to half the length of the fire pit’s diameter. As the pit’s diameter is 150 cm, the string is cut to a radius of 75 cm. 

Make a loop on one end of the string and slip it around the rebar. Loop the other end around a can of line spray paint. Pull the string tight and spray the circumference of the circle. 

Using this method of marking a circle will ensure that your fire pit is perfectly round.

Start digging

Dig out the area inside the marked circle for the fire pit’s footing. Dig down to a depth of roughly 10 – 15 cm using your shovels. 

Cut a second piece of string the radius of your fire pit minus the width of the fire pit wall. Attach the string to the rebar and spray a second, inner circle. This circle shows the shape of the wall and also marks where the footing will go. The footing of the wall is the concrete pad that will provide the base or foundation of the stone fire pit.

homify hint: Colour tells us about the temperature of a candle flame. The inner core of the candle flame is light blue, with a temperature of around 1400 °C. That is the hottest part of the flame. The colour inside the flame becomes yellow, orange, and finally red.

Mix the concrete and lay the foundation

eclectic  by KUB, Eclectic

Mix the premix concrete for the footing in the wheelbarrow using the mixing hoe. Slowly add water until it reaches the consistency of soft peanut butter. Spread the concrete in the outer circle with the mud shovel. Leave the centre area free of concrete to allow for drainage. 

Spread and compact the concrete using an iron rake until the concrete is about 4 cm below ground level. Follow this up by smoothing down the concrete with a trowel.  

Press the 2-feet pieces of rebar stakes into the concrete for reinforcement. Spread two pieces adjacent to each other like railroad tracks all the way around the circle. Tap the rebar into the concrete so it is completely covered. The rebar is going to prevent cracking and provide support during frost heaves in cold weather.

Smooth the surface with a trowel and let dry for 24 hours.

Build the outer wall

With your foundation set, you can proceed to laying the stones. Mix mortar and then shovel about 5 cm of it on top of the concrete base. Working in small sections to make it easier, lay the stones on the mortar. 

If you are using natural stones, mix up the sizes and colours. Choose stone faces that are attractive and match the slight curve of your outline. If necessary, you can use a chipping hammer to shape the individual stones. 

As the first few levels of stone begin to form a shape along the outer edge of your fire pit, start laying fire bricks to form the inner wall of the structure.

Build the inner brick wall

The Till Rustic style garden by Lithic Fire Rustic
Lithic Fire

The Till

Lithic Fire

Level each brick, then fill the gaps in-between with wet mortar, scraping away all excess. To maintain the wall’s thickness and circular shape, measure the inside and outside edges consistently. 

Continue to raise both the bricks (against the inner circle) and the stones (against the outside circle), filling in gaps in-between with stones and mortar as the wall grows. Staggering the seams of the stones and bricks ensures a more stable structure, and also gives it a more appropriate look. Should you need to remove any excess mortar from between the stones, use a jointer. 

To finish the structure, lay a cap of pre-selected flat fieldstones on top of the wall. Add a layer of mortar measuring about 2.5 cm and then start laying the stones. Ensure that the tops create a flat, even surface along the entire circumference. Add more mortar between these capstone to complete the fire pit.

Add the finishing touches

With your basic structure complete, you can now focus on a few finishing touches for its aesthetic quality. Using a standard paintbrush, paint the exterior of the stones to remove any loose debris. Afterwards, lightly spray with a garden hose to remove any leftover mortar. 

To give the fire bricks on the inside of the structure a uniform finish, spray paint the bricks black using high-heat stove paint.

Finally, fill the pit with a base layer of river rocks. And enjoy showing off your self-made creation! 

We just love DIY, and we love sprucing up a garden space. So, how about we check out: Creating your own Japanese garden?

How did your self-made fire pit turn out?
Whitton Drive by GK Architects Ltd Modern

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