Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Make A Fire-Pit on the Cheap

(yes I know the shutters do not match, and the black plastic pipe-thing is ugly...just give me a month or two)
I have been wanting a fire-pit area in our backyard since we moved into the house two years ago. I knew right were I wanted it too, and it just so happened that, that spot in the yard did not grow grass well and had tons of weeds...Bonus. This year I sneaked it into my budget by racking my brain on how to do it cheap without compromising the look or the long-term durability of everything.

In this post I will give you a step by step tutorial of what we did to make our fire pit and fire pit area.

Step One: We choose a place to make our fire pit area. Were the garbage can and junk is, is where I choose to make ours. The white picket fence we put in around the basement last year and the house naturally make a square section there that I thought would be perfect. It is close to the house which was a concern at first seeming as though House + Fire is something no-one wants, but I have a solution for that later.
Step Two: We marked our desired spot with rope and stakes and dug it out. We did this a week or so before dumpster day so that we could ditch all the dirt. Then we loosened the ground so that we could rack the dirt around to get it as level as possible.
Step Three: We bought a $99.00 camp chef gas fire ring from Walmart. It is a portable camp fire ring that hooks up to a BBQ size propane tank. It is what we will be using for our fire pit later. Walmart will do site to store delivery too so that you do not have to pay for shipping.
Step Four: Once we got our fire ring we took the propane hose to a propane place and had a longer hose made. We needed a 12 foot hose and it only came with a 5 foot one. That cost me about $24.00 which was way cheaper than buying parts and a hose from the big box stores. Then we figured out where we wanted the fire pit to be located in our area and made a trench from the fire pit to where we wanted the propane tank to be. We are placing the tank in the corner and it will be behind a sectional bench we are also working on for this area. Then we placed a length of pvc in the trench with an elbow on either side to run our propane hose through. Once placed we buried it.

Step Five: We covered the entire area with landscape fabric so that weeds will hopefully not grow in this area. Chances are they might, but just spray or pick 'em when you see 'em, that is what I do. 

Step Six: We bought 3/4 tons of gravel from a pit and headed home and unloaded it into the fire pit area.
Step Seven: We needed some edging to place between the grass and the gravel in the fire pit area which posed a dilemma for me. Last year when we made our garden area we used the thick black plastic landscapers edging that all the big box stores carry and this year after one winter it already looked like crap. I looked into metal edging, but found that no-one carries it and I was not about to use the fiberboard stuff, fake rocks, or flimsy decorative plastic. So after thinking and looking and thinking and looking I decided I wanted to use stone or a concrete composite stone. I knew it would add to the price of the project so I went as cheap as possible. Well almost as possible. I had a smaller brick sized stone picked out that was $.49 each, but then very last minute changed my mind and went with this stone at Home Depot in a charcoal that runs about $1.29 each, and I am so glad I did. 
Step Eight: Using the gravel and a level we placed the stones level with the ground around the edge of our dug out fire pit area making sure each one was level and in line with the one before it.
Step Nine: We racked the gravel all around the area making it level with the stone. We could actually use more gravel than we got, but we are going to wait until our next gravel project to add more. Keep in mind too that it will seattle over time so do not be shocked if you need a little more next year.
Step Ten: We made our fire pit circle. We chose another triangular stone from Home Depot to make this part. Again making sure to level each stone. Also make sure it lines up with your hose you buried. We choose not to mortar any of this stone. It is heavy and big enough that it should not be a problem and it is easy to fix. 
Step Eleven: We simply hooked up the fire ring to the hose, hooked up the other end of the hose to the propane tank and turned it on and lit it. The ring puts out really good fire. I used all of the lava rock that comes with it and am going to buy some-more to fill the entire circle so that you will not be able to see the metal fire ring. Our fire pit is off center, but it will be centered with our benches we are making and I left room to plant some plants behind the benches as-well.

We chose to use gas because it does not put out any sparks and we thought we would use it more since it is easy to start and does not have the mess of charcoal and wood. Also I love the idea that I can remove everything when it comes winter time. I will not have to worry about rust etc. I do think I will get a fire pit cover for Spring and Summer though and then will cover the exposed ends of the hose when not in use too.
We love how it all turned out and the stone edging makes it look so professionally done and upscale. In-fact this next week the black rubber is coming out of the garden area and more stone is going in. All together I think this project cost me maybe $250. The fire ring and propane tank were probably the most expensive items. Which when you read the not so impressive reviews on fire pits that run from $200 to $500 like I did, it makes this project of a fire pit area and fire pit pretty impressive if I do say so myself.

If you have any questions about this project please leave a comment or contact me. Thanks!

Here is a sneak-peek at the benches...
they are going to be stained a dark chocolate.


  1. you are unbelieveable jill! this project is amazing. i'm showing all my friends!!!!

  2. Jill, thanks for posting your link to Re-Nest...was just going through yesterday's comments on the post about Permeable Paving I wrote.

    Just wanted to say I'm LOVING those benches, and this entire project! Please keep me posted how it all comes together, would love to feature the finished area on Re-Nest before the end of May to celebrate Outdoor Living/Gardening month.

    I can be reached at landis@apartmenttherapy.com.


  3. That is awesome Jill! I can't wait to see those benches all finished!

  4. Could you tell me a way to do something like this but under %100?? We are on a really tight budget but would like to enjoy a fire pit outside.. I was wondering if I just used sand that I already had instead of the rocks.Also maybe collecting large rocks from around a creek and just using firewood. Sound like it would work?

  5. Thank you for the tutorial! I just want to add that before we proceed to step one, it’s advisable to consult first our local fire department before putting up the fire pit. We should also refer to the local zoning requirement and home association guidelines to be acquainted with laws and regulations of open area burning. =)

    Nohemi Tutterrow