UPDATE: the patio that appears in this post under the fire pit was re-done last summer, when we realized we no longer liked the rocks and needed a bigger area. To see the pit on the updated patio along with the DIY, refer to this post.
Yep, it happened. DIY is officially our drug of choice. And while we were already on our outdoor DIY kick, we decided it was time to build a firepit. But not just any firepit, of course – as anyone who has ever met my husband knows, his obsessive compulsive-cleaning-disorder-brain couldn’t possibly build something without thinking of the potential mess it would create, and this meant weeks worth of deliberation on how we could build a filth-free firepit. He was determined to have the best of both worlds. For two straight weeks it was a one-man tug of war between “Me want fire!” and “Oh, dear, but we can’t have a mess!” It was like watching a UFC fight between Martha Stewart and a Caveman. It wasn’t easy. But his research paid off, and it finally happened – the Firepit for All Neat Freaks was born! And what better timing then right before Memorial Day? It’s simple because it doesn’t involve any cement and it’s very easy to build. And it’s neat because you can clean it in a matter of two minutes – just lift the bowl out and dump the ashes in the woods, or use it as fertilizer for your garden. Check out the finished product below, then scroll down for the DIY instructions. And don’t miss the delicious smores recipe at the end!
stones (ours are from Lowe’s. We went 4 layers high, and each layer took sixteen stones, which means 64 stones total.)
pick axe or shovel
pea gravel or other stones for seating area (optional)
a few bags of sand, for base of firepit
firepit (ours was from Lowe’s, and you can find similar ones on Amazon here: UniFlame WAD820SP 34-Inch Slate & Marble Firepit with Copper Accents)
1 piece of bamboo and 1 piece of string, to mark your space
Step 1: Pick a spot for your pit. The beauty of a firepit is that you do not need a huge yard to enjoy one. All you need is a space that is far enough away from your home and does not have any low-hanging branches or trees that can catch fire. You want to also think about the diameter of how big your pit will be, and also leave some space to pull some chairs up to enjoy it.
Step 2: Do some quick measuring. We decided our firepit should be about 4 feet in diameter, with an additional 3 foot past that to allow some space for seating. Here’s an easy way to measure out the diameter to have a visual to work off of: First, find the center of the pit and put a stake in the ground. (We used a piece of bamboo.) Next, measure out a 4 foot piece of string and tie it around the stake. Now, what you are going to do is hold the free end of the string all the way out, and with a can of spray paint (or some other form of marking,) walk around full circle while marking your space. It’s kind of like that drunken game you used to play with your forehead on the bat while circling around it, before attempting to run in a straight line. Remember? No? Ahem…me neither…
Do the same with your outer circle, so that as you work you can have a good visual of your space.
Step 3: Dig. Now that you’ve got your space marked out, it’s time to get the grass up. As I mentioned in my DIY post about building the veggie garden, one of the best tools you can use to quickly get the grass up is a pick axe. You can get them cheap at any garden store (between $10 and $20). If you don’t have one, just grab a shovel. You just want to get the top layer up and make sure the ground is level.
*Optional step: lay a weed-barrier down. We did not do this, and will have to pull up any weeds that sprout, or use Round Up on them.*
Step 4: Add some sand. Pour some sand in the inner circle where you firepit is going. This will keep the base of your stones secure as you build, and will help you level your base easily as you go.
Step 5: Get your firepit from Lowe’s ready. Grab your firepit that you bought and follow the instructions to put it together, but leave off the legs. You just need the rim, bowl, and the screen that will go on top.
Step 6: Lay your base. It’s time to put down your base layer of stones. First, take the screen and put it in the center so that you have a visual to work off of (see pic below). For a firepit that will be 4 ft in diameter, it took sixteen stones for each layer. Use your level as you go. This is important, because if you base layer is not level, then your firepit is going to look like a leaning tower of screw-up by the time you get to the top layer.
It’s also a good idea here to place the rim of the firepit atop the layer, to make sure it sits correctly before you stack the whole thing.
Step 7: Stack your layers. We wanted our firepit to be four layers high. Make sure when you add the second, third and fourth layers, you stagger them. This adds strength, and also is more visually appealing.
Step 8: Add your firebowl. Once your layers are stacked, you can drop your rim and steel fire bowl onto the top layer, and add the grate that comes with it and the screen. (See pic: and ignore those extra rocks in the background. “We’ll call that Plan A gone wrong.” We are going to instead use them to build a bench near the firepit – DIY on that to come later.)
As an added bonus for you neat freaks, the Lowe’s firepit even comes with a cover for when it rains!
Step 9: Add some rocks around your seating area (optional, of course). This step just defines the space and gives it a more finished look.
Step 10: Now, enjoy your firepit! Pull up some chairs, invite some friends over, start a fire, and make some smores. Speaking of smores…
Here’s what you’ll need for delicious smores:
set of cheap skeweres (ours were $3, from Target)
Box of graham crackers
bag of campfire marshmallows (these things look like they are on steroids)
Skewer a campfire marshmallow and roast it over the flame. Once It’s browned to your liking, spread some Nutella on your graham cracker and sandwich that sucker in between. This is an Italian version of the traditional American campfire treat. Not only does the Nutella spread and melt better than the Hershey’s, but it’s absolutely delicious! One bite and you’ll never go back to the classic recipe. Pull it off the skewer, and enjoy!