Build Your Own Fire Pit in a Weekend for Under $200


Read how our landscaping team built a sturdy backyard fire pit with a $150 budget, basic tools, and two days’ work. Watch us build ours in the video guide!

Fire Pit DIY Before and After Comparison
Fire pits are very much in demand during winter weather, and our client was no exception. Normally, my primary recommendation for clients interested in some old fashioned backyard heating are portable, steel-made pits.

But since this particular client wanted his pit out in the yard, we decided that a 3 ft diameter concrete/brick structure would be the better fit. I’m pleased with what we were able to create, and confident you can make one of your very own in a weekend following this guide:

Step 1: Supplies
Even if you don’t already own a single one of the tools needed to complete this project, you can pick everything up at your local hardware store for around $200. Be sure to have a helper with the concrete/mortar — those heavy bags are hard on the back.

Fire Pit Placement and Measurements

Step 2: Choose Location
After you’ve gathered your supplies and gotten them home, you’ll need to figure out where in your backyard you want the fire pit to be placed. Check your local city ordinances for spacing rules. They usually require 15 to 25 feet between the fire pit and your dwelling. I also recommend keeping it at least 10 ft away from any other major features in your yard (bird feeders, plant life, etc.) just to minimize concerns about the damage from heat/ash.

Step 3: Dig Hole
Now is the time to ask yourself, “how big a fire pit do I want to build?” We decided that the interior of our fire pit would be 3 ft wide. Since we’re building a circular wall around that 3 foot pit, we need to dig a wider hole than that on which to place our concrete foundation.

This wall should be 8 inches wide all the way around to accommodate standard bricks stacked two deep, so you’ll need a hole that is at least 4 feet, 4 inches wide. We dug it about 6 inches deep, but you may want to even dig a few inches deeper, and fill it back in with gravel in order to help with draining. Make sure the surface of the hole is uniformly 6 inches deep!
Step 4: Establish Form
This is where your aluminum sheeting, wooden stakes, measuring tape, and duct tape come in. You’ll want to start by using your measuring tape to find the approximate center of your hole. Then place 8 stakes at equal intervals 1.5 ft away from your center point. These stakes will serve as the support for the inner half of your concrete form.

Fire Pit Stake Measurements

Cut two 15 ft rolls of aluminum sheeting. Put the first around the outside of your stakes, duct taping the stakes to the aluminum as you go. You should end up with something like the picture below. Note that we did not have enough stakes to form the shape of our outer form, so we substituted bricks:

Inner foundation form in place.

Duct tape the ends of your aluminum to itself, then measure your outer mold. 8 inches worked for the bricks we had, but depending on what you decide to build the wall with, you could make the base wider or narrower. We just used a brick to measure the stakes for the outer form:

Outer form in place.

When you’ve finished, you should have something like this:

Finished foundation form
Step 5: Pour Concrete
Now for the fun part! Get your wheelbarrow, water hose, and shovel. Pour about 20 lbs of concrete into your wheelbarrow at a time. Have someone add water while you stir the mixture with your shovel. It should have a moist, muddy consistency, with just a bit of water puddling in the wheelbarrow.

Once it has been completely mixed, you may begin shoveling it into your mold. Distribute as evenly as possible around the ring, adding and mixing concrete as needed. You should end up with about a 4 inch thick foundation on which to place your bricks! We actually had about half a bag of concrete left over, if you use the full 320 pounds, you could end up with a 4.5-5 inch thick foundation. Be sure to use your mortar trowel to smooth and pack down your concrete, while also checking to make sure that concrete isn’t escaping underneath your aluminum form. Allow it to dry overnight.

Step 6: Brickwork

You should return the next day to a well formed, sturdy foundation. Now you’re ready to begin brickwork! First, determine a pattern to follow. If you change your way halfway through, it’s tough to backtrack as the mortar dries! Place bricks as you wish them to appear WITHOUT applying mortar first:

Fire pit with dried foundation and bricks
Brick Staging Area

We ended up deciding to place our bricks lengthwise parallel to the foundation, rather than perpendicular, as shown in the photo above. We did place them perpendicularly on the topmost later, but on their sides, so the holes you see on the tops of the bricks wouldn’t be on the surface on the pit wall. We ended up doing three rows of bricks in total. We wanted to build a fourth row, but ran out of bricks :-(

When you’ve settled on your bricklaying pattern, it’s time for some masonry! You’ll use the mortar here; mortar is a tackier, pastier mixture that mixes similarly to concrete. Add enough water and mix until it reaches a doughy consistency, then use the mortar trowel to apply LIBERALLY to the foundation as you lay each brick. Fill in gaps as well as you can. We had plenty of mortar to spare, applying liberally from a 240 lb supply. Leftovers are especially nice here if you have a place to store them, in case you need to perform repairs or want to add more bricks later.

Applying Top Brick Layer

The mortar you see on top of our 2nd brick layer is residue from filling in gaps between the bricks. You won’t be able to see these gaps on the finished product, but filling them in will greatly improve the structural integrity of your fire pit.

Step 7: Relax with Your New Fire Pit
With the final bricks laid, all that remains is for the mortar to set, and to perform any final touch up work as necessary. We had a fairly sizable gap in our first row of bricks, but because of the depth of our original hole, it will end up being covered when we fill the gap around the outer wall.

Give the mortar a day or two to set, and you’re ready to begin enjoying evenings in the backyard around a warm flame. Note that depending on the materials used, your wall may be susceptible to cracking. You can prevent this by digging the center hole slightly deeper, and burning fuel in moderation. Be sure to follow best practices with fire safety, completely extinguishing every fire after use, and disposing of ash properly.

Finished DIY Brick Fire Pit

My final takeaway from the project in a sentence: for backyards with smaller patios and decks that can’t accommodate prefabricated pits, this is a very viable option. Otherwise, you can save a lot of time/hard work (and spend about the same amount of $$) with one of these:

Alternative Steel Fire Pits from DFOhome

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