Build a Backyard Fire Pit This Weekend!

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

chairs | blankets | cooler

It’s October! Temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing colors and Kim is beginning to ask if it’s too early to play holiday music. (Yes, my dear. It is way too early!) Cooler weather also has us itching to extend the usability of our outdoor spaces, and what better way to keep warm outdoors on chilly autumn evenings than a good old-fashioned fire pit? Our pit came together in one day, and it cost right around $450. Here’s how!

Tools + Supplies Used for a 15′ pit

Fire pit kit
Stick + string
Spray paint
Spade
Tiller (Incredibly helpful, but technically not necessary)
Steel garden rake
Wheelbarrow (for haul away and material transport)
Metal landscape edging
Tape measure
Hammer or mallet
Landscape fabric/weed screen
50-60 bags decorative gravel (we used yellow river rock)
Level
Landscape block adhesive (we used 1 x 28 oz tube)

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Laying the Foundation

We wanted the ring around our fire pit to comfortably accommodate six deep and cozy Adirondack chairs, with additional breathing room for a cooler and a log stool or two. After staging our chairs in the grass, we determined that a 15′ diameter circle would be a nice size to surround our not-quite-4′ fire pit kit.

We used a tape measure to determine a fairly flat central point in the yard and marked it with a bamboo stake. We then looped a string around the stake, measured out to 7 1/2′ (you know, half of 15′) and tied a small flag to the string. Walking slowly backwards, we held a can of white spray paint at the flag and quickly laid out a perfect 15′ circle.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick HomeHow to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Using our flat-blade spade, we then edged around our spray paint line. Consistency here was very helpful – we opted to stay outside the spray paint line and our circle turned out perfectly. (Our helper pittie-mix, Roo, sped things up dramatically!)

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick HomeHow to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

After we had our circle completely edged (and Roo had inspected our work), we brought out the big guns by using our tiller. While a tiller is not completely necessary for this part of the project, the ability to cut into the soil at a consistent 2″ depth was hugely helpful and kept things closer to level. The tilled soil is also much, much easier to scoop out of the ring and spread to other low spots in your yard or repurpose as you see fit. Once the ring was completely tilled, we removed the excess soil and raked the exposed dirt as level and compact as possible. Note: If you don’t own a tiller or have no future need for one, they can also be rented from most big box stores or tool rental shops.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Using a claw hammer and a block of scrap wood (a rubber mallet would work just as well here if you have one!), we installed our metal landscape edging with the included stakes. It’s important that the edging sits flush with the surface of the grass to ensure that it’s not a tripping hazard.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

After our edging was complete, we laid down slightly overlapping strips of landscape fabric to keep pesky weeds from popping through our gravel layer. A handful of landscape pins kept the fabric from flopping around and ensured that those future weeds won’t peek up through any gaps.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

With the fabric secured tightly in place, we were finally ready for gravel! We needed close to 60 bags of gravel for our depth of around 2″. If that sounds like a lot, it is, but this ensured that we had a thick, even layer. After laying the bags in rows, we used a utility knife to split the (many, many) bags open, and then we dumped them in place and spread them out with our steel garden rake. That brought us to this beautifully round patch of gravel:

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Building the Fire Pit

With our groundwork in place, it was time to build the pit! Roo jumped away in pure glee as we used the steel insert from the fire pit kit to find our center mark with some simple measurements.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Leaving the ring in place, we built the first row of the blocks around it and then popped the ring out and checked for rough level on our first row. A few low spots needed a lift from some extra gravel underneath and a few high spots got tapped down with a hammer and a block of scrap wood. Note: The blocks in our kit have a smooth side and textured top side. The smooth side always faces down for easy stacking.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Before laying down the second row, we applied construction adhesive and staggered the joints for looks and stability.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

With the second row in place, we inserted the metal ring again, checked for level again and made a few tiny adjustments to keep things as close to perfect as possible.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Finally, we pulled the ring one more time, repeated the previous step with the third row of blocks and we were all set! Once the final row was in place, the ring insert was put back into place for good.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

To keep dust and dirt at bay, we rinsed everything down with a healthy amount of water. The gravel bags can get fairly dirty in transit, so if there’s not any rain in the forecast, you may need to repeat this step a few times. Once everything is nice and cleaned up, you have a fire pit!

