Our relationship with fire pits dates back to the first time our caveman ancestors gathered around a heap of burning logs to swap stories about the hunt while cooking a mammoth steak. Nothing much has changed. They still serve as an outdoor entertainment area when the weather calls for a little heat.
There are virtually hundreds of styles and designs for fire pits, but whatever choice you make, your firepit must be constructed from fireproof material on a flat, level area, and at least three metres from a house or any trees. In addition, garden structures – including fire pits – are regulated by local building codes, so find out what these are before you begin.
The simplest option for a firepit is to a camp-style one-metre diameter circular hollow in a ring of stones. This will give you something which is big enough to a good size fire but stops you feeling like you’re the one being cooked.
You can also repurpose an old garden pot made of a fire-proof material such as fired terracotta. An iron brazier also works well – there are plenty of readymade ones on the market, or get an artisan to craft a one-of-a-kind art piece.
However, building your own firepit gives you the freedom to customise it to suit your personal style and needs, and it’s easy enough for anyone to do.
How to build a firepit
- Tape measure
- String and rebar
- Sand and stone/fireproof bricks
- Spray paint
Stake a rebar into the ground at the centre of where you want your firepit. Then, attach the string – cut to half the length of the circumference you want to the stake – and the can of spray paint to the other end. Pull the string tight and walk around the stake as you spray paint the line of the circumference.
Dig to a depth of 15cm within the circle. Then use the same method as above to mark an inner circle 30cm in from the outside circle.
To make the foundation, mix concrete with water to the desired consistency or use the ready-mix variety. Lay a thin amount of wet concrete between the two circles. Don’t concrete the centre area to allow for drainage. Next, build up the concrete to about 2,5cm below ground level. Reinforce by pressing rebar into the wet concrete. Then smooth the surface with a trowel and allow to dry for 24 hours.
Mix mortar and then shovel about 6cm of it on top of the concrete base. Working in small sections, lay the stones on the mortar.
As the first few levels of stones begin to take shape along the outside edge of the firepit, begin to lay fire/clay bricks to form the inner wall of the structure.
Level each brick, then fill in the gaps with wet mortar, scraping away any excess. Make sure to measure the inside and outside edges of the wall periodically to maintain a constant thickness and the circular shape.
Continue to raise both the bricks (against the inside circle) and the stones (against the outside circle), fill in any gaps between with stones and mortar as the wall grows. Stagger the seams of the stones and bricks to strengthen the structure. Use a jointer to remove excess mortar from between the stones.
Finish your firepit by adding a 2.5cm layer of mortar and then lay flat stones to make a smooth, even surface along the entire top surface. Add more mortar between these capstones.