DIY Project: How to Build a Backyard Fire Pit - 3 Most Beautiful DIY Fire Pits (It’s Cheap & Easy!)Tutorials

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I am a huge advocate of making the home a beautiful place inside and out!! I want my family to love spending time together, which is why I think an outdoor fire pit would be such a fun addition to the backyard. After looking through a bunch of tutorials, I’m convinced that this is a project that anyone could tackle and be successful. Hope you enjoy these Outdoor Fire Pit tutorials and find some incredible inspiration for your yard here today!

1. MODERN CONCRETE FIRE BOWL

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There's no doubt about the cheer. Beside your fire you live in a private, glowing little world. All around you, fire shapes dance across rocks and bushes and tree trunks...Most of the time, you just sit and gaze at the caverns that form and crumble and then form again and gaze into the caverns that form and crumble and then form again between the incandescent logs. You build fantastic worlds among those pulsating walls and arches and colonnades. You sit, in other words, and dream. The East African has an almost limitless capacity for this masterly and delightful form of inactivity, and when his friends see him squatting there, lost, they understand and say in Swahili, poetically, Anahota moto - "He is dreaming the fire."
 - Colin Fletcher, "The Complete Walker IV" (Knopf, NY:  p. 288)

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I don't think there's much more to say than that. So, let's build our own DIY fire pit, yes? This version is cast of affordable, weather-resistant concrete that creates a sleek, modern look. It's portable but sturdy, and uses gel fuel, making it possible to have a quick 30-minute post grill session fire. It take a bit of care and proper prep, but this could be made in just a few hours for well under $50 in materials.

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Tools and Materials: 

  • Concrete mix
  • One extra-large bowl for exterior mold (ours was 18" diameter)
    • You could also use a large shallow planter like this one
  • One large bowl for interior mold (ours was 15" diameter)
  • Non-stick cooking spray, or vegetable oil and paint brush
  • Large bucket for mixing
  • Medium-duty masonry trowel
  • Proper safety gear for working with concrete:
    • 3M Tekk Protection N95-rated dust maskfor sanding and grinding
    • Safety glasses or goggles
    • Refinishing or work gloves
    • Plastic or reusable drop cloth
  • Heavy objects such as exercise weights (or you can use the rocks below)
  • Sandpaper or sanding pad in coarse and fine grits
  • Gel fireplace fuel canisters 
  • Replacement grill grate (ours was 14 1/2" diameter)
  • Fire safe decorative stones 

CASTING THE BOWL

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Creating this project is all about two components: finding the right materials and working safely. For the main fire bowl, we used the largest mixing bowls we could find. Check your local restaurant or party supply store for extra-large options. I opted for a plastic punch bowl for the outside because I liked the profile shape, and a stainless steel mixing bowl for the inside.

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Working with concrete isn't difficult, but it does require some finesse. First, it's fairly heavy and can be difficult to mix in large batches by hand. Secondly, it's extra important to use the proper safety gear to prep and execute your project. Work outside or in a well-ventilated area, and cover your work surface with plastic. I covered my bench in a plastic drop cloth, and taped everything down with ScotchBlue™ tape. 

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Also, be sure to wear proper safety gear to protect your eyes, skin, and respiratory system. For this, I consulted with 3MDIY.comfor their suggestions of the best products from their 3M Tekk Protectionline.

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I went with an N95 valved dust mask for sanding and grinding, and long sleeves and refinishing gloves to protect my arms and hands. For my eyes, I opted for these Walter White-style safety goggles, which not only protect from debris but also dust and irritants. Plus, I prefer them when wearing a respirator or dust mask, since they seal tightly and don't fog up.

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1. Once you're all prepped, spray your molds with non-stick spray. This will help release the concrete once it's dry. A thin, even layer over the inside of the outer mold/outside of the inner mold will do. 

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2. Then, mix up your concrete. It's hard to determine how much you'll need, but it's better to mix up more as you start than to rush to create more in the middle. I used about 1/3 of a bag for this project, adding water a little at a time until the mix formed a thick, cookie batter-like consistency. Make sure you're wearing your safety gear here; this is the time when most of the particulates and irritants are flying around. 

3. Then, use the trowel to add the concrete mix to the outer mold. Fill it about half full, then check the inner mold to see how high the concrete comes up to the side. It's okay to take the inner mold in and out a few times, just make sure you don't lose all your non-stick spray. (You can wipe it clean and reapply). A friend or extra pair of hands is helpful here. Then, use weights or rocks to keep it in place. Some things to watch out for:

-As you place the inner mold, make sure that it's centered so your bowl will have an even thickness all the way around

-Keep the lips of the bowls coplanar for an even, symmetrical finished product

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-Ajust the weights so that you have the biggest inner bowl as possible while keeping the structure thick enough to be strong. You'll want to be sure that there's enough space on the inside to place your gel canisters beneath the lip of the bowl.

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4. For a super smooth finished surface, try this tip (I picked this up years ago from an episode ofThis Old House, I think): use something with a motor to vibrate the bowl to remove any air bubbles inside the mold. Here, I'm using my reciprocating saw without a blade, but anything will work: a powered sander, an oscillating or rotary tool, even an immersion blender.