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Weather in southwest Michigan fluctuates drastically between seasons, so it was important that the chairs we selected could not only withstand the elements and temperature swings, but ideally, they would also fold up and be stashed away during the coldest winter months. We landed on these black Polywood beauties from Hayneedle that fit the bill perfectly. They’re made from recycled plastic, and several of you chimed in throughout our yard makeover praising the strength, durability and fade resistance of Polywood. These chairs are, without a doubt, the most comfortable Adirondack chairs we’ve ever sat in! The arms are perfectly flat and offer a wide enough space to keep a drink and a small plate full of snacks within reach and the seat backs are angled perfectly. We intend to keep the chairs in place until the weather gets unbearable, then stash them along the back side of the house under furniture covers to keep them looking their best.

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick HomeHow to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick HomeHow to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

When not in use, our handsome steel belted cooler has a home in a this covered deck box that we keep tucked alongside the back of the house. Otherwise, our 15′ ring boasts plenty of space for the cooler to stay within easy reach during relaxing evenings by the fire. (Bonus, it’s sturdy enough to double as additional seating!)

How to make a fire pit // DIY fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Our day started around 9am with a patchy grass lawn and we were relaxing with fireside beverages and roasted marshmallows that same evening. We were aggressive with our timeframe (as a part of that 3 day makeover!), but even if you do nothing else over the weekend, this makes for a very satisfying DIY!

The fire pit lends a wonderful focal point to the backyard at our little Tree House, and now that our Chicago backyard has its fireplace gas-delivery system all updated, we’re doubly ready to extend the fall season as long as Mother Nature will allow! We find that our gas fireplace is great for quick evenings by the fire after a long work day in Chicago, but we’ve come to prefer the crackle, pop and smoky aroma of a wood burning fireplace in our little Tree House getaway.

We’d love to know: Which type of fire do you prefer? The convenience of gas or the smoky goodness of wood?

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  • Kathy - October 4, 2018 - 7:32 AM

    Both, always both. Though I’m more wary of wood fire pits ever since high school, when an old friend’s dad watched us struggle with starting a fire and was like, “wait, I got this” and came back with a watering can of… gasoline! I swear the flame was 12 feet high hahahaha. No one died but it was definitely a holy sh*t!!!! moment.

    I need a fire pit in my life again though, just maybe this time minus the gasoline!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 4, 2018 - 9:05 AM

      Oh, man! I think we’ve all had one of those fire pit moments… right?! We’ve all learned a lot since then!ReplyCancel

  • ellen from ask away blog - October 4, 2018 - 8:28 AM

    I love your backyard! how beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Julie - October 4, 2018 - 10:25 AM

    This looks like the best possible way to spend an autumn evening – I’m so impressed it was all accomplished in just one day! Here the mosquitoes are the biggest menace, well into October – do you guys have similar issues in Michigan, and if so, any tips for keeping them at bay?ReplyCancel

    • Scott - October 4, 2018 - 10:29 AM

      Thanks Julie! Mosquitoes are a HUGE problem in SW Michigan as well. We’ve been utilizing a company called Mosquito Squad to treat for ticks and mosquitoes every three weeks this summer. It has helped a TON, but when you get to about the 2.5 week mark, you really can tell that they’re starting to come back. Yet another reason to build a wood-burning fire pit – the smoke helps to keep them away as well!ReplyCancel

  • Susannah - October 5, 2018 - 10:54 AM

    How have you found cleaning the ash/fire debris from the pit post-fire with the gravel at the bottom? Inquiring minds want to know!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 5, 2018 - 12:32 PM

      We haven’t gotten to the point of excess debris – yet! – but once we do, we’ll scoop the extra and rinse most of it down through the gravel. :)ReplyCancel

  • RK - October 5, 2018 - 9:34 PM

    Where did Roo come from? Do you have a new dog??ReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 6, 2018 - 9:02 AM

      That’s our friends’ dog! But we might take him away if they turn their backs long enough… he’s a sweetheart.ReplyCancel

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