One it's settled and things are no longer moving, allow the concrete to cure according to the package directions. (48 hours-ish)

FINISHING THE BOWL

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5. When your concrete has cured, carefully remove it from the mold. I lightly tapped on mine with a rubber mallet, first removing the inner bowl, then freeing the outer. It's solid at this point, so don't be afraid, but do be careful since it's quite heavy.

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6. Use a coarse sanding pad (60-80 grit) to clean up the top lip, and give everything a nice rounded profile. Again, since you'll be generating a lot of fine particulate dust, wear your safety glasses, gloves, and dust mask.

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Wipe away the debris, then give the whole thing a round of fine grit (220) sandpaper. Since concrete doesn't have any fibers or grain like wood, you don't have to work your way up. Any sanding is just the removal of irregularities or smoothing things up. 

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ASSEMBLING THE FIRE PIT

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7. Lastly, take it outside, and place the gel fuel canisters inside. I found mine at a local fireplace/swimming pool/outdoor recreation store, but you can find them in some hardware or home improvement stores or online.

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8. Place the grill grate in the bowl. The one I used was a 14.5" bottom grate (for the charcoal, not the cooking surface) for a Weber kettle grill. It rested perfectly about 1/2" from the surface of my 15" internal diameter bowl. If you can't find one, you can cut a larger one to size with a hacksaw or grinder, or create your own from hardware cloth or steel mesh.

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9. Then, cover the grate with a layer of rocks. I'm using "Mexican beach pebbles" that I found at a garden center. These are commonly used with fire, so I can be sure they'll stand up to the heat and won't explode into flaming shrapnel with extended use. So, just be sure that whatever rocks you're using are appropriate for the purpose.

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LIGHT IT UP!

While the flames on these aren't bonfire-sized, the gel canisters put out quite a bit of heat, and all kinds of fun ambiance. At some point, I'd like to make a few of these and place them around my patio or deck. (At some point, I'd also like to have a patio or deck). But, for about $40 in materials (many of which I can reuse), I have a great, easy-to-use backyard fire solution, that requires nearly zero work to start or snuff out, and can keep our outdoor hangouts going well past sundown.

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2  EASY BACKYARD FIRE PIT

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I love what a fire pit does for any yard or garden. It brings family and friends together and makes any garden into a warm, welcoming place to let go of the stress of the day. Plus, let’s be honest, it feels like camping, and who doesn’t love that? Here’s how to build a back yard fire pit step by step, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. A quick trip to the home improvement store, a little hard work and you could be roasting marshmallows tonight!

Supplies

Stone pavers, bricks, cinder blocks or other non flammable building materials

Sand or gravel

Shovel

Rake

Step One:

Decide where you want your fire pit to sit, and what dimensions you would like. Make sure you choose a spot at least 25 feet away from structures or overhanging trees. An average fire pit is from 36-45 inches across and 12 inches high.

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Step Two:

Mark the center of the fire pit, the easiet way is with a stake. Then tie a string half the total diameter you want the finished pit to be. In other words, if your pit will be 36 inches across, make the string 18 inches. Tie the other end of the string to another stake or stick, and pulling the string taut, walk around the stick marking a prefect circle. This is the outline of the fire pit. Or if you choose, use marking spray paint as shown in the photo.

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Step Three:

Dig out the entire hole a few inches deep. This is to remove any flammable materials under the pit, and also to give space for the non flammable layer. Now start placing the stones around the perimeter of the pit. Stack the stones in a second layer until the stones or bricks are at least 12 inches tall.

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Step Four:

Fill the fire pit with several inches of sand or gravel to prevent fire embers from burning into the ground. Add another row of stones if necessary to keep the edge of the pit at least 12 inches above the surface of the sand.

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That’s it! Pull up some chairs, find some great roasting sticks, and call the neighbors… you have just built a back yard fire pit!

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3 MOVEABLE FIRE PIT

You can build a great firepit for all to enjoy in less than 30 minutes and for under $80!
Time: 30 Minutes Cost: $80 Difficulty: Easy
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It's easy to build a firepit in just minutes with some pavers and a fire bowl. In this case, it literally took longer to go pick up the supplies than it did to actually put it all together. Best of all, it's not a permanent fixture, so you can move it around if you need to.
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If you are building this firepit on grass, you will want to be sure to dig out for the space. In this case, the fire pit was built right on top of the concrete patio by stacking pavers in a circle. Many people has asked if the heat from the fire could crack the concrete. We have not had any problems at all with this one since we are using a firebowl and stacked it high enough off the ground. The pavers are not adhered together so it still lets air breathe through the stones.
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For a 35" firebowl as we used in this project, we needed 48 pavers and stacked them 4 layers high.
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Once you stack your pavers, drop in the firebowl, add some spark and you're ready to go! I recommend of course building this in an open area so there are no trees directly above the fire. All of our supplies came from Lowe's and even after 3 years, the firepit is still holding up beautifully!

